Psalm 16
Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures

Michtam of David.

1          Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust.

2     O my soul, thou hast said unto the LORD, Thou art my Lord:

My goodness extendeth not to thee;

3     But to the saints that are in the earth,

And to the excellent, in whom is all my delight.

4     Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god:

Their drink offerings of blood will I not offer,

Nor take up their names into my lips.

5     The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup:

Thou maintainest my lot.

6     The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places;

Yea, I have a goodly heritage.

7     I will bless the LORD, who hath given me counsel:

My reins also instruct me in the night seasons.

8     I have set the LORD always before me:

Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

9     Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth:

My flesh also shall rest in hope.

10     For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell;

Neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

11     Thou wilt shew me the path of life:

In thy presence is fulness of joy;

At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.


For the TITLEvid. Introduction. The mention of the worship of idols, Psalm 16:4, is not of such a character as to lead us to think of the times of the exile (Böttcher, Proben p. 42 sq., de inferis § 343 sq.); and the language does not lead to a time subsequent to the eighth century (Ewald), but to David (Hitzig). The special occasion in his life, however, cannot be known. Many think of the time of his abode at Ziklag (Knapp) among the Philistines, where desire after the pious (Jahn) and temptation to the worship of idols (Paul., Hitzig) were very natural. Hitzig thus explains Psalm 16:3, 5, 9 by 1 Sam. 30vid. below. Delitzsch thinks of a severe sickness in the latter part of David’s life, after the building of the palace of cedar,1 whilst Hupfeld disputes the idea that Psalm 16:10 likewise shows that he was in great danger (Hengst.), and Böhl again, with the ancients, holds fast in general to the time of Saul’s persecution. The position of this Psalm in the order of Psalms is perhaps determined by the expression, “not be moved,” Psalm 16:8b, the same with which the previous Psalm closed.

ITS CHARACTER.—The first clause contains in germ the thought of the entire Psalm, namely, that the pious man has always protection with God against all his enemies. From this assurance arises the cry of prayer Psalm 16:1, whose form shows the experience of pressing danger, but immediately passes over into the confession of the way in which the Psalmist proposes to act in consequence of his relation to God (Psalm 16:2) and to His people (Psalm 16:3). The terse and bold manner, short even to obscurity, in the presentation of the contrast (Psalm 16:4) in which the Psalmist maintains himself against the worshippers of idols, with all its sadness, yet maintains an energetic tone, then passes over into a uniform, undulating flow of a calmed frame of mind in the description (Psalm 16:5, 6) of the good chosen in God, and of the happiness allotted on account of this. It then turns, praising Jehovah (Psalm 16:7), to testify of the position of the Psalmist established in Him (Psalm 16:8), and rises from the assurance of this communion with God, not only to a jubilant declaration of present Divine protection (Psalm 16:9), but in prophetic inspiration to a prophetic promise of the everlasting enjoyment of salvation (Psalm 16:10, 11). The following interpretation will explain the prophetic and Messianic character of this passage.

Str. I. Psalm 16:1. [Alexander: “The prayer keep, save, or preserve me, implies actual suffering or imminent danger, while the last clause, I have trusted in Thee (A. V., In Thee do I put my trust”), states the ground of his assured hope and confident petition. … The preterite form implies that this is no new or sudden act, but one performed already. He not only trusts in God at present, but has trusted Him before. Comp. Ps. 7:1; 11:1.”—C. A. B.]

Str. II. Psalm 16:2. I say to Jehovah.—The Rabb. and many interpreters, after the Chald. paraphrase, regard amart as an address to the soul which is here to be supplied [A. V., “O my soul, thou hast said”]. For reasons against this vid. Hupf., who yet, in order to get the first person which the other ancient translations give, would read not directly with Mich., Olsh., et al., amarti, after some Codd. in Kennic. and De Rossi, but after Gesenius accepts a defective orthography as Ps. 140:12; Job 42:2; Ezek. 16:59, and 1 Kings 8:48; but does not decide whether this failure of the yod has its reason merely in a defective writing, or in a pronunciation which had become common in the language of the people after the Aramaic manner, and after the analogy of the 2d fem. sing (Hitzig, Ewald, Delitzsch), and merely declares that he is opposed to the supposition of Hiller and Böttcher, who think of the present Aramaic pronunciation of the 1st person perfect, emreth.

My Lord.—The suffix, which has lost its significance in ordinary usage in its blending together with adôn, is here emphatic on account of the contrast (Hitzig, Delitzsch, Hupf.); yet it is not therefore to be read adonî (Mich.), as Ps. 110:1, but as Ps. 35:23 shows, adonai is to be retained (which with kametz is usual as plural majest. in order to designate God, with pattach forms the real plural=my Lords, vid. Gesenius, Thes.). The contrast of the Psalmist to the worshippers of idols is thus prepared, likewise in the second member of the verse, the strongly emphasized personal relation of the Psalmist to Jehovah, whom he has in Psalm 16:1 called upon as El. (Aquil. ἰσχυρε), and now confesses as his Master and himself therefore as His servant. These references disappear in the translation: “the Lord,” preferred by De Wette et al.; which would render prominent, instead of the contrast of the Psalmist with the worshippers of idols, which is in accordance with the text, the contrast of Jehovah with the idols: Böhl regards it as cas. absol.=O Thou Lord!

