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Print Version Main Index : Commentaries : JFB Commentary : Psalms Index : Chapter 16

Psalms, Chapter 16
Chapter 15 | Chapter 17
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Bible Version
Cross Reference
Matthew Henry
JFB Commentary
Wesley's Notes
Geneva Study Bible
View Psalms 16 in the note window.

      Ps 16:1-11. Michtam, or, by the change of one letter, Michtab--a "writing," such as a poem or song (compare Isa 38:9). Such a change of the letter m for b was not unusual. The position of this word in connection with the author's name, being that usually occupied by some term, such as Psalm or song, denoting the style or matter of the composition, favors this view of its meaning, though we know not why this and Psalms 56-60 should be specially, called "a writing." "A golden (Psalm)," or "a memorial" are explanations proposed by some--neither of which, however applicable here, appears adapted to the other Psalms where the term occurs. According to Peter (Ac 2:25) and Paul (Ac 13:35), this Psalm relates to Christ and expresses the feelings of His human nature, in view of His sufferings and victory over death and the grave, including His subsequent exaltation at the right hand of God. Such was the exposition of the best earlier Christian interpreters. Some moderns have held that the Psalm relates exclusively to David; but this view is expressly contradicted by the apostles; others hold that the language of the Psalm is applicable to David as a type of Christ, capable of the higher sense assigned it in the New Testament. But then the language of Ps 16:10 cannot be used of David in any sense, for "he saw corruption." Others again propose to refer the first part to David, and the last to Christ; but it is evident that no change in the subject of the Psalm is indicated. Indeed, the person who appeals to God for help is evidently the same who rejoices in having found it. In referring the whole Psalm to Christ, it is, however, by no means denied that much of its language is expressive of the feelings of His people, so far as in their humble measure they have the feelings of trust in God expressed by Him, their head and representative. Such use of His language, as recorded in His last prayer (Joh 17:1-26), and even that which He used in Gethsemane, under similar modifications, is equally proper. The propriety of this reference of the Psalm to Christ will appear in the scope and interpretation. In view of the sufferings before Him, the Saviour, with that instinctive dread of death manifested in Gethsemane, calls on God to "preserve" Him; He avows His delight in holiness and abhorrence of the wicked and their wickedness; and for "the joy that was set before Him, despising the shame" [Heb 12:2], encourages Himself; contemplating the glories of the heritage appointed Him. Thus even death and the grave lose their terrors in the assurance of the victory to be attained and "the glory that should follow" [1Pe 1:11].

      1. Preserve me, &c.--keep or watch over my interests.
      in thee . . . I . . . trust--as one seeking shelter from pressing danger.

      2. my soul--must be supplied; expressed in similar cases (Ps 42:5,11).
      my goodness . . . thee--This obscure passage is variously expounded. Either one of two expositions falls in with the context. "My goodness" or merit is not on account of Thee--that is, is not for Thy benefit. Then follows the contrast of Ps 16:3 (but is), in respect, or for the saints, &c.--that is, it enures to them. Or, my goodness--or happiness is not besides Thee--that is, without Thee I have no other source of happiness. Then, "to the saints," &c., means that the same privilege of deriving happiness from God only is theirs. The first is the most consonant with the Messianic character of the Psalm, though the latter is not inconsistent with it.

      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.

      4. He expresses his abhorrence of those who seek other sources of happiness or objects of worship, and, by characterizing their rites by drink offerings of blood, clearly denotes idolaters. The word for "sorrows" is by some rendered "idols"; but, though a similar word to that for idols, it is not the same. In selecting such a term, there may be an allusion, by the author, to the sorrows produced by idolatrous practices.

      5-7. God is the chief good, and supplies all need (De 10:9).
      portion of mine inheritance and of my cup--may contain an allusion to the daily supply of food, and also to the inheritance of Levi (De 18:1,2).
      maintainest--or, drawest out my lot--enlargest it. Ps 16:7 carries out this idea more fully.

      7. given me counsel--cared for me.
      my reins--the supposed seat of emotion and thought (Ps 7:9,26:2).
      instruct me--or, excite to acts of praise (Isa 53:11,12 Heb 12:2).

      8. With God's presence and aid he is sure of safety (Ps 10:6 15:5 Joh 12:27,28 Heb 5:7,8).

      9. glory--as heart (Ps 7:5), for self. In Ac 2:26, after the Septuagint, "my tongue" as "the glory of the frame"--the instrument for praising God.
      flesh--If taken as opposed to Soul (Ps 16:10), it may mean the body; otherwise, the whole person (compare Ps 63:1 84:2).
      rest in hope--(compare Margin).

      10. soul--or, "self." This use of "soul" for the person is frequent (Ge 12:5 46:26 Ps 3:2 7:2 11:1), even when the body may be the part chiefly affected, as in Ps 35:13 105:18. Some cases are cited, as Le 22:4 Nu 6:6 9:6,10 19:13 Hag 2:13, &c., which seem to justify assigning the meaning of body, or dead body; but it will be found that the latter sense is given by some adjunct expressed or implied. In those cases person is the proper sense.
      wilt not leave . . . hell--abandon to the power of (Job 39:14 Ps 49:10). Hell as (Ge 42:38 Ps 6:5 Jon 2:2) the state or region of death, and so frequently--or the grave itself (Job 14:13,17:13 Ec 9:10, &c.). So the Greek Hades (compare Ac 2:27,31). The context alone can settle whether the state mentioned is one of suffering and place of the damned (compare Ps 9:17 Pr 5:5 7:27).
      wilt . . . suffer--literally, "give" or "appoint."
      Holy One--(Ps 4:3), one who is the object of God's favor, and so a recipient of divine grace which he exhibits--pious.
      to see--or, "experience"--undergo (Lu 2:26).
      corruption--Some render the word, the pit, which is possible, but for the obvious sense which the apostle's exposition (Ac 2:27 13:36,37) gives. The sense of the whole passage is clearly this: by the use of flesh and soul, the disembodied state produced by death is indicated; but, on the other hand, no more than the state of death is intended; for the last clause of Ps 16:10 is strictly parallel with the first, and Holy One corresponds to soul, and corruption to hell. As Holy One, or David (Ac 13:36,37), which denotes the person, including soul and body, is used for body, of which only corruption can be predicated (compare Ac 2:31); so, on the contrary, soul, which literally means the immaterial part, is used for the person. The language may be thus paraphrased, "In death I shall hope for resurrection; for I shall not be left under its dominion and within its bounds, or be subject to the corruption which ordinarily ensues."

      11. Raised from the dead, he shall die no more; death hath no more dominion over him.
      Thou wilt show me--guide me to attain.
      the path of life--or, "lives"--the plural denoting variety and abundance--immortal blessedness of every sort--as "life" often denotes.
      in thy presence--or, "before Thy faces." The frequent use of this plural form for "faces" may contain an allusion to the Trinity (Nu 6:25,26 Ps 17:15 31:16).
      at thy right hand--to which Christ was exalted (Ps 110:1 Ac 2:33 Col 3:1 Heb 1:3). In the glories of this state, He shall see of the travail (Isa 53:10,11 Php 2:9) of His soul, and be satisfied.

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