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Bible Commentaries

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Psalms 16

Psalms 16

The substance of this Psalm is comprised in its very first words, “Preserve me, O God; for in Thee do I put my trust.” All, besides, is at once seen to be merely the development of these thoughts, so soon as it is observed that the words, preserve me, have for their foundation the confident hope of such preservation, and include within them these other words, “Thou wilt preserve me.”

The first words embody a twofold idea: they express the Psalmist’s confidence in the Lord, or that the Lord is his confidence and salvation, and make them the ground of his preservation amid the dangers by which he was surrounded. Both elements appear also among us in the same connection; for example, in the declaration, “Jesus is my confidence and my salvation in life; this I know; must I not therefore take comfort? And why also should I brood over the long night of death?”

The further development of the first idea, “I trust in Thee,” is contained in Psalms 16:2-7. He recognises in Jehovah the only Lord of all things, without whom nothing can help, with whom nothing can injure, the sole author of his salvation, with the whole community of the Lord, to which he attaches himself with inward love, Psalms 16:2-3.

He turns away with abhorrence from the other gods, from which the world seeks salvation, purchasing by their sacrifices pain instead of the happiness desired: he finds his salvation in the Lord, who prepares for him a glorious portion, Psalms 16:4-5.

He accounts himself blessed in the possession of this inheritance, of the salvation of the Lord, or of the Lord with His goods and gifts, and is full of gratitude to the Lord, who has laid open to him the way to such an inheritance, Psalms 16:6-7.

The development of the second idea, of the “Preserve me, O God,” the exhibition of the hope growing out of the confidence already expressed, is given in Psalms 16:8-11.

His hopeful eye is in the time of trouble directed to the Lord; for He, his Saviour, will not permit him to sink. Therefore is his heart full of joy at the impending deliverance, and of this he reckons himself quite certain, Psalms 16:8-9.

For God, his Saviour, will not give up him, His pious one, to death—confiding in Him, he shall exclaim, “Death, where is thy sting? Grave, where is thy victory?”

God will endow him with life, joy, and salvation, Psalms 16:10-11.

The strophe-division follows naturally from the representation of the contents just given. The first verse, which has an introductory character, and contains the quintessence of the subject, stands by itself. The rest has a regular course in strophes of two verses each. Apart from the introduction, the whole is completed in ten verses; and the ten are subdivided into five.

The superscription names David as the author, and even De Wette cannot help remarking that “there is no decided reason for the contrary.” The originality of the superscription is confirmed by the circumstance, that מכתם occurs only in those superscriptions of the Psalms which are marked with the name of David—a fact not easily to be accounted for by those who hold the superscriptions to be the work of later collectors. The nature also of this designation, which is quite enigmatical, is what David was peculiarly fond of in his superscriptions. Its correctness is further confirmed by the remarkable coincidences with other Psalms of David, which we meet with here: comp. Psalms 16:1 with Psalms 7:1, Psalms 11:1; Psalms 16:5 with Psalms 11:6; Psalms 16:8 with Psalms 15:5, Psalms 10:6; Psalms 16:11 with Psalms 17:15. We call attention also to such genuinely Davidic phrases as “my glory,” in Psalms 16:9 (comp. on Psalms 7:6); “dwell confidently,” in Psalms 16:9, comp. with Psalms 4:8; “with Thy countenance,” in Psalms 16:11, comp. with Psalms 21:6; and. “by Thy right hand,” in Psalms 16:11, comp. Psalms 17:7.

The situation of the speaker is that of one who finds himself in great danger, and is in prospect of death. But this danger is nowhere particularly specified; it is only indicated in the most general way. This alone renders it probable that David composed the Psalm, not so much in his own person as in that of the pious man in general; that he presented here for the feelings of such an one a mirror, in which all pious men might recognise themselves—a pattern by which they might develop themselves; not, however, as if for that purpose he imaginatively put himself into a position and frame of mind quite foreign to himself, but only that he, drawing from the source of his natural experience, extended his consciousness so as to embrace that of the pious at large. This supposition becomes a certainty, when we take the reading in Psalms 16:10, “Thy holy ones,” to be the correct one. In such a case, it is clear that the person who speaks in this Psalm is an ideal one, embracing actually a plurality, and that every pious man should find himself represented in it, and by its help should rise, on the ladder of confidence in God, to the watch-tower of hope.