My good,etc.—Luther’s translation: “I must suffer on Thy account for the saints,” is impossible to the language. Likewise all direct Messianic references are not only arbitrary and without reason, but entirely inadmissible on account of Psalm 16:4b. The first words, Psalm 16:2b, cannot mean anything else but “my good,” and indeed not in the moral sense=kindness, merit, virtue (Aquil., Calv. [A. V., goodness]), but in the sense of welfare, good, prosperity. If we could only translate, “my happiness is nothing on Thy account,” then we might attain in sense the explanation of Luther. But על does not mean propter, and בל (shortened form of בְלִי) does not mean nihil but non, and elsewhere always stands before a finite verb. But there is no verb here. To supply such a verb is not in any case to be guess work or to introduce an independent idea (as Grotius explains: my happiness is not desired with Thee), but must limit itself to that which is most natural, that is to the verb esse. Moreover, then the imperative form is not as natural as the simple copula. It is likewise not to be translated: “my welfare is not incumbent upon Thee; thither to the saints” (Böhl), although al may denote the duty incumbent upon any one. In this sense Isaki explains: the good which Thou showest me is not incumbent upon Thee as a duty, but the saints. We must translate: bonum meum non est supra te (Geier, Gesen. et al.). The Psalmist, who has already declared himself to be a servant of Jehovah, now explains, that he finds in Jehovah his highest good and all his happiness, yet he expresses this negatively, in order to exclude every thought of communion with idols (Psalm 16:4). This is effaced by the translation of the Peschito; “my happiness from Thee;” it is likewise only unexactly rendered; by Jerome, sine te; by Symm., ἄνωυ σοῡ; little better by Cocc, Köster et al., by præter te. There is certainly a reference to the prohibition Ex. 20:3 (Hengst., Ewald). But there it says: thou shalt have no other gods על כּני. This means properly, towards My person (Hupf., Hitzig), or, before My face (Böhl). The meaning of “by the side of” and “out side of,” in the sense of past by the side of, which excludes the object named, has not been proved in the language; but no more that of “on the side of the same,” to which formerly with the translation supra te, the explanations inclined. Likewise the translation of De Wette is ill-founded: all my welfare is not to me above thee. The pregnancy of the expression consists in this, that the Psalmist wishes to know his good and happiness, considered not as first being added to God and as an addition towering above Him, but that God Himself is his summum bonum. [Thus Riehm: “It is more closely to be explained: my happiness is not added to Thee=nothing, that must be added to Thee, makes me happy, but Thou alone, giving exclusive and full satisfaction. Comp. the analogous thought and expression Ps. 73:25. With this agrees Psalm 16:5, where Jehovah likewise is called the Psalmist’s portion.”—C. A. B.].2 This interpretation, which is correct in accordance with the language, answers so well to the context that it is superfluous to press out of כַּל by an artificial interpretation the idea of “only” (Hupf.: my happiness rests only on Thee). Hitzig even wishes to express אְַבָל (=immo, rather), and by distorted use of the words to gain the contrast of Master and benefactor (Thou art my Master, my happiness rests rather upon Thee). The sense would then be: whilst usually the servant cares for his Lord, here the contrary is the case. The Vulgate (quoniam bonorum meorum non eges) follows the Sept.: ὅτι τῶν ἀγαθῶν μου ὀυ χρείαν ἔχειζ. In the English, Dutch, Hirshberg and Berlenb. Bibles, in part likewise in Calvin and J. H. Mich., this translation then gains the explanation that all good which the speaker either acquires or experiences, does not refer to God, for whom (Berlenb.: “on whose account”) it is unnecessary, but to the saints for whom it is partly necessary, partly salutary. According to Stier these words are an intentional riddle and afford the ordinary reader the superficial sense: “only with Thee is my salvation,” but give to the deeper searcher of prophecy the deeper double meaning: my welfare (I seek, I will have) not with Thee, and my good actions (even in this denial are necessary and profitable) not for Thee, but with the saints on earth and for them. In accepting such a mystical double sense he finds a prelude to Phil. 2:6–9, and even explains thus far Luther’s previous translation: “I am not in good circumstances with Thee.” In conformity with the statement just made, our translation does not say: I prefer nothing to Thee; it is, moreover, not supplied or covered by the turn of expression: There is no happiness for me above and beyond Thee. The sense is, God is to me the essence and fulness of all good, therefore no affliction can diminish it, no prosperity increase it.

