Psalm 12 under the microscope

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Dino246

Senior Member
Jun 30, 2015
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#1
I have seen parts of this psalm quoted many times. I’ve also seen it misquoted many times and have encountered ideas based on the misquotation being defended vigorously. Hopefully this thread will help clear up some of the confusion.

Here’s the entire psalm in two different English versions, both pasted from biblegateway.org:

KJV:
1 Help, Lord; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men.
2 They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak.
3 The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things:
4 Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us?
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.
6 The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.
7 Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.
8 The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted.

NIV:
1 Help, Lord, for no one is faithful anymore; those who are loyal have vanished from the human race.
2 Everyone lies to their neighbor; they flatter with their lips but harbor deception in their hearts.
3 May the Lord silence all flattering lips and every boastful tongue—
4 those who say, “By our tongues we will prevail; our own lips will defend us—who is lord over us?”
5 “Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan, I will now arise,” says the Lord. “I will protect them from those who malign them.”
6 And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times.
7 You, Lord, will keep the needy safe and will protect us forever from the wicked,
8 who freely strut about when what is vile is honored by the human race.

The subject is established in the first verse. The psalmist (David) is crying out to the Lord about the wretched state of society. He describes the situation further, then calls on the Lord to silence the wrongdoers. In verse 5, God replies, stating that He will protect the poor and needy. So far, despite the obviously different selection of words, there is general agreement between the two translations. They clearly mean the same thing.

With verse 6, interpretations markedly diverge, though with the exception of “us” and “them” in verse 7, the words still mean essentially the same thing. The NIV begins the verse 6 with “And”, clearly linking it to verse 5. Verses 7 and 8 are one sentence in the NIV, connecting the end of the psalm with the start, and completing the thought. David asserts that the Lord will keep the needy safe and protect "us" forever, clearly indicating that it is people who are protected.

Many readers see the KJV as changing topics to “the words of the Lord” for two verses. Verse 7 uses the uncertain pronoun “them” which could refer either to “the words of the Lord” or to “the poor and needy”. The “words” view puts verses 6 and 7 out of context, creating a disjoint in the flow of thought. I have yet to see an explanation of this disjoint from anyone who prefers the KJV. There are additional dependent interpretations that go along with this view, which I will address in subsequent posts.
 

TheDivineWatermark

Well-known member
Aug 3, 2018
3,209
664
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#2
Would that be... the difference between the "plural" and the "singular," in the following? (I'm not great at reading Hebrew, lol):


From verse 7 -

8104 [e]
תִּשְׁמְרֵ֑ם tiš-mə-rêm; shall keep them V-Qal-Imperf-2ms | 3mp ...[plural here]

5341 [e]
תִּצְּרֶ֓נּוּ ׀ tiṣ-ṣə-ren-nū You shall preserve them V-Qal-Imperf-2ms | 3mse ...[singular here]


… or would this not make any difference either way?? (to your point; or to the reading/understanding of the text)
 

Dino246

Senior Member
Jun 30, 2015
11,198
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#3
Using the “words” view as a basis, some readers interpret the KJV of verse 6 to refer to the KJV itself, providing a list of early English translations with the KJV as the seventh inline. Here’s the verse again:

The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.

There are several problems with such an interpretation, all based either on a misreading or a lack of contextual understanding. Of course, there are more than six English versions of Scripture predating the KJV, but this fact is explained away by the proponents.

The verse employs a simile; it compares the purity of the words of the Lord to the purity of refined silver. Silver and other precious metals are typically found intermixed with base metals and other material. Prior to the invention of modern methods, the purification process involved putting the ore into a furnace, heating it until it melts, and drawing off the non-precious slag materials that rise to the surface. When repeated several times, this reduces the amount of other materials to essentially nothing, leaving “pure” refined silver.

The verse mentions “seven times”... a number used elsewhere in Scripture in the context of ‘completion’. The sense here is that there is nothing impure about the words of the Lord. The verse says nothing at all about the words of the Lord being refined (as though they needed to be). The same people who claim that this verse refers to the KJV also claim that God has preserved His word “perfectly” and therefore any change to the KJV is actually a corruption. The two ideas are completely incompatible.

One wonders how that one verse in the middle of a psalm written a thousand years before Christ could be interpreted as a prophecy of a particular translation of the whole of Scripture (which did not yet exist) into a temporary version of a language (which did not yet exist) 1600 years after Christ. While it might make for good propaganda, the idea is patently ridiculous. It completely ignores the fact that Scripture is relevant in every language. The idea is usually defended with the claim that English is the most commonly-spoken language at present (ignoring the prior prevalence of Latin, and later, Spanish). Frankly, it is a poor attempt to justify one’s already-held belief, rather than a conclusion a reader would come to by simply reading the text. It’s anachronistic, eisegetical, and unfounded. Nobody reading a different language or translation would come to such a conclusion.


Some readers take verse 7 to be a promise that God will preserve His word forever. I have seen this presented by itself, and combined with the idea that the KJV is God’s preserved word in English and is therefore “perfect”. Again, here is the verse:

Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.

