Psalm 12:5
For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the LORD; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him.
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(5) For the oppressioni.e., on account of the oppression. Here, as in so many psalms and prophecies, we have an ancient oracle of God introduced. The poet first quotes it, and then in Psalm 12:6 contrasts its truth and genuineness with the false speeches of hypocrites.

I will set.—Literally, I will set in safety; he blows at it: which may mean either, “I will ensure him of the safety for which he panteth,” or “I will set him in safety who panteth for it.” This sense is fixed by Habakkuk 2:3 : “it panteth to its end,” i.e., for its accomplishment.

Psalm 12:5. For the oppression of the poor — Because the poor that put their trust in me, and send up their prayers to me for help, are thus oppressed; now will I arise, saith the Lord — Speedily, sooner than they imagine or expect. I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him — That despises him, and hopes to destroy him with a puff of breath. “The beauty and energy of this fine prosopopœia,” says Dr. Dodd, “must be felt by every reader.” When oppressors are in the height of their pride and insolence; when they say, Who is lord over us? then is God’s time to let them know, to their cost, that he is above them. And when the oppressed are in the depth of their distress and despondency; when they are sighing like Israel in Egypt, by reason of the cruel bondage, then is God’s time to appear for them, as he did for Israel when they were dejected, and Pharaoh was most elevated and determined to carry things with a high hand.

12:1-8 The psalmist begs help of God, because there were none among men whom he durst trust. - This psalm furnishes good thoughts for bad times; a man may comfort himself with such meditations and prayers. Let us see what makes the times bad, and when they may be said to be so. Ask the children of this world, What makes the times bad? they will tell you, Scarcity of money, decay of trade, and the desolations of war, make the times bad: but the Scripture lays the badness of the times on causes of another nature, 2Ti 3:1, c.: perilous times shall come, for sin shall abound; and of this David complains. When piety decays times really are bad. He who made man's mouth will call him to an account for his proud, profane, dissembling, or even useless words. When the poor and needy are oppressed, then the times are very bad. God himself takes notice of the oppression of the poor, and the sighing of the needy. When wickedness abounds, and is countenanced by those in authority, then the times are very bad. See with what good things we are here furnished for such bad times; and we cannot tell what times we may be reserved for. 1. We have a God to go to, from whom we may ask and expect the redress of all our grievances. 2. God will certainly punish and restrain false and proud men. 3. God will work deliverance for his oppressed people. His help is given in the fittest time. Though men are false, God is faithful; though they are not to be trusted, God is. The preciousness of God's word is compared to silver refined to the highest degree. How many proofs have been given of its power and truth! God will secure his chosen remnant, however bad the times are. As long as the world stands, there will be a generation of proud and wicked men. But all God's people are put into the hands of Christ our Saviour; there they are in safety, for none can pluck them thence; being built on Him, the Rock, they are safe, notwithstanding temptation or persecution come with ever so much force upon them.For the oppression of the poor - That is, on account of the wrong done to the poor in the manner specified above - by the abuse of the power of speech. On account of the slanders uttered against them, or the frauds perpetrated on them by the abuse of this power. The reference is to the wrongs done when no confidence could be placed in men's words; when they uttered words of "vanity" and "flattery" Psalm 12:2; when promises were made only to be broken, and obligations assumed never to be fulfilled. In such a state of things the "poor" were the most likely to suffer. In performing service for others - in daily labor on a farm or in a mechanical employment - they would depend for support, on the promises made by their employers; and when their pay was withheld, they and their families must suffer. Compare James 5:4. Rich men, having other resources, would not thus suffer; but the poor must always suffer when there is in the community a disregard of the obligation of promises. In like manner, the poor would be most likely to "be taken in by the acts of unprincipled men, and to be deceived in their small dealings with them. Other classes of the community would be on their guard; but the poor, unacquainted with the arts of cunning men, are always liable - though on a small scale, yet of importance to them - to be wronged by the false statements and promises of those against whom they can have no redress.

For the sighing of the needy ... - The word "needy" here is synonymous with "poor." It refers to those in humble circumstances, who were especially liable to be wronged by deceitful statements and promises.

I will set him in safety - I will make him safe. I will save him from the evils which they thought to bring upon him. The general idea is, that God is the vindicator of the poor and the oppressed.