With the saints [A. V., “To the saints”].—The construction is exceedingly disputed and difficult. If we seek a verb for the dative, we find it only in the following verse. Then there arises a connection of words such as Deut. 8:13; Prov. 4:10; 33:10, and the sense would be: the saints have many sorrows (they multiply themselves; Böttcher, Proben p. 42 sq.), or indeed according to another possible etymology: their idols (Ewald). But such a contrast is not in the text, as that the former saints and friends of the Psalmist had apostatized whilst he had remained faithful; the expressions which imply this are at once supplied and thus the desired thought is put into the text. In order to escape these difficulties and this violence to the text many interpreters regard this verse as a clause complete in itself. The majority then regard the first words as nominative absolute=as for the saints. But the examples adduced in support of such an interpretation are either misunderstood or false readings (vid. Böttcher 1. c.). This interpretation appears still more inadmissible in connection with the interpretation of the words which follow. According to Böttcher’s careful statement it is grammatically entirely inadmissible to take the stat. constr.אְַדִירֵי as stat. absol. and to translate: as to the saints … and the noble, I have all my delight in them. The attempt of Schnurrer (dissert, phil. crit. 1777), after the example of the Sept., to find a verb in adîrê, in order to translate, “As to the saints … whom I honor and in whom I have all my delight,” must at the same time undertake to transpose the ו in Psalm 16:3b, and thus alter the text twice. The proposal of Storr (comment, 1796), with whom Umbreit, De Wette et al. agree, to regard the ו, which is in conformity with the text, as the introduction of the conclusion (The saints … they are the noble in whom I have all my delight, in contrast with others who have their delight in other magnates), is full of meaning, and were it not for the interpretation of the first word in Psalm 16:3 as stat. absol., in itself admissible, but yet taken closely, demands that הֵמָּה should be connected more closely with אְַדִירֵי. The interpretation: To the saints! as Is. 8:20, a calling upon God (Böhl), or the poet and his friends (Thol.), is grammatically unassailable; but has little correspondence with the course of thought of this Psalm and is foreign to its prevailing tone of prayer. Under these circumstances we are inclined to think of a connection with the previous verse. The relation of the clauses to one another as contrasted in the interpretation of Kimchi, Calvin, Stier, namely that, that good of the Psalmist cannot benefit God the Lord, but the saints, has already been considered; we have only to remark here that there is likewise no particle of contrast in the text. The proposal of Hensler, renewed after the ancient interpreters (Bemerkungen über Stellen der Psalmen, 1791), to regard טוֹבָתִי as in apposition to adonai and then to connect the following words closely = “nothing is above Thee (surpasses), the saints,” is shattered already on the fact that it is unusual to give the word בל the meaning of nihil. We cannot seriously think of a dependence of the dative lik’. doshim upon adonai=Thou art the Lord of the saints (Steudel, Programme of 1821), on account of the intermediate clause. We might rather accept a dependence upon amart=I speak to the saints, especially if the contents of the address, is not sought in the words: all my delight is in them (Kimchi, Flamin.), or in Psalm 16:4 (Hofm., Weissagung und Erfüllung, I. 162), but in Psalm 16:3b, and indeed so, that the ו is removed to the beginning of Psalm 16:3a and the הֵמָּה to the beginning of Psalm 16:3b (Delitzsch)=and to the saints which are in the land: these are the noble in whom is all my delight. But without regard to the alteration of the text which is indeed simple, the address to the saints, placed parallel with the address to God, does not properly correspond with the tone which prevails elsewhere in the Psalm. It only remains, therefore, to regard the ל as the sign of belonging to (Calv., Hengst., Hupf.). But it does not follow from this, that the Psalmist says: his good and his happiness is with God or rests upon God, in so far as he belonged to the saints. He says rather, that he, in belonging to the saints, in whom is all his delight, does not regard and treat his good and happiness as something additional to God, but that he directly has regarded and confesses in this communion of saints that God Himself is his good and happiness. I regard this explanation of mine as corresponding with the context and the language. On the other hand the interpretation of the dative by Winer in his lexicon, “according to the example of,” weakens the sense and is not sufficiently proved in the language.—It is uncertain, whether we are to regard Psalm 16:3b as parallel with Psalm 16:3a and supply the lamed of the first clause at the beginning of the second before adîrê, whose stat. construct, is explained by the fact, that it belongs to the following clause which is in sense a relative clause (most interpreters), or whether we are not rather to regard the connection of clauses, so that the idea, of the saints is more closely defined as those who are in the land (or on the earth) and are the noble in whom, etc. (Böttcher). In any case the stat. construct, is not an expression of the superlative (Umbreit, Köster), and is likewise not only to be connected with the following noun=the noble, all my pleasure is in them (De Wette), or the noble, the totality of my delight is in them (Hengst.), but with the entire clause (Hupf.), although it is not to be explained thus; the splendid with all, whom I desire (Sachs). Köster leaves the ו disregarded by the translation: To the consecrated … they belong, the noble who please me entirely.3

The Kedoshim are according to the idea the ἄγιοι, the members of the people of God, as those consecrated to the service of Jehovah. The apposition, “who are on earth,” shows that the reference is to their objective relation to the covenant. This clause states, that the Psalmist speaks of the congregation which is upon earth not so much in distinction from the congregation in heaven or the angels (Aben Ezra), as with reference to his personal relation to God just mentioned. The explanation of those buried in the earth (Chald., Isaki) is entirely foreign to the text, and there is no evidence of a limitation to those who were in the Holy Land (Hupf.), in contrast to those members of the people of the covenant which were abroad. The following clause shows, however, that the Psalmist has not in mind the external communion of the so-called visible Church, but the living members of this Church as his associates. The adîrim are not the magnates, the aristocratic nobility in distinction from the saints, which among the lower classes, the àm haaretz are regarded as such, but the saints, in whom, as in the excellent and enlightened, the Divine δόξα appears reflected. According to Hitzig David was then in Philistia, 1 Sam. 27. Driven from his land, the temptation to apostatize from Jehovah was natural, 1 Sam. 26:19. To the rejection of the temptation Psalm 16:4 of our Psalm is said to refer, and Psalm 16:7 to the fact that David, at the command of God, had undertaken the pursuit of his enemies, and sent presents from the booty to the elders of the cities of Judah, 1 Sam. 30:26, who are therefore called his friends. These are the noble and the excellent in whom David has all his delight. It is true that David, as in Psalm 16:2b he is said to say that he had his success in battle from Jehovah, ought to have sent a part of the booty of this victory over the Amalekites, as a thank-offering, to the house of God and its priests; but there was then no central worship, 1 Sam. 22:18; comp. 1 Chron. 13:3. Therefore David has from abroad sent the present to those who belong to the national God. This then is supposed to be said by Psalm 16:3, that it belongs to the saints in the land. David likewise says, Psalm 16:4a, how he himself has experienced that it fares badly with the heathen; similarly Psalm 16:9 and 11, that fulness of joy rewards the service of Jehovah.4—Olshausen regards the text as entirely corrupted. The Vulgate translates, after the Sept: “In the saints, which are in His land, He has made wonderful all His (my) delight,” or after another reading already observed by Augustine, “He has wonderfully fulfilled all my desire.”

