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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Psalms 12

 

 

Verse 1

Psalms 12:1 « To the chief Musician upon Sheminith, A Psalm of David. » Help, LORD for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men.

Ver. 1. Help, Lord] It was high time to call to heaven for help when Saul cried, Go, kill me up the priests of Jehovah (the occasion, as it is thought, of making this psalm), and therein committed the sin against the Holy Ghost, as some grave divines are of the opinion, 1 Samuel 22:17. David, after many sad thoughts about that slaughter, and the occasion of it, Doeg’s malicious information, together with the paucity of his fast friends and the multitude of his sworn enemies at court, breaks forth abruptly into these words, "Help, Lord," help at a dead lift. The Arabic version hath it, Deliver me by main force, as with weapons of war, for the Lord is a man of war, Exodus 15:3.

For the godly man ceaseth] Heb. the merciful man, who, having obtained mercy from thee, would show me mercy, and defend mine innocence; such as these are banished the court, which is now possessed by parasites and sycophants.

For the faithful fail] Veraces, the true and trusty ones, such as a man may safely confide in; these are rare birds. See Micah 7:1-3, &c., {See Trapp on "Micah 7:1"} {See Trapp on "Micah 7:2"} {See Trapp on "Micah 7:3"} When the Son of man cometh shall he find faith (in this sense also) in the earth? Luke 18:8, hard and scarce. When Varus was slain Augustus complained that now he had none left that would deal plainly and faithfully with him. Lewis XI of France would say, that he had plenty of all things but of one. And being asked of what? Of truth, quoth he, Aurelian the emperor was brought and sold by his counsellors, for he might know nothing but as they informed him. David complaineth of Saul, that he was too apt to hearken to every claw back tell tale, 1 Samuel 24:9; 1 Samuel 26:19, so that he could have no fair dealing.


Verse 2

Psalms 12:2 They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: [with] flattering lips [and] with a double heart do they speak.

Ver. 2. They speak vanity every one with his neighbour] They speak falsely and fraudulently, and therein have an art, as Jeremiah 9:4-5, such as the devil hath taught them.

With flattering lips] Blandientibus, vel dividentibus. The Syriac version hath it, with dividing lips, such as separate very friends.

With a double heart do theft speak] Heb. With a heart and a heart. So Horace saith of Ulysses (Ode. 6, Animus versutulus et versatilis).

Cursus doplicis per mare Ulyssei.

The prophet here meaneth that they had one heart in their body, and another in their mouth, being desperate dissemblers, such as the French are said to be. Those men of Zebulun were none such, 1 Chronicles 12:33.


Verse 3

Psalms 12:3 The LORD shall cut off all flattering lips, [and] the tongue that speaketh proud things:

Ver. 3. The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips] As a rotten member is cut off from the body - Ne pars sincera trahatur, or as a barren tree is stocked up, that it cumber not the ground. There is a wonderful sympathy between princes and parasites, whose song is Mihi placet, quicquid regi placet, and whose practice is to speak suavia potius quam sans, sweet rather than sound things. But God will cut off such lips (taking notice of the offending member), as he dealt by Doeg, Ahithophel, Shebna, Shemaiah the Nehelamite, Jeremiah 29:32, and as it were to be wished that Christian princes would do; serving them all as the Thessalians did that city in Greece called Kολακεια, or flattery, which they destroyed and pulled down to the ground (Hen. Steph. Apol. pro Herod.).

And the tougue that speaketh proud things] Magnifica, bubbles of words, blustering speeches, breathing out nothing but arrogance and contempt of God and his people. These grandiloqui must one day answer for their hard speeches with flames about their ears, whatever they meet with in the meanwhile, as did Nestorius, Thomas Arundel, Stephen Gardiner, and others, plagued here in their tongues, those little members that had boasted so great things, James 3:5.


Verse 4

Psalms 12:4 Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips [are] our own: who [is] lord over us?

Ver. 4. Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail] Dictitant enim, this was a common word with them. And surely the tongue is a desperate weapon, made in the form of a flaming sword, and elsewhere by David compared to a tuck or rapier, Psalms 64:3, to a razor also, doing deceit, Psalms 52:2 The Chaldee paraphrast hath this text thus, Because we can swear and lie, therefore we shall prevail.

Our lips are our own] Heb. are with us, that is, we have the command of our tongues, and have words at will; we can speak persuasively, and, therefore, we doubt not to persuade Saul to anything against David. Socrates, in his apology, My lords, said he to the judges, I know not how you have been affected with mine adversaries’ eloquence while you heard them speak; for mine own part, I assure you that I, whom it toucheth most, was almost drawn to believe that all they said, though against myself, was true, when they scarcely uttered one word of truth. Gaius Curio, the Roman, was ingeniose nequam, wittily wicked (Paterculus); and the Duke of Buckingham, in his speech to the Londoners, for Richard III, gained this (though slender) commendation, that no man could deliver so much bad matter in so good words and quaint phrases.