The biggest problem with such an interpretation is that it ignores three words in the middle of the verse: “from this generation”. We have evidence that “them” may not refer to “the words of the Lord”, but even if they do, they are preserved from, not merely “preserved”.

To be clear, the question is not, “Will God preserve His word?” which is answered by other passages of Scripture. The question also is neither “Does this mean that God is not promising to preserve His words forever?” nor “Is God promising not to preserve His words forever?” (English is such a strange language!) To borrow from Paul, May it never be! Such questions are antagonistic and fallacious, and contribute nothing to proper understanding. Rather, the question is, “Does this verse make that promise?”

We’ll set aside the fact that these are David’s words about God, not God’s words about Himself, as there is nothing to suggest that David’s assertion is wrong. Someone is going to quote 2 Timothy 3:16 at me because they didn’t read that sentence carefully, and didn’t read this one at all.

So what does the verse actually say? It says that God will preserve His (words or people) from this generation forever. From which generation? This takes the reader back to the context of the whole psalm, which describes a wicked generation in which godliness is rare and falsehood is common. Let’s go with the “words” view for a moment: God promises to preserve forever His words from the wicked generation. That simply does not mean the same thing as “preserve His words forever”. In order to conclude that the verse is God’s promise to preserve His word forever, one must misread the text first.

Let’s put the original subject of the psalm back into perspective. David is writing about the plight of poor and needy people among a wicked generation. It makes good sense that verse 6 refers to the purity and certainty of God’s words as quoted in verse 5: we can be sure that when God says He “will set them in safety”, He will actually do so. It follows that, as recorded in verse 7, He will indeed preserve such people from a wicked generation as He said He would do in verse 5. Verse 8 (in the KJV) makes sense as the continuation of the thought in verse 7 rather than a switch back to the original topic. If “them” refers to “words”, verse 8 is left hanging in the wind.

So what are the conclusions? Do we go with the out-of-context “words” view or the context-consistent “people” view? Obviously, I believe that the “people” view makes far better sense, but I don’t think it is worth breaking fellowship. However, even allowing the “words” view, I consider it quite absurd that verse 6 has anything to do with the KJV specifically. Further, I don’t accept that verse 7 can be used as evidence (and certainly not as a proof text!) supporting the idea that “God will preserve His words forever”. It simply doesn’t say that. Should we believe that God will (and has) preserved His word? Certainly. However, butchering His word to support the idea that He will preserve it seems rather counterintuitive... at least to me. :)
 

Dino246

Senior Member
Jun 30, 2015
11,198
5,613
113
#4
Would that be... the difference between the "plural" and the "singular," in the following? (I'm not great at reading Hebrew, lol):


From verse 7 -

8104 [e]
תִּשְׁמְרֵ֑ם tiš-mə-rêm; shall keep them V-Qal-Imperf-2ms | 3mp ...[plural here]

5341 [e]
תִּצְּרֶ֓נּוּ ׀ tiṣ-ṣə-ren-nū You shall preserve them V-Qal-Imperf-2ms | 3mse ...[singular here]


… or would this not make any difference either way?? (to your point; or to the reading/understanding of the text)
Good question. Both "words" and "people" are plural so I'm not sure it makes a difference. I have little knowledge of Hebrew so I'd have to defer to the experts on that. Too bad Marc isn't around much.
 

posthuman

Senior Member
Jul 31, 2013
24,887
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#5
Would that be... the difference between the "plural" and the "singular," in the following? (I'm not great at reading Hebrew, lol):


From verse 7 -

8104 [e]
תִּשְׁמְרֵ֑ם tiš-mə-rêm; shall keep them V-Qal-Imperf-2ms | 3mp ...[plural here]

5341 [e]
תִּצְּרֶ֓נּוּ ׀ tiṣ-ṣə-ren-nū You shall preserve them V-Qal-Imperf-2ms | 3mse ...[singular here]


… or would this not make any difference either way?? (to your point; or to the reading/understanding of the text)
Good question. Both "words" and "people" are plural so I'm not sure it makes a difference. I have little knowledge of Hebrew so I'd have to defer to the experts on that. Too bad Marc isn't around much.
((just my understanding... MOO... which could be totally wrong; i've got no education in Hebrew at all))

the LORD tho singular, in Hebrew always takes a plural verb form. one explanation i've heard is that plural form can be a type of honorific; it doesn't necessarily indicate plurality of number. another explanation is, basically, because, trinity.

at any rate,

Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever

'them' isn't an actual word in the text. it's implied by the form of the verb 'to keep' or 'to preserve' -- see image at bottom of this post clipped from biblehub

1st 'them' specifies YHWH as the direct object of the verb keep. by that plural-rule in the OT, it's plural in case, not because 'them' is plural but because of this other rule.
is the 2nd '
them' referencing the pronoun 'thou' -- singular in case, because there is one 'thou' that's performing the action of the verb? 'thou' isn't actually in the text either.