Str. IV. Psalm 16:4. Many are their sorrows [A. V., Their sorrows shall be multiplied].—This clause is likewise disputed as to its construction and meaning. Some, as already mentioned, combine it with the preceding clause, but must then supply something essential. Others (Mich., Olsh., Maurer, Ewald), with Chald., Symm., Jerome, interpret עצב of idols. But only the masculine of this stem is used in the sense of: carved-work=images of idols. The feminine, which is here used, signifies: sorrows (Pesch., Aquil., Sept.). Since now it is connected with a suffix which refers to persons, which can be more closely indicated only in the following words, the next words are usually, with the Rabb., regarded as an asynd. relative clause. The masculine of the verb יִרְבוּ frequently occurs with the feminine of the noun when it precedes, and the expression “their sorrows,” instead of “the sorrows of those who,” is defended by Hitzig. Hupf. and Delitzsch, on the other hand, find this hard and inadmissible. The former would rather, with Schnurrer, Hensler, Ruperti (in Eichhorn’s All gemeiner Biblioth., vol. 6), read it as hiphil (=multiply [so A. V.]), whereby all would be normal. The latter divides Psalm 16:4a into two independent clauses, which represent the place of a nom. absol., and are to prepare the statement describing the internal difference between David and such people.—Many interpreters after the ancient translations regard the following words as a paraphrase of apostasy from God, whilst they translate: who hasten backwards. Schnurrer even changes אַחֵר into אַחֹר. It would be better to translate: who hasten elsewhere (Geier, Storr, Rosenm., De Wette, Stier), or hasten after another (Luther), hasten to others (namely idols, Gesen., Ewald). But מהר has the meaning of hasten only in the piel; in the kal only the meaning: purchase, namely for a wife, Ex. 22:15, can be proved. Many interpreters (Salomo ben Melech, Calv., et al.), with reference to the figure of marriage, to represent the relation of the congregation to God, take the expression here in this way. Hitzig, who finds that there is considered here not the contrast between the faithful and the apostate in Israel, but between the worshippers of idols and the worshippers of Jehovah, translates: who strive to obtain another. Hupf. goes back to the meaning of “purchase,” without its reference to marriage, and to its relationship to מוּר to exchange; he thinks of the exchange of the hereditary true God for a false one (Ps. 106:20; Hos 4:7; Jer. 2:11), and reminds us of Isa. 42:8; 48:11; where אַחֵר likewise is in the singular and absolute. Thus most recent interpreters, among whom, however, Böttcher, Hengstenberg, Delitzsch, hold fast to the allusion to the figure of wooing, and remark that there is here said not exactly “other gods,” as Ex. 20:3 and frequently; but an indefinite expression is chosen, which leads not to the ordinary but to the so-called more elegant, worship of idols. It is questionable whether the following plural suffixes are to be referred to the worshippers of idols, with whom the Psalmist breaks off every kind of communion, with the refusal to commune with them in their offerings, and with whose names he will not defile his lips (Delitzsch), whom he will not mention in his prayers (Böhl); or whether they refer to the idols themselves, in favor of which are especially Ex. 20:7; 23:13 (make no mention of the name of other gods); Hos. 2:19, and the contrast with Psalm 16:5 (Calv., Grot., Böttch., Ewald, Hengst., Hupfeld, Hitzig [Perowne]).

The drink-offerings of the Israelites consisted of wine, and drink-offerings of blood are likewise not found among the heathen, but wine was mixed with blood (Zech. 9:7) and drunken only in connection with terrible undertakings, under fearful oaths. This special reference, however, is far from the meaning of the text, which Isaki, Aben Ezra, J. D. Mich., Winer overlook. Some interpreters, therefore (Kimchi, Stier, Delitzsch), regard the expression as figurative of offerings made with bloody hands and conscience stained with blood, which make every offering unclean. Others better as a comparison, as if they consisted of blood instead of wine, Isa. 66:3, to which comparison blood of grapes, Gen. 49:11; Deut. 32:14, forms the transition (Schnurrer, Hengst., Hupf.). According to Hitzig the מן is comparative, and the meaning is: I forbear to offer their drink offerings more than to offer their blood. The supposition that an action is mentioned which is only to be done by priests, and therefore because David could not have done this, this passage must have a Messianic interpretation (Böhl), overlooks the fact that the reference here is not at all and cannot be to the altar and the legally arranged functions, but to the refusal to participate in the worship of gods in a form which in the mouth of the Messiah would be entirely inappropriate. The Vulgate, after the Sept., differs entirely from the Hebrew: then weaknesses were multiplied; afterwards they hastened. I will not assemble their assemblies of blood, nor bring their name upon my lips.

Str. V. Psalm 16:5. Portion of mine inheritance and of my cup.מְנָת, besides 2 Chron. 31:4, only in the Davidic Psalms, is stat. const. and to be connected with both genitives (Hupf. upon Ps. 11:6), but not in the sense of portion of food (Hupf.), together with portion of drink as the two parts of a feast, the usual figure of Divine favor and benefits, Pss. 22:26; 23:5; Prov. 9:2; but corresponding with the other expressions of this Psalm a figurative expression of nourishing possession and quickening enjoyment, as the Psalmist has both in Jehovah through Jehovah’s favor. The first figure is brought about thus: in the general division of the land the tribe of Levi received no possession in the land, but was to live of the parts of the offerings which fell to the share of those who were occupied in Divine service about the sanctuary, on account of Jehovah, Deut. 18:1, 2. Jehovah Himself is, therefore, called their הֵלֶק = share, Deut. 10:9, in special application to Aaron, Num. 18:20; more widely extended to the entire house of Jacob, Jer. 10:16, first brought about by the design that the entire people should be a kingdom of priests, Ex. 19:6, and therefore applicable to every individual as well as to the whole body of saints and nobles, Psalm 16:3.—From the division of the holy land by lot between the various tribes and their members originated likewise the expression גּוֹרל=ψῆφοζ, the lot taken out of an urn, which, however, since decision by lot was regarded as God’s act, has become in the Old Testament the symbol and type of all grants of the royal righteousness and grace of God, as the possession thereby given is the foundation and essence of all Divine blessing (Hupfeld). Since that which falls to any one by lot has the same name, gôral, e. g.Judges 1:3; Isa. 57:6, it is very natural to regard תּוֹמִיךְ as hiphil of a word ימךְ and to explain it after the analogy of the Arabic (A. Schultens): Thou enlarged that which has fallen to me by lot (Hengst., Böhl, et al.). Since, however, the meaning of the word is disputed, Böttcher and Köster go back to a root מוּךְ = Thou makest my lot to fall (that is, to fall out of the urn). This second meaning, however, given for the sake of explanation, is without example in the use of the word. The proposal of Ewald to regard the difficult form of the word likewise as nomen abstr. cannot be carried out. The present view of Böttcher is more likely, that it is a diminutive form, little or costly possession; thus: Thou art the jewel of my lot. Hupf. and Delitzsch go to the root תָמַךְ and regard the form as the participle תּוֹמֵךְ in incorrectly written =Thou who administerest my lot, or Thou who maintainest, keepest in its integrity that which has fallen to me by lot. Hitzig for this form refers to the analogy of אוֹביל, 1 Chron. 27:30, but regards the root which is ordinarily accepted, as inappropriate to the context and corrects as תָּמִיד = perpetuus, whilst he expresses the conjecture that תוֹמִיד might be an archaic expression (against which, however, Psalm 16:8), and translates: Thou art constantly my possession.

