Psalm 12

Psalm 12


To the leader:A according to The Sheminith.B A PsalmC of David.D

Notes on superscript

A “leader” = natsach. Properly, something that glitters from a distance. So, something that stands out, excels, has status/standing (such as a chief musician or superintendent of Temple services). This can also mean to be permanent or enduring.
B “Sheminith” = sheminith. 3x in OT. From Shemini (eight); from the same as shemoneh (eight; can be figurative for surplus); perhaps from shamen (to shine, which implies being oily, growing fat); from shaman (to grow fat, shine, be oily). This is Sheminith, which probably refers to an eight-stringed lyre.
C “psalm” = mizmor. From zamar (making music; used specially of music to worship God; music with singing, singing praise, singing psalms); may be from zamar (to trim or prune). This is a melody or a psalm.
D “David” = david. From the same as dod (beloved, love, uncle); the root may mean to boil, which is used figuratively to describe love. So, this implies someone you love such as a friend, a lover, or a close family member like an uncle. David’s name likely means something like “beloved one.”

Help,E O Lord,F for there is no longerG anyone who is godly;H
  the faithfulI have disappearedJ from humankind.K

Notes on verse 1

E “help” = yasha. To deliver, defend, help, preserve, rescue, be safe. Properly, to be open, wide or free, which implies being safe. Used causatively, it means to free.
F “Lord” = YHVH. From havah (to be, become) or hayah (to come to pass, become, be). This is the name of the God of Israel, the self-existent and eternal one, the tetragrammaton. This pronunciation has been lost to time so “Lord” is generally used in its place.
G “no longer” = gamar. 5x in OT. This is to end, perfect, or accomplish. It could be end as to complete or end as a failure.
H “godly” = chasid. From chasad (being good, kind, merciful; may mean bowing one’s neck as is done in the presence of an equal for courtesy’s sake; so, if one in a superior position is treating you like an equal, that is what is captured here). This is faithful, kind, pious, merciful, or gracious. It can also refer to godly or pious people. This is where Chasidic Jews take their name from.
I “faithful” = aman. This is to believe, endure, fulfill, confirm, support, be faithful. It is to put one’s trust in, be steadfast. Figuratively, this is to be firm, steadfast, or faithful, trusting, believing, being permanent, morally solid. This is where the word “amen” comes from.
J “disappeared” = pasas. 1x in OT. This is to disperse, disappear, or cease.
K “humankind” = ben + adam. Literally “children of adam.” Adam is perhaps from adam (to be red, make ruddy); related to adamah (ground, dirt, earth). This is man, humankind, also Adam’s name. It refers to a human individual or humanity.

TheyL utter liesM to each other;N
    with flatteringO lips and a double heartP they speak.

Notes on verse 2

L “they” = ish. Perhaps from enosh (human, humankind, mortal); from anash (to be weak, sick, or frail). This is man, husband, another, or humankind.
M “lies” = shav. Perhaps from the same as sho (ruin, desolation, storm; from a root that means rushing over – hence a storm and hence devastation). This is emptiness, false, worthless, deceit. It can also refer to evil, guile, idolatry, or something being in vain.
N “each other” = rea. From raah (perhaps association with). This is an associate, companion, friend, neighbor, or other. It can also be used for close family or for a lover.
O “flattering” = chelqah. From cheleq (portion, catch, division, reward, share, smooth tongue, flattery, associate); from chalaq (to be smooth in a figurative sense; can refer to the stones that were part of casting lots – hence, apportion, share, distribute; figuratively, it can also mean to flatter). This is smoothness. Figuratively it can mean a tract of land or other allotment or flattery.
P “double heart” = leb + leb. May be related to labab (to encourage; properly, to be encased as with fat; used in a good sense, this means to transport someone with love; used in a bad sense, it can mean to dull one’s senses). This is the heart, courage, one’s inner self, the mind, or the will. Heart is only used in a figurative sense in the Old and New Testaments.

May the Lord cut offQ all flattering lips,
    the tongueR that makes great boasts,

those who say, “With our tongues we will prevail;S
    our lips are our own—who is our master?”T

Notes on verses 3-4

Q “cut off” = karat. This is to cut down, cut off, or make a covenant (idiom for making a covenant is “to cut a covenant”). It can also mean to destroy, fail, or consume.
R “tongue” = lashon. This is tongue, talker, language, or wedge. It can also be a tongue of flame or a water cove.
S “prevail” = gabar. This is to be strong or mighty. It can mean to prevail or to be insolent.
T “master” = adon. From a root that means ruling or being sovereign. This is lord, master, or owner.

