Though Psalm 12 had been briefly commented on in a previous post1)see Heath Henning, “Deistic Inspiration or Preserved Inerrancy,” May 2, 2016; http://truthwatchers.com/deistic-inspiration-preserved-inerrancy/ it is important to expand the discussion to defend the accurate exegesis of the passage being understood as the perfect preservation of God’s words. The specific phrase that comes under attack frequently is Psalm 12:6-7 “The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.”

The general argument of those who deny this passage is teaching perfect preservation of God’s words claim that gender disharmony proves their point. An introductory Hebrew explanation is “Nearly all Hebrew nouns belong to one of two grammatical categories called gender: masculine and feminine.”2)Thomas O. Lambdin, Introduction To Biblical Hebrew, Darton, Longman and Todd (Great Britain: 1973) p. 3 General interpretive rules for Hebrew syntax indicates that pronouns must follow with “agreement in number and gender”3) Thomas O. Lambdin, Introduction To Biblical Hebrew, Darton, Longman and Todd (Great Britain: 1973) p. 35 so plural words connect with plural words (number) and masculine words, whether verb, noun, pronoun, adjective, etc., connect with other masculine words while feminine connect with feminine words. Thus William Combs, the Academic Dean and Professor of New Testament at Detroit Baptists Seminary states:

The Hebrew term for “them” (twice in v. 7) is masculine, while the term for “words” is feminine. Therefore, most interpreters and versions understand the promise of preservation in verse 7 to apply to the “poor” and “needy” of verse 5.4)William W. Combs, “The Preservation of Scripture,” in Biblical and Theological Essays: Selections from the Detroit Baptists Seminary Journal 1996-2000, (edited by William W. Combs) BMH Books (Winona Lake, Indiana: 2010), p. 33

Robert B. Chisholm, Jr. professor of Old Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary says:

Because Hebrew is more precise than modern English, especially in direct address, the interpreter cannot afford to trust an English translation when trying to determine the referent or antecedent of many pronouns….
Psalms 12 provides another example of the importance of observing distinctions in gender and number when interpreting Hebrew texts. Verse 7a (Eng., Heb. V. 8a) states, “You, O LORD, will keep them.” If confined to a translation, one might think that the antecedent of the pronoun “them” is “words” (v. 6, Heb. V. 7). In this case verse 7a (Heb. V. 8a) would be directly affirming God’s faithfulness to his promises. However, “words” (אִמְרוֹת/ אֲמָרוֹת) is feminine in both instances, while the suffixed pronoun “them” is masculine, making this interpretation highly improbable. The antecedents of the pronoun are probably the masculine plural forms “afflicted/needy” (אֶבְיוֹנִים/ עֲנִיִּים) (v. 5, Heb. V. 6). Thus verse 7a (Heb. V. 8a) is affirming that God protects the helpless. This interpretation is consistent with verse 7b (Heb. V. 8b), where a third masculine singular (or perhaps first plural) pronoun is suffixed to the verb “guard” and refers to each member of the oppressed group (or, if first plural, to the whole group, with which the author identifies).5) Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., From Exegesis To Exposition: A Practical Guide to Using Biblical Hebrew, Baker Books, (Grand Rapids, MI: 1998), p. 71-72

Even Dr. David Sorenson, pastor of Northstar Baptist Church in Duluth, Minnesota; who does believe in the perfect preservation of God’s words and hold to the KJV/TR position but does not think this passage in Psalm 12 teaches such, makes the same claim:

There is a grammatical conflict if “the words of God” are assumed to be the antecedent of them in verse 7. The two terms do not agree in gender in the Hebrew text. Laws of language require agreement of antecedent and predicate in matters of number and gender.6)David H. Sorenson, God’s Perfect Book: The Inspiration, Preservation, and Alteration of the Bible, Northstar Ministry (Duluth, MN: 2009), p. 214

To claim “laws of language require…” anything is very strong statement, especially when there are exceptions to rules in all languages and everyone who speaks any language is well aware of that fact.