A secret of David. מכתם is very variously expounded. Many of the older translators (Chald., Aq., Symm.) considered it to be a compound word; and this has found a modern supporter in Vorstmann, in his laborious commentary on this Psalm, Haag 1829. The word, according to him, is=&מךְ תם , probably falsely pointed, and he renders: “The distressed, delivered.” This explanation has something, at first sight, that recommends it; for such enigmatical designations of the in subject in the superscriptions are quite in the manner of David; and the superscriptions, thus explained, suit admirably to the subject of the Psalms where they occur,—as, for example, besides the present one, also Psalms 56-60. But to say nothing of the punctuation, and the fact that Mt is always used in a moral sense, it is decisive against this view, that מכתם never occurs along with מזמור , “Psalm,” or with משכיל , “didactic Psalm,” or even with תפלה , “prayer,” but always stands in the same position in relation to these words, that is, either before לדוד or after it (the same alternation is found in the use of מזמור ; see for ex. Psalms 23, Psalms 24). Precisely as we have here לדוד מכתם , we have in Psalms 17 תפלה לדוד , from which it clearly appears that the word before us must stand on the same footing as these others. Some again derive it from כתם , “gold.” So Aben Ezra, who says that the Psalms were so named because they are as excellent as the best gold. Luther: “A golden jewel.” Similar designations also occur elsewhere. Among the Arabians, the seven pre-Mohammedan poems, known under the name of Moallakat, are also called, on account of their excellence, Modhahabat, that is, golden. Further, among them the proverbs of Ali are for the same reason named, the gold of morals. Among the Greeks we find the golden verses of Pythagoras. But it is to be objected to this exposition, that scarcely a single noun can be found with m, which borrowed its signification merely from a derivative noun, without respect to the idea of the verb, and especially one which occurs in poetry. Others, for example Gesenius, in his Thes., take מכתם as=מכתב , “writing,” which is used in Isaiah 38:9, in the superscription of Hezekiah’s song of praise. But this view also is to be rejected, on the ground that the roots כתם and כתב are kept strictly separate in the Semitic dialects, no trace being found of their intermixture; and still more decisive is it that writing says too little, and the predilection of David for this designation, as also the circumstance that it is peculiar to him alone, cannot then be explained. Others, as Hitzig, take the word in the sense of jewel, from כתם , to which they give the meaning of carefully preserving. The verb, however, never has this signification, but only: “to conceal, to cover, to secrete.” In this sense it occurs in Arabic; the Syriac significations, “to seal up,” and “to stain,” and “to disfigure” (comp. in reference to the latter, ἀ?φανίζειν in Matthew 6:16), are but derivatives from it. In Hebrew it occurs in Jeremiah 2:22, “ Though thou wash thyself ever so much, yet is thine iniquity concealed before Me;” and in כתם , gold, prop. “the covered,” comp. סגור in Job 28:15. Hence would the word מכתם (a word first formed probably by David) mean “a secret” a song with a deep import. Understood in this sense, the designation is in the highest degree suitable. How does the Psalm conduct us into the mysterious depths of the divine life! how deeply mystical is its very language! Its whole subject is quite dark to those who are not experienced in the ways of the Lord. We should greatly, however, err, did we suppose that David, in giving to many Psalms, in the superscription, the predicate of “the secret,” denied that character to the rest. It is rather common to them all, and is ascribed to some particular ones, only because they are parts of the whole; still, of course, to such as peculiarly possess this character. The same also holds good, for example, of the name משכיל , “didactic Psalm.” We must everywhere understand it positively, not exclusively. All the Psalms are didactic; and in many this character is even more prominently displayed than in those which are expressly called such, so that there was no need for any N. B. to that effect in the superscription. From the above remarks, it appears that Michtam in the superscription was as a “procul profani;” it cried out, at the very outset, to the readers, “O the heights and the depths which the Spirit of God alone can reveal!” The connection between this word and the מכתב , in Isaiah 38, does not need to be wholly given up. It is not improbable that the latter forms the groundwork of our designation, and that David only, by the change of a letter, transformed a word of a very common meaning, into one of deep signification.