From him that puffeth at him - Prof. Alexander renders this, "I will place in safety him that shall pant for it." Gesenius renders it, "whom they puffed at; that is, the oppressed." The language in the original is difficult. It may mean either "he pants for it," or "he puffs at him;" and the meaning can only be determined by the connection. That would rather seem to be what is indicated in our common version; to wit, that the persons referred to as oppressing the poor and needy, "puffed" at them; that is, they looked upon them with contempt, and felt that with a puff of their breath they could blow them away. They regarded them as insignificant and worthless. By this construction, also, the connection with the main statement will be best preserved - that the injury referred to in the psalm was done by "words," by the breath of the mouth - thus indicating that by a "word" or a "breath" they could destroy them.

5. The writer intimates his confidence by depicting God's actions (compare Ps 9:19; 10:12) as coming to save the poor at whom the wicked sneer (Ps 10:5).5 For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the Lord; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him.

In due season the Lord will hear his elect ones, who cry day and night unto him, and though he bear long with their oppressors, yet will he avenge them speedily. Observe that the mere oppression of saints, however silently they bear it, is in itself a cry to God: Moses was heard at the Red Sea, though he said nothing; and Hagar's affliction was heard despite her silence. Jesus feels with his people, and their smarts are mighty orators with him. By-and-by, however, they begin to sigh and express their misery, and then relief comes post-haste. Nothing moves a father like the cries of his children; he bestirs himself, wakes up his manhood, overthrows the enemy, and sets his beloved in safety. A puff is too much for the child to bear, and the foe is so haughty, that he laughs the little one to scorn; but the Father comes, and then it is the child's turn to laugh, when he is set above the rage of his tormentor. What virtue is there in a poor man's sighs, that they should move the Almighty God to arise from his throne. The needy did not dare to speak, and could only sigh in secret, but the Lord heard, and could rest no longer, but girded on his sword for the battle. It is a fair day when our soul brings God into her quarrel, for when his bare arm is seen, Philistia shall rue the day. The darkest hours of the Church's night are those which precede the break of day. Man's extremity is God's opportunity. Jesus will come to deliver just when his needy ones shall sigh, as if all hope had gone for ever. O Lord, set thy now near at hand, and rise up speedily to our help. Should the afflicted reader be able to lay hold upon the promise of this verse, let him gratefully fetch a fulness of comfort from it. Gurnal says, "As one may draw out the wine of a whole hogshead at one tap, so may a poor soul derive the comfort of the whole covenant to himself through one promise, if he be able to apply it." He who promises to set us in safety, means thereby preservation on earth, and eternal salvation in heaven.

For the oppression of the poor; oppressed by Saul through the instigation and artifices of his fawning courtiers.

Now; speedily, sooner than they imagine or expect. From him that puffeth at him, i.e. from him that despiseth him, and hopeth to destroy him with a puff of breath, or a parcel of words. See this phrase Psalm 10:5. Only there it is construed with beth, and here with lamed; which may make some difference. And the supplement in our translation may seem to be large, and not necessary. And the place is and may be otherwise rendered according to the Hebrew, without any such large supplement,

I will set him (to wit, the needy last mentioned; so it is an ellipsis of the pronoun, which is most frequent)

in safety: he (to wit, the Lord, mentioned before) shall speak (as this verb signifies, Proverbs 6:19 14:5 19:5,9, i.e. shall speak comfortably, by a synecdoche; or shall speak plainly, as this verb is used, Proverbs 12:17 Habakkuk 2:3) to him, i.e. to the needy here mentioned. Or, he, i.e. God, shall speak (to wit, in his wrath, as it is expressed, Psalm 2:5) to him, who is the cause of his oppression, of whom he speaks Psalm 12:3,4. Or, shall puff at him, as he used to do at his enemies, Psalm 10:5.

