Psalm 12

Submitted by admin on Mon, 2006-04-17 09:56.

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Psalm 12 is linked to David, but it does not provide the kind of details needed to identify a particular period in his life. Some of the thoughts expressed therein could fit the time he was fleeing from King Saul or when his son Absalom was plotting to seize the throne.

In view of widespread moral corruption, David appealed to YHWH to be saved. Loyal or trustworthy people were apparently so few in number that David could speak of loyal ones as no longer existing and of faithful or trustworthy persons as having disappeared among “sons of man” (earthlings). The people generally were speaking lies (vanities or worthlessness, Septuagint) to their fellows. They resorted to flattery, apparently in an effort to hide their sinister aims. The expressions of their lips were the very opposite of their inward thoughts. According to the Septuagint, “deceitful lips” were in the heart, and the Masoretic Text says that they spoke with a “double heart,” saying one thing but actually intending something very different.

David appealed to YHWH to destroy flattering lips and the bragging tongue. Those who used their tongue to make great boasts doubtless bragged about how they had succeeded in taking advantage of others. They were smug about their success in using their tongue to attain unworthy ends. As far as they were concerned, they would prevail with their tongue. In full control of their lips for use in attaining their objectives, they felt that no one could be their master. This could mean that no one would have a chance against them or that they were accountable to no one.

These ruthless ones would seize the little the poor possessed, completely despoiling them. On account of such mistreatment and injustice, the needy would sigh. According to the portrayal of the psalmist, YHWH would therefore say that he would arise (as from a seated position) and grant the afflicted safety.

After the mention of safety, the Masoretic Text adds the expression “he puffs” (preceded by a preposition). There is considerable uncertainty about what this means, and this is reflected in varying interpretive renderings. The “puffing” has been understood to mean contemptuous treatment, sneering, or maligning (from which YHWH protects the needy). “I will set him in safety at whom they puff.” (Margolis) “I will protect them from those who malign them.” (NIV) Others have taken the “puffing” to signify a “panting” or “longing” for and link the expression to the poor. “I will place them in the safety for which they long.” (NRSV) “I will grant safety to whoever longs for it.” (NAB) The Tanakh rendering transforms the words into a divine affirmation to the afflicted one. “‘I will give help,’ He affirms to him.” According to the Septuagint, YHWH would “speak freely” or “speak openly” to those he placed in safety. This would suggest granting them an intimacy with him as his friends.

Apparently YHWH’s promise to place the afflicted in a safe position is highlighted in the assurances that follow. Unlike the words of untrustworthy men, the words of YHWH are pure, without even the slightest trace of impurity. They are like silver that has been refined, to the utmost degree (“seven times”), in a furnace or crucible on the ground.

On the basis of the divine promise, David petitions YHWH to protect the upright, guarding him and others like him from the “generation” (evidently the ungodly generation) into the indefinite future, “into the age” (Septuagint), or for all time to come.

The upright can fully rely on YHWH’s words. This would be despite the fact that the wicked or ungodly were all around and walked about freely, and, among the “sons of man” (sinful earthlings), worthlessness was exalted. Those having attained wealth and power, although by base means, were accorded honor that they did not deserve.


For the expression “sheminith” (appearing in the superscription), see Psalm 6. The Septuagint reads, “To the end; concerning the eighth; psalm to David.”

Regarding “musical director” or “leader,” see Psalm 9.

The Hebrew word (’amán) for “faithful” or “trustworthy” is rendered alétheia, the Greek term basically meaning “truthfulness” but also conveying the sense of “fidelity” or “faithfulness.”

Instead of “prevailing” with the tongue, the Septuagint refers to “magnifying” the tongue, which may be suggestive of speaking great things or boasting.

The text of a Dead Sea Psalms Scroll, though only partially preserved, indicates that YHWH would rise up “for the righteous.”

The Septuagint makes no mention of a furnace or crucible, but refers to the silver as being “burned” (submitted to fire) and “tested” on the “earth.” This differs from the Masoretic Text, which speaks of the crucible as being “on the earth” or on the ground.

The Septuagint concludes the psalm with the words, “according to your [YHWH’s] loftiness, you have greatly cared for the sons of men.” This would suggest that, even though the ungodly or impious walked about all around, YHWH had still taken great care of people.

For a discussion of the divine name (YHWH), see Psalm 1.