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Psalm 12:7-8

7. Thou, O Jehovah, wilt keep them; thou wilt preserve him from this generation for ever. 8. The ungodly walk about on every side; when they are exalted, there is reproach to the children of men.


7. Thou, O Jehovah. Some think that the language of the Psalmist here is that of renewed prayer; and they, therefore, understand the words as expressive of his desire, and translate them in the optative mood, thus, Do thou, O Jehovah, keep them 266266     “Que tu les gardes, Seigneur.” — Fr. But I am rather of opinion that David, animated with holy confidence, boasts of the certain safety of all the godly, of whom God, who neither can deceive nor lie, avows himself to be the guardian. At the same time, I do not altogether disapprove of the interpretation which views David as renewing his supplications at the throne of grace. Some give this exposition of the passage, Thou wilt keep them, namely, thy words; 267267     This is the view adopted by Hammond. He refers the them to the words of the Lord mentioned in the preceding verse, and the him following to the godly, or just man, and explains the verse thus: ”Thou, O Lord, shalt keep, or perform, those words, thou shalt preserve the just man from this generation for ever.” The Chaldee version reads, “Thou wilt keep the just;” the Septuagint, Vulgate, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions read, “Thou wilt keep us;” but this does not seem to me to be suitable. 268268     “Mais quant a ceux qui elisent, Tu les garderas, as avoir Tes paroles; l’exposition ne me semble pas propre.” — Fr. David, I have no doubt, returns to speak of the poor, of whom he had spoken in the preceding part of the psalm. With respect to his changing the number, (for, he says first, Thou wilt keep them, and, next, Thou wilt preserve him 269269     “Car il dit premierement, Tu les garderas; et puis, Tu le preserveras.” Fr. it is a thing quite common in Hebrew, and the sense is not thereby rendered ambiguous. These two sentences, therefore, Thou wilt keep them, and Thou wilt preserve him, signify the same thing, unless, perhaps, we may say that, in the second, under the person of one man, the Psalmist intends to point out the small number of good men. To suppose this is not unreasonable or improbable; and, according to this view, the import of his language is, Although only one good man should be left alive in the world, yet he would be kept in perfect safety by the grace and protection of God. But as the Jews, when they speak generally, often change the number, I leave my readers freely to form their own judgment. This, indeed, cannot be controverted, that by the word generation, or race, is denoted a great multitude of ungodly persons, and almost the whole body of the people. As the Hebrew word דור, dor, signifies as well the men who live in the same age, as the space of time itself, David, without doubt, here means that the servants of God cannot escape, and continue safe, unless God defend them against the malice of the whole people, and deliver them from the wicked and perverse men of the age in which they live. Whence we learn that the world, at that time, was so corrupt, that David, by way of reproach, puts them all, as it were, into one bundle. Moreover, it is of importance again to remember what we have already stated, that he does not here speak of foreign nations, but of the Israelites, and God’s chosen people. It is well to mark this carefully, that we may not be discouraged by the vast multitude of the ungodly, if we should sometimes see an immense heap of chaff upon the barn-floor of the Lord, while only a few grains of corn lie hidden underneath. And then, however small may be the number of the good, let this persuasion be deeply fixed in our minds, that God will be their protector, and that for ever. The word לעולם, leolam, which signifies for ever, is added, that we may learn to extend our confidence in God far into the future, seeing he commands us to hope for succor from him, not only once, or for one day, but as long as the wickedness of our enemies continues its work of mischief. We are, however, from this passage, at the same time, admonished that war is not prepared against us for a short time only, but that we must daily engage in the conflict. And if the guardianship which God exercises over the faithful is sometimes hidden, and is not manifest in its effects, let them wait in patience until he arise; and the greater the flood of calamities which overflows them, let them keep themselves so much the more in the exercise of godly fear and solicitude.

8. The ungodly walk about on every side. The Hebrew word סביב, sabib, which we have translated on every side, signifies a circuit, or a going round; and, therefore, some explain it allegorically thus: the ungodly seize upon all the defiles or narrow parts of roads, in order to shut up or besiege the good on all sides; and others expound it even more ingeniously, thus: that they lay snares by indirect means, and by inventions full of art and deception. But I think the simple meaning is, that they possess the whole land, and range about through every part of it; as if the Psalmist had said, Wherever I turn my eyes, I see troops of them on every side. In the next clause he complains that mankind are shamefully and basely oppressed by their tyranny. This is the meaning, provided the clause is read as a distinct one by itself, separate from the preceding, a point about which interpreters differ, although this view seems to come nearer to the mind of the inspired writer. Some render the verse in one continuous sentence, thus: The ungodly fly about every where, when the reproaches among the children of men (that is to say, when the worthless and the refuse of men) are exalted, an exposition which is not unsuitable. It commonly happens, that as diseases flow from the head into the members, so corruptions proceed from princes, and infect the whole people. As, however, the former exposition is more generally received, and the most learned grammarians tell us that the Hebrew word זלות, zuluth, which we have translated reproach, is a noun of the singular number, I have adopted the former exposition, not that I am dissatisfied with the latter, but because we must needs choose the one or the other.

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