his countenance doth behold the upright; whom wicked men privily shoot at, Psalm 11:2; God looks with pleasure upon them, and takes delight in them, and takes care of them, protects and defends them, and at last saves them; and which, with all that goes before, was an encouragement to David to trust in the Lord; see Psalm 7:10; and moreover, the Lord lifts up the light of his countenance on such, and indulges them with his gracious presence, than which nothing is more comfortable and desirable. Some choose to render the word, "their countenance" (y), meaning the trinity of Persons, Father, Son, and Spirit, who all have a gracious regard to such: others render the clause thus, "the upright shall see his face", the face of God; so the Chaldee paraphrase and the Arabic version; see Psalm 17:15.
(y) "facies eorum", Genebrardus, Vatablus, Gussetius; so R. Japhet in Aben Ezra, who compares it with Genesis 20.13.
INTRODUCTION TO Psalm 12
To the chief Musician upon Sheminith, a Psalm of David.
The word "sheminith" is used in the title of Psalm 6:1, and signifies "eighth"; and intends either the eighth note, to which the psalm was sung, or rather the harp of eight chords, to which it was set, as the Targum and Jarchi interpret it. Some Jewish writers (y) understand it of the times of the Messiah; and the Syriac version entitles the psalm,
"an accusation of the wicked, and a prophecy concerning the coming of the Messiah:''
and the Arabic version says, it is concerning the end of the world, which shall be in the eighth day; and concerning the coming of the Messiah: but Arnobius interprets it of the Lord's day.
(y) Sepher Lekach Shechachah apud Caphtor, fol. 64. 1. & Ceseph Misnah in Maimon. Hilch. Teshuvah, c. 9.
for the faithful fail from among the children of men; so that there are none left among them but carnal, unregenerate, ungodly, and unfaithful men. The "faithful" are such who are upright in heart and conversation; who trust in the Lord, and believe in the Messiah; who abide by the truths and ordinances of God; and are faithful in what is committed to their trust, whether they be gifts of nature, Providence, or grace; and to their fellow Christians, in advising, reproving, &c. when needful: these may fail in the exercise of grace, and in the discharge of duty, but not so as to perish eternally. The words design the paucity of them, and the sad degeneracy of the times to which they refer: and they may belong either to the times of David, when Saul's courtiers flattered him, and spoke evil of David; when the men of Keilah intended to have delivered him up; when the Ziphites discovered him to Saul, and invited him to come and take him; or when Absalom rose up in rebellion against him, and so many of the people fell off from him: or else to the times of Christ; the people of the Jews in his age were a wicked and faithless generation; and even among his own disciples there was great want of fidelity: one betrayed him, another denied him, and all forsook him and fled; after his death, some doubted his being the Redeemer, and one of them could not believe he was risen from the dead, when he was. And these words may be applied to the antichristian times, the times of the grand apostasy, and falling away from the faith, upon the revealing of the man of sin; since which the holy city is trodden under foot; the witnesses prophesy in sackcloth; and the church is in the wilderness, and is hid there. Yea, to the second coming of Christ, when there will be great carnality and security, and little faith found in the earth. A like complaint with this see in Isaiah 57:1.
(z) "passive pro beneficiario, sive alterius beneficiis gratiosis cumulato", Gejerus. (a) "Misericors", Pagninus, Mariana; beneficus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. (b) "Rari quippe boni", &c. Juvenal. Satyr. 13. v. 36. (c) "serva", Pagninus, Cocceius; "da salutem", Junius & Tremellius.
with flattering lips; as Cain did to Abel, Joab to Amasa, the Herodians to Christ, Judas to his Master, false teachers to those that are simple, hypocrites to God himself, when they draw nigh to him only with their lips, and all formal professors to the churches of Christ, when they profess themselves to be what they are not. And this is a further proof of the justness of the above complaint;
and with a double heart do they speak: or "with an heart and an heart" (d); such are double minded men, who say one thing, and mean another; their words are not to be depended upon; there is no faithfulness in them. The Chinese (e) reckon a man of "two hearts", as they call him, a very wicked man, and none more remote from honesty.
(d) "in corde & corde", V. L. Pagninus, Montanus, Gejerus. (e) Martin. Sinic. Hist. p. 144. a heart having , a double meaning, as Pittacus says, Laert. in Vit. Pittac. l. 1. p. 53.
and the tongue that speaketh proud things, or "great things" (f), as the little horn, Daniel 7:20; and the beast, or Romish antichrist, who is designed by both, Revelation 13:5; and which will be accomplished when Christ shall destroy him with the breath of his mouth, and the brightness of his coming; and indeed every tongue that riseth up against God, Christ, and his people, will be condemned; when ungodly sinners will be convinced of all their hard speeches, Isaiah 54:17, Jde 1:15. Perhaps some regard may be had to the tongue of Doeg the Edomite; see Psalm 52:3.
(f) "magna", Pagninus, Montanus, Vatablus, Piscator, Gejerus, Michaelis; "grandia", Cocceius.
our lips are our own, or "with us" (h): we will say what we please, and make what laws and decrees we think fit, and impose them upon men; and so change times and laws without control, Daniel 7:25;
who is Lord over us? which is the very language and conduct of antichrist, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, 2 Thessalonians 2:4; and is indeed the language of the hearts and lives of all wicked and ungodly men, sons of Belial, men without any yoke or restraint; who walk, and are resolved to walk, after the imagination of their own evil hearts; not knowing the Lord, and being unwilling to obey him, or to be restrained by him; see Exodus 5:2.