Verse 1

Ver. 1. Preserve me, O God; for in Thee do I put my trust. What an infinite fulness of matter these simple words conceal within themselves, is shown by the subsequent development. On the words, “Preserve me, O God,” Luther remarks: “He here begins like a man who sees his destruction before his eyes, who is abandoned by all, and must presently die. Such a man would speak in the following manner: Behold, I must die; my strength is departed from me; angels and men have forsaken me, nay, devils and men seek to devour me. I cannot escape; no one cares for my soul; every one already looks on me as lost, and bewails me as dead. Therefore, Lord, Thou alone art my preserver and my deliverer, Thou, who savest him that is regarded as lost, and makest the dead to live, and liftest up the oppressed: Lord, deliver me, let me not be brought to shame. As he says elsewhere in Psalms 31:5: Lord, into Thy hands I commit my spirit.

So fares it with the godly: he dies daily, and still is always delivered and preserved. And this is the new life of faith and hope, which is celebrated in this Psalm, namely, the life under the cross, the life in the midst of death . . . . Let us therefore here learn that we must call upon the Lord, especially in distress, when we are ready to perish; in which circumstances the children of men do everything but call upon the Lord, and rather renounce all hope, and give themselves up to despair.” On the other words, “For I trust in Thee,” he also remarks: “See how trust here calls upon the Lord. How can he call upon the Lord who does not confide in Him? Confidence and believing trust are reckoned among those things which God, in compassion, will regard graciously, and through which He will make us eternally blessed, as we see here. Nothing can stand, nothing can uphold or deliver, when matters come to such a pass, but a pure and firm faith, which grounds itself solely upon the Divine compassion, and which promises itself nothing from itself, but everything from God. . . . Whenever man places his hope on anything else than on the Lord our God, he cannot say: I trust in Thee. Hence should all persons in misery, and wrestling with despair, take heed that they labour and strive after the state of mind here described. This most excellent and noble emotion, confidence in God, forms the distinction between the people of Christ, who are His property, and those who are not His people; and here there is no respect of persons, no rank nor title.” But this confidence is considered here, not simply as an emotion, but also in reference to its object: whosoever places his confidence on the Lord, his confidence and salvation is He. That both are here to be taken into account, that the Psalmist’s ground of hope is not a subjective one merely, but also an objective one, is evident from what follows.