For the oppression of the poor,.... The servants and people of God, who, for the most part, are poor in a temporal sense, and are all of them, and always, so in a spiritual sense, standing continually in need of fresh supplies of grace; and being often afflicted, as the word signifies, are mean and despicable in the eyes of the men of this world, and so oppressed by them, as the poor generally are by the rich; and as the people of Israel were oppressed by the Egyptians, so are the people of God by antichrist, and by his tyrannical laws and edicts, and by such haughty and insolent persons as before described;

for the sighing of the needy; who groan under their oppressions; being stripped of all good things, their friends, and worldly substance, they sigh inwardly, and cry unto the Lord, who sees their oppressions, hears their groans; and though he cannot be moved, as men are, by anything without himself, yet, according to his abundant mercy and sovereign will, he appears and exerts himself on the behalf of his people, and for their relief and assistance;

now will I arise, saith the Lord; to have mercy on the poor and needy, and to avenge them on their oppressors, and free them from them. And this the Lord promises to do "now", speedily, immediately; God arises in the most seasonable time, when his people are in the greatest straits, and in the utmost distress and herein displays his wisdom, power, and goodness. This is an answer to the petition of the psalmist in Psalm 12:1;

I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him; or "in salvation" (i); in Christ the Saviour. All God's people are put into the hands of Christ, and are preserved in him; there they are in safety, for out of his hands none can pluck them; and being built on him, the Rock, they are safe, notwithstanding the waves and winds of temptation, persecution, &c. come with ever so much force upon them. Here it seems to signify, that God would deliver his poor and needy from their oppressions, and put them into a comfortable, prosperous, safe, and happy situation, in which they will be out of the reach of their enemies; as will be the witnesses, when they shall ascend to heaven, Revelation 11:11; even out of the reach of him that "puffeth at" them, despises them, and treats them with the utmost scorn and contempt; see Psalm 10:5. Or that "breathes", or "let him breathe" (k) threatenings and slaughters; as Saul did against the disciples of Christ, Acts 9:1; or that "lays snares for him" (l), as the wicked do for the righteous; or that "speaks unto him" in such haughty and insolent language as before expressed. Some make this clause a proposition of itself, "he puffeth at him"; meaning either that he that is secure, safety puffs at his enemy, despises him, as he has been despised by him; or God, who breathes upon him, and whose breath is as a stream of brimstone, which kindles in him a fire of divine wrath, which is unquenchable; or else the sense is, God will "speak to himself", or "to him" (m); in which sense the word is used Habakkuk 2:4; that is, good and comfortable words to the poor; or "he will give him refreshment", or "rest": which he will determine in himself to speak to him: or "he shall have breathing", or "let him breathe" (n): he shall have times of refreshing from the Lord, and rest from adversity, from the oppositions and persecutions of his enemies.

(i) "in salute", Pagninus, Montanus, Mariana, Vatablus, Junius, & Tremeliius, Piscator; so Ainsworth. (k) "spiret vel spirabit sibi", De Dieu. (l) "Qui ponit ei laqueum", Munster; "qui laqueum injicit illis", Heb. "illi", Muis; so Kimchi. (m) "Loquetur sibi vel ei", Vatablus. (n) "Respirationem dabit illi", Cloppenburgius; so Ainsworth, and some in Michaelis.

{d} For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the LORD; I will {e} set him in safety from him that puffeth at him.

(d) The Lord is moved with the complaints of his, and delivers in the end from all danger.

(e) Because the Lord's word and promise is true and unchangeable he will perform it and preserve the poor from this wicked generation.

5. Render: Because of the spoiling of the poor, because of the groaning of the needy. Cp. Exodus 2:24.

Now will I arise &c.] Cp. Isaiah 33:10. The moment for action has at length come.

I will set him &c.] An obscure clause. Either (1) as R.V., I will set him in safety at whom they puff. Cp. Psalm 10:5. The despised victim will be put beyond the reach of his tormentors. Or (2) as R.V. marg., I will set him in the safety he panteth for. Or perhaps (3) I will set him in safety when they pant for him; i.e. pursue him like wild beasts with gaping jaws ready to devour him. Cp. Psalm 56:1-2; Amos 8:4.

5, 6. The Psalmist hears God’s answer, and affirms its trustworthiness.

