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Psalm 12

Plea for Help in Evil Times

To the leader: according to The Sheminith. A Psalm of David.


Help, O L ord, for there is no longer anyone who is godly;

the faithful have disappeared from humankind.


They utter lies to each other;

with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.



May the L ord cut off all flattering lips,

the tongue that makes great boasts,


those who say, “With our tongues we will prevail;

our lips are our own—who is our master?”



“Because the poor are despoiled, because the needy groan,

I will now rise up,” says the L ord;

“I will place them in the safety for which they long.”


The promises of the L ord are promises that are pure,

silver refined in a furnace on the ground,

purified seven times.



You, O L ord, will protect us;

you will guard us from this generation forever.


On every side the wicked prowl,

as vileness is exalted among humankind.

To his complaint in the preceding verse he now subjoins an imprecation, that God would cut off deceitful tongues. It is uncertain whether he wishes that deceitful men may be utterly destroyed, or only that the means of doing mischief may be taken from them; but the scope of the passage leads us rather to adopt the first sense, and to view David as desiring that God, by some means or other, would remove that plague out of the way. As he makes no mention of malice, while he inveighs so vehemently against their envenomed tongues, we hence conclude, that he had suffered much more injury from the latter than from the former; and certainly falsehood and calumnies are more deadly than swords and all other kind of weapons. From the second clause of the third verse it appears more clearly what kind of flatterers they were of whom mention was made in the preceding verse: The tongue that speaketh great or proud things. Some flatter in a slavish and fulsome manner, declaring that they are ready to do and suffer any thing which they possibly can for our benefit. But David here speaks of another kind of flatterers, namely, those who in flattering proudly boast of what they will accomplish, and mingle base effrontery and threatening with their deceitful arts. He does not, therefore, speak of the herd of mean conceited persons among the common people who make a trade of flattering, that they may live at other people’s expense; 259259     “Il ne parle donc pas d’un tas de faquins du commun peuple, qui sont estat de flatter pour avoir la lippee franche.” — Fr. but he points his imprecation against the great calumniators of the court to which he was attached, 260260     “The occasion on which this psalm was composed is not expressed, but it is a sad complaint of the corrupt manners of that age, (especially of the court of Saul, 5:3,) in which it was hard to find an honest plain dealing man, in whom one might confide. Some think it aims partly at Doeg, and such like courtiers; partly at the Ziphires, and such perfidious people in the country, who, promising him their friendship, (as Theodoret understands it,) would have most basely betrayed him unto Saul, his declared enemy.” Bishop Patrick’s Paraphrase on the Book of Psalms. who not only insinuated themselves by gentle arts, but also lied designedly in boasting of themselves, and in the big and haughty discourse with which they overwhelmed the poor and simple. 261261     “Mais qui mentent plaisir en se vantans et tenans propos braves et hautains, desquels ils accablent les poures et simples.” — Fr.

This the Psalmist confirms more fully in the following verse: Who have said, we will be strengthened by our tongues Those must be possessed of great authority who think that, in the very falsehood to which they are addicted, they have enough of strength to accomplish their purposes, and to protect themselves. It is the utmost height of wickedness for persons to break out into such presumption, that they scruple not to overthrow all law and equity by their arrogant and boasting language; for, in doing this, it is just as if they openly declared war against God himself. Some read, we will strengthen our tongues. This reading is passable, in so far as the sense is concerned, but it scarcely agrees with the rules of grammar, because the letter ל, lamed, is added. Moreover, the sense which is more suitable is this: that the wicked persons spoken of being armed with their tongues, go beyond all bounds, and think they can accomplish by this means whatever they please; just as this set of men so deform every thing with their calumnies, that they would almost cover the sun himself with darkness.

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