Verse 2

Ver. 2. (O my soul) thou sayest to Jehovah, Thou art my Lord, my salvation is not without Thee. The אָ מַ רְ תּ ְ? second person fem., can only be explained by supposing the address to be directed to the soul (fem.). For the soul to be addressed, or introduced as speaking, is no unusual thing: comp. Psalms 42, Psalms 43, in which the Psalmist constantly addresses his soul anew, and stirs it up to confidence and hope in God; Jeremiah 4:19, and especially Lamentations 3:24-25: “The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him. The Lord is good unto them that wait upon Him, to the soul that seeketh Him,”—where allusion seems to be made to our Psalm. The difference between this latter passage and the one before us is only this, that here the soul is not expressly named; but such an omission is quite in keeping with the enigmatical character of our Psalm, and the general difficulty of its style; and analogies may be produced for it from the Arabian poets, perhaps also from 1 Samuel 24:11, 2 Samuel 13:39. The majority of modern expositors would read אָ מַ רְ תּ ִ י , “I speak:” But this is opposed both by external authorities and by internal grounds. The expression, “I speak,” would be extremely bald and tame; the address to the soul gives dramatic life to the discourse. The Psalmist, after he has uttered the solemn words, “I put my trust in Thee,” holds converse with his soul, and brings to its mind that this is in reality its settled feeling, that it cannot despair in times of trouble, without flagrantly contradicting itself. The consequence of this is, that the soul, having again become conscious of itself, “rejoices and is glad,” in the sure expectation of God’s salvation, Psalms 16:9. Such interlocutions, in which the sacred bards still and pacify their souls, like a child weaned by his mother, Psalms 131:3, have something indescribably moving and touching. The first expression of trust in the true God is this, that we say to Him, “Thou art the Lord;” the uncontrolled ruler over all in heaven and on earth; the possessor of all power; the dispenser of all safety; the One, without whom not a hair of our head can fall, who holds every breath of those who threaten us with destruction; the almighty Lord, whom heaven and earth obey; the supreme God, who has, and can do everything. “Who is it that orders all things? Who distributes all gifts? It is God; and He also is the One who can supply counsel and aid when we are ready to sink.” Trust in God manifests itself, further, in the lively acknowledgment that He is the sole author of salvation—that it is to be sought and found only in Him, not in those whom the world calls gods. This knowledge, which is a simple outflow of the conviction, that God is the Lord—for, being this, He must also be the only author of redemption—is expressed in the words, “my good is not without Thee,” or beside Thee; to which many analogous passages might be produced from our own sacred poetry, such as: “All that I am and have, comes from the hand of God; all is the gift of the Highest, nothing happens by chance; God alone is everything to me, He shall ever be my helper; all else that is to be found on earth soon vanishes,” etc. That special reference is made here to the gods, when preservation is ascribed to God alone, appears from Psalms 16:4. This special reference is, however, a non-essential element: the gods are noticed only as those from whom, if men do not recognise Jehovah to be the Lord, they commonly seek help and safety; and on precisely the same footing stand one’s own power, the aid of one’s fellow-men, and whatever o t her objects of trust exist apart from God. In unison with Psalms 73:25, “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none on earth that I desire beside Thee,” the Psalmist renounces all such helpers and dispensers of good, and thereby proves that he has said in perfect sincerity, “I trust in Thee.”

We take תובה , “good,” in the sense of preservation and prosperity, resting upon the contrast of “sorrows,” in Psalms 16:4, and upon the corresponding words, “my part, my cup, my lot, my inheritance,” in Psalms 16:5 and Psalms 16:6. עליך , we expound, “out of Thee, beside Thee,” prop. “in addition to Thee,” with allusion to Exodus 20:3, “Thou shalt have no other gods beside Me,” על פני , prop. in addition to Me; LXX. πλν̀?ν ἑ?μοῦ? , Targ. בר מני . This passage is the more important, as the Psalmist obviously had it in his eye; which we shall be the less inclined to doubt, after an examination of the beginning of Psalms 16:4. Just as the words, “Thou art, the Lord,” are the soul’s response to the words in Exodus 20:2, “I am the Lord thy God,” so the words, “Thou alone art my salvation,” are the response to the command, “Thou shalt have no other gods beside Me;” they are the soul’s declaration, that what should be, actually is. The nearest approach to the exposition we have given is that of Sym., ἀ?γαθό?ν μου οὐ?κ ἐ?́?στις ἀ?́?νευ σου : that of Jerome, Bonum meum non est sine te; as also that of the Chal. and Syr., “Thou art my highest good.” A decisive objection to this last is, the reference to the Decalogue and Psalms 16:4-6; Psalms 16:6, according to which, not only the above, but also the beside is excluded. That על does not absolutely require such an exposition, is evident, not only from the ground passage but also the examples in Gesenius’s Thes. under על 1, b. γ : though these latter need sifting. Still more decidedly objectionable is the exposition of Boettcher, Gesen., and others: “All my prosperity is not above Thee; the best which I have, I prefer, not to Thee.” The unsoundness of this view appears from the antithesis in Psalms 16:4: “many are the sorrows, etc.;” from the positive declaration in Psalms 16:5 of what is here negatively expressed; from the reference to the Decalogue; and, finally, because this thought cannot be considered as a carrying out of the sentiment “I put my trust in Thee” (which alone is sufficient), nor as suiting the Psalm as a whole. The same grounds also, for the most part, decide against the exposition: “My good is not over Thee,”=I can do Thee no good, which, after the example of the LXX. (ὁ?́?τι τῶ?ν ἀ?γαθῶ?ν μου οὐ? χρεί?αν ἐ?́?χεις ), Calvin propounds. “The sum,” says he, “is this, that when we approach to God, we must lay aside all self-confidence. For if we imagine that there is something in ourselves, we need not be surprised if He repel us, since we rob Him of the chief part of His honour.” This thought, however excellent in itself as a development of the words, “I trust in Thee,” does not suit the context, nor even the parallelism. But Psalms 16:5 in particular is against it. The contrast with the pains or sorrows, which are experienced by the servants of false gods, shows that by the good of the Psalmist, must be understood, not the good which he does, but that only which he receives, which is imparted to him, namely, prosperity or deliverance: comp. טובה in this signification, Psalms 116:5, “Visit me with Thy favour, that I may see the good of Thy chosen,” Job 9:25. Utterly to be rejected also is the exposition of Kimchi and Jarchi, “Thou art not under obligation to do me good;” as also that of Luther, “I must suffer for Thy sake,” in connection with the following verse, which he renders, “for the saints, who are upon the earth, and for the honourable.” We have then, indeed, a sense which is applicable to Christ alone, but at the expense of the whole connection and train of thought. In his comm., however, he goes along with the LXX.

