Psalms - Chapter 12
(The following material is compiled predominantly from an anthology of Orthodox Jewish commentary, written and arranged by Rabbi Avroham Chaim Feuer from the Artscroll Tanach Series Tehillim Volume 1. Additional insights from a Nazarene Israelite perspective have been added by Jason Jordan. Additional Tehillim translation by Rabbi Hillel Danziger)
In the final Lord of the Rings film, Return of the King, the hero, Aragorn, rides at the head of an exhausted and dwindled army to do battle with a great enemy. As the battle is about to commence, two hobbits, the meekest of all Middle-Earth’s creatures, draw their swords and charge out ahead of their comrades. In a fleeting moment this courageous action shows how the gentlest of all J.R.R. Tolkien’s creations rise to the occasion of war.
The battle’s location at The Black Gate of the enemy is also significant in the film because it portrays where we as believers should be in our battle against the Evil Inclination. We should not fight as worn out victims defending our own gate, but as ferocious warriors beating down the gates of the enemy’s stronghold.
The Psalms often exhibit very graphic pleas for YHWH to utterly destroy King David’s enemies that often leave a sincere believer wondering were Yahshua’s “turn the other cheek” philosophy fits in context with the man who had a heart after YHWH. For example King David writes in Psalms 137:8-9; “O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us-- he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.”
The expression ‘to turn the other cheek’ is not inconsistent with King David’s desire to see his enemies repaid with divine measure for measure retribution. In actuality this famous phrase comes from an ancient Jewish idiom, which refers to refraining from returning evil for evil (i.e., If someone insults you, you should not insult them back). Proverbs 20:22; “Do not say. ‘I will pay retribution for evil!’ Hope to YHWH and He will help you.”
The victim of an insult or injury must surrender his desire for revenge to the Father’s will. On occasion YHWH may require an assault to be met with harsh rebuke, just like Rabbi Sha’ul’s conduct when he was struck in the face. After a Temple Guard hit him he turned, eyes blazing at the High Priest Ananias who gave the order, and said, “Elohim will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the Torah, yet you yourself violate the Torah by commanding that I be struck!" (Acts 23:3)Leviticus 19:18
prohibits revenge and is the basis of Solomon’s teaching and Yahshua’s reiteration of it in Matthew 5:39
. This does not mean that there won’t be times when Israelites will be called upon to take vengeance. On the contrary Scripture is rife with such occasions.
A single Torah teaching is not a blanket application to all situations. Each teaching is weighed amidst a sea of multifactorial issues. At times a Torah teaching may even be superseded by other another teaching, such as applying first aid to an injured person of Shabbat.
The Sages teach that when Moshe threw down his rode before Pharaoh to consume the serpents that an Israelite should nullify any personal feeling of retribution to the point that this emotion becomes like an inanimate staff.
Luke 6:26-28; "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you."
This saying by Yahshua is drawn from Proverbs 25:21-22; “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and YHWH will reward you.”
If your enemy is not willing to cease being your enemy after you have shown him good, this will all the more cement his place in the bleakest pits of Gehinnom. A kindness shown to one’s enemies is to be motivated to rouse him to repent, but if he does not repent, take heart, YHWH will deal with him.
The teaching of doing good to one’s enemies is also apparent in the conduct of King David throughout psalms. While King David fled from his son Absalom he and his company came across a man called Shimi, who was of the family of Saul. He hurtled insults at David, spitting, cursing and throwing up dust as he passed. When one of David’s most loyal companions asked him permission to remove his head, David said, “Let him alone and let him curse, if YHWH told him to. Maybe YHWH will notice how I’m treating him, and YHWH will reward me with good instead of curses.” (2 Samuel 16:11b-13)
Several times David had opportunities to kill Saul, but declined in the hopes of bringing peace between them. On another occasion, before David’s men went into battle against an army raised by his rebellious son Absalom, he gave specific orders for his son not to be harmed. When news reached him that Absalom was killed, he wept bitterly saying that he would have preferred to die in place of his son.
King David hated who YHWH hated in the same measure. This means that he had no greater or lesser degree of hatred than his Master. Proverbs 8:13; “Fear of YHWH is hatred of evil. I hate pride and haughtiness, the way of evil and a perverted mouth, I hate.”
Psalms 139:21; “For indeed, those who hate You, YHWH, I hate.”
