Psalm 16:3
But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight.
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16:1-11 This psalm begins with expressions of devotion, which may be applied to Christ; but ends with such confidence of a resurrection, as must be applied to Christ, and to him only. - David flees to God's protection, with cheerful, believing confidence. Those who have avowed that the Lord is their Lord, should often put themselves in mind of what they have done, take the comfort of it, and live up to it. He devotes himself to the honour of God, in the service of the saints. Saints on earth we must be, or we shall never be saints in heaven. Those renewed by the grace of God, and devoted to the glory of God, are saints on earth. The saints in the earth are excellent ones, yet some of them so poor, that they needed to have David's goodness extended to them. David declares his resolution to have no fellowship with the works of darkness; he repeats the solemn choice he had made of God for his portion and happiness, takes to himself the comfort of the choice, and gives God the glory of it. This is the language of a devout and pious soul. Most take the world for their chief good, and place their happiness in the enjoyments of it; but how poor soever my condition is in this world, let me have the love and favour of God, and be accepted of him; let me have a title by promise to life and happiness in the future state; and I have enough. Heaven is an inheritance; we must take that for our home, our rest, our everlasting good, and look upon this world to be no more ours, than the country through which is our road to our Father's house. Those that have God for their portion, have a goodly heritage. Return unto thy rest, O my soul, and look no further. Gracious persons, though they still covet more of God, never covet more than God; but, being satisfied of his loving-kindness, are abundantly satisfied with it: they envy not any their carnal mirth and delights. But so ignorant and foolish are we, that if left to ourselves, we shall forsake our own mercies for lying vanities. God having given David counsel by his word and Spirit, his own thoughts taught him in the night season, and engaged him by faith to live to God. Verses 8-11, are quoted by St. Peter in his first sermon, after the pouring out of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, Ac 2:25-31; he declared that David in them speaks concerning Christ, and particularly of his resurrection. And Christ being the Head of the body, the church, these verses may be applied to all Christians, guided and animated by the Spirit of Christ; and we may hence learn, that it is our wisdom and duty to set the Lord always before us. And if our eyes are ever toward God, our hearts and tongues may ever rejoice in him. Death destroys the hope of man, but not the hope of a real Christian. Christ's resurrection is an earnest of the believer's resurrection. In this world sorrow is our lot, but in heaven there is joy, a fulness of joy; our pleasures here are for a moment, but those at God's right hand are pleasures for evermore. Through this thy beloved Son, and our dear Saviour, thou wilt show us, O Lord, the path of life; thou wilt justify our souls now, and raise our bodies by thy power at the last day; when earthly sorrow shall end in heavenly joy, pain in everlasting happiness.But to the saints that are in the earth - This verse also has been very variously rendered. Our translators seem to have understood it, in connection with the previous verse, as meaning that his "goodness," or piety, was not of so pure and elevated a character that it could in any way extend to God so as to benefit him, but that it "might" be of service to the saints on earth, and that so, by benefiting them, he might show his attachment to God himself. But if the interpretation of the previous verse above proposed be the correct one, then this interpretation cannot be admitted here. This verse is probably to be regarded as a further statement of the evidence of the attachment of the psalmist to God. In the previous verse, according to the interpretation proposed, he states that his happiness - his all was centered in God. He had no hope of anything except in him; none beyond him; none besides him.

In this verse he states, as a further proof of his attachment to him, that he regarded with deep affection the saints of God; that he found his happiness, not in the society of the wicked, but in the friendship of the excellent of the earth. The verse may be thus rendered: "As to the saints in the earth (or in respect to the saints in the earth), and to the excellent, all my delight is in them." In the former verse he had stated that, as to God, or in respect to God, he had no source of blessing, no hope, no joy, beyond him, or independent of him; in this verse he says that in respect to the saints - the excellent of the earth - all his delight was in them. Thus he was conscious of true attachment to God and to his people. Thus he had what must ever be essentially the evidence of true piety - a feeling that God is all in all, and real love for those who are his; a feeling that there is nothing beyond God, or without God, that can meet the wants of the soul, and a sincere affection for all who are his friends on earth. DeWette has well expressed the sense of the passage, "The holy, who are in the land, and the noble - I have all my pleasure in them."

In the earth - In the land; or, perhaps, more generally, "on earth." God was in heaven, and all his hopes there were in him. In respect to those who dwelt on the earth, his delight was with the saints alone.

And to the excellent - The word used here means properly "large, great," mighty; then it is applied to "nobles, princes, chiefs;" and then to those who excel in moral qualities, in piety, and virtue. This is the idea here, and thus it corresponds with the word "saints" in the former member of the verse. The idea is that he found his pleasure, not in the rich and the great, not in princes and nobles, but in those who were distinguished for virtue and piety. In heaven he had none but God; on earth he found his happiness only in those who were the friends of God.

