Psalms 11, 12: The just shall see God

‘Dig and delve’. Bas relief wood carving, St Peter’s church Zürich

Discussing Psalms 9 and 10 together was justifiable since they were really part of one psalm. No such excuse for 11 and 12 but let’s briefly dig and delve in both anyway; they are both attributed to David and have similar statements of trust in divine inspiration, protection or refuge in times of trial and oppression.

Another strong pillar of these psalms is one that emerges throughout the Psalter — the congruence of justice and divine intent woven into the fundamental make-up of the world and our DNA, despite much sad evidence to the contrary. (See for example Psalm 99)

Psalm 11:1 warns us not to “flee like a bird to the mountains” in the face of opposition. Why? Because of divine discernment — “God’s eyes behold … examine humankind … test the upright and the wicked … hate violence” (4-5) — and judgement. (7)

Psalm 12 seems to follow this trajectory, the psalmist expressing concern that a remnant of upright souls is shrinking in number, then declaring trust in divine protection and — here are the scales of justice again — concern for the downcast:

Because of the cries of the poor and the needy, I will arise. I will place them in the safety for which they long.

Ps 12:5

A good reminder, but it won’t happen without our own actions.

These two short songs of David hardly get a mention in the regular musical sources:

  • There are very few settings by classical composers listed in Choral Wiki
  • None in TiS (they are ‘skips’ after all)
  • A few regulars like Goudimel and Ravenscroft line up with offerings, though they are rather sedate hymns with no antiphonal dimensions
  • Even the normally magnanimous and wide-ranging selections in PFAS dwindle to but one setting each psalm.
  • Everett in TEP chooses good verses for his refrains: Ps.11:1 and Ps.12:5 quoted above.

If sung, the perfect opportunity arises for a group to compose one of their own.

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