Psalms 97:10; “Let those who love YHWH hate evil, for he guards the lives of His faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
You’ve heard it lovingly said that “G-d hates the sin, but not the sinner.” The only problem with this view is that it’s not Scripture. Psalms 5:5-6; “The foolish shall not stand in Your sight: You hate all workers of iniquity. You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men YHWH abhors.”
“Psalms 11:5; “YHWH examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates.”
If YHWH hated sin he’d punish sin and not the worker of it. When a person sins they become allied or literally echad (one) with sin. A person who sins, in the eyes of YHWH, becomes inseparable from it. Proverbs 6:17-19; “There are six things which YHWH hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood. A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil, A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers.”
If we see ourselves whilst in a state of sinfulness as still being separate from it in some measure we delude ourselves. Statements like, “I’m basically a good person” begin to creep into our language and we end up trivialising the acts we’ve committed, which cause our repentance to be half-hearted.
We are to be in a complete state of revulsion to sin and eradicate it with the same vigour and veracity as we would repel a child molester away from our children. Can you imagine the heresy of Israel trying to be nice to Amalekite during and after their attack on Israel’s rear, killing elderly men, women and children? To such abominable nations that at their root possess corruption, not only spiritually, but also biologically, carrying the seed of fallen angels, YHWH commands their very name to be obliterated. Remember YHWH’s wrath against Israel after they returned from their victory against Moab, when they brought back women who had known a man. When we superimpose our own will in showing mercy or revenge over the Father’s will we depart from His plan.
The most effective soldier on the battlefield is one that strives for peace and after having pursued every avenue to achieve peace and failed, he goes out to do battle without any reservation. Psalms 120:7; “I am a man of peace; but when I speak, they are for war.”
Scripture teaches man to draw close to YHWH and to do this we must rage against the Evil Inclination constantly. The nations that are portrayed in Scripture as Israel’s enemies also represent the many guises of the Evil Inclination that try to overthrow a man. Doing good does not mean feeding the Evil Inclination, but taking it captive and starving it to death. Feeding an enemy when he is hungry is mirrored by feeding your inclination with goodness when your spirit is broken after falling pray to sin. When an enemy lacks the very basic resources of food and water, he is too weak to wage war. When you feed him at this time you encourage him to be at peace with you. Proverbs 16:7; “When a man's ways are pleasing to YHWH, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him.”
Perceive how YHWH would have you navigate yourself in an oppressive situation to allow you to edge closer to perfection. Be at peace in a time of peace and at war in a time of war.
The stronghold of the enemy has been routed with Yahshua already fulfilling his promise of coming in the flesh, but countless skirmishes rage onward as the dark forces continue to fight in the hopes of dragging as many humans to the abyss as possible. Exodus 15:3 “YHWH is a man of war. YHWH is His name.”
Was Yahshua a Meek Shepherd or Mighty Man of War?
A cross examination of Yahshua’s ministry exhibits anything but a meek and mild shepherd who came to bring peace and good will to all men. An overemphasis on Yahshua’s healing ministry has robbed thousands if not millions of believers of getting a truly well rounded picture of the Messiah’s character, leaving a tranquilising passive effect on generations of male believers. 2 Timothy 1:8; “For Elohim did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”
The basic qualities in a good soldier are that he is a powerful combatant who fights for the love of his country and maintains his effectiveness through self-discipline.
While Messiah Yahshua stands and addresses a crowed, littered with Torah teachers and Pharisees, he launches into one of the harshest rebukes ever recorded in Scripture. Note the aggressive language leading each criticism.
Matthew 23:13; “But woe to you hypercritical Torah-teachers and Pharisees! For you are shutting the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces, neither entering yourselves nor allowing those who wish to enter to do so.”
14; “Woe to you hypercritical Torah teachers and Pharisees! For you swallow up widow’s houses while making show of davvening at great length. Because of this your punishment will be all the worse!”
15; “Woe to you hypocritical Torah-teachers and Pharisees! You go about the land and sea to make one proselyte; and when you succeed, you make him twice as fit for Gei-Hinnom as you are!”
Yahshua continues in this vein on every point of each successive criticism.
16; “”Woe to you, you blind guides!”
17; “You blind fools!”
19; “Blind men!”
23; “Woe to you hypocritical Torah-teachers and Pharisees!
25; “Woe to you hypocritical Torah-teachers and Pharisees!
27; “Woe to you hypocritical Torah-teachers and Pharisees!
29; “Woe to you hypocritical Torah-teachers and Pharisees!
Finally he concludes with this gem before storming off with his own talmidim scrambling after him in a daze.