In whom is all my delight - I find all my happiness in their society and friendship. The true state of my heart is indicated by my love for them. Everywhere, and at all times, love for those who love God, and a disposition to find our happiness in their friendship, will be a characteristic of true piety.

3. saints—or, persons consecrated to God, set apart from others to His service.

in the earth—that is, land of Palestine, the residence of God's chosen people—figuratively for the Church.

excellent—or, "nobles," distinguished for moral excellence.

But, i.e. but my goodness extendeth, which is easily understood out of the former verse; from which also there may be fetched another supplement; O my soul, thou hast said, to the saints, &c.

To the saints that are in the earth, i.e. to those holy and righteous persons that live upon earth with me; to these only or principally my goodness is extended. Because I cannot reach thee, I endeavour to pay a singular respect, and love, and kindness to all saints for thy sake, whose friends and servants they are, and whose image they bear. This may seem more properly to agree to David than to Christ, whose goodness was principally designed for and imparted to sinners, and did not find men saints, but make them so; nor was it confined to them that lived with him upon the earth, but extended to all the believers of all ages before and after him.

To the excellent, or, the magnificent, or mighty, or honourable, to wit, the saints, as he now called them, whom, because they were mean and despicable in the eyes of the world, he honours with their just titles; and by appropriating them to the saints, he sufficiently intimates that all other men, how great soever, are but ignoble and vile persons, as he had called them, Psalm 15:4.

In whom is all my delight, i.e. whose company and conversation is most pleasant and desirable to me. Compare Psalm 119:63.

But to the saints that are in the earth,.... Who are sanctified or set apart by God the Father in election; whose sins are expiated by the blood of Christ in redemption, and who are sanctified or made holy by the Spirit of God in the effectual calling; and who live a holy life and conversation: these are said to be "in the earth", not to distinguish them from the saints in heaven, to whom the goodness of Christ extends as to them, unless it be to distinguish them from the angels in heaven, who are called saints, Deuteronomy 33:2; as Aben Ezra observes; but to point out the place of their abode, scattered up and down in the earth; and to show that love, grace, goodness, and kindness of Christ reaches to them in the present state of things, notwithstanding all their meanness and imperfection in themselves, and their despicableness in the eyes of others; see John 13:1;

and to the excellent; the same with the saints, who though reckoned by men the faith of the world, and the offscouring of all things, are in high esteem with Christ; they are "nobles" (o) in his account, as the word is rendered in Jeremiah 30:21; they are princes in all the earth, and these princes are kings; they are made kings and priests unto God by Christ; they wear and live like kings, and have the attendance, power, riches, and glory of kings; they are guarded by angels, they have power with God, they are rich in faith, and heirs of a kingdom;

in whom is all my delight; Christ's delights were with these sons of men before the world was, and have always continued with them; they are his "Hepbzibah" and "Beulah", as in Isaiah 62:4; hence he became incarnate, and suffered and died for them, and makes application of all the blessings of his grace and goodness to them.

(o) "magnificis", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Rivetus; "nobilibus delectationis meae", Gejerus; "ducibus eorum", Cocceius; so Michaelis.

But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight.
3. A difficult verse, the text of which appears to be corrupt.

(1) The best rendering is that of R.V. It is true that it can only be wrung from the Massoretic text by some violence, but an easy emendation removes the grammatical difficulty.

As for the saints [lit. holy ones] that are in the earth [or, land]

They are the excellent [nobles] in whom is all my delight.

From God in heaven the Psalmist turns to men on earth. The true ‘nobles’ (Jdg 5:13) in whose society he delights, are not the wealthy or powerful in the world’s estimation, but ‘the holy’; those in whom Israel’s calling to be ‘a holy nation’ (Exodus 19:6) has been actually realised. Cp. Psalm 15:4. These he proceeds to contrast with apostates (Psalm 16:4). For them nothing but calamity is in store: with them and their worship he will have nothing to do.

(2) We may however (with R.V. marg.) connect Psalm 16:3 with Psalm 16:2, thus: (I have said) unto [or, of] the saints &c., they are the excellent &c. The general sense will remain the same as in (1).

(3) Combining the two alternatives in R.V. marg., we may connect Psalm 16:3 both with Psalm 16:2 and with Psalm 16:4 thus: (I have said) unto the saints &c., and the excellent in whom is all my delight: their sorrows &c. Secure in his own choice of Jehovah he warns others against the fatal consequences of apostasy, and repudiates the idea of it for himself. In this case it is possible that saints may mean holy by calling, though not necessarily in character; and excellent may mean nobles in rank only.