Who is lord over us?] sc. To hinder us from speaking what and when we list with fineness and eloquence, though to the slaying of three at once, the tale bearer, the tale hearer, and the party traduced. R. Samuel Ben Jochai hath this note upon the text: A slanderous tongue is called Lashon Tabithai ( Lingua tertia), because it slayeth three; but here it slew four, viz. Doeg, Saul, Nob, the city of the priests, and Abner, who suffered it so to be, 1 Samuel 22:18-19.


Verse 5

Psalms 12:5 For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the LORD I will set [him] in safety [from him that] puffeth at him.

Ver. 5. For the oppression of the poor] Whose very oppression, though they complain not, hath a voice, and God will hear it, for he is gracious, Exodus 22:27. He heard Hagar’s affliction, though she said nothing, Genesis 16:11; he heareth the young ravens that cry unto him by implication only.

For the sighing of the needy] If it be but their breathing, Lamentations 3:56, God can feel it, but the sighs of his people are effectual orators, Exodus 2:23-25; Exodus 3:7; and their tears he puts in a bottle, Psalms 56:9.

Now will I arise] sc. In the nick of time, when all seems to be lost. Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity. Cum duplicarentur lateres, venit Moses. See Isaiah 33:10, Now, now, now.

Saith the Lord] Dixit mihi per prophetiam, Isaiah 22:14.

From him that puffeth at him] That defieth him, and thinks he can blow him away at a blast; but if God arise only his enemies shall be scattered, as thistle down is by a puff of wind, Psalms 68:1. Some render the text, He will puff at him, that is, the oppressed will now dare to speak freely, who before durst not mute (R. David).


Verse 6

Psalms 12:6 The words of the LORD [are] pure words: [as] silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.

Ver. 6. The words of the Lord are pure words] Free from all insincerity or falsehood; and not like those of Saul’s flatterers, vile and vicious. All God’s promises are infallible, and such as a man may write upon, as they say. They are yea and Amen, 2 Corinthians 1:20, that is, truth and assurance. God hath hitherto kept promise with nights and days, that they shall one succeed another, Jeremiah 33:20; Jeremiah 33:25, therefore much more will he keep promise with his people.

As silver tried in a furnace] In a sublimatory or crucible. The Greeks call it δοκιμιον, St Peter’s word, 1 Peter 1:7.

Purifed seven times] That is, sufficiently. Alchemy gold, as it will not pass the seventh fire, so it doth not comfort the heart, as true gold will.


Verse 7

Psalms 12:7 Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.

Ver. 7. Thou shall keep them] That is, Verba praedicta, the forementioned words or promises, saith Aben Ezra. Or, keep thou them (prayerwise), and so David puts God’s promises in suit. A certain good man having all taken from him, and his wife desiring to know how he and his family should live? He answered, he would now put his bond in suit; that is, he would urge God with his promises.

Thou shall preserve them] Heb. him, that is, every one of them, viz. the poor and needy, among whom David reckons himself, which shows his humility.

From this generation] So they are called for their multitude, in opposition to those few faithful ones, Psalms 12:1. An evil and adulterous generation they were, a bastardly brood, as Matthew 12:39. Omne tempus ferct Clodios, Catones non omne feret, saith Seneca.


Verse 8

Psalms 12:8 The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted.

Ver. 8. The wicked walk on every side] In circuitu, saith the Vulgate; the circular motion is most subtle, the devil walketh the rounds to do mischief; but better render it circumquaque, on every side, to show their numbers and their insolence. All places are full of them, such dust heaps are found in every corner; when as the godly are as the salt of the earth, sprinkled here and there, as salt useth to be, to keep the rest from putrefying.

When the vilest men are exalted] Heb. Vilities, the abstract for the concrete, quisquiliae, ουτιδανοι. Oft empty vessels swim aloft, rotten posts are gilt with adulterate gold, the worst weeds spring up bravest. Chaff will get to the top of the fan when good grain, as it lieth at the bottom of the heap, so it falls low at the feet of the farmer. The reason why wicked men walk on every side, are so brisk, so busy, and who but they? is given in to be this, because losels and rioters were exalted. See Proverbs 28:12; Proverbs 28:18; Proverbs 29:2. As rheums and catarrhs fall from the head to the lungs, and cause a consumption of the whole body; so it is in the body politic. As a fish putrefies first in the head, and then in all the parts; so here. Some render the text thus, When they (that is, the wicked) are exalted, it is a shame for the sons of men, that other men, who better deserve preferment, are not only slighted, but vilely handled by such worthless ambitionists; who yet the higher they climb, as apes, the more they discover their deformities.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Psalms 12:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/psalms-12.html. 1865-1868.

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Thursday, December 5th, 2019
the First Week of Advent
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