Matthew 23:33-39; “You snakes! Sons of snakes! How can you escape being condemned to GeiHinnom? Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and Torah-teachers – some of them you will kill, indeed, you will have them executed on stakes as criminals; some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so, on you will fall the guilt for all the innocent blood that has ever been shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Hevel (Abel) to the blood of Zechariah ben –Berekhyah, whom you murdered between the Temple and the altar. Yes! I tell you that all this will fall on this generation! Yerushalayim! Yerushalayim! You kill prophets! You stone those who are sent to you! How often I wanted to gather your children, just as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, but you refused! Look! Elohim is abandoning your house to you, leaving it desolate. For I tell you, from now on, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of YHWH.’”
This is a side to Yahshua we seldom acquaint ourselves with and if we do we keep his address aimed in the direction of the age-old scapegoat of the fanatical tradition seeking Pharisee. You know, that evil man dragging women off to get stoned with an oversized head covering above a decoration stuck to his forehead resembling an airplane’s black box, and tassels dragging on the ground from a multi-coloured robe wrapped over a frame that’s eaten one too many matzo balls.
The carefully tailored stereotype of the Jesus hating Pharisee has served as a convenient smokescreen to the current perpetuators of the above crimes who now corner the market on institutionalised heresy.
Likewise has the peace loving buddy Christ image served as the perfect counterweight to complete the false picture of an off kilter message for an off kilter people.
The so-called meek shepherd confirms his role as sifter of the lost sheep of the house of Israel by stating in Matthew 10:34; “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn "'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law-- a man's enemies will be the members of his own household. Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his staff and follow me is not worthy of me.”
Psalm 12 was inspired by a prophetic message foretelling an era when the wicked would succeed in overcoming the poor and the helpless. The threat manifested itself when Saul seemed to be on the verge of subduing David and occurred again on a national scale when the entire House of David was threatened with extinction at the hands of the evil Israelite Queen Ataliah who annihilated the entire ‘royal seed’ [with the exception of the infant Yoash who was hidden (2 Kings 11:11-2)
The book of 1 Kings begins with the glory days of Solomon ruling over a flourishing Israel that has never been matched in history, but these glory days soon end in complete disgrace. For Israel, the book of 2 Kings begins in turmoil and ends in almost total disaster. Like Noah in his generation, where purity bottlenecked to eight individual humans, the line of David dwindled down to one sole heir, Yoash [ ]. Yoash means, “YHWH has given.”
In these books only Judah and Benjamin remain loyal to the Davidic line while the other ten tribes break away under king Jeroboam.
As a result of the inadequacy of good leadership, which reminds me of the inadequacy of dominant leaders among the re-emerging Natsarim movement, 1 and 2 Kings can be a difficult set of books to read, as Israelite kings and queens at the very least tolerate the worship of pagan male divinities and at the very worst try to institutionalise it.
Many of the events that took place during the era of Kings are also detailed in Jeremiah and Chronicles.
Rashi (2 Chronicles 22:11)
writes: David dedicated this Psalm to Ataliah’s atrocity, which would occur in the eighth generation of His dynasty, praying that a remnant of his family be spared, saying: ‘Save me, YHWH, for the devout is no more.’
The psalm ends on the confident note that YHWH will surely protect the helpless. The full realisation of this wish will come to pass in the Messianic time, when Messiah Yahshua will come riding on a white horse with his tallit dipped in blood fuming with vengeance for all the atrocities of the wicked. Revelations 19:13-16; He is dressed in a tallit dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of Elohim. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of Elohim Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”
Therefore this Psalms was accompanied with the eight-stringed instrument, which symbolises eternity and the final bridle and disciplining of the forces that were let loose in the seven days of creation.
1; “For the Conductor; on the Sheminit. A song of David.”
The Sheminit is also mentioned in Psalms 6 and refers to a unique eight-stringed harp (Rashi, Radak & Ibn Ezra) The harp used in the Temple had only seven strings, whilst the Sheminit had eight, the number of eternity, and will be played in the Messianic age.
2; “Save, YHWH, for the devout is no more, for the truthful men have vanished from mankind.”
YHWH rescue me from the hands of Saul and tell him something favourable about me (Metzudat David).
Not only have the devoted vanished, but most contemporary people are sinners who plan to exploit the poor. Only divine salvation can come to the rescue (Radak).
A devout person need not totally withdraw from the world. Rather he must be active, completely and selflessly devoted to the welfare of those about him. Today, laments the Psalmist, there is no trace left of that type of loving concern for the happiness of others.
