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An Examination of the Marginal Note
for Psalm 12:7 in the 1611 KJV Bible

Copyright©2006, 2010, 2011, 2023 by Daniel B. Sedory



The following image was made from a digital photograph of an original "Great He" edition of the Holy Bible printed in 1611 by Robert Barker (London, England). The image contains the words of Psalm 12 verses 6-8 and their marginal notes. (We believe the King's Translators would be appalled if they knew copies of their Bible translation were being printed without any of its translation notes! They also wrote a very long preface to their translation which never appears in an Authorized Version printed in the USA; except for facsimile reprints of early British editions.)

Observe the () symbol in verse 7 (between the words "preserve" and "them"): "Thou shalt keepe them, (O LORD,) thou shalt preserve them, from this generation for ever."

That symbol connects the word "them" to the marginal note: " †Heb. him. i. every one of them." Thus, the KJV's own translators state the Hebrew word here actually means him (so it's impossible for it to refer to the word "wordes" in verse 6). Then they explain why it was translated as "them" (the little "i." is short for 'i.e.' or: that is): Because "him" represents "every one of them" (an obvious reference to the poor and needy in verse 5), so they decided to make it plural. What's the plural of him in English? It is: Them. Unfortunately, Bibles without this note from the King's Translators, make it difficult for those who have no knowledge of Hebrew to know that the word "them" in verse 7 must refer to the people in verse 5.1


If anyone doubts the veracity of this image, you can view the whole original
page of Psalm 12 from another 1611 edition of the Holy Bible, from here.2

How to read the Printed Text of the Original Authorized Version

The last word in the last phrase of verse 6 is "times" and its last letter ("s") appears just as we print one today.
However, an "s" anywhere else in a word was printed similar to an f; but with only the left half of the crossbar:

= "purified seven" Note that "u" was often substituted for "v".


For an excellent sermon on how these words of David can still be applied in our lives today, listen to this sermon by Austin Duncan (War of the Words) (who has no need to even mention the topic of our page here).

The following are a few other reliable Bible translations which may help shed more light on this passage:

    [5] “Because of the devastation of the afflicted, because of the groaning of the needy, Now I will arise,” says the LORD; “I will set him in the safety for which he longs.” [6] The words of the LORD are pure words; As silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times. [7] You, O LORD, will keep them; You will preserve him from this generation forever. [8] The wicked strut about on every side When vileness is exalted among the sons of men. (Psalm 12:5-8; New American Standard Version, 1995; or NAU)

    [5] “Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan, I will now arise,” says the LORD; “I will place him in the safety for which he longs.” [6] The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times. [7] You, O LORD, will keep them; you will guard us from this generation forever. [8] On every side the wicked prowl, as vileness is exalted among the children of man. (Psalm 12:5-8; ESV)

    [5] “Because of the violence done to the oppressed, because of the painful cries of the needy, I will spring into action,” says the LORD. “I will provide the safety they so desperately desire.” [6] The LORD's words are absolutely reliable. They are as untainted as silver purified in a furnace on the ground, where it is thoroughly refined. [7] You, LORD, will protect them;* you will continually shelter each one from these evil people, [8] for the wicked seem to be everywhere, when people promote evil. (Psalm 12:5-8; NET Bible)
The NET Bible also contains numerous "translation notes"; the following being only one example from the passage above:
    * The third person plural pronominal suffix on the verb is masculine, referring back to the “oppressed” and “needy” in v. 5 (both of those nouns are plural in form), suggesting that the verb means “protect” here. The suffix does not refer to אִֽמֲרֹ֣ות (’imarot, “words”) in v. 6, because that term is feminine gender.
Hopefully our readers will see the importance of having such notes in their Bibles.3

[Return to Text] Even though this evidence has been available for many decades in facsimile reprints (exact copies of 1611 Bible editions) and even more readily available from many sites on the Internet, some 'preachers' still refuse to recant their erroneous view of this passage. Instead, they revert to arguments that require an impossible stretch in basic English grammar: They complain this marginal note is attached only to the second "them" in verse 7 ("preserve them") and not to the first ("keepe them"), giving up on the major phrase in the verse that concerns "perservation" in some kind of "last ditch effort" to hang onto their own concept of how God carried out the promise that His Word will last forever! I personally trust that God "keeps [His words]" too; as should any Believer who reads Isaiah 40:8 ("But the word of our God stands forever.") and many of the verses in Psalm 119 which express the same thought.

However, there's only one way those 'preachers' can still cling to their view that this passage somehow has anything to do with a particular translation of the Bible: They must twist the straightforward understanding of this verse by attempting to force the last phrase, "from this generation for ever" to connect with "Thou shalt keep them" (though it says nothing about translated words at all), without ever explaining why the Spirit would confusingly (if they were correct) bring up a completely different subject in an intervening phrase before finishing a short thought that grammatically cries out for there to be nothing in between! We could also add that later corrected editions (such as Blayney's 1769 edition; often considered to be the real KJV Bible by these 'preachers'), do not have a comma after the second "them"; showing that all later editors understood "preserve them" as obviously being connected to what follows ("from this generation for ever").

