Psalm 12: When the Wicked Rule

By R.E. Olsen

Have you read Psalm 12 lately?

The Book of Psalms is a collection of songs, hymns, or poems. These works, each of which has its own historical and biblical context, include a wide variety of themes.

Some psalms focus on praising and worshiping God. Others cry out in anguish over the pain of life. Still other psalms look forward to the coming of the Messiah.

Many of the psalms were written by David, the young shepherd and harpist who slayed the giant Goliath and later became King of ancient Israel.

The Bible does not shy away from recording real-life struggles and honest complaints. Humanity is saturated with corruption and sin. Faced with evil or persecution, believers sometimes cry out: “Where are you, God?”

In Psalm 12, David mourns over what seems to be a complete lack of good people:

Help, Lord, for no one is faithful anymore;
those who are loyal have vanished from the human race.
Everyone lies to their neighbor;
they flatter[a] with their lips
but harbor deception in their hearts.

May the Lord silence all flattering lips
    and every boastful tongue—
those who say,
“By our tongues we will prevail;
our own lips will defend us—who is lord over us?”

“Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan,
    I will now arise,” says the Lord.
“I will protect them from those who malign them.”
And the words of the Lord are flawless,
like silver purified in a crucible,
like gold refined seven times.[b]

You, Lord, will keep the needy safe
    and will protect us forever from the wicked,
who freely prowl and strut about on every side[c]
when vileness[d] is honored by the human race.


[a] To “flatter” means to heap praise on someone, especially dishonest or exaggerated compliments (i.e. Hollywood award ceremonies). David sees arrogance in wicked people. They think their smooth talk and deception will help them avoid any consequences. David calls on God to judge these wicked people.

[b] Seven is the biblical number of completeness and perfection (both physically and spiritually), so this implies that God’s Word is absolutely perfect in its purity. Seven derives much of its meaning from being tied directly to God’s creation of all things.

[c] In the New Testament, Peter will echo the idea of evil hunting like a predator (i.e. pedophiles and traffickers). “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). David also describes wickedness as a lion preying on the poor, innocent and helpless (Psalm 10:2-3).

[d] The term translated “vileness” implies something cheap, worthless, or inferior. Instead of honoring the pure refined silver and gold of God’s Word, vile humans revel in impure, unrefined speech and actions (i.e. Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion).


Many Bible scholars hold the opinion that Psalm 12 was written when Saul was king and David was witnessing the decline and decay of the nation. In the next psalm, David laments, “How long will my enemy be exalted over me?” (Psalm 13:2).

A similar Scripture (Proverb 29:2) states: “When the righteous are in authority the people rejoice, but when the wicked are in power the people groan.” (Some translations use the words “mourn” or “sigh.”)

There’s a whole lot of mourning, groaning, and sighing going on in America today, just as there was back then in ancient Israel. But as you can see in his psalm, David’s despair and anguish are balanced by a trust in God.

Through all of the trials and tribulations we face, it’s faith that gives us hope even in the direst of circumstances. Scripture shows that God will always vindicate His people eventually. 🙂

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