on Psalms 12 :8
The wicked walk on every side - The land is full of them. When the vilest men are exalted; rather, As villany gains ground among the sons of Adam. See the Hebrew. The Vulgate has, "In circuito impii ambulant; secundum altitudinem tuam multiplicasti filios hominum;" which is thus translated and paraphrased in my old MS.: -
Trans. In umgang wiked gos: eftir thy heenes thu has multiplied the sons of man.
Par - Us thy kepes; bot wiked gas in umgang; that es, in covatyng of erdley gudes, that turned with the whele of seven daies: in the qwilk covatys, thai ryn ay aboute; for that sett nane endyng of thaire syn: and tharfor settes God na terme of thair pyne, but sons of men that lyfs skilwisly and in ryghtwisnes, thu has multiplied, aftir thi heghnes in vertus; aftir the heghnes of thi consayll, thou hast multiplied men bath il and gude; for na man may perfitely witt in erd, qwy God makes so many men, the qwilk he wote well sal be dampned: bot it es the privete of his counsayle, so ryghtwis, that no thyng may be ryghtwiser.
In this we find a number of singular exrpressions, which, while they elucidate the text, will not be uninteresting to the antiquary. Here, for instance, we see the true etymology of the words righteous and righteousness, i.e., right wise and right wiseness. For we have it above as a noun, "rightwisnes": as an adjective, "rightwis"; and as an adjective in the comparative degree, "rightwiser": and we should have had it as an adverb, ryghtwisely, had not the word "skilwisly" occurred to the author.
Righteousness is right wiseness, or that which is according to true wisdom. A righteous man is one who is right wise; properly instructed in Divine wisdom, and acts according to its dictates; and among them who act rightwisely, there are some who act rightwiser than others; and nothing can be rightwiser than ever to think and act according to the principles of that wisdom which comes from above.
Right, rectus, straight, is opposed to wrong, from injury, and that from to twist. As rehtan signifies to direct, so wrangen signifies to twist, or turn out of a straight or direct line. Right is straight, and wrong, crooked. Hence the righteous man is one who goes straight forward, acts and walks by line and rule; and the unrighteous is he who walks in crooked paths, does what is wrong, and is never guided by true wisdom. Such a person is sometimes termed wicked, from the Anglo-Saxon to act by witch-craft, (hence wicca, a witch), that is to renounce God and righteousness, and to give one's self to the devil, which is the true character of a wicked man. Let him that readeth understand.
The vilest men are exalted - Were we to take this in its obvious sense, it would signify that at that time wickedness was the way to preferment, and that good men were the objects of persecution.
on Psalms 12 :8
The wicked walk on every side - Everywhere. They have full license, or seem to be wholly unrestrained.
When the vilest men are exalted - Margin, "The vilest of the sons of men are exalted." This expression has been very variously translated. Dr. Horsley renders it, "When the scorn of the sons of men is exalted." De Wette, "They exalt themselves; terror to the sons of men." Luther, "Where such wicked people rule among the sons of men." Hengstenberg, "Like exaltation is disgrace to the sons of men." Prof. Alexander seems inclined to favor this last view. According to this interpretation, the meaning is, that "although the wicked are now in the ascendant, and the righteous are treated with contempt, this disgrace is realy an exaltation, because only ... in man's judgment, not in God's, who will abundantly indemnity his people for the dishonor put upon them." The word rendered in our version "the vilest" - זלות zûllûth - means, according to Gesenius, "trembling, terror." It occurs nowhere else in the Scriptures. The verb from which it is derived - זלל zâlal - means to shake, to tremble; then (as one shakes out, or casts away worthless things) to be vile, abject, despised, worthless.
Perhaps, however, the common version expresses the idea more accurately than any of these proposed amendments. I would offer the following as a fair translation of the passage: "The wicked walk on every side; (it is) as the lifting up, or the exaltation of vileness among the sons of men." That is, the state of things is as if the vilest were exalted, or were honored. It seems to be the very exaltation of wickedness or depravity in the world. A state of things exists in which, from the prevalence of iniquity, the wicked seem to go unrestrained; in which no regard is paid to truth; in which falsehood and flattery abound; and it is as if honor were done to the worst forms of sin, and the most abandoned seem to be the most exalted. This appears to be the reason in the mind of the psalmist why the divine interposition is necessary; with this idea the psalm commences, and with this it appropriately closes. There was a state of widespread depravity and successful iniquity, as if all honor were conferred on wicked and abandoned men, while the virtuous were oppressed and degraded. The psalm expresses "confidence" in God - confidence in his faithful word and promises; but the psalmist sees a state of things wherein it was eminently desirable that God should interpose, for the righteous seemed to have failed out of the earth, and the wicked seemed to be wholly in the ascendancy.
on Psalms 12 :8
12:8 Walk - They fill all places, and go about boldly and securely.