5 “Because the poorU are despoiled,V because the needyW groan,X
    I will now rise up,”Y says the Lord;
    “I will place them in the safetyZ for which they long.”AA

Notes on verse 5

U “poor” = ani. From anah (to be bowed down; humility or being browbeaten, oppressed, afflicted, or depressed; literal or figurative – depressed in mood or circumstance). This is humble, lowly, poor, or afflicted.
V “despoiled” = shod. From shadad (to ruin, assault, devastate, oppress, destroy completely; properly, it is being burly; figuratively it is something that is powerful). This is violence, devastation, ruin, or oppression.
W “needy” = ebyon. From abah (to consent, obey, want, yield, accept). This is needy, poor, beggar. Someone who is wanting.
X “groan” = anaqah. 4x in OT. From anaq (to cry or groan). This is crying, sighing, shrieking, or groaning.
Y “rise up” = qum. To arise, stand, accomplish, establish, abide. This is rising as in rising against, getting up after being sick or asleep, arising from one state to another, becoming powerful, or rising for action. It can also be standing in a figurative sense.
Z “safety” = yesha. Related to “help” in v1. From yasha (see note E above). This is salvation, deliverance, rescue, safety, welfare, liberty.
AA “long” = puach. 14x in OT. This is to puff, breathe or blow, whether the breath or air. It can also mean to light a fire, utter, speak, snore, hasten, or scoff.

The promisesBB of the Lord are promises that are pure,CC
    silverDD refinedEE in a furnaceFF on the ground,
    purifiedGG seven times.

Notes on verse 6

BB “promises” = imrah. From emer (speech, thing, utterance, promise, argument, command); from amar (to speak, say, answer, command, promise, report). This is any kind of utterance, a word or commandment.
CC “pure” = tahor. From taher (bright, which implies being pure or clean; to purge, cleanse, or purify; clean in a ritual sense or a moral one (i.e. moral or holy)). This is clean or pure in a literal, ritual, or ethical sense.
DD “silver” = keseph. From kasaph (to long for, be greedy; to become pale). This is silver or money.
EE “refined” = tsaraph. This is to refine, smalt, or fuse metal. It can also refer to the smelter (goldsmith or silversmith). Figuratively, this is refine in a literal or figurative sense – to test or try, make pure.
FF “furnace” = alil. 1x in OT. From alal (to insert or thrust in). This may be a furnace or crucible for working on metal.
GG “purified” = zaqaq. 7x in OT. This is to refine, purify, or distill. Figuratively, it can mean to extract.

7 You, O Lord, will protectHH us;
    you will guardII us from this generationJJ forever.KK

Notes on verse 7

HH “protect” = shamar. This is to keep, watch, or preserve. It means to guard something or to protect it as a thorny hedge protects something.
II “guard” = natsar. This is to watch, guard, protect. It can be positive – preserve or obey. It can be negative as conceal.
JJ “generation” = dor. From dur (to move in a circle, which implies living somewhere or remaining there; it can also be the sense of piling or heaping up). This is a revolution of time, which is to say, an age or generation. It can also be a dwelling or one’s posterity.
KK “forever” = olam. This is a long scope of time whether in the past (antiquity, ancient time) or in the future (eternal, everlasting).

On every sideLL the wickedMM prowl,
    as vilenessNN is exaltedOO among humankind.PP

Notes on verse 8

LL “every side” = sabib. From sabab (turning around, going around; to surround, cast, walk, fetch; to revolve or border in a literal or figurative sense). This is a circuit or a circle. It could refer to an environment, one’s neighbors, or a circular path round about.
MM “wicked” = rasha. This is morally wrong so it refers to someone who is actively bad as wicked, criminal, an evil person, offender, condemned, or ungodly.
NN “vileness” = zulluth. 1x in OT. From zalal (to be light or make light of, to be worthless or despise). This is weakness or vileness. It can also be a shaking or tempest.
OO “is exalted” = rum. This is to rise or raise, to be high literally or figuratively. So it can also mean to exalt or extol.
PP “humankind” = ben + adam. Literally “children of adam.”

Image credit: “Molten gold” by Kudelski, 2014.

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