Chapter 12

1For the conductor on the sheminith, a song of David.
on the sheminith: The eight stringed harp.
2Save, O Lord, for the pious are gone, for the faithful have vanished from the sons of men.
are gone: Heb. גמר, lit. finished, destroyed.
have vanished: Heb. פסו, faylirt in Old French, to lack, fail.
for the faithful have vanished from the sons of men: Everyone betrays me and spies out the places where I hide, and tells Saul (54:2): “Is not David hiding with us?”
3One speaks to another with falseness, smooth talk; they speak with a double heart.
with a double heart: Lit. with a heart and a heart; with two hearts. They feign friendliness, but there is hatred hidden in their heart.
4May the Lord cut off all smooth lips, the tongue that speaks great things.
5Who said, "With our tongue we will overpower; our lips are with us. Who is lord over us?"
With our tongue we will overpower: With our tongue we will gain strength.
6Because of the plunder of the poor, because of the cry of the needy, Now I will rise, the Lord shall say; I will grant them salvation, He shall speak concerning them.
Because of the plunder of the poor: Because of the plunder of the poor who are robbed by you, for example, I myself and my men and the priests of Nob, and because of the cry of the needy, the Lord shall say, “Now I will rise to their help.”
I will grant them salvation, He shall speak: I will grant them salvation, He will speak concerning them. יפיח is an expression of speech. There are many [examples] in the Book of Proverbs, and in Habakkuk (2:3): “and He shall speak (יפח) of the end, and it shall not fail.” However, Menachem (p. 141), interpreted it as an expression of a snare, as (below 124:7) “the snare (הפח) broke.”
7The sayings of the Lord are pure sayings, like silver refined, exposed to the earth, clarified sevenfold.
The sayings of the Lord are pure sayings: for He has the ability to fulfill them, but the sayings of the sons of men are not sayings when they die and are unable to fulfill [them].
pure: Clear and permanent. Whatever He promises He does, for He promised me salvation and the throne.
silver refined: They are like refined silver that is exposed to the entire land.
exposed: Heb. בעליל, an expression of revealing; in the language of the Mishna (Rosh Hashanah 21b, see Gemara): “whether it was plainly (בעליל) visible or whether it was not plainly (בעליל) visible, etc.” Others explain בעליל as an expression of elevation, and this is its explanation: silver refined with the best earth. That is to say, like silver that is refined with the best earth and its upper layer, because a person makes a crucible to refine the silver from the best earth. Another explanation: בעליל is like בעלי, with a mortar (as in Prov. 27:22): “among grain with a pestle,” which is the name of a utensil in which [grain] is crushed. Similarly, בעליל is the crucible in which gold and silver are smelted. However, this does not seem correct because he does not call עלי the mortar in which [the grain] is crushed, but the handle of the pestle with which they crush. This is called pilon in French, pestle. Another explanation: בעליל is an expression of the master of a hand, i.e., the master of the earth, and the praise of the word applies to God. Targum Jonathan, too, renders it as an expression of lordship. He says that His sayings are like silver, refined by the Lord of the earth, Who is God, for He refined and clarified them.
8You, O Lord, shall guard them; You shall guard him from this generation forever.
shall guard them: Those poor and needy people being pursued by this generation, who are informers.
clarified sevenfold: There is a Midrash Aggadah which fits the order [of the verses]: R. Yehoshua of Sichnin [says] in the name of R. Levi: The children in David’s times, when they were still too young to have tasted sin, knew to interpret the Torah using 49 approaches in each direction; thus “sevenfold” [seven times seven]. David prayed for them: Master of the World, see how Your Torah and Your sayings are refined and clarified sevenfold in their hearts! “You, O L-rd, guard them” - guard those [teachings] in their hearts; “guard them from this generation,” that they not learn from their ways to become informers. [Vayikra Rabbah 19:2]
9Wicked men walk on all sides when the [one who appears] basest to the sons of men is elevated.
Wicked men walk on all sides: to hide traps to cause me to stumble.
when the basest to the sons of men is elevated: Heb. כרם זלות לבני אדם [They walk on all sides] because of their envy, for they are jealous of my greatness, that I was taken from behind the sheep to be a king. This is the interpretation of אדם כרם זלות לבני: when a man considered by the sons of men to be base is elevated. This is on the order of the passage elsewhere (below 118:22): “The stone that the builders rejected became a cornerstone.” The Midrash Aggadah interprets it concerning Israel in the future, when they will be elevated. [Unknown Midrashic source] Menachem interprets כרם זלות לבני אדם (pp. 78, 164): like a gluttonous wild ox to devour the sons of men. Accordingly, כרם is rendered: like a רים or ראם, and זלות is like (Deut. 21:20) זולל וסבא, “a glutton and a drunkard.” The following is its interpretation: The wicked walk on all sides around the poor man; the wicked walk to swallow him for naught, as a wild ox to swallow the sons of men.