(g) "prevalere ac dominare, faciemus, scil. aliquem regem, dominum", Cocceius. (h) "nobiscum", Musculus, Pagninus, Montanus, Vatablus, Cocceius, Gejerus, Michaelis; so Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Ainsworth.
for the sighing of the needy; who groan under their oppressions; being stripped of all good things, their friends, and worldly substance, they sigh inwardly, and cry unto the Lord, who sees their oppressions, hears their groans; and though he cannot be moved, as men are, by anything without himself, yet, according to his abundant mercy and sovereign will, he appears and exerts himself on the behalf of his people, and for their relief and assistance;
now will I arise, saith the Lord; to have mercy on the poor and needy, and to avenge them on their oppressors, and free them from them. And this the Lord promises to do "now", speedily, immediately; God arises in the most seasonable time, when his people are in the greatest straits, and in the utmost distress and herein displays his wisdom, power, and goodness. This is an answer to the petition of the psalmist in Psalm 12:1;
I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him; or "in salvation" (i); in Christ the Saviour. All God's people are put into the hands of Christ, and are preserved in him; there they are in safety, for out of his hands none can pluck them; and being built on him, the Rock, they are safe, notwithstanding the waves and winds of temptation, persecution, &c. come with ever so much force upon them. Here it seems to signify, that God would deliver his poor and needy from their oppressions, and put them into a comfortable, prosperous, safe, and happy situation, in which they will be out of the reach of their enemies; as will be the witnesses, when they shall ascend to heaven, Revelation 11:11; even out of the reach of him that "puffeth at" them, despises them, and treats them with the utmost scorn and contempt; see Psalm 10:5. Or that "breathes", or "let him breathe" (k) threatenings and slaughters; as Saul did against the disciples of Christ, Acts 9:1; or that "lays snares for him" (l), as the wicked do for the righteous; or that "speaks unto him" in such haughty and insolent language as before expressed. Some make this clause a proposition of itself, "he puffeth at him"; meaning either that he that is secure, safety puffs at his enemy, despises him, as he has been despised by him; or God, who breathes upon him, and whose breath is as a stream of brimstone, which kindles in him a fire of divine wrath, which is unquenchable; or else the sense is, God will "speak to himself", or "to him" (m); in which sense the word is used Habakkuk 2:4; that is, good and comfortable words to the poor; or "he will give him refreshment", or "rest": which he will determine in himself to speak to him: or "he shall have breathing", or "let him breathe" (n): he shall have times of refreshing from the Lord, and rest from adversity, from the oppositions and persecutions of his enemies.
(i) "in salute", Pagninus, Montanus, Mariana, Vatablus, Junius, & Tremeliius, Piscator; so Ainsworth. (k) "spiret vel spirabit sibi", De Dieu. (l) "Qui ponit ei laqueum", Munster; "qui laqueum injicit illis", Heb. "illi", Muis; so Kimchi. (m) "Loquetur sibi vel ei", Vatablus. (n) "Respirationem dabit illi", Cloppenburgius; so Ainsworth, and some in Michaelis.
as silver tried in a furnace of earth; they are as "silver" for worth and value; yea, they are more valuable than silver or gold, Psalm 19:10. The Bible is a mine of rich treasure, and to be searched into as for it; the promises in it are exceeding precious; they are like apples of gold in pictures of silver, and yield more joy than the finding a great spoil. The doctrines of the Gospel are comparable to gold and silver and precious stones, and to be bought at any rate, but to be sold at none: and they are as silver "tried", which is pure, and free from dross. The words of men, of false teachers, are as dross and reprobate silver; but the words of the Lord are tried, and are pure, and free from all the dross of error and falsehood, Psalm 18:30. And they are as silver tried "in a furnace of earth", which some (o) render "by the Lord of the earth"; but the word rather signifies a furnace, or an refinery, in which metal is melted and purified; and may be applied to the Lord Jesus Christ in human nature, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and who came full fraught with the doctrines of the Gospel; and in whom they have been "tried", by his sufferings and death, and are found to be pure, solid, and substantial: or to the ministers of the Gospel, who have this treasure in earthen vessels, whose works and words and ministry are tried by many fiery trials, and abide: or to all the people of God in general, who dwelt in earthly tabernacles; and who, in the midst of various afflictions, have a comfortable and confirming evidence of the purity and truth of the words of God, of the promises of his covenant, and the doctrines of the Gospel;
purified seven times; that is, many times, Proverbs 24:16; and so completely and perfectly pure, and clear of all dross whatsoever, as silver so many times tried must needs be: and so the words of God are not only pure, but very pure, exceeding pure, Psalm 119:140.
(o) Vid. Jarchi, Kimchi, & Ben Melech in loc. so some in David de Pomis, Lexic. fol. 11. 1. taking in to be radical, and doubled as if it was
thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever; or "thou shalt preserve him" (p); that is, everyone of the poor and needy, from the wicked generation of men in which they live, from being corrupted or intimidated by them; and who are described in the beginning of the psalm. Some take these words to be a prayer, "keep thou them, O Lord, and preserve them", &c. (q); and so the following words may be thought to be a reason or argument enforcing the request.
(p) "custodies eum", Pagninus, Montanus, Gejerus, Michaelis; so Ainsworth. (q) "Custodi eum", Tigurine version, Vatablus, "custodito eorum quemque", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.