(4) Taking the second alternative of R.V. marg. only, we may render: As for the saints … and the excellent in whom is all my delight: their sorrows &c. So Ewald, who explains, “This seems most profoundly to distress him, that the very Israelites, who ought to be the saints and pass for such … the noble, princely men, whom he especially so intensely loves, even these begin to betake themselves increasingly to heathenism.” But it is difficult to suppose that he would speak of men who were falling into idolatry in language such as this. (4) may safely be rejected; and (1) is simpler than (2) and (3), and deserves the preference.

(5) Of the host of conjectural emendations it will suffice to mention that of Baethgen, which is based on the LXX: ‘Unto the saints which are in his land doth Jehovah shew honour: all his delight is in them.’ It gives a good contrast to Psalm 16:4, but is not convincing.

3, 4. The Psalmist’s society.

Verse 3. - But to the saints that are in the earth; rather, it is for the saints. It (i.e. my prosperity) is granted me for the advantage of the saints that are in the land; i.e. of all the true Israelites. "I hold it in trust for them" (Kay). And to (rather, for) the excellent, in whom is all my delight. And, especially, I hold it in trust for "the inner circle of the excellent ones," in whom God takes pleasure (Psalm 147:11), and in whom therefore I also "delight." Psalm 16:3The Psalm begins with a prayer that is based upon faith, the special meaning of which becomes clear from Psalm 16:10 : May God preserve him (which He is able to do as being אל, the Almighty, able to do all things), who has no other refuge in which he has hidden and will hide but Him. This short introit is excepted from the parallelism; so far therefore it is monostichic, - a sigh expressing everything in few words. And the emphatic pronunciation שׁמרני shāmereni harmonises with it; for it is to be read thus, just as in Psalm 86:2; Psalm 119:167 shāmerah (cf. on Isaiah 38:14 עשׁקה), according to the express testimony of the Masora.

(Note: The Masora observes גרשין בספרא ב, i.e., twice in the Psalter שׁמרה is in the imperative, the o being displaced by Gaja (Metheg) and changed into aa, vid., Baer, Torath Emeth p. 22f. In spite of this the grammarians are not agreed as to the pronunciation of the imperative and infinitive forms when so pointed. Luzzatto, like Lonzano, reads it shŏmereni.)

The text of the next two verses (so it appears) needs to be improved in two respects. The reading אמרתּ as addressed to the soul (Targ.), cf. Lamentations 3:24., is opposed by the absence of any mention of the thing addressed. It rests upon a misconception of the defective form of writing, אמרתּ (Ges. 44, rem. 4). Hitzig and Ewald (190, d) suppose that in such cases a rejection of the final vowel, which really occurs in the language of the people, after the manner of the Aramaic (אמרת or אמרת), lies at the bottom of the form. And it does really seem as though the frequent occurrence of this defective form (ידעת equals ידעתי Psalm 140:13; Job 42:2, בנית equals בניתי 1 Kings 8:48, עשׂית equals עשׂיתי Ezekiel 16:59, cf. 2 Kings 18:20, אמרת now pointed אמרת, with Isaiah 36:5) has its occasion at least in some such cutting away of the i, peculiar to the language of the common people; although, if David wrote it so, אמרת is not intended to be read otherwise than it is in Psalm 31:15; Psalm 140:7.

(Note: Pinsker's view (Einleit. S. 100-102), who considers פּעלתּ to have sprung from פּללת as the primary form of the 1 pers. sing., from which then came פּלתּי and later still פּלתּי, is untenable according to the history of the language.)

First of all David gives expression to his confession of Jahve, to whom he submits himself unconditionally, and whom he sets above everything else without exception. Since the suffix of אדני (properly domini mei equals domine mi, Genesis 18:3, cf. Psalm 19:2), which has become mostly lost sight of in the usage of the language, now and then retains its original meaning, as it does indisputably in Psalm 35:23, it is certainly to be rendered also here: "Thou art my Lord" and not "Thou art the Lord." The emphasis lies expressly on the "my." It is the unreserved and joyous feeling of dependence (more that of the little child, than of the servant), which is expressed in this first confession. For, as the second clause of the confession says: Jahve, who is his Lord, is also his benefactor, yea even his highest good. The preposition על frequently introduces that which extends beyond something else, Genesis 48:22 (cf. Psalm 89:8; Psalm 95:3), and to this passage may be added Genesis 31:50; Genesis 32:12; Exodus 35:22; Numbers 31:8; Deuteronomy 19:9; Deuteronomy 22:6, the one thing being above, or co-ordinate with, the other. So also here: "my good, i.e., whatever makes me truly happy, is not above Thee," i.e., in addition to Thee, beside Thee; according to the sense it is equivalent to out of Thee or without Thee (as the Targ., Symm., and Jerome render it), Thou alone, without exception, art my good. In connection with this rendering of the על, the בּל (poetic, and contracted from בּלי), which is unknown to the literature before David's time, presents no difficulty. As in Proverbs 23:7 it is short for בּל־תּהיה. Hengstenberg remarks, "Just as Thou art the Lord! is the response of the soul to the words I am the Lord thy God (Exodus 20:2), so Thou only art my salvation! is the response to Thou shalt have no other gods beside Me (על־פּני)." The psalmist knows no fountain of true happiness but Jahve, in Him he possesses all, his treasure is in Heaven.