Str. VI. Psalm 16:6. Hitzig understands this verse locally of a beautiful region. Delitzsch regards the expression likewise=Elysian fields, but as a figurative designation of God Himself. The abstract loveliness, Job 36:11, is better, which, however, is not to be resolved into an adverb: in a lovely manner (Böttcher, Hupf., Böhl); for the expression is not to be separated from the local coloring and reference, Mic. 2:5; Josh. 17:5.—אַף (=likewise) is used here as confirmatory, giving gradation to the thought; the fact just mentioned is recognized in the feelings of the poet (Hupf.).

Str. VII. Psalm 16:7. Advised [A. V., “hath given me counsel”], is not=cared for (Knapp), but=provided with good counsel, which some (Isaki, De Wette, Olsh.) refer to the general exhortation to the fear of God and faithfulness, others and indeed, on account of the following clause, more correctly (Kimchi, Calv., Hengst., Hupf.), to the action of God in the heart of the Psalmist in choosing and laying hold of the good above described. יִסֵּר (properly to set right) is often used of Divine teaching and warning, e. g.Ps. 94:12; Isa. 28:26; Deut. 4:36; so that the warning of the reins seems to refer not to the thoughts (most interpreters), but rather is parallel to the advice of God (Calv., Hupf.).5

Str. VIII. Psalm 16:8. Some regard the כּי (A. V., because) as=when, since they find the antecedent to the following clause introduced; most interpreters, however, regard it as = for, as a statement of the reason of the preceding statement. Standing or being at the right hand (Pss. 109:31; 110:6; 121:5) is the figure of protecting nearness. [Perowne: “God in David’s eyes is no abstraction, but a Person, real, living, walking at his side.”—C. A. B.]. The subject הוּא is omitted, as Pss. 22:28; 55:20; 112:4.

Str. IX. Psalm 16:9. Glory.—[Delitzsch: “Therefore, because Jehovah is so near him to help him, his soul is transported in joy, שָׂמָח, and his glory, that is, his soul rejoiceth, whilst, as the fut. consec. expresses, his joy breaks forth in rejoicing. No passage of Scripture is so like this as 1 Thess. 5:23. לֵב is πνεῦμα ((νοῦς)) כָּשבוֹד=ψυχμ́ (vid. Delitzsch, Psychol. p. 98), בָשָׂר, σῶμα; the ἀμέμπτως τηρηθῆναι, which the Apostle there wishes for his readers in respect to the three parts of their nature, David here expresses as a confident expectation.”—C. A. B.]

