Psalm 12:1-2

1. Save me, O Jehovah; for the merciful man hath failed, and the faithful are wasted away from among the children of men, 2. Every one speaketh deceit [or falsehood] with his neighbor; they speak with lips of flattery, with a double heart.1

To the chief musician upon the eighth. With respect to the word eighth, there are two opinions among interpreters. According to some, it means a musical instrument; while others are rather inclined to think that it is a tune. But as it is of no great importance which of these opinions is adopted, I do not trouble myself much about this matter. The conjecture of some, that it was the beginning of a song, does not seem to me to be so probable as that it refers to the tune, and was intended to point out how the psalm was to be sung.2 In the commencement David complains that the land was so overspread with wicked men, and persons who had broken forth into the commission of every kind of wickedness, that the practice of righteousness and justice had ceased, and none was found to defend the cause of the good; in short, that there remained no longer either humanity or faithfulness. It is probable that the Psalmist here speaks of the time when Saul persecuted him, because then all, from the highest to the lowest, had conspired to destroy an innocent and an afflicted man. It is a thing very distressing to relate, and yet it was perfectly true, that righteousness was so utterly overthrown among the chosen people of God, that all of them, with one consent, from their hostility to a good and just cause, had broken forth into acts of outrage and cruelty. David does not here accuse strangers or foreigners, but informs us that this deluge of iniquity prevailed in the Church of God. Let the faithful, therefore in our day, not be unduly discouraged at the melancholy sight of a very corrupt and confused state of the world; but let them consider that they ought to bear it patiently, seeing their condition is just like that of David in time past. And it is to be observed, that, when David calls upon God for succor, he encourages himself in the hope of obtaining it from this, that there was no uprightness among men; so that from his example we may learn to betake ourselves to God when we see nothing around us but black despair. We ought to be fully persuaded of this, that the greater the confusion of things in the world is, God is so much the readier to aid and succor his people,3 and that it is then the most proper season for him to interpose his assistance.

1. The merciful man hath failed. Some think that this is a complaint that the righteous had been unjustly put to death; as if the Psalmist had said, Saul has cruelly cut off all who observed justice and faithfulness. But I would understand the words in a simpler sense, as meaning that there is no longer any beneficence or truth remaining among men. He has expressed in these two words in what true righteousness consists. As there are two kinds of unrighteousness, violence and deceit; so men live righteously when, in their intercourse with each other, they conscientiously abstain from doing any wrong or injury to one another, and cultivate peace and mutual friendship; when they are neither lions nor foxes. When, however, we see the world in such a state of disorder as is here described, and are afflicted thereby, we ought to be careful not to howl with the wolves, nor to suffer ourselves to be carried away with the dissipation and overflowing flood of iniquity which we see prevailing around us, but should rather imitate the example of David.

2. Every man speaketh deceit. David in this verse sets forth that part of unrighteousness which is contrary to truth. He says that there is no sincerity or uprightness in their speech, because the great object upon which they are bent is to deceive. He next describes the manner in which they deceive, namely, that every man endeavors to ensnare his neighbor by flattery.4 He also points out the fountain and first cause of this, They speak with a double heart. This doubleness of heart, as I may term it, makes men double and variable in their speech, in order thereby to disguise themselves in different ways,5 or to make themselves appear to others different from what they really are. Hence the Hebrew word twqlx, chalakoth, which denotes flattery, is derived from a word which signifies division. As those who are resolved to act truthfully in their intercourse with their neighbors, freely and ingenuously lay open their whole heart; so treacherous and deceitful persons keep a part of their feeling hidden within their own breasts, and cover it with the varnish of hypocrisy and a fair outside; so that from their speech we cannot gather any thing certain with respect to their intentions. Our speech, therefore, must be sincere in order that it may be as it were a mirror, in which the uprightness of our heart may be beheld.

1 Calvin's words literally rendered are, with a heart and a heart, and this is a very literal translation of the Hebrew words blw blb, be-leb va-leb. On the margin of the French version, he reads, "De coeur double," "with a double heart," which explains the meaning of the other phrase. "With a heart and a heart," is a form of expression which forcibly describes the character of deceitful men. "They seem to have two hearts," says Dr Adam Clarke, "one to speak fair words, and the other to invent mischief."

2 "Et que c'est pour exprimer comment se devoir chanter le pseaume." -- Fr.

3 "Tant plus Dieu est prest d'aider et secourir les siens." -- Fr.

4 Horsley reads "smooth lips." "Not smooth," says he, "with flattery, but with glossing lies, with ensnaring eloquence and specious arguments in support of the wretched cause which they espouse."

5 "Pour se disguiser en diverses sortes." -- Fr.


Back to

These files are public domain. This electronic edition was downloaded from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.