Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Print Page Psalms 12:6-7

Psalms 12:6-7  The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.  7  Thou shalt keep them, O LORD , thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.
These verses are a wonderful promise from God that he will preserve his Word, which we know as the Bible, forever. The problem is that many are trying to change this promise into something else. They say it is talking about the poor in verse 5 instead of the words in verse 6. For example in One Bible Only by Roy Beachman and Kevin Bauder they state (emphasis mine):
The pronoun them in verse 7 ("thou shalt keep them") cannot refer to the "words" of verse 7 for grammatical reasons.
They go on to say it refers to the poor instead. The reasoning is that words is feminine and poor is masculine. The word for "them" is masculine so that must be talking about poor according to them. They are not the only ones that make this claim. The ESV Study Bible says:
It seems best to take them as the poor and needy
In the Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary Journal William Combs made a similar arugument as Beachman and Bauder did. This shouldn't be surprising since they run in the same circles. Dr. Thomas Strouse came back with an excellent critique of Combs article.
“Combs assures the reader that the original words are pure and inerrant words, but does not know how purely they are preserved (p. 15). Of course the retort is that if the pure originals are not preserved purely, then how can they be preserved at all. Is one to understand that God has promised to preserve His pure originals impurely? Combs does concede that these verses ‘might be a general promise of preservation.’ Next, Combs argues that the grammar of vv. 6-7 is against the word preservation interpretation. Instead, the gender differences between the masculine plural pronominal suffix ‘them’ and its antecedent feminine plural ‘words’ forces one to look for another antecedent which is masculine plural (i.e., ‘poor’ and ‘needy’ in v. 5).
“However two important grammatical points overturn his argument. First, the rule of proximity requires ‘words’ to be the natural, contextual antecedent for ‘them.’ Second, it is not uncommon, especially in the Psalter, for feminine plural noun synonyms for the ‘words’ of the Lord to be the antecedent for masculine plural pronouns/pronominal suffixes, which seem to ‘masculinize’ the verbal extension of the patriarchal God of the Old Testament. Several examples of this supposed gender difficulty occur in Psm. 119. In verse 111, the feminine plural ‘testimonies’ is the antecedent for the masculine plural pronoun ‘they.’ Again, in three passages the feminine plural synonyms for ‘words’ have masculine plural pronominal suffixes (vv. 129, 152, 167). These examples include Psm. 119:152 (‘Concerning thy testimonies, I have known of old that thou has founded them for ever’), which Combs affirms to be ‘a fairly direct promise of preservation’ of the written form of the Torah (p. 18). As the KJV/TR bibliologists have argued all along, both the context and the grammar (proximity rule and accepted gender discordance) of Psm. 12:6-7 demand the teaching of the preservation of the Lord’s pure words for every generation.
“Next, Combs quotes the NIV rendering ‘you will keep us safe and protect us…’ to argue for the preservation of saints interpretation. However, the NIV’s translation of ‘us’ for ‘them’ is based on inferior Hebrew texts influenced by Greek. Furthermore, the context of the whole Psalm argues forcefully for the preservation of the words of God which are the antidote for the words of men in every generation.
“Combs and his ilk do not have a convincing grammatical, biblical or theological argument for the ‘preservation of saints’ interpretation in Psm. 12:6-7. The proper, contextual exegesis of this passage teaches that the Lord has preserved the pure originals intact for every generation” (Dr. Thomas Strouse, “Article Review,” April 2001).
As you can see it is not uncommon in the Old Testament for a masculine pronoun to point to a feminine word. In fact it happens 4 times alone in Psalms 119 when "they" points to "testimonies"! So the people that say "them" in Psalms 12:7 cannot be referring to "words" in Psalms 12:6 are either ignorant of Hebrew or are lying. One can also look at Hebrew grammar from a 100 years ago and also see that that "they" refers to "words" and not the "poor".
Those who interpret Psalm 12:7 as referring to people and not the Word of God say that since the pronominal suffix “keep them” in verse 7a is in the masculine gender (plural) and “the words of the LORD” in verse 6 is in the feminine gender (plural), “them” must refer to “people.” In order for it to refer to God’s Word the pronominal suffix must also be in the feminine gender like the substantive. This is a faulty reasoning based upon a wrong assumption. As Gesenius, a classic Hebrew grammarian teaches, “Through a weakening in the distinction of gender, which is noticeable elsewhere. And which probably passed from the colloquial language into that of literature, masculine suffixes (especially in the plural) are not infrequently used to refer to feminine substantives.” [Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, edited and enlarged by E. Kitsch, second edition by A. E. Cowley, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1910, 2nd edition), page 440, Section O].
Also, unlike the ESV Study Bible. John Wesley got it right when he said this about Psalms 12:6-7:
Thou shalt keep them - Thy words or promises: these thou wilt observe and keep, both now, and from this generation for ever.
Some Bible versions (NIV, NRSV, Holman and Message) have tried the win the argument by just translating Psalm 12:7 to say "us" instead of "them". Even though the Hebrew for "they" is third person they ignore that and instead use the corrupt Greek and Latin Old Testament.

In conclusion we can see that Psalms 12:6-7 is God's promise to preserve his Bible for all generations. We can know this because of the proximity of "they" to "words". Also, if we look at the entire chapter of Psalms 12 we can see the subject is God's words versus the words of the wicked. Finally, it is totally legitimate for a masculine pronoun to refer to a feminine word as seen several times in Psalms 119 and other places in the Old Testament.

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