What does Psalms 12 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
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).
Verse Context:
Psalm 12:1–4 is a prayer of deliverance from proud, evil people who spread lies. David sees a perilous decline of righteous individuals. From his perspective, it seems as if the entire world has turned to evil. The wicked employ lies, flattery, and hypocrisy. They assume their actions won't result in consequences. Therefore, David prays for the Lord to put an end to such wicked people.
Psalm 12:5–8 comes after David described oppressors of the poor and needy who boasted about their deeds and felt no accountability. In this section, David expresses assurance that God will intervene on behalf of the oppressed. The wicked spoke lies and deceptive words, but David reflects upon the Lord's words as pure and dependable. He is confident that the Lord will protect the afflicted.
Chapter Summary:
In this short song, David mourns for what he sees as an entirely corrupt, evil culture. The people around him seem entirely filled with lies, flattery, and deception. These arrogant smooth-talkers think the power of their words will achieve whatever they desire. In contrast to the evil words the wicked employ, are the Lord's words. They are as pure and precious as silver refined seven times over in a furnace. David is confident that the Lord will protect His people from the harm their wicked contemporaries are inflicting. David concludes the psalm with a description of the widespread evil committed by the wicked. It is everywhere, and it is highly praised throughout the land.
Chapter Context:
This psalm reveals a basic contrast between the words of deceitful, flattering evildoers and the pure, reliable words of God. David laments the speech and behavior of a proud, deceitful culture. This brings to mind similar complaints from the Old Testament (Habakkuk 1:2–4; Psalm 22). He also expresses assurance that the Lord will protect him and all the righteous from their wicked contemporaries (Psalm 3:3).
Book Summary:
The book of Psalms is composed of individual songs, hymns, or poems, each of which is a ''Psalm'' in and of itself. These works contain a wide variety of themes. Some Psalms focus on praising and worshipping God. Others cry out in anguish over the pain of life. Still other Psalms look forward to the coming of the Messiah. While some Psalms are related, each has its own historical and biblical context.
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