Psalms 12


The psalmist, destitute of human comfort, craves help from God,


gives the character of those who surrounded him, and denounces

God's judgments against them, 2-5;

confides in the promises of God, and in his protection of him

and all good men, 6-8.


The inscription to this Psalm is: To the chief Musician upon

Sheminith, A Psalm of David. See on the title of Ps 6:1. The

Arabic has "Concerning the end (of the world which shall happen)

on the eighth day. A prophecy relative to the Advent of the


Some think that this Psalm was made when Doeg and the Ziphites

betrayed David to Saul, see 1Sa 22:9; 23:19; &c., but it is most

likely that was written during the Babylonish captivity.

Verse 1. Help, Lord] Save me, O Lord; for merciful men fail, and

faithful men have passed away from the sons of Adam. Make safe me,

Lord; for haly failed, for lessed es sothfastnes fra sons of men.


Verse 2. They speak vanity every one with his neighbour] They

are false and hollow; they say one thing while they mean another;

there is no trusting to what they say.

Flattering lips, and with a double heart do they speak]

beleb valeb, "With a heart and a heart." They seem to have two

hearts; one to speak fair words, and the other to invent mischief.

The old MS. both translates and paraphrases curiously.

Trans. Dayn spak ilkan til his neghbur: swykil lippis in hert,

and thurgh hert thai spak.

Par.-Sothfastnes es lessed, and falsed waxes: and al sa vayn

spak ilkone to bygyle his neghbur: and many spendes thair tyme in

vayne speche withoutyn profyte and gastely frute. And that er

swyku lippis; that er jangelers berkand ogaynes sothfastnes. And

swykel, for thai speke in hert and thurgh hert; that es in dubil

hert, qwen a fals man thynkes ane, and sais another, to desaif hym

that he spekes with.

This homely comment cannot be mended.

Verse 3. Proud things] gedoloth, great things; great

swelling words, both in their promises and in their commendations.

Verse 4. Our lips are our own] Many think, because they have the

faculty of speaking, that therefore they may speak what they


Old MS.-The qwilk sayd, our toung we sal wyrchip, our lippes er

of us, qwas our Lorde? Tha Ypocrites worchepes thair toung; for

thai hee tham self janglyng and settes in thaire pouste to do

mykil thyng and grete: and thai rose tham that thair lippes that

es thair facund and thair wyls er of tham self, nought of God, ne

of haly menes lare; for thi that say qua es our Lord? that es,

qwat es he to qwas rewle and conversacioun we sal be undir lout?

and confourme us til? Als so to say, That es none.

Verse 5. For the oppression of the poor] This seems to refer

best to the tribulations which the poor Israelites suffered while

captives in Babylon. The Lord represents himself as looking on and

seeing their affliction; and, hearing their cry, he determines to

come forward to their help.

Now will I arise] I alone delivered them into the hands of their

enemies, because of their transgressions; I alone can and will

deliver them from the hands of their enemies; and the manner of

their deliverance shall show the power and influence of their God.

From him that puffeth at him.] Here is much interpolation to

make out a sense. Several of the versions read, "I will give him

an open salvation." My work shall be manifest.

Verse 6. The words of the Lord are pure words] None of his

promises shall fall to the ground; the salvation which he has

promised shall be communicated.

Silver tried in a furnace of earth] A reference to the

purification of silver by the cupel. This is a sort of instrument

used in the purification of silver. It may be formed out of a

strong iron ring or hoop, adjusted in width and depth to the

quantum of silver to be purified, and rammed full of well

pulverized calcined bone. The metal to be purified must be mingled

with lead, and laid on the cupel, and exposed to a strong heat in

an air furnace. The impurities of the metal will be partly

absorbed, and partly thrown off in fume. The metal will continue

in a state of agitation till all the impurities are thrown off; it

will then become perfectly still, no more motion appearing, which

is the token that the process is completed, or, according to the

words of the text, is seven times, that is, perfectly purified.

Verse 7. Thou shalt keep them-thou shalt preserve them] Instead

of the pronoun them in these clauses, several MSS., with the

Septuagint, the Vulgate, and the Arabic, have us. The sense is

equally good in both readings. God did bring forth the Israelites

from Babylon, according to his word; he separated them from that

generation, and reinstated them in their own land, according to

his word; and most certainly he has preserved them from generation

to generation to the present day, in a most remarkable manner.

Verse 8. The wicked walk on every side] The land is full of

them. When the vilest men are exalted; rather, As villany gains

ground among the sons of Adam. See the Hebrew. The Vulgate has,

"In circuito impii ambulant; secundum altitudinem tuam

multiplicasti filios hominum;" which is thus translated and

paraphrased in my old MS.:-

Trans. In umgang wiked gos: eftir thy heenes thu has multiplied

the sons of man.