My flesh also shall dwell in safety.—[A. V., rest in hope]. The form of connection shows that flesh is not here as Rom. 7:18 (Hitzig) periphrase of the person, but means the body. But the question is whether it means the body as living, being under the Divine protection in a condition of quiet happiness, undisturbed, and without danger from my hostile affliction (Hengstenberg, et al.), Ps. 4:9; Deut. 33:12, 38; Jer. 23:6; Prov. 1:38; or whether not rather the same body with reference to its future rest in safety in the grave? It is true the following verse speaks of preservation (not in death but) from death, and the limitation of the meaning of Psalm 16:10a to preservation from the danger of death in a now threatening case, is possible from the language, Ps. 30:4; comp. Ps. 9:14. But if it is recognized not only by Clauss, Thol., Delitzsch, but also by Ewald and Hupf. with reference to Calvin, that the way of life and the joy with God in the following verses, refer to something more than merely deliverance of life from danger, and the supposition is natural, that it expresses the hope, that the pious shall not at all be the booty of death, but share in everlasting communion with God; then it is still more natural not to remain by the first steps of the recognition of a deeper and more comprehensive meaning. For in Psalm 16:10a the confidence is expressed, that God will not overlook or give up the soul to Sheol. Herein is expressed the hope of immortality in a wider sense; for Sheol is in any case the gathering place of departed souls in distinction from the grave which receives the body, Gen. 37:35. Already in this connection Psalm 16:9b may indeed speak of the preservation and secure rest of the entombed body, and prepare the thought which the Sept. already anticipates with its κατασκηνώσει ἐπʹ ἐλπίθε. This is still more certain from Psalm 16:10b. For the expression: Thou wilt not give up thy חסיד to see שׁחת, as merely parallel with the previous = thou wilt not let him die, would have a form, which would lead to the thought that the speaker has the hope not to die at all, rather than to that recognized by Hupf., Ewald, et al., that he hopes for a blessed continuance of life with God extending beyond death. This leaves undecided whether it is to be regarded as in the manner of Enoch and Elias, or otherwise. But now it has not been proved that שַׁחַת must certainly be derived from שׁוּחַ = to sink down, and must be translated “grave,” as Ps. 7:15, where the Sept. has likewise βόθρος. The derivation of שׁחת in the meaning διαφθορά, ruin, corruption, is indeed very possible (Gesen., Winer), Is. 49:9, admissible, Ps. 55:23, more appropriate than the other, Job 17:14, scarcely to be denied. Since there the word is in the masc. gender in the signification of pit, in the feminine, however, according to Prov. 26:27, the difference of meaning with a similarly of sound is still less doubtful, as there are parallels for it in all languages, likewise often in the Hebrew. Böhl adduces as especially convincing נחת, as meaning in the masc. sinking down, Job 36:16; Is. 30:30; comp. Ps. 38:3, in fem, rest (derived from נוח). All the ancient translations have this interpretation with the exception of the Chald. The ancient Jews have had be little doubt of it, that from it has originated the rabbinical fable, that the body of David has never decayed. It forms the nerve of the evidence in the Messianic reference of this passage to the resurrection of Jesus, testified to as a fact in the sermons of Peter at Pentecost, (Acts 2:25 sq.) and of Paul in the synagogue of Antioch (Acts 13:35–37). It forms in our text an essential member in the progress of thought, and an important declaration of revelation respecting the resurrection of the body (vid., Doctrinal and Ethical). The חָסִיד is, according to Hupfeld’s admirable investigation of Ps. 4:3, the bearer of the Divine grace in all the relations in which this is shown at work, first of all, and chiefly, according to the passive form, “standing in a state and covenant, of grace with Jehovah,” sometimes applied to the narrower circle of the pious, likewise to an individual servant of God as especially favored in the midst of the elect people of God; then, although seldom, likewise actively exercising grace as well of God, Ps. 145:17; Jer. 3:12, as of one man to another, Pss. 12:1; 18:25; 43:1; comp. Mic. 7:2. The Sept., with its Messianic interpretation, has likewise translated very properly τὸν ὅσίον σου. All the ancient translations, and most MSS., have the singular. The Masora likewise says: yod is not pronounced. Thus if this had read in the MSS. חְַסִידֶיךּ, as now likewise some, and especially ancient Spanish Codd. have it, this is not to be regarded as plural, but as singular, and indeed so that it is not so much to be regarded as the so-called emphatic plural or plural of majesty (Böhl, after the ancient interpreters) as rather the yod is to be considered as, Gen. 16:5; Ps. 9:14; Jer. 46:15, as a sign of the seghol, (Hitzig).

Psalm 16:11. Make known (A. V., show) ידע is frequently used not of theoretical knowledge, but of practical experience. The way of life, (A. V., “path of life”) = way to life (Prov. 5:6) leads upwards in contrast to Sheol, which is downward, Prov. 15:24; comp. Prov. 2:19; 6:23; 10:17.—At thy right hand.—Comp. Prov. 3:16, so that God administers. The explanation of Hengst. by thy right hand, as delivering and punishing, Prov. 17:7, is against the parallel (in thy presence, demanded by the את of association).—נֶצַח denotes not only enduring Joy in contrast to fleeting pleasures of the world, but likewise enduring forever. The word is an accusative adverb instead of לנצח, hence Sept. correctly, ἐις τὸ τέλος.


1. He who has living faith in the true God, turns to Him in every threatening danger, not only in sickness and danger of death, but with every experience of the insecurity of human life, and under the impressions of its painful perplexities. But the same faith which drives the oppressed to God, opens their lips to prayer, and creates in them the assurance of being heard, as well as the confidence of being sheltered by God.

2. There are prayers and songs which have not only grown up from the soil of confessing the living God of revelation, and are supported by it as by its ground of faith and life, but which give expression to this confession as such, and thereby gain the form of didactic testimonies. These, on account of their lyrical and devotional character, retain their edifying as well as their comforting characteristics; they even advance to real prophetical discourse, when they originate in personal experience from communion with God, which is the essential substance of faith, and by virtue of this origin not only breathe in general the breath of another world, but reveal the mysteries of Divine life.

3. This prophetic testimony of the praying believer is on the one side confession, on the other, prophecy, yet in both respects brought about by the individual condition of the speaker, not less than by his historical position, particularly within the economy of the kingdom of God. This gives the present statement partly its peculiar vivid color, partly its internal as well as external limits

4. The true prophet knows his position, and does not deny it. But still less is he proud of it. In his relations to God he is at the same time His servant and friend. The Almighty God of revelation is his Lord and his only good. Whatever good he knows, loves, has, and seeks, is for him not something additional to God, but it is comprehended in God, and is his portion on account of his communion with God. But this is not a peculiar relation, distinguishing him from other men. On the contrary God has an elect people on earth. He has in the land and abode of the prophet members of the congregation of saints. The true prophet confesses and regards himself as one of them, and as being in communion with them, testifies to their communion with God.

5. Not every kind of Divine service is well pleasing to God, and religious differences are not to be regarded as trifling. The true prophet contends rather against the fatal delusion that it depends only upon its religious character, and not so much upon its concrete nature. He earnestly and decidedly separates himself from those who perform sacrifices and call indeed upon their gods, but yet renounce the true God, who is likewise their Creator, and would help them, and have exchanged Him for that which can and will only bring them trouble instead of salvation. His whole delight, on the other hand, is in the members of the congregation of God, who, notwithstanding their position as servants, are yet the noble and enlightened in whom the Majesty of God is glorified, and the glory of the saints reflected.