So what about the gender disharmony in this passage? Wilhelm Gesenius, who has written a well known and accepted as authoritative text on Hebrew Grammar says in his discussions about pronouns, “masculine suffixes (especially in the plural) are not infrequently used to refer to the feminine substantive”7)Wilhelm Gesenius, Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, Clarendon Press (Oxford: 1898), p. 463 Another definitive Hebrew grammar is Jouon- Muraoka, A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew, which reveals, “The personal pronoun agrees almost always in number and generally in gender with the noun it represents…. The suffixed pronoun quite often takes the masculine instead of the feminine, especially in the second person plural and (mainly) in the third person plural…”8)Paul Jouon, Tamitsu Muraoka, A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew, Gregorian and Biblcal Press (third reprint of second edition with corrections: 2011), p. 515-516 So the actual Hebrew scholars are well aware the laws of language do not “require” gender agreement. In fact, gender disharmony is commonly used in verses referring specifically to God’s word.

1 Kings 6:12 “Concerning this house which thou art in building, if thou wilt walk in my statutes [Fem.], and execute my judgments [Fem.], and keep all my commandments [Fem.] to walk in them [Masc.].
Psalm 78:5 “For he established a testimony [Fem.] in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them [Masc.] known to their children.”
Psalm 119:111 “I have inherited Your testimonies [Fem.] forever, For they [Masc.] are the joy of my heart.”
Psalm 119:129 “Your testimonies [Fem.] are wonderful; Therefore my soul observes them [Masc.].”
Psalm 119:152 “Of old I have known from Your testimonies [Fem.] That You have founded them [Masc.] forever.”
Psalm 119:167 “My soul keeps Your testimonies [Fem.], And I love them [Masc.] exceedingly.”

Interestingly, William Combs who is cited above for rejecting Psalm 12:6-7 for the gender disharmony, in the same article assessed Psalm 119:152 and wrote: “Verse 152 appears to be a fairly direct promise of preservation.”9)William W. Combs, “The Preservation of Scripture,” in Biblical and Theological Essays: Selections from the Detroit Baptists Seminary Journal 1996-2000, (edited by William W. Combs) BMH Books (Winona Lake, Indiana: 2010), p. 36 Wait, what about the gender disharmony in this verse? Why the inconsistency? Further special pleading from those who hold the critical text position is found in their desire to omit what is known as the Johannine Comma in 1 John 5:7. In doing so they produce grammatical difficulties from the neuter and masculine genders as 1 John 5:6-8 has it. Opponents of perfect preservation only raise such arguments when they can use them to produce doubt in a given passage but ignore them when it can help them produce doubt in other given passages. They are not seeking to discover what the original autographs might have been as they claim, they are seeking to produce doubt in God’s word. It is also noteworthy that all the authors cited in Combs’ article favorably are New Evangelical while all the Fundamentalist are quoted to scorn. That surely reveals where Detroit Baptist Seminary stands contrary to claiming to be Fundamentalists.

What Combs means by preservation, however, is not a perfect preservation; but merely a providential preservation. He declares:

When most writers speak of the preservation of the Scripture as being providential, they mean Scripture has been preserved by secondary causation, through ordinary human means, rather than by God’s direct miraculous intervention. God has not chosen to preserve the Scriptures miraculously. Thus the preservation of Scripture is not different in method from any other ancient book God has ordained to preserve, as, for example, Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic War—both Scripture and Caesar’s work have been preserved providentially, by secondary causation, by essentially ordinary human means.10)William W. Combs, “The Preservation of Scripture,” in Biblical and Theological Essays: Selections from the Detroit Baptists Seminary Journal 1996-2000, (edited by William W. Combs) BMH Books (Winona Lake, Indiana: 2010), p.27