NASB & some others render this as 'you shall preserve him' instead -- probably taking this to refer to a generic 'oppressed person' described in vv. 1-6

i agree with Dino; 'words' is equally plural in sense so the same issue would bite a KJV-only-apologist








1.JPG
 

Dino246

Senior Member
Jun 30, 2015
11,198
5,613
113
#6
((just my understanding... MOO... which could be totally wrong; i've got no education in Hebrew at all))
...
1st 'them' specifies YHWH as the direct object of the verb keep. by that plural-rule in the OT, it's plural in case, not because 'them' is plural but because of this other rule.
is the 2nd '
them' referencing the pronoun 'thou' -- singular in case, because there is one 'thou' that's performing the action of the verb? 'thou' isn't actually in the text either.
I hear you... the first "them" could plausibly refer to God, but here's where differences in language structure become an issue. In English, we would employ a reflexive pronoun, such as "He will keep Themselves...". We'd need someone familiar with Hebrew grammar to clarify.
 

posthuman

Senior Member
Jul 31, 2013
24,887
6,488
113
#7
I hear you... the first "them" could plausibly refer to God, but here's where differences in language structure become an issue. In English, we would employ a reflexive pronoun, such as "He will keep Themselves...". We'd need someone familiar with Hebrew grammar to clarify.

yes. i'm sure not. i'm probably quite wrong

i saw oldhermit the other day
 

TheDivineWatermark

Well-known member
Aug 3, 2018
3,209
664
113
#8
Good question. Both "words" and "people" are plural so I'm not sure it makes a difference. I have little knowledge of Hebrew so I'd have to defer to the experts on that. Too bad Marc isn't around much.
The image that posthuman placed in his post is where I'm getting my info as well.

I noticed that each of these two words I brought out has two [sections, for lack of a better word]…

--H8104 has "second person masculine singular" AND "3rd person masculine plural"

--H5341 has [also] "second person masculine singular" and then [differently from H8104] "3rd person masculine singular"

[I had only bolded one part (per Hebrew word), in my last post]



So... I was thinking (maybe incorrectly, I don't know) that perhaps the "[3rd person] singular" could mean "us [as in, A PEOPLE (singular)]" (referring to Israel, or whatever).
 

Dino246

Senior Member
Jun 30, 2015
11,198
5,613
113
#10
yes. i'm sure not. i'm probably quite wrong

i saw oldhermit the other day
Yes... oldhermit might be able to help. I couldn't recall his nickname earlier. Angela's coming along with Hebrew as well.
 

dcontroversal

Senior Member
Dec 12, 2013
42,282
15,027
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#11
Just a thought......the first verse deals with the "godly" and "faithful" vanishing from the human race......the next 5 verses deal with the speech of evil men contrasted against the words of the Lord which is pure and tried/tested....note..

vs. 2 Everyone lies, and flatters but is deceptive at heart
vs. 3 May the Lord silence those that flatter and boast
vs. 4 The boast of vs. 3 is found in those who believe they will prevail and overcome with their words/lips
vs. 5 God will protect those who are maligned by the evil men of verses 2-4 AGAIN speech (maligned)
vs 6. The word of God contrasted against the words of the evil men that malign, flatter, boast and believe they will prevail by their words

Which takes us to verse 7

? Could it not mean both.......God's word and the poor and needy?

EVEN though the wicked seem to prosper over the poor and needy, God preserves both his word and the poor and needy throughout all Generations.....Both of the principles ring true in the word and God speaks to both......through my study of words I have seen God's ability with his lateral thinking and ways deal with more than one situation by a single word and how it can be translated with numerous biblical applications......

Just something to ponder.......not necessarily saying that is my conclusion...just something to ponder.....
 

Dino246

Senior Member
Jun 30, 2015
11,198
5,613
113
#12
Just a thought......the first verse deals with the "godly" and "faithful" vanishing from the human race......the next 5 verses deal with the speech of evil men contrasted against the words of the Lord which is pure and tried/tested....note..

vs. 2 Everyone lies, and flatters but is deceptive at heart
vs. 3 May the Lord silence those that flatter and boast
vs. 4 The boast of vs. 3 is found in those who believe they will prevail and overcome with their words/lips
vs. 5 God will protect those who are maligned by the evil men of verses 2-4 AGAIN speech (maligned)
vs 6. The word of God contrasted against the words of the evil men that malign, flatter, boast and believe they will prevail by their words

Which takes us to verse 7

? Could it not mean both.......God's word and the poor and needy?

EVEN though the wicked seem to prosper over the poor and needy, God preserves both his word and the poor and needy throughout all Generations.....Both of the principles ring true in the word and God speaks to both......through my study of words I have seen God's ability with his lateral thinking and ways deal with more than one situation by a single word and how it can be translated with numerous biblical applications......

Just something to ponder.......not necessarily saying that is my conclusion...just something to ponder.....
Good insights... thanks! The contrast of impure human words with pure divine words is not something that had occurred to me.