6. In this personal relation to God and to the congregation of God in the land, the prophet has and holds his highest good and his greatest happiness; he recognizes and praises his best jewel and his constant joy. He not only receives what he needs from God, but he has in and with God all that he needs and all his pleasure. But this does not make him proud. He remembers that this blessed relation to God has originated not from his own will; therefore he praises God who has proved to be the best for him. He remembers that notwithstanding his communion with God, he is yet not one with God, and that even unity would be very different from identity. If he lives in God and God in him, he is yet not swallowed up in God, and God has not been sunk in him. God is indeed no stranger to him, still less an enemy, yet God is and remains another person. Therefore day and night he longs and strives to preserve, strengthen, and deepen this communion, which is the ground of his confidence, the subject of his joy, and the source of his life. Eligant cupidi divitias, voluptuosi delicias pompatici dignitates, quibus fruantur, pars vero mea est et erit Deus in æternum (Gloss ordin).

7. Death, the Grave, and Hell, have lost their terrors to the man who is assured of this communion with God. He has God, and in God life; for God is life, eternal life, blessed life, unfathomable in its depth, inexhaustible in its fulness, all-sufficient in its glory and power. But living in this world and in the flesh he cannot escape death or avoid the grave; and as a servant of God knowing the Divine order and subject to it, he cannot forget or despise either of them. But as a friend of God he knows and feels that in all cases he is sheltered in God; for God cannot forsake the man who does not forsake Him, and the man who has no good except God, and will have nothing above God or beside Him, thereby gains with God and in God the fulness of joy and good.

8. He who has made this confidence of the assurance of faith and confession of it, a matter of experience in life, to him the hope of eternal life gains a personal meaning. He regards God as the source, contents, and aim not only of true and eternal life, but at the same time of his personal life. This illuminates for him the night of death. He knows that he, the favored friend of God, walking the way of life unto life in the obedience of faith, will even in death go to God, and will attain that which is in the presence of the angels, at the right hand of the only living God. Since this experience is still in the future, but is already now the object of his faith, the Psalmist prophesies whilst he confesses his hope of faith. There is likewise here in subject and form more than the “flashing up of the hope of immortality in the Old Testament.” It is true there is not yet given a doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, but yet a prophetic declaration of the assurance of participating in the eternal and blessed life of God, in which the germs of a doctrine of the resurrection are disclosed, which are rooted entirely in the ground of revelation, and for their development into clearness of recognition point far beyond themselves, their own time, and the person of the speaker.

9. The speaker is not the Messiah, either as a pre-existing person, or as a figure of speech, still less merely a pious poet who expresses obscure hopes in poetical hyperbole, but he is David as a prophet, 2 Sam. 23:2; Acts 2:30. Whilst David on the basis of previous experience of personal communion with God, and under the impression of present experiences of the same, speaks in the hope of faith, of the sure continuance of the same extending into eternity; this is in expressions which have an entirely personal reference, yet not in the form of an application of a general truth to the Psalmist or others like him, but in such a way that it directly breaks through the reference to David, and must have called forth thoughts of prophetical illumination and Messianic meaning, so soon as the attention was directed to the very peculiar character of their conception. This might have been the case with David himself in subsequent reflection upon his Psalm in the sense of 1 Peter 1:10–12. For this passage distinguishes between the statements of the prophets, and their own searching after, the special sense of their prophecies, and the particular meaning designed by the Spirit of Christ working in them. As a matter of course after the death of David, when this Psalm was used among the sacred songs of the congregation, its Messianic reference could not but increase in certainty and recognition among the congregation of God. But this does not imply that the Messianic interpretation of this as well as other passages of the Psalms, first originated from the reflection of the congregation (Schultz in den Theol. Stud. und Krit., 1866, Heft 1). Moreover with every recognition of historical accommodation, as well in understanding Messianic prophecy as in its origin and form, the sense of this passage is not to be limited to the idea, that David was in no danger of death so long as his kingdom was not destroyed with him, and that when he died his kingdom still remained (Hofmann, Schriftbeweis 2:1, 357). It is true many interpreters have not sufficiently distinguished between inquiry into the original sense of this passage, and the application of the truth drawn from it. Moreover they have not unfrequently introduced into the passage, or into the consciousness of David, ideas of the resurrection of the Messiah, and the participation therein of every member of the congregation, even in the Old Testament, who believes in Him. But this could only be known from the stand-point of its fulfilment in the New Testament. But three things are certainly in the text; (1) that David bases the confidence of his hope of participating in the life which is in God, and is imparted by God, upon his personal relation to God; (2) that this hope is expressed in words, which express more than David at first supposed or knew, and which have found their real fulfilment exclusively in a definite fact, namely, in the resurrection of Jesus Christ; (3) that the manner of expression constitutes the passage in question a Messianic prophecy, yet not in a typical, but in a prophetical sense, such as it is likewise treated in the New Testament.


It brings great blessings to confess God as our Lord; but the most delightful lot falls to those who lay hold of God Himself as their highest good, and make use of the communion of saints for this purpose.—The communion of saints cannot be united with a participation in the practices of those who have forsaken God.—The pious not only enjoy in this world a pleasure of which the world knows nothing; but they have to expect likewise pleasures which the world cannot receive.—He who has communion with God has to be very careful to cherish it, and therefore earnestly to use the institutions, means of grace, and advice provided for this.—Only those joys have an abiding value, which we find in the presence of God, and which we receive from the hand of God.—The best remedy against troubles and temptations of all kinds is to keep God constantly before our eyes and in our hearts. The assurance of the everlasting duration of our existence is comforting and refreshing only when it is connected with the believer’s hope of eternal life in the presence of God.—Everlasting life is assured to those who have made the living God their true Lord, their blissful good, their abiding portion.

