Psalms 12 is a psalm written by David. The major theme seems to be his observations on the current state of the land and his hope in a future protection by God of God’s people. It is a short psalm, but echoes a major theme of the entire book of Psalms: that God would soon come to judge the wicked and establish protection of the righteous.
Psa 12:1 To the Chief Musician. On An Eight-Stringed Harp. A Psalm of David. Help, LORD, for the godly man ceases! For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men.
The first verse is a call for help. With many of David’s cries for help, he uses emotional language. David paints a picture of God’s faithful people being slaughtered by the wicked. The idea is that so many are dying that they are “disappearing” from the general population.
The emotional language seems deliberate and purposed. This is part of David’s many attempts to convince God to heed his pleas for help. Scattered throughout David’s writings are many arguments addressed to God to convince God to listen to David’s prayers. Later, David praises God for subsequently hearing David’s prayers. It can be assumed that God did eventually fulfill this psalm in David’s life.
Psa 12:2 They speak idly everyone with his neighbor; With flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
The general population, on the other hand, is filled with backstabbing people. The people speak with reassuring words, but plot against the listener at the same time. David felt his fair share of betrayals at the hand of Saul, so he knows due to firsthand experience. A double-crossing might have inspired this particular psalm.
Psa 12:3 May the LORD cut off all flattering lips, And the tongue that speaks proud things,
David calls for destruction on the backstabbers. David wants God to kill them.
Psa 12:4 Who have said, “With our tongue we will prevail; Our lips are our own; Who is lord over us?”
David points to their general claims that God does not have power over them. David shows that there was a general rejection of God’s relevance for daily life (those were the theological attitudes of the day). The people were claiming that they would be able to survive on their own ability alone, and God was an irrelevant factor in their lives. David writes this not only to expose the people as Godless, but to help stir God to wrath. David is challenging God to make mockery of the people’s claims.
Psa 12:5 “For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, Now I will arise,” says the LORD; “I will set him in the safety for which he yearns.”
David then quotes God. The poor and needy are equated with God’s faithful per verse 1. This seems to be another theme in Psalms. The poor and oppressed are equated with God’s people while the rich are equated with God’s enemies. God will rise up and God will protect His people. The safety of the poor is equated to the death of the proud backstabbers.
Psa 12:6 The words of the LORD are pure words, Like silver tried in a furnace of earth, Purified seven times.
Psa 12:7 You shall keep them, O LORD, You shall preserve them from this generation forever.
This verse ensure that God’s people will live in a continuous state of protection. When God rises up to kill the wicked, the idea was then that God would not just withdraw his protection. Instead, God’s protection would be long lasting.
Some try to use these verses as a claim that God would give human kind a Bible that would never be compromised by human error. This is a claim that does great disservice to the text. The text is not about some sort of written work, but about God’s actions. If it were about God giving the Bible, it would not make sense in context:
V1: The Godly men are being killed by the wicked.
V2: The wicked are backstabbers.
V3-4: They claim God has no power, but God will kill them.
V5: God will save the Godly (who are being killed per verse 1)
V6: God will surely do it.
V7: God will give us a Bible.
V8: Wicked currently surround the righteous and will in any society that allows vileness.
The “Bible being preserved” theory does not fit. The context shows the meaning to be limited to God’s words (by extension, God’s deeds) about saving the righteous. The words are quoted, no extrapolation is necessary. The very next verse is about what would happen if God’s deeds are not preserved:
Psa 12:8 The wicked prowl on every side, When vileness is exalted among the sons of men.
The last verse is a warning, and argument, and a depiction of the current state. The wicked surround David and the other righteous. The wicked will abound when people reject God. And God should continue God’s protection indefinitely to ensure wickedness just not resurface after it is initially destroyed. David is asking that God continue His protection into the future such that the current state does not reoccur.