Combs view of preservation is “within the totality of manuscripts”11)William W. Combs, “The Preservation of Scripture,” in Biblical and Theological Essays: Selections from the Detroit Baptists Seminary Journal 1996-2000, (edited by William W. Combs) BMH Books (Winona Lake, Indiana: 2010), p. 55 including “the Alexandrian text type as well…”12)William W. Combs, “The Preservation of Scripture,” in Biblical and Theological Essays: Selections from the Detroit Baptists Seminary Journal 1996-2000, (edited by William W. Combs) BMH Books (Winona Lake, Indiana: 2010), p. 58 The Alexandrian text types are well known to be corrupted.13)see Heath Henning, What Makes a Reliable Bible Version?” March 18, 2017; http://truthwatchers.com/what-makes-a-reliable-bible-version/ He insists that “the words of the autographs have not been inerrantly preserved.”14)William W. Combs, “The Preservation of Scripture,” in Biblical and Theological Essays: Selections from the Detroit Baptists Seminary Journal 1996-2000,(edited by William W. Combs) BMH Books (Winona Lake, Indiana: 2010), p. 54 Combs claims, “This level of purity is sufficient for God’s purpose.”15)William W. Combs, “The Preservation of Scripture,” in Biblical and Theological Essays: Selections from the Detroit Baptists Seminary Journal 1996-2000,(edited by William W. Combs) BMH Books (Winona Lake, Indiana: 2010), p. 54 That cannot be called “purity” nor is it “sufficient” since man is accountable to God according to all His words (Numbers 15:22-23). Combs major argument against perfect preservation is based on manuscripts. “It is an indisputable fact, proven by the manuscript and versional evidence, that God has not perfectly (that is, without error) preserved the Scriptures throughout their long history of transmission.”16)William W. Combs, “The Preservation of Scripture,” in Biblical and Theological Essays: Selections from the Detroit Baptists Seminary Journal 1996-2000,(edited by William W. Combs) BMH Books (Winona Lake, Indiana: 2010), p. 49 This, as an evidentialist argument, is a completely counterintuitive argument from Detroit Baptist Seminary as Rolland McCune, their professor of systematic theology, strongly advocates a presuppositional position.17)see Rolland D. McCune, “The New Evangelicalism and Apologetics,” Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal, Vol. 6, (Fall 2001); and Rolland McCune, Promise Unfulfilled: The Failed Strategy of Modern Evangelism, Ambassador International (Greensville, SC: 2004), pp. 195-228 McCune himself, inconsistent with a presuppositional position, claims “God preserved His Word providentially in various manuscripts”18)Rolland McCune, “Doctrinal Non-Issues in Historic Fundamentalism,” Biblical and Theological Essays: Selections from the Detroit Baptists Seminary Journal 1996-2000,(edited by William W. Combs) BMH Books (Winona Lake, Indiana: 2010), p. 309 and denies “any promise made by God for” perfect preservation, citing as evidence “mistranslations, miscopying, or misprinting has crept into every version and reproduction of the biblical text…”19)Rolland McCune, “Doctrinal Non-Issues in Historic Fundamentalism,” Biblical and Theological Essays: Selections from the Detroit Baptists Seminary Journal 1996-2000,(edited by William W. Combs) BMH Books (Winona Lake, Indiana: 2010), p. 315 This is exactly what I mean by “deistic inspiration.”20)Heath Henning, “Deistic Inspiration or Preserved Inerrancy,” May 2, 2016; http://truthwatchers.com/deistic-inspiration-preserved-inerrancy/ However, if Psalm 12 is speaking about God’s words, it is His pure words which are being preserved, hence perfect preservation.

