Verse 1. - Help, Lord; rather, Save, Lord, as in the margin (comp. Psalm 20:9; Psalm 28:9; Psalm 60:5, etc.). For the godly man ceaseth. "Ceaseth," i.e., "out of the land " - either slain or driven into exile. We must make allowance for poetic hyperbole. For the faithful fail from among the children of men (compare, for the sentiment, Micah 7:2). The writer, for the moment, loses sight of the "remnant" - the "little flock " - which assuredly remained, and of which he speaks in vers. 5 and 7.
They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak.
Verse 2. - They speak vanity every one with his neighbour; rather, they speak falsehood (Kay, Cheyne). Contrast the injunction of the apostle (Ephesians 4:25). With flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak; literally, with lips of smoothness, and with a heart and a heart do they speak. The Authorized Version gives the true meaning (comp. 1 Chronicles 12:33).
The LORD shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things:
Verse 3. - The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips. The complaint having been made, a threat follows (comp. Psalm 10:15; Psalm 11:6; Psalm 17:13, etc.). The men who flatter with their lips, beguiling and cozening their victims to get them completely into their power, shall be "cut off" from the congregation (see Genesis 17:14; Exodus 12:15, 19; Leviticus 7:20, 27; Leviticus 17:10, etc.). And the tongue that speaketh proud things; literally, greet rhinos; but proud and lofty boastings are intended (comp. Daniel 7:8, 20). The same man sometimes cozens with smooth words, sometimes blusters and talks big.
Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us?
Verse 4. - Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; or, through our tongues are we powerful; i.e. whatever we desire we can accomplish through our tongues - by persuasion, or by menaces, or by skill in argument. Success in pleading before courts of law is, perhaps, included. Our lips are our own; literally, are with us; i.e. are on our side, are our helpers ("Nobis auxilio et praesto sunt," Michaelis). Who is lord over us? Who, i.e., can interfere with us and impede our action? They do not believe in any righteous Judge and Controller of the world, who can step in to frustrate their plans, upset their designs, and bring them to ruin (see Psalm 10:4, 11; Psalm 14:1).
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.
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."
The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.
Verse 6. - The words of the Lord are pure words. There is no base alloy in them: therefore they may be trusted. What God promises, he will perform. As silver tried in a furnace of earth; rather, perhaps, silver assayed in a crucible on earth (Kay). Purified seven times (comp. Psalm 18:30; Psalm 19:8; Psalm 119:140; Proverbs 30:5).
Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.
Verse 7. - Thou shalt keep them, O Lord. God having promised to set the righteous, who are oppressed, in a place of safety (ver. 5), the psalmist is sure that he will keep them and preserve them from the wicked "generation," which has possession of the earth, and bears rule in it, always. It is, no doubt, for the greater consolation and encouragement of these unfortunates that he dwells on the subject, and adds his own assurances to the Divine promise which he has recorded. Man's faith is so weak that, unless promises and assurances are reiterated, they make little impression. Thou shalt preserve them (Hebrew, him) from this generation for ever. The "generation" is that of the worldly men in power at the time, of whom we have heard in Psalm 3:1, 2, 6, 7; Psalm 4:2; Psalm 5:4-6, 9, 10; Psalm 6:8; Psalm 7:1, 2, 9, 13-16; Psalm 10:2-11, 15; Psalm 11:2, 3, 6. "For ever" means "so long as they live." The substitution of "him' for "them" in this clause is an instance of that generalization by which a whole class is summed up in a single individual - " all men" in "man," "all good men" in "the righteous" (צַדִּיק), and the like.
The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted.
Verse 8. - The wicked walk on every side. This can scarcely have been intended as an independent clause, though grammatically it stands alone. It is best to supply "while" or "though" before "the wicked," as Dr. Kay does, and to translate, Though (or, while) wicked men march to and fro on all sides; i.e. while they have their way, and control all other men's incomings and out-goings, being free themselves. When the vilest men are exalted; rather, and though villainy (זֻלּות) exalteth itself among the sons of men.