Par. Us thy kepes; bot wiked gas in umgang; that es, in covatyng

of erdley gudes, that turned with the whele of seven daies: in the

qwilk covatys, thai ryn ay aboute; for that sett nane endyng of

thaire syn: and tharfor settes God na terme of thair pyne, but

sons of men that lyfs skilwisly and in ryghtwisnes, thu has

multiplied, aftir thi heghnes in vertus; aftir the heghnes of thi

consayll, thou hast multiplied men bath il and gude; for na man

may perfitely witt in erd, qwy God makes so many men, the qwilk he

wote well sal be dampned: bot it es the privete of his counsayle,

so ryghtwis, that no thyng may be ryghtwiser.

In this we find a number of singular expressions, which, while

they elucidate the text, will not be uninteresting to the

antiquary. Here, for instance, we see the true etymology of the

words righteous and righteousness, i.e., right wise and right

wiseness. For we have it above as a noun, rightwisnes: as an

adjective, rightwis; and as an adjective in the comparative

degree, rightwiser: and we should have had it as an adverb,

ryghtwisely, had not the word skilwisly occurred to the author.

Righteousness is right wiseness, or that which is according to

true wisdom. A righteous man is one who is right wise; properly

instructed in Divine wisdom, and acts according to its dictates;

and among them who act rightwisely, there are some who act

rightwiser than others; and nothing can be rightwiser than ever

to think and act according to the principles of that wisdom

which comes from above.

Right, [Anglo-Saxon] rectus, straight, is opposed to wrong,

from [A.S.] injury, and that from [A.S.], to twist. As [A.S.]

rehtan signifies to direct, so [A.S.] wrangen signifies to

twist, or turn out of a straight or direct line. Right

is straight, and wrong, crooked. Hence the righteous man is one

who goes straight forward, acts and walks by line and rule; and

the unrighteous is he who walks in crooked paths, does what is

wrong, and is never guided by true wisdom. Such a person is

sometimes termed wicked, from the Anglo-Saxon [A.S.], to act by

witch-craft, (hence [A.S.] wicca, a witch,) that is to renounce

God and righteousness, and to give one's self to the devil, which

is the true character of a wicked man. Let him that readeth


The vilest men are exalted] Were we to take this in its obvious

sense, it would signify that at that time wickedness was the way

to preferment, and that good men were the objects of persecution.


There are four parts in this Psalm:-

I. A prayer, and the reason of it; Ps 12:1, 2.

II. A prophecy of the fall of the wicked Ps 12:3, whose

arrogance he describes, Ps 12:4.

III. God's answer to the petition, with a promise full of

comfort, Ps 12:5; ratified, Ps 12:6.

IV. A petitory, or affirmative conclusion: Keep them; or a

confident affirmation that God will keep them from the contagion

of the wicked, Ps 12:7, of which there were too many, Ps 12:8.

I. The prayer, which is very short, for he breaks in upon God

with one word, Hoshiah! Help! Save, Lord! Ps 12:1. For

which he gives two reasons:-

1. The scarcity of good men: "For the godly man ceaseth," &c.

There is neither piety nor fidelity among men.

2. The great abundance of the wicked, the licentious times; the

perfidiousness, hypocrisy, and dissimulation of the men among whom

he lived. "They speak vanity every one with his neighbour," &c.;

Ps 12:2. They take no care to perform what they promise.

II. The prophecy. This shows the end of their dissembling: "The

Lord shall cut off all flattering lips;" Ps 12:3. These are


1. As proud boasters: "With our tongues will we prevail," &c.

2. As persons restrained by no authority: "Who is the Lord over

us?" Ps 12:4.

III. God's answer to the petition, Help, Lord! is it so that the

wicked are so numerous, so tyrannous, so proud, and so arrogant?

1. "I will arise, saith the Lord."

2. I will not delay: "Now I will arise;" Ps 12:5.

3. "I will set him in safety (my followers) from him that

puffeth," &c.

4. I am moved to it by his sighs and groans: "For the oppression

of the poor, for the sighing of the needy," &c.; Ps 12:5.

I. And of this let no man doubt: "The words of the Lord are pure

words." There is no more fallacy in the words of God than there is

impurity in silver seven times refined; Ps 12:6.

IV. A petitory, or affirmative conclusion: Thou shalt keep them,

O Lord; or, O keep them! The overflowings of wickedness are great.

1. Keep them. For unless God keep them they will be infected.

2. Keep them from this generation. For they are a generation of


3. Keep them for ever. For unless thou enable them to persevere,

they will fall.

4. And keep them. For the power, pride, and influence of these

impious men are very great. 1. "The wicked walk on every side." As

wolves they seek whom they may devour. 2. And wickedness is the

way to preferment: "The vilest men are exalted;" Ps 12:8.

Thy people call on thee for help; they know thou canst help, and

therefore are they confident that thou wilt help, because they

know that thou art good.

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