Dr. David Sorenson, who does believe in the prefect preservation of Scripture, just not being taught in the passage, argues with six reasons he does not except this passage is teaching the preservation of God’s pure words. First he contends, “the greater context of the first section of the book of Psalms (chapter 1-41) deals repeatedly with how God preserves, protects, and delivers His people.”21)David H. Sorenson, God’s Perfect Book: The Inspiration, Preservation, and Alteration of the Bible, Northstar Ministry (Duluth, MN: 2009), p. 213 This argument is faulty for a few reasons. First, it is irrelevant what the greater context is as Psalm 12 stands apart and can have a different purpose altogether. Derek Kidner writes about Psalm 12 indicating, “This psalm, on the use and abuse of words…”22)Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72: The Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (general editor D. J. Wiseman), Inter-varsity Press (Downers Grove, IL: 1973), p. 74 and indicates the pronoun “them” is referring to the “words” in verse 6 as he footnotes “On the use of masc. pronoun to refer to fem. noun, see G-K [a common abbreviation for Gesenius whose Hebrew Grammar was quoted above], 135″23)Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72: The Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (general editor D. J. Wiseman), Inter-varsity Press (Downers Grove, IL: 1973), p. 76 This whole Psalm focuses on the topic of speech, man’s wick words contrasted to God’s pure words. Notice all the words referenced as synonymous for speech: “speak …flattering lips …they do speak (Ps 12:2); …flttering lips… the tongue… speaketh (Ps 12:3); have said… our tongue… our lips…. (Ps 12:4); …the sighing… saith… puffeth (Ps. 12:5); …words… pure words… (Ps. 12:6); …keep them…preserve them… (Ps 12:7). It is evident that there is the poetic structure revealing the couplings: verses 2, 3, 4 the terms used for speech in each verse calculates to three; while in verses 5 and 6 there are two reference to speech. Furthermore, contrast to Sorenson’s idea of the broader context in Psalm 1-41, the larger portion of these Psalms mention God’s words (Ps. 1:2; 2:5; 2:7; 7:6; 12:6; 12:7; 17:4; 18:22; 18:30; 19:7; 19:8; 19:9; 25:10; 25:14; 29:4; 29:5; 29:7; 29:8; 29:9; 33:4; 33:6; 33:9; 33:11; 37:31; 40:3; 40:7; 40:8). Sorenson writes this broader context is dealing with God delivering His people citing “Psalm 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 16, 17, 18, and onward. David often wrote at length how that God had delivered and preserved him throughout his long and colorful life.”24)David H. Sorenson, God’s Perfect Book: The Inspiration, Preservation, and Alteration of the Bible, Northstar Ministry (Duluth, MN: 2009), p. 213 The error of his comment is that if Psalm 12 is referring to the “poor” and “needy” of verse 5; then the broader context would need to be about the oppression of God’s people in the plural form, as “poor” (עֲנִיִּים֮) and ”needy” (אֶבְי֫וֹנִ֥ים) are plural forms; not David in a first person singular. The broad context dealing with the oppression in plural forms is limited to Ps. 9:9; 9:19; 10:14; 10:17; 10:18; 14:6; 34:19; 41:1. That is only 5 chapters compared t the 12 chapters about God’s words. More specifically, the Hebrew word for poor in the plural is only in Ps. 9:12; 9:18; 10:12 and the plural for needy in Ps. 9:18. Thus the thought is not more prominent in the immediate context of Psalm 12; nor the broader context of Psalms 1-41.

Sorenson next opines with, “When the word preserve Is used elsewhere in the book of Psalm (twenty-one times), in every other case, it refers to the preservation of God’s people.”25)David H. Sorenson, God’s Perfect Book: The Inspiration, Preservation, and Alteration of the Bible, Northstar Ministry (Duluth, MN: 2009), p. 213 First, this comment is dealing with the English word “preserve” which there is one case when it is not used for God’s people: Ps. 36:6 “O Lord, thou preservest man and beast.” This reference is obviously to general to identify God’s people. Dr. Sorenson’s comment ignores the fact that, besides נָצַר, there are three other Hebrew words in Psalms that are translated as preserve: שָׁמַר (Psalm 16:1), יָשַׁע (Psalm 36:6), יָתַר (Psalm 79:11). Secondly, this argument does not stand when dealing with the verbal root of the Hebrew word נָצַר which frequently is used with reference to God’s words. Ps. 25:10 “keep his covenants and his testimonies”; Ps. 78:7 “keep his commandments”; Ps. 105:45 “keep his laws”; Ps. 119:2 “Keep his testimonies”; Ps. 119:22 “Kept thy testimonies” Ps. 119:33 “I shall keep it [statutes]”; Ps. 119:34 “keep thy laws”; Ps. 119:56 “I kept thy precepts”; Ps. 119:69 “I will keep thy precepts”; Ps. 119:100 “I keep thy precepts”; also in Ps. 119:115; 119:129; 119:145; 141:3. Sorenson should be able to figure this point is pointless since in his fifth reason he mentions this Hebrew word mentioning the semantic range of its possible definitions. He claims, “The basic thought of the word makes much more sense in referring to God’s people than in referring to God’s words.”26)David H. Sorenson, God’s Perfect Book: The Inspiration, Preservation, and Alteration of the Bible, Northstar Ministry (Duluth, MN: 2009), p. 214 This is ridiculous as is seen in the many verses quoted above. Besides, the definition of the word is based on its immediate context, not a “basic thought.” His argument is invalid as it is arguing from the well-known “root fallacy”.27)see D. A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies, (2nd ed.) Baker Books (Grand Rapid, MI: 1996), p. 28-35; and Grant R. Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral, Intervarsity Press (Downers Grove, IL: 1991), p. 66-69