STARKE: The supports of our trust in God are His fatherly affection and pity for His children, as well as His infinite power as the Lord of all lords.—God has His saints and nobles not only in heaven, but likewise on earth.—He who recognizes the inheritance of the Lord as lovely and beautiful, will be disgusted with the inheritance of the world; he will refuse it, and shun no sufferings to gain the beautiful inheritance.—The evil spirit constantly excites the sinful heart to evil; but the Holy Spirit day and night awakens in believers holy desires, and excites them to good.—Faith is not an idle or lazy thought, but is active, busy, industrious to look to God and at no time to turn away the eyes of the heart from Him.—From the living trust of the heart in God, arises internal joy and sincere love to God and all creatures.—The tongue is given to man to glorify the Divine name, and joyfully recount his benefits.—If Christ the Head went to meet the desired issue of His sufferings with full assurance, then His members can likewise certainly believe that God will give all their troubles a glorious end, 2 Tim. 4:18.—The body of Jesus could not become corrupt because there were no sins in His members. We must become corrupt, because sin still dwells in our mortal bodies, but we thus lay aside the corruptible in order to arise incorruptible.—In this life Christians have in God’s word only a foretaste of heavenly joy; but in that life this joy will be complete; then it will no longer be said: happy to-day, sad tomorrow; but without intermission will they be entirely joyous from God, through God, and in God.—LUTHER: The chiefest and highest passion, trust in God, makes the difference between the people of God, which are His possession, and those who are not His people. The way of life is a work of the power and justice of God alone.

MENZEL: He who knows and loves God, believes on Him; he who believes, praises Him and confesses Him; he who confesses Him is persecuted; he who is persecuted is comforted by God; he whom God comforts He instructs, and thence proceed the most beautiful fruits.—FRISCH: He is rich enough for time and eternity who can at all times boast of his God alone.—The saints of God are likewise His nobles.—If we have God in view, and direct all that we do and have done according to His most holy point of view, no one on earth can deprive us of our inheritance.—UMBREIT: He who has God for his cup really and truly derives from Him by means of faith in the most secret communion, the Holy Ghost and eternal life.—The most cheerful light springs up here from the depths of faith, and is poured over the gloomy grave.—GUENTHER: There is nothing more lovely or blessed for the children of God than blissful communion with God.—DIEDRICH: To have the grace of God and know it as always victorious, is the golden mystery, the excellent, heavenly wealth of believers, and all this has been given to them by God in His word.—If we are closely united with all saints in God, we are likewise internally separated from unbelievers; and he who declares himself one of the saints, must likewise feel that he is separated from them, and must confess that their condition is likewise unhappy, their nature is wicked and lost.

[MATTH. HENRY: Covenanting with God must be heart work, all that is within us must be employed therein and engaged thereby.—Christ delights even in the saints on earth, notwithstanding their weakness and manifold infirmities, which is a good reason why we should.—The saints and their bliss are kept by the power of God.—Death destroys the hope of man, Job 14:14, but not the hope of a good Christian, Prov. 14:32. He has hope in his death, living hopes in dying moments; hopes that the body shall not be left forever in the grave; but, though it see corruption for a time, it shall at the end of time be raised to immortality. Christ’s resurrection is an earnest of ours, if we be His.—BARNES: No one can safely so familiarize himself with vice as to render it a frequent subject of conversation. Pollution will flow into the heart from words which describe pollution, even when there is no intention that the use of such words should produce contamination. No one can be familiar with stories or songs of a polluted nature, and still retain a heart of purity.—SPURGEON: The title of “His Excellency” more properly belongs to the meanest saint than to the greatest governor. The true aristocracy are believers in Jesus. They are the only Right Honorables. Stars and garters are poor distinctions compared with the graces of the Spirit.—The night season which the sinner chooses for his sins is the hallowed hour of quiet, when believers hear the soft still voices of heaven, and of the heavenly life within themselves.—Christ’s resurrection is the cause, the earnest, the guarantee, and the emblem of the rising of all His people. Let them, therefore, go to their graves as to their beds, resting their flesh among the clods as they now do upon their couches.—C. A. B.]


[1][This is more consistent with the general tone of the Psalm, the omission of any allusion to warlike enemies or troublous times, the maturity of the Psalmist’s faith and hope, the calmness with which he contemplates death, the consciousness of his entire acceptance with God, and above all the Messianic allusions vers 9–11. It may, however, have been composed under the influence of the prophecy of Nathan, 2 Sam. 7.—It could not consistently with the Messianic allusions have been earlier than this.—C. A. B.]

[2][Perowne translates: “I have no good beyond Thee. Literally my good (my happiness), as in Ps. 106:5; Job 9:25, is not beyond or beside Thee. The ‘good’ here spoken of is in contrast with the ‘sorrows’ in Psalm 16:4, and answers to the words, ‘my lot, my cup, my inheritance,’ in Psalm 16:5, 6. For the sentiment may be compared Ps. 73:25, ‘Whom have I in heaven but Thee.’... This is the one grand thought which stamps the Psalm, ‘Thou O Lord, art my portion, my help, my joy, my all in all.’ ” So also Alexander: “My happiness is not beside Thee, independent of, or separable from Thee?” The interpretation of Moll and Riehm is, however, far better.—C. A. B.]

[3][Perowne: “We may take ל in the sense of ‘belonging to,’ ‘joining myself to, and the passage would mean, ‘I have no good beyond Thee, belonging as I do to the fellowship of the saints, and the noble in whom,’ etc. Indeed some such meaning seems to be required by the context; for it is evident that it is the design of the Psalmist to contrast his own happy lot, and that of others who, like himself, had found their happiness in Jehovah, with the miserable condition of those ‘whose sorrows were increased, because they went after other gods.’ ”—C. A. B.]

[4][This theory of Hitzig is ingenious, but too artificial and strained. It does not agree in tone with other Psalms of that period. This Psalm certainly belongs to a later period in his life after the Messianic prophecy of Nathan.—C. A. B.]

[5][Perowne: “God has led me to find my joy in Him, and now in the night seasons, as the time most favorable to quiet thought, I meditate thereon. The heart itself is said to admonish, because it anxiously listens to the voice of God, and seeks to conform itself thereto.”—C. A. B.]

Michtam of David. Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust.
Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

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