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Psalm 16



The Lord the Psalmist's Portion in Life and Deliverer in Death The Hope of the Faithful, and the Messiah's Victory An Act of Personal Faith in God's Power to Save
(A Song of Trust)
A Prayer of Confidence Yahweh My Heritage
MT Intro
"Mikhtam of David"
16:1-4 16:1 16:1-2 16:1-3 16:1
  16:2-3     16:2-3a
    16:3-4   16:3b-6
  16:4   16:4  
16:5-6 16:5-6 16:5-6 16:5-6  
16:7-11 16:7-8 16:7-8 16:7-8 16:7-8
  16:9-11 16:9-10 16:9-10 16:9-11
    16:11 16:11  

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



 1Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You.
 2I said to the Lord, "You are my Lord;
 I have no good besides You."
  3As for the saints who are in the earth,
 They are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.
 4The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied;
 I shall not pour out their drink offerings of blood,
 Nor will I take their names upon my lips.

16:1 "Preserve me, O God" This is the only imperative (BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal imperative) in Psalm 16. It is an urgent prayer request. From Ps. 16:10-11 it becomes obvious that the psalmist is facing death. He requests life but knows that even death will not separate him from God (cf. Rom. 8:31-38).

In this Psalm Deity is called by

1. El, Ps. 16:1 (general title of God in the ANE)

2. YHWH, Ps. 16:2,5,7,8 

3. Adon, Ps. 16:2


▣ "for I take refuge in You" This is the theme of many Psalms! For "refuge" see notes at Ps. 5:11.

Humans are made in the image and likeness of God Himself (cf. Gen. 1:26-27). We were created for fellowship (cf. Gen. 3:8). We can find peace, rest, joy, purpose, and safety only in Him!

16:2 This is the psalmist's profession of faith. Verse 2 seems to summarize a previous prayer or confession.

NASB"I have no good beside You"
NKJV"My goodness is nothing apart from You"
NRSV"I have no good apart from You"
TEV"all the good things I have come from You"
REB"from You alone comes the good I enjoy"
NET Bible"my only source of well-being"
footnote"I have no good but in You"

One is tempted to read into this phrase the NT doctrine of justification, but in the OT a better parallel is Ps. 73:25-28. YHWH is the psalmist's only "good." The idols of the nations are false (cf. Ps. 16:3-4). The gracious, merciful, covenant God honors those who trust Him and live according to His covenant requirements (i.e., OT — Mosaic covenant; NT — the gospel, cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:25-27). The result is a life and an afterlife of fellowship with God.

16:3-4 There are many questions about how to understand this verse. The Jewish Study Bible says of them (p. 1297) that "These are among the most obscure verses in the Psalter."

1. Who are "the saints" (BDB 872) — Some (NEB, NJB) scholars take the last words of Ps. 16:2 and bring the negative into Ps. 16:3, which makes "saints" refer to "the sacred spirits of the earth" (i.e., the idols of Ps. 16:4). See note below.

2. Who are "the majestic ones" (BDB 12) — Because of parallelism they are either positive (i.e., godly ones, cf. TEV) or negative (i.e., Canaanite idols, NJB).

It is possible to take these two titles as referring to the covenant people in Ps. 16:3 who become idolaters in Ps. 16:4. Many translations separate verses 3 and 4 into separate strophes. The question is, "Do Ps. 16:3-4 form a contrast or an extended description?"

16:3 "saints" This is the Hebrew term Kadosh (BDB 872), which is used for

1. the faithful followers of YHWH — Deut. 33:3; Ps. 34:9; Dan. 8:24

2. spiritual beings (i.e., angels) — Job 5:1; 15:15; Ps. 89:5,7; Dan. 8:13 (twice); Zech. 14:5




NJB"teeming idols"
REB"endless trouble"

The word "troubles" (עצבות, BDB 781) is very similar to "idols" (עצבים, BDB 781, NJB). The context is obviously about idolatry. Exactly who is referred to in Ps. 16:3 is uncertain.

It is possible to see the term "another" (אחר, BDB 29 I, Ps. 16:4) as "other gods" (אחרים, cf. Isa. 42:8; NET Bible, p. 866, #29).

For an extensive discussion see NIDOTTE, vol. 2, pp. 860-862 or UBS Handbook, pp. 141-142.

The psalmist who takes refuge in YHWH refuses to

1. pour out a drink offering of blood (of animal sacrifices or a metaphor for wine)

2. take their names on his lips (cf. Exod. 20:3-5)


 5The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
 You support my lot.
 6The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
 Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.

16:5-6 Possibly the drink offering mentioned in verse 4 reminded the psalmist of the idiom of "cup," which denoted one's destiny (cf. Ps. 11:6; 23:5; 75:8; 116:13). Usually it has a negative connotation but not here.

The "lot" alludes to the dividing of the land of Canaan into tribal allocations by Joshua, by lot (cf. Joshua 13-19), which is the prophetic fulfillment of YHWH's promise to Abraham (cf. Gen. 12:1-3). The Levites and Priests inherited only 48 cities (cf. Joshua 20-24). They were said to have the Lord Himself as their inheritance (cf. Num. 18:20; Deut. 18:1). However, in Psalm this designation is expanded to all faithful followers (cf. Ps. 73:26; 119:57; 142:5; also Lam. 3:24).