Such is his confession to Jahve. But he also has those on earth to whom he makes confession. Transposing the w we read:

ולקדושׁים אשׁר בּארץ

המּה אדּירי כל־חפצי־בם׃

While Diestel's alteration: "to the saints, who are in his land, he makes himself glorious, and all his delight is in them," is altogether strange to this verse: the above transfer of the Waw

(Note: Approved by Kamphausen and by the critic in the Liter. Blatt of the Allgem. Kirchen-Zeitung 1864 S. 107.)

suffices to remove its difficulties, and that in a way quite in accordance with the connection. Now it is clear, that לקדושׁים, as has been supposed by some, is the dative governed by אמרתּי, the influence of which is thus carried forward; it is clear what is meant by the addition אשׁר בארץ, which distinguishes the object of his affection here below from the One above, who is incomparably the highest; it is clear, as to what המּה defines, whereas otherwise this purely descriptive relative clause אשׁר בּארץ המּה (which von Ortenberg transposes into אשׁר ארצה בהמּה) appears to be useless and surprises one both on account of its redundancy (since המה is superfluous, cf. e.g., 2 Samuel 7:9; 2 Samuel 2:18) and on account of its arrangement of the words (an arrangement, which is usual in connection with a negative construction, Deuteronomy 20:15; 2 Chronicles 8:7, cf. Genesis 9:3; Ezekiel 12:10); it is clear, in what sense אדירי alternates with קדושׁים, since it is not those who are accounted by the world as אדיריס on account of their worldly power and possessions (Psalm 136:18, 2 Chronicles 23:20), but the holy, prized by him as being also glorious, partakers of higher glory and worthy of higher honour; and moreover, this corrected arrangement of the verse harmonises with the Michtam character of the Psalm. The thought thus obtained, is the thought one expected (love to God and love to His saints), and the one which one is also obliged to wring from the text as we have it, either by translating with De Welte, Maurer, Dietrich and others: "the saints who are in the land, they are the excellent in whom I have all my delight," - a Waw apodoseos, with which one could only be satisfied if it were והמּה (cf. 2 Samuel 15:34) - or: "the saints who are in the land and the glorious-all my delight is in them." By both these interpretations, ל would be the exponent of the nom. absol. which is elsewhere detached and placed at the beginning of a sentence, and this l of reference (Ew. 310, a) is really common to every style (Numbers 18:8; Isaiah 32:1; Ecclesiastes 9:4); whereas the ל understood of the fellowship in which he stands when thus making confession to Jahve: associating myself with the saints (Hengst.), with (von Lengerke), among the saints (Hupf., Thenius), would be a preposition most liable to be misapprehended, and makes Psalm 16:3 a cumbersome appendage of Psalm 16:2. But if l be taken as the Lamed of reference then the elliptical construct ואדּירי, to which הארץ ought to be supplied, remains a stumbling-block not to be easily set aside. For such an isolation of the connecting form from its genitive cannot be shown to be syntactically possible in Hebrew (vid., on 2 Kings 9:17, Thenius, and Keil); nor are we compelled to suppose in this instance what cannot be proved elsewhere, since כל־חפצי־בם is, without any harshness, subordinate to ואדירי as a genitival notion (Ges. 116, 3). And still in connection with the reading ואדירי, both the formation of the sentence which, beginning with ל, leads one to expect an apodosis, and the relation of Psalm 16:3 to Psalm 16:2, according to which the central point of the declaration must lie just within כל־חפצי־בם, are opposed to this rendering of the words ואדירי כל־חפצי־כם.

Thus, therefore, we come back to the above easy improvement of the text. קושׁים are those in whom the will of Jahve concerning Israel, that it should be a holy nation (Exodus 19:6; Deuteronomy 7:6), has been fulfilled, viz., the living members of the ecclesia sanctorum in this world (for there is also one in the other world, Psalm 89:6). Glory, δόξα, is the outward manifestation of holiness. It is ordained of God for the sanctified (cf. Romans 8:30), whose moral nobility is now for the present veiled under the menial form of the עני; and in the eyes of David they already possess it. His spiritual vision pierces through the outward form of the servant. His verdict is like the verdict of God, who is his all in all. The saints, and they only, are the excellent to him. His whole delight is centred in them, all his respect and affection is given to them. The congregation of the saints is his Chephzibah, Isaiah 62:4 (cf. 2 Kings 21:1).

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