Some Insight into the Hebrew Text from the King's Translators

So what was the basis for the King's Translators noting the word they translated as "them" was actually "him" in the Hebrew Text? If you open any Hebrew Interlinear Bible to Psalm 12 (verse 8 in the Hebrew Text), you'll eventually discover that word ("him") is only part of a single Hebrew word they translated as "thou shalt preserve them"; which comes from the verb to keep, guard against danger or preserve (Strong's #05341 root: natsar). For the purposes of this study, we recommend looking at Bible Hub Interlinear OT, Psalm 12:7. In the Hebrew Text, that word is תִּצְּרֶנּוּ (which can be transliterated into English characters as: teets-rennu), and it's the "nu" part at the end (a suffix) that tells us the word "preserve" must be related to a "3rd person masculine singular" object identified by the King's Translators as him (even though they translated it as "them" because they decided it referred to more than a single person). If you hover your mouse cursor over the LIGHT BLUE "3mse" under the ORANGE words "You shall preserve them" at that website, you'll see "third person masculine singular" at the end of the pop-up display. But what about the first "them" in this verse? Well, that word is part of the verb shamar (Strong's #08104; a synonym of natsar); which is found in the Hebrew Text as תִּשְׁמְרֵם (transliterated as: teesh-meh-raim - pronounced like the aim in aiming a telescope), and translated as "Thou shalt keep them." It's suffix "aim" means that the verb takes a "3rd person masculine plural" as its object. Now think: What is the only difference between these two verbs concerning their suffixes? Let's continue. What you now have here is the reason why the King's Translators decided to translate the object of the second verb ("preserve") in the plural (changing him to —> them) just as they did for the first verb ("keep"): Because they knew both of these verbs must refer to a masculine object; for which there's really only one choice in this section of Scripture! The following will completely clear things up about the objects in these verses:

Before continuing, you need to know that simply because a Hebrew verb is what we call grammatically masculine, that does not necessarily mean it must refer to a male; it does, however, mean it must refer to a masculine noun, pronoun or adjective in the context of the passage. Verse 6 has two occurrences of the noun "words" (Strong's #0565, root: ’imrah or ’emrah meaning an utterance, speech or word); though the words are written slightly different in the Hebrew Text (the first is: ’ee-ma-roth and the second: ’a-mah-roth) what matters in our discussion here is the fact that both are "feminine plural" nouns. Therefore, it's impossible for the verbs in verse 7 (which must have masculine objects) to refer to either of the two words (for "words") in verse 6 (which are both grammatically feminine).

So, what's left in this passage for these verbs to refer to (which also make sense grammatically)? Well, both the word "poor" (Strong's #06041 ‘aniy — poor, afflicted, humble) and its synonym, the "needy" (Strong's #00034 ’ebyown — in want, needy, poor, abused) in verse 5 are either a "masculine plural adjective" ("poor") or a "masculine plural noun" ("needy"). So there's no problem at all for either of these masculine antecedents to be the objects of the verbs "keep" and "preserve" in verse 7.

Furthermore, this not only fits the requirements of Hebrew grammar, but it's also structurally quite pleasing (as poetry often is) having two verbs which refer to either of two objects (that are also synonyms): "keep" and "preserve" —> refer to —> the "poor" and the "needy". [Return to Text]

2 [Return to Text] This website from the University of Pennsylvania's Libraries, provides tools for viewing every page of its 1611 Authorized Version of the Bible in its Ross Bible Collection. Note that you must enter the image number "652" of the available 1505 images yourself in order to see Psalm 12. Follow these steps: 1. Click on the link above, 2. Scroll to the bottom of the page until you see the following, and 3. use the (+) tool (or a wheel on your mouse) to magnify the words; you can also 'drag' and change its position on the screen with your mouse:

If you visit the site above, we'd also recommend looking at images 6 through 17; the Preface to the whole Bible titled "THE TRANSLATORS TO THE READER" (which is missing from all KJV Bibles in the USA), followed by various pages on special calendar days and Scripture readings, genealogies, maps, etc. before finally arriving at the first page of the book of GENESIS (at image 78). [Return to Text]


3 [Return to Text] The main reason for checking the The NET Bible is to look for any helpful "Translator's Notes" which are hyperlinked from within its body (and will appear below the Text when you click on them as "tn"). These are quite useful because you can often find their reasons for translating the text the way they did in this Bible! Although you certainly may not agree with all their choices, this provides a very nice format for discovering what these translators considered to be problematic passages and how they decided to handle them in their translation.




Created: 20 June 2006 (2006.06.20).
Revised: 27 October 2010 (2010.10.27)
Updated: 14 November 2010 (2010.11.14); 5 March 2011 (2011.3.5); 22 January 2023 (2023.1.22) — updated link (URL) to a 1611 KJV photocopy; (2023.12.13) — new link for Austin Duncan sermon.
New Revision: 24 January 2023 (2023.1.24); revised wording in some places, added steps for navigating at new link above. Also added new link to a Hebrew Interlinear page, and a sermon on Psalm 12.