What does Psalm chapter 12 mean?The Bible does not shy away from recording honest human complaints. Faced with evil or persecution, believers sometimes ask, "where are you, God?" David's opening lines of this psalm resemble remarks made in other Old Testament passages (Habakkuk 1:2–4; Psalm 22:1). As usual, Scripture brings those comments into context, showing that God will always vindicate His people, eventually. David mourns over what seems to be a complete lack of good people: in a poetic sense, "everyone" has become a double-talking liar (Psalm 12:1–2).
In response, David calls on God to judge these wicked people. To "flatter" means to heap praise on someone; in contexts such as this, it implies dishonest or exaggerated compliments. These are usually given to soften someone up, lowering their guard so they can be taken advantage of. Much as he noted in other psalms (Psalm 10:6, 13), David sees arrogance in these wicked people. They think their smooth talk and deception will keep them from any consequences (Psalm 12:3–4).
Also echoing his other psalms, David connects wickedness with an abuse of the poor and weak (Psalm 9:12; 10:2–3). His earlier despair and anguish are balanced by a trust in God. He knows God will, in the end, ultimately judge evil (Psalm 12:5).
Verse 6 makes a direct contrast to the lies and insincerity of the wicked. God's words, including His written Word, are compared to ultra-refined precious metals. The refining process removes impurities and lesser metals, leaving only the pure, valuable substance. Seven is the biblical number of perfection, so this implies that God's Word is absolutely perfect in its purity (Psalm 12:6).
The end of the psalm returns to the same theme as the beginning. Humanity is saturated with corruption and evil. The Bible uses the term "generation" to refer to family trees, such as fathers and sons. It also uses the term in reference to cultures or societies. "This generation," from which the poor will be protected, are these liars and deceivers mentioned in prior verses. In the New Testament, Peter will echo the idea of evil hunting like a predator (1 Peter 5:8). The term translated "vileness" implies something cheap or worthless: instead of honoring the refined silver of God's Word, mankind tends to prefer inferior lies and deceptions (Psalm 12:7–8).