His fourth point states:

Verse 7 really does not make sense if one assumes the words of God are in view here. Notice the end of the verse, “from this generation for ever.” Why would God preserve His word from that generation and from all generations thereafter? (The text does not say “for this generation” which is carelessly assumed by many.)28) David H. Sorenson, God’s Perfect Book: The Inspiration, Preservation, and Alteration of the Bible, Northstar Ministry (Duluth, MN: 2009), p. 214

The word “from” is translated from the prefixed preposition מִן which can carry many understanding just as the English word “from” can. BDB Hebrew English Lexicon of the Old Testament has 7 pages discussing it,29)Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, C.A. Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, (Claredon Press: Oxford, 1980, p. 577-583 offering 9 different definitions with multiple sub-points under each. Sorenson is guilty of assuming the text needs to be interpreted as God preserving as a “separation or removal” from the generation (which is a possible interpretation which BDB lists as number 1. being “with verbs”30)Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, C.A. Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, (Claredon Press: Oxford, 1980, p. 577-578 which is not the case in this verse). This would be interpreting the “poor” and “needy” as being “removed from” the oppression of the wicked. An average reader would naturally understand it as preserved “originating from” this generation and onward. This is the reading BDB gives under number 2. meaning “out of” with sub-points explaining “b. of the material out of which anything is formed, or from which it is derived… c. of the source or origind. of the source or author of an action, counsel, or event… e. of the immediate, or efficient, cause (chiefly poet.) in consequence of, at, byf. of the remoter cause, the ultimate ground on account of which something happens or is done. (N. B. The line between e. and f. is not always clearly defined)…”31)Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, C.A. Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, (Claredon Press: Oxford, 1980, p. 579-580 It is under f. that Psalm 12:632)which is mistaken, it should be 12:7 in English or v. 8 in Hebrew is cited expressing it carries the meaning of e. and f. in the passage.  The idiom “from generation to generation” (Exodus 17:16; Isaiah 13:20; 34:10; 34:17; 51:8; Jeremiah 50:39; Lamentations 5:19; Daniel 4:3; Joel 3:20) is used often (though the Hebrew construction is different) but is obviously not being understood as “separated from generation to generation.” Paul uses the word “from” in the sense of “withdraw yourselves [away] from every brother that walketh disorderly” (2 Thessalonians 3:6) as well as “by letter as [originating or coming] from us” (2 Thessalonians 2:2).33)for a discussion of the meaning of the word “from” in 2 Thessalonians 1:9 see Heath Henning, “Does “death” Mean “Separation?”, June 19, 2017; http://truthwatchers.com/death-mean-separation/

William Combs understood it as preservation originating from this generation and also made an ignorant argument about the word “from”. He wrote,

Even then it is somewhat problematic that God would promise only to preserve his Word from David forward (“from this generation”). What about the period between Moses and David?34)William W. Combs, “The Preservation of Scripture,” in Biblical and Theological Essays: Selections from the Detroit Baptists Seminary Journal 1996-2000, (edited by William W. Combs) BMH Books (Winona Lake, Indiana: 2010), p. 33

It is not God’s desire to begin preserving His words at this moment in history with David, but rather the words He revealed to man in that generation that are being preserved from that point on. The inscripturated text originated from that generation and will be preserved onward. The words of God which Moses had written were preserved as they originated with inscripturation during Moses generation. Deuteronomy 29:29 “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.” That is, “all the words of this law” are preserved “forever” from the moment they were “revealed.”

