Psalm 12:5-6

5. Because of the spoiling1 of the needy, because of the groaning of the poor, I will now arise, Jehovah will say; I will set in safety him whom he snareth.2 6. The words of Jehovah are pure words:silver melted in an excellent crucible of earth, purified seven times.


5. Because of the spoiling of the needy. David now sets before himself as matter of consolation, the truth that God will not suffer the wicked thus to make havoc without end and measure. The more effectually to establish himself and others in the belief of this truth, he introduces God himself as speaking. The expression is more emphatic when God is represented as coming forward and declaring with his own mouth that he is come to deliver the poor and distressed. There is also great emphasis in the adverb now, by which God intimates that, although our safety is in his hand, and, therefore, in secure keeping, yet he does not immediately grant deliverance from affliction; for his words imply that he had hitherto been, as it were, lying still and asleep, until he was awakened by the calamities and the cries of his people. When, therefore, the injuries, the extortions, and the devastations of our enemies leave us nothing but tears and groans, let us remember that now the time is at hand when God intends to rise up to execute judgment. This doctrine should also serve to produce in us patience, and prevent us from taking it ill, that we are reckoned among the number of the poor and afflicted, whose cause God promises to take into his own hand.

With respect to the meaning of the second clause of the verse, expositors differ. According to some, to set in safety, means the same thing as to give or bring safety, as if the letter b, beth, which signifies in, were superfluous. But the language rather contains a promise to grant to those who are unjustly oppressed, full restitution. What follows is attended with more difficulty. The word hwp, phuach, which we have rendered to lay snares for, sometimes signifies to blow out, or to puff, -- at other times to ensnare, or to lay snares for; and sometimes, also, to speak. Those who think it is here put for to speak also differ among themselves with respect to the meaning. Some render it God will speak to himself; that is to say, God will determine with himself; but as the Psalmist had already declared the determination of God, this would be an unnecessary and vain repetition. Others refer it to the language of the godly, as if David introduced them speaking one to another concerning the faithfulness and stability of the promises of God; for with this word they connect the following sentence, The words of the Lord are pure words, etc. But this view is even more strained than the preceding. The opinion of others, who suppose, that to the determination of God to arise, there is subjoined the language which is addressed to the godly, is more admissible. It would not be sufficient for God to determine with himself what he would do for our safety, if he did not speak to us expressly, and by name. It is only when God makes us to understand, by his own voice, that he will be gracious to us, that we can entertain the hope of salvation. God, it is true, speaks also to unbelievers, but without producing any good effect, seeing they are deaf; just as when he treats them with gentleness and liberality, it is without effect, because they are stupid, and devour his benefits without any sense of their coming from him. But as I perceive that under the word rmay, yomar, will say, the promises of God may be suitably and properly comprehended, to avoid a repetition of the same thing, I adopt without hesitation the sense of the last clause, which I have given in the translation, namely, that God declares he will arise to restore to safety those who seem on all sides to be environed by the snares of their enemies, and even caught in them. The import of the language is this:The ungodly may hold the poor and afflicted entangled in their snares as a prey which they have caught; but I will set them in safety. If it should be replied, that the reading in the Hebrew is not for whom, but for him, I would observe, that it is no new thing for these words, him, for him, to be used instead of whom and for whom.3 If any one prefer the sense of puffing at, I am not disposed greatly to oppose him. According to this reading, David would elegantly taunt the pride of the ungodly, who confidently imagine they can do any thing,4 even with their breath, as we have seen in the tenth psalm, at the fifth verse.

6. The words of Jehovah. The Psalmist now declares, that God is sure, faithful, and steadfast in his promises. But the insertion by the way of this commendation of the word of God would be to no purpose, if he had not first called himself, and other believers, to meditate on God's promises in their afflictions. Accordingly, the order of the Psalmist is to be attended to, namely, that, after telling us how God gives to his servants the hope of speedy deliverance, even in their deepest distresses, he now adds, to support their faith and hope, that God promises nothing in vain, or for the purpose of disappointing man. This, at first sight, seems a matter of small importance; but if any person consider more closely and attentively how prone the minds of men are to distrust and ungodly doubtings, he will easily perceive how requisite it is for our faith to be supported by this assurance, that God is not deceitful, that he does not delude or beguile us with empty words, and that he does not magnify beyond all measure either his power or his goodness, but that whatever he promises in word he will perform in deed. There is no man, it is true, who will not frankly confess that he entertains the same conviction which David here records, that the words of Jehovah are pure; but those who while lying in the shade and living at their ease liberally extol by their praises the truth of God's word, when they come to struggle with adversity in good earnest, although they may not venture openly to pour forth blasphemies against God, often charge him with not keeping his word. Whenever he delays his assistance, we call in question his fidelity to his promises and murmur just as if he had deceived us. There is no truth which is more generally received among men than that God is true; but there are few who frankly give him credit for this when they are in adversity. It is, therefore, highly necessary for us to cut off the occasion of our distrust; and whenever any doubt respecting the faithfulness of God's promises steals in upon us, we ought immediately to lift up against it this shield, that the words of the Lord are pure. The similitude of silver, which the Psalmist subjoins, is indeed far below the dignity and excellence of so great a subject; but it is very well adapted to the measure of our limited and imperfect understanding. Silver, if thoroughly refined, is valued at a high price amongst us. But we are far from manifesting for the word of God, the price of which is inestimable, an equal regard; and its purity is of less account with us than that of a corruptible metal. Yea, a great many coin mere dross in their own brain, by which to efface or obscure the brightness which shines in the word of God. The word lyleb, baälil, which we have translated crucible, is interpreted by many prince, or lord, as if it were a simple word. According to them, the meaning would be, that the word of God is like the purest silver, from which the dross has been completely removed with the greatest art and care, not for common use, but for the service of a great lord or prince of some country. I, however, rather agree with others who consider that lyleb, baälil, is a word compounded of the letter b, beth, which signifies in, and the noun lyle, alil, which signifies a clean or well polished vessel or crucible.

1 "Oppression." -- Fr.

2 "Celuy a qui le roeschant tend des laqs." -- Fr. "Him for whom the wicked lays snares." Hebrews "Il luy tend des laqs." -- Fr. marg. "I will set in safety; he lays snares for him."

3 "Et quant a ce qu'on pourroit repliequer qu'il n'y a pas en l'Hebrieu A qui, mais Luy, ce n'est pas chose nouvelle que ces mots Le, Luy se prenent pour Qui et A qui." -- Fr.

4 "Qu'ils renverseront tout k soufiler seulement." -- Fr. "That they shall overthrow all simply by their breath."


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