3; “Each one speaks untruth to his neighbour, equivocal speech; they speak from a double heart.”
The wicked utter from the mouth what is not felt in the heart (Radak). This untruth refers in particular to false theological concepts in matters of faith and belief in YHWH (Malbim).
False sincerity is covered over with smooth talk. This refers specifically to dishonesty in affairs between man and his fellow man (Malbim).
The Sage Hirsch notes that the Hebrew word for “smooth” is derived from a root that means “to divide,” because nothing can support itself on an entirely smooth surface. David laments that speech is polished and word and expressions have been deprived of sharpness and effect. They are polished so slippery smooth that they offer no firm support for anything. They are noncommittal.
When a man speaks with a double mind it is as if he has two hearts. Outwardly is displayed friendliness, but inwardly is animosity.
4; “May YHWH cut off all equivocating lips, the tongue which speaks boastfully.”
In Scripture reference to lips always denotes external communication (i.e., spoken word with no accompaniment of heartfelt thoughts) (Malbim).
The tongue always refers to internal speech, the intimate thoughts only between man and his Maker concerning matters of faith and philosophy (Malbim).
Deceptive people limit the scope of their conversations only to the most important and sophisticated topics so as to deceive listeners (Metzudat David).
5; “Those who have said: ‘With our tongues we shall prevail, our lips are with us. Who is master over us?’”
This refers to impressive philosophical ideas concerning faith and divinity, which roll off the tongue (Malbim).
Midrash Shocher Tov explains that the main sin of the tongue is ‘evil tale bearing,’ and this is the most difficult to control: ‘Come and see how powerful the tongue is! The body contains many organs, some are positioned upright, some are laid flat, but none is as enclosed as the tongue which is imprisoned in the mouth and surrounded by the cheeks and held in by the lips. Yet, despite all this, man cannot hold back his tongue!’
A deceptive tongue is the prime asset of the wicked (Malbim).
The wicked say: Elohim does not supervise and guide the world therefore there is no one to master over us from above. And, by virtue of our cunning, sly manipulations, no one can master us below either (Malbim).
6; “Because of the plundering of the poor, because of the screaming of the needy, ‘Now I will arise!’ says YHWH. ‘I will grant safety,’ He says to him.”
YHWH vows that he will arise to assist the needy (Rashi).
Rabbi Pinchas says: Five times in the Book of Psalms David asked YHWH to rise up. (Psalms 3:8, 7:7, 9:20, 10:12, 17:13)
. Each time YHWH refused and said: David, even if you constantly arouse Me, I shall not arise. When will I arise? – When I see the poor plundered and I hear the screams of the needy! As it says “Now I will arise!’ says YHWH (Bereishit Rabbah 75).
“I will grant safety…”
Malbim adds that the speech described here is in a low whisper, because YHWH has not yet publicised His plan to take revenge on the wicked.
7; “The promise of YHWH are pure promises, like silver refined in the finest smelting earth, clarified sevenfold.”
YHWH’s words are reliable and free of any ingredient, which might dilute them (Hirsch).
Isaiah describes the Messianic days as a time when ‘the earth will be filled with the knowledge of YHWH as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9)
Refined silver has no flaws and so too there will be no shade of falsehood after YHWH cleanses the earth of the wicked.
8; “You, YHWH, will guard them, You will preserve them from the wicked, such as are in this generation.”
YHWH will guard the poor and needy of this generation from the slanderers and tale-bearers who pursue them (Rashi).
This verse is a fervent prayer for the young Torah students of his generation. “Master of the Universe! See how these children cherish Your holy words. They clarify each statement seven-fold until it is stored flawlessly in their hearts. Because they care enough to guard them in their hearts, please guard them in Your heart and protect them from the degenerate influence of the vicious, unscrupulous tale-bearers.
9; “The wicked walk on every side, when the basest of men are elevated.”
These are words that describe the lifestyle of the wicked, which is nothing but a vicious cycle. They eat and drink in order to have strength to earn money. They earn money in order to eat and drink and so on (Chasam Sofer).
“…when the basest of men are elevated.”
Rashi explains that David himself was once regarded as the lowest of mankind for he engaged in the most insignificant of all pursuits: shepherding. When David was suddenly catapulted to greatness, the wicked were envious of him and surrounded him on all sides. “The rock which the builders rejected has become the main cornerstone” (Psalms 118:22).