Furthermore, as Jouon-Muraoka tell us, “Verbal suffixes: the suffix of the 2nd pers. fem. pl. is wanting in all the verbal forms; and the suffix of the 3rd pers. fem. pl. is wanting in most…”35) Paul Jouon, Tamitsu Muraoka, A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew, Gregorian and Biblical Press (third reprint of second edition with corrections: 2011), p. 516 This means that the third person feminine plural suffix form of most verbs are non-existent in Biblical Hebrew. The Hebrew word for “keep” and “preserve” in Psalm 12:7 is a qal imperfect second masculine singular. The third person feminine plural suffix is what would need to be on the words in this verse if it were to express gender harmony, yet that form of these verbs are never once used in the entire Old Testament. Not even once is there a third person feminine plural suffix found in the entire book of Psalms. There are only 19 examples in the Old Testament of third person feminine plural suffixes on verbs of any kind (Genesis 30:38; Exodus 2:17; 2 Samuel 20:3; 2 Kings 19:26; Isaiah 34:16; 37:27; 48:7; Jeremiah 8:7; Ezekiel 1:9, 12, 17; 42:12; Habakkuk 2:17; Zechariah 11:5; Job 39:2; Ruth 1:19), while there are 1,403 masculine plural suffixes. We should expect from a factor of probability that this verse is gender discord rather than assume we should find this verb form and suffix.
In closing, we will see a brief exegesis of Psalms 12 to identify what it is saying about God’s words being preserved. First, understand that this Psalm is structured as an antithetical chiasmus poem, so the first verse reports the opposite of the last verse. Both verse 1 and verse 8 end with the Hebrew word אָדָם (man) to draw our attention to the chiasm of this Psalm.The lay out of this poem is as follows:

A. Psalm 12:1

B. Psalm 12:2-4

C. Psalm 12:5

B. Psalm 12:6-7

A. Psalm 12:8

1 “Help, Lord; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men.” This statement is in contrast to verse 8. “The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted.” The Psalmist cries for help from Jehovah because the godly man is ceasing while the wicked are increasing on every side. The population of faithful man fail being synonymous with ceasing while the vilest men are exalted identifying their increase in the parallelism. But who is the godly man and what makes him identified as godly? The answer is present in the parallelism contrasting verses 2-4 with verses 6-7. We find first the expression of the wicked.

2 “They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak.” The Hebrew word for “vanity” (שָׁ֤וְא) means “emptiness, worthlessness, vanity… emptiness of speech”36)Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, C.A. Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, (Claredon Press: Oxford, 1980, p. 996 The same word is used twice in Deuteronomy 5:11 in the re-giving of the ten Commandments to not take the LORD’s name in vain. These are blasphemous men. The flattering words from the lips of these wicked men are worthless which is contrasted to the pure words of God which are expressed as the finest of precious metal (v 6) that has gone through the greatest of processes of purification. There is great value in God’s pure words. This gives us the identity of the godly in verse 1. They are those who are faithful in handling God’s pure word compared to those who twist it (2 Peter 3:16) with flattering ways (2 Peter 2:1-3) for self-serving purposes (2 Timothy 4:3-4; Romans 16:17-18).

3-4 “The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things: who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us?” The words of these wicked men are temporal; they will be cut off by Jehovah. This is in contrast to God’s words which are preserved perpetually from the moment they are spoken being revealed to men (v. 7). Thus the obvious theme is God’s words being preserved when viewed in this chiastic structure. The expression “thou shalt keep them” is referring to the pure words of God, it is every single individual one of His words that are being kept. Not by a second causation through providence; but the keeping and preserving is accomplished by “thou… O LORD.” The wicked are proud, and they think their words will prevail. Prevail against who? It is Jehovah that they are being threatened by, that their proud lips will be cut off by Him. They defy God scoffing and asking “who is lord over us.” Such blaspheme will cease quickly as God will laugh (Psalm 2:4) for His words will abide forever (1 Peter 1:23); His “judgements endureth for ever” (Psalm 119:160). Matthew Poole (1670) wrote in his commentary, “Thy words or promises last mentioned, ver. 6. These thou wilt observe and keep (as these two verbs commonly signify) both now, and from this generation for ever.”37)Matthew Poole, Annotations upon the Holy Bible, vol. 2 (New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1853), 18 Similarly, John Wesley in 1765, wrote, “Thy words or promises: these thou wilt observe and keep, both now, and from this generation for ever.”38)John Wesley, Explanatory Notes upon the Old Testament, vol. 2 (Bristol: William Pine, 1765), 1642 As mentioned above, there is symmetry in these verses with speech being mentioned three times in verses 2-5, and twice in both verses 6 and 7. This symmetry only exists if “them” is identifying God’s words.