Verse 6 continues this imagery by "lines have fallen to me." The psalmist asserts that his inheritance is beautiful (i.e., Jer. 3:19).

 7I will bless the Lord who has counseled me;
 Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.
 8I have set the Lord continually before me;
 Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
 9Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices;
 My flesh also will dwell securely.
 10For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol;
 Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.
 11You will make known to me the path of life;
 In Your presence is fullness of joy;
 In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

16:7-11 The psalmist asserts his faith in YHWH's

1. counsel, Ps. 16:7a (cf. Ps. 32:8)

2. instructions, Ps. 16:7b

3. powerful presence, Ps. 16:8,11

4. victory, Ps. 16:8b

The result is that he rejoices in his security in YHWH (cf. Ps. 16:9), even in death (Ps. 16:10-11).

1. He will not abandon the psalmist in Sheol, Ps. 16:10 (cf. Job 14:14-15; 19:25-27)

2. He will make known to him the path of life (cf. Ps. 139:24; Pro. 15:24; i.e., an idiom for daily faithful living; for a similar phrase see Ps. 101:2,6)

3. He will be with him personally, even in Sheol (cf. Ps. 139:7-8)

4. He provides in abundance all the psalmist needs

Even in times of distress the faithful follower can know that YHWH is with him/her, for him/her, and will never leave him/her! This faith in YHWH's faithfulness is our hope, joy, peace, rest, and victory!

16:8b "at my right hand" YHWH's right hand (see SPECIAL TOPIC: GOD DESCRIBED AS HUMAN (ANTHROPOMORPHISM) [anthropomorphism] at Ps. 2:4-6). The right hand is proverbial for power and strength. The Messiah is described as seated on God's right hand which denotes the place of power, preeminence, and authority.

The combination of several elements in this Psalm made it Messianic for the Apostles, Peter and Paul

1. right hand imagery, Ps. 16:8,11

2. life beyond the physical existence

3. title "Holy One"

See fuller note at verse 10.


NASB, NKJV"my glory"
NRSV, NJB"my soul"
LXX"my tongue"
JPSOA"my whole being"
REB"my spirit"

The Hebrew word "glory" (כבודי, BDB 458 II) may be a scribal error for "liver" (כדבכ, BDB 458, cf. Gen. 49:6; Ps. 30:12), which, like the heart, denoted the whole person (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 2, pp. 587-588; NET Bible, p. 866, #11). Notice that "heart," "liver/glory," and "flesh" all are parallel and denote the psalmist himself.


NASB, NKJV"Your Holy One"
NRSV, JPSOA"your faithful one"
NJB, REB"your faithful servant"
LXX"your devout"
NET Bible"your faithful follower"

The Hebrew has "your godly one" (חסיד, BDB 339). This word is used often to describe those covenant people who loved, served, and obeyed YHWH (cf. Ps. 4:3; 12:2; 32:6; 86:2; Micah 7:2). When used of YHWH it is translated "kind" (cf. Ps. 18:25; 145:17) or "gracious" (cf. Jer. 3:12).

Because this verse is quoted by both Peter (cf. Acts 2:27,31) and Paul (cf. Acts 13:35) to refer to Jesus' resurrection, in this Psalm the term is translated "Holy One" (NASB, NKJV). I am not sure how to view this verse in Psalm 16. In context it obviously refers to a godly, faithful Israelite (note the parallelism of Ps. 16:10). It could then have been understood by an Apostle as

1. prophetic

2. typological

3. multiple fulfillment

The Apostles looked back into the OT and saw many signs and foreshadowing, as well as specific predictions, of the life, work, death, resurrection, and coming again of Jesus Christ! I trust their inspiration.

NASB, REB"the pit"
NKJV, LXX"corruption"
NRSV, JPSOA"the Pit"
NJB"the abyss"

The MT has "Pit" (BDB 1001) and it is parallel to Sheol (cf. Job 33:18; Isa. 38:17-18). For Sheol see SPECIAL TOPIC: Where Are the Dead? at Ps. 1:6 and the notes at Ps. 6:5; 9:13. Both were ways of referring to death.

The LXX is quoted by both Peter and Paul in Acts to confirm the resurrection of Jesus. There are several places in the OT which assert, or at least hint at, a resurrection (cf. Job 14:14-15; 19:25-27; Ps. 17:15; 49:15; 56:13; 73:24,25; 86:13; Isa. 26:19; Dan. 12:2). Ezekiel 37 seems to refer to a restoration of the nation, not individual resurrection.

Thank God for the full revelation of the NT.

1. Jesus' empty tomb and post-resurrection appearances

2. Paul's discussion of resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15

The afterlife is a progressive revelation!

The life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus changed the Apostles' worldview. Their OT perspective was modified. They began to search the OT for prophecies, typologies, and hints of this new reality. Jesus Himself may have started this by revelatory interpretations about Himself from the OT to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, who passed them on to the group in the upper room (cf. Luke 24:25-27).


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Define the word "saints."

2. Are the "saints" the same as "the majestic ones"?

3. How is verse 4 related to idolatry?

4. Define the OT use of the term "portion."

Is it parallel to "lot"?

5. What organ of the human body was believed to be the origin of thought and feelings?

6. Is this a Messianic Psalm because verse 10 is quoted in Acts 13:35?

7. Why is biblical faith described as a "path"?