Verse 5. - For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the Lord. The ungodly having been threatened, a promise of assistance is made to the righteous whom they oppress. God declares that, in response to the many calls made upon him (Psalm 3:7; Psalm 7:6; Psalm 9:19; Psalm 10:12), he will "now," at last, "arise" - interpose on behalf of the oppressed, and deliver them (comp. Exodus 3:7, 8). I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him. This is a possible meaning; but it is perhaps better to render, with Hengstenberg and Cheyne, "I will place him in the safety for which he sighs," or "pants." Psalm 12:5(Heb.: 12:6-7) In Psalm 12:6 the psalmist hears Jahve Himself speak; and in Psalm 12:7 he adds his Amen. The two מן in Psalm 12:6 denote the motive, עתּה the decisive turning-point from forebearance to the execution of judgment, and ימר the divine determination, which has just now made itself audible; cf. Isaiah's echo of it, Isaiah 33:10. Jahve has hitherto looked on with seeming inactivity and indifference, now He will arise and place in ישׁע, i.e., a condition of safety (cf. שׂים בּחיּים Psalm 66:9), him who languishes for deliverance. It is not to be explained: him whom he, i.e., the boaster, blows upon, which would be expressed by יפיח בּו, cf. Psalm 10:5; but, with Ewald, Hengstenberg, Olshausen, and Bttcher, according to Habakkuk 2:3, where הפיח ל occurs in the sense of panting after an object: him who longs for it. יפיח is, however, not a participial adjective equals יפח, but the fut., and יפיח לו is therefore a relative clause occupying the place of the object, just as we find the same thing occurring in Job 24:19; Isaiah 41:2, Isaiah 41:25, and frequently. Hupfeld's rendering: "in order that he may gain breath (respiret)" leaves אשׁית without an object, and accords more with Aramaic and Arabic than with Hebrew usage, which would express this idea by ינוּח לו or ירוח לו.

In Psalm 12:7 the announcement of Jahve is followed by its echo in the heart of the seer: the words (אמרות instead of אמרות by changing the Sheb which closes the syllable into an audible one, as e.g., in אשׁרי) of Jahve are pure words, i.e., intended, and to be fulfilled, absolutely as they run without any admixture whatever of untruthfulness. The poetical אמרה (after the form זמרה) serves pre-eminently as the designation of the divine power-words of promise. The figure, which is indicated in other instances, when God's word is said to be צרוּפה (Psalm 18:31; Psalm 119:140; Proverbs 30:5), is here worked out: silver melted and thus purified בּעליל לארץ. עליל signifies either a smelting-pot from עלל, Arab. gll, immittere, whence also על (Hitz.); or, what is more probable since the language has the epithets כוּר and מצרף for this: a workshop, from עלל, Arab. ‛ll, operari (prop. to set about a thing), first that which is wrought at (after the form מעיל, פּסיל, שׁביל), then the place where the work is carried on. From this also comes the Talm. בּעליל equals בּעליל manifeste, occurring in the Mishna Rosh ha-Shana 1. 5 and elsewhere, and which in its first meaning corresponds to the French en effet.

(Note: On this word with reference to this passage of the Psalm vid., Steinschneider's Hebr. Bibliographie 1861, S. 83.)

According to this, the ל in לארץ is not the ל of property: in a fining-pot built into the earth, for which לארץ without anything further would be an inadequate and colourless expression. But in accordance with the usual meaning of לארץ as a collateral definition it is: smelted (purified) down to the earth. As Olshausen observes on this subject, "Silver that is purified in the furnace and flows down to the ground can be seen in every smelting hut; the pure liquid silver flows down out of the smelting furnace, in which the ore is piled up." For it cannot be ל of reference: "purified with respect to the earth," since ארץ does not denote the earth as a material and cannot therefore mean an earthy element. We ought then to read לאבץ, which would not mean "to a white brilliancy," i.e., to a pure bright mass (Bttch.), but "with respect to the stannum, lead" (vid., on Isaiah 1:25). The verb זקק to strain, filter, cause to ooze through, corresponds to the German seihen, seigen, old High German sihan, Greek σακκεῖν (σακκίζειν), to clean by passing through a cloth as a strainer, שׂק. God's word is solid silver smelted and leaving all impurity behind, and, as it were, having passed seven times through the smelting furnace, i.e., the purest silver, entirely purged from dross. Silver is the emblem of everything precious and pure (vid., Bhr, Symbol. i. 284); and seven is the number indicating the completion of any process (Bibl. Psychol. S. 57, transl. p. 71).

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