The central point is found in verse five which has its own chiastic form. The other verses are broken into two parts while this verse has three. The very center is the central thought that grasps our attention in this rhetorical mode of literature.

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.

It is the wicked that puffeth at the poor and needy who are sighing. Notice puffeth (יָפִ֥יחַֽ) is to “breath, blow… to exhale”39)Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, C.A. Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, (Claredon Press: Oxford, 1980, p. 806 as in when one speaks against another. It is words being man-breathed–“such as breath out cruelty” (Psalm 27:12)–but the words of God are inspired words—God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). It is not the prophets that were inspired but the very words that were written (γραφη) that are described as God-breathed. The poor just sigh as they are under these attacks of malicious words from the proud. But it is Jehovah Who says “Now will I arise.” This is a promise, and it is these words particularly that are the pure words being preserved as there will be the day when He shall “speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee….Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Psalm 2:5-9). When the Lord comes “then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth” (2 Thess. 2:8) and the wicked “remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth” (Rev 19:21). This may be understood as a prophecy of the second coming or possibly the resurrection as the Septuagint uses the Greek word αναστησομαι for “I will arise,” the common Greek root word for resurrection. At least one ancient Christian author connected this verse with the resurrection. The author of the Apostolic Constitution from around 400 A.D. wrote, “And since He was crucified on the day of the Preparation, and rose again at break of day on the Lord’s day, the scripture was fulfilled which says, Arise, O God; judge the earth: for You shall have an inheritance in all the nations; and again, I will arise, says the Lord; I will put Him in safety, I will wax bold through Him; and, But You, Lord, have mercy upon me, and raise me up again, and I shall requite them. For this reason do you also, now the Lord is risen, offer your sacrifice…”40)The Constitution of the Holy Apostles, Book 5, chap. 19; in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, (ed.) Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson, Hendrickson Publishers (Peabody, Massachusetts: originally published 1885, fifth printing 2012), Vol 7, p. 447

It is the power of God’s very words being perfectly preserved that saints find comfort in the given promised vindication from the oppression of the wicked as a just resolution in the end. This vindication of saints may be occuring at the resurrection of Christ, but it is more likely  meant to be at the second coming, when He will arise from sitting on the throne at the right hand of the Father. The chiastic structure restricts the interpretation of the poor and need being preserved as it would not allow a proper parallel in this passage. Or as Samuel Terrien identified the chiasmus:

Thanks to the double chiasmus that encircles the core verse, the structure clearly offers its design

1. The Duplicity of the Sons of Adam (vv. 2–3)
2. The False Words (vv. 4–5)

III. The Divine Promise (v. 6)

1. The Pure Words (vv. 7–8)
2. The Aberration of the Sons of Adam (v. 9)

An inclusio poetica appears in vv. 2 and 9; Strophe III constitutes the summit of the psalm. Here as elsewhere for the genre of Complaint, Strophes I and II are echoed in Strophes IV and V, as the false words of the human brood are contrasted with the true and pure words of the Lord. Both sets are articulated around the core verse, which is a prophetic oracle introducing the proclamation of confidence. . . . The psalmist . . . knows that the Lord will keep his word (v. 8).41)Samuel Terrien, The Psalms: Strophic Structure and Theological Commentary, The Eerdmans Critical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2003), 152–156.

Along with the Psalmist, we can know the LORD will preserve His words perfectly for all generations contrary to what the scoffers may say.

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