Verse 3

Ver. 3. With the saints that are in the land, and the honourable ones, in whom is all my delight. With this his confidence in Jehovah, the conviction that He alone is the Lord, the sole author of salvation, the Psalmist does not stand alone; he has it in common with the Church of God, which God endows with the highest gifts, invests with high dignity, and to which, on this account, the Psalmist cleaves with a fervent love. As a member of this Church, which has its seat in the land of the Lord, he trusts in the Lord as his only Saviour, disdaining all those whom the world, the surrounding heathen nations, have forged to themselves. According to this exposition, l has quite its common signification, and Stier’s objection, that the ellipsis, joining myself, is too hard, is without force; as there is just as little of an ellipsis here, as in the לדוד , “belonging to David,” in the superscription. ל is used in a quite similar manner (de eo quorsum quis pertinet, Gesen. in Thes. s. v.), for example, 1 Kings 15:27: Baasha the son of Ahijah, לבית ישכר , belonging to the house of Issachar. By the holy and honourable persons, are not designated certain individuals, or a particular class in Israel, but ideally, all Israelites are holy and honourable, the whole people of the covenant; and this predicate continues to be applied to the whole, although a great part of the individuals may have excluded themselves, by their own guilt, from an actual participation in this dignity. The souls that are cut off from their people are considered as absent, though they may still be present as to the body. In favour of this reference to the Church at large, decides, first, the expression, “who are in the land;” then a comparison of the original passages on which the designation is based: Exodus 19:6, “And ye shall be to Me a kingdom of priests (comp. the royal priesthood, as applied in 1 Peter 2:9 to the whole Church of the New Testament), and a holy people;” and Deuteronomy 7:6, “For thou art an holy people to the Lord thy God; the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people to Himself, out of all peoples that are on the earth.” As a predicate of the whole people, the term “holy” is found also in Psalms 34:9, Daniel 8:24, Daniel 7:21. That the term “holy” here does not designate moral quality, but dignity, appears not only from the passages already referred to, but also from the parallel אדירים , which never denotes the noble in sentiment, but the noble in dignity, and is excellently rendered in the Berleb. Bible by “serene highness.” The saints are the chosen ones, those whom God has taken out of the region of the profane world, and raised to be His people. Of this elevation in dignity, an elevation in sentiment is certainly the consequence. The election of God, first of all, and above all, manifests itself in His appointing institutions, providing arrangements, and communicating powers, through which He makes to Himself a people that is zealous of good works.

בארץ , which must be translated, not, “on the earth,” but “in the land,” points to the dwelling-place of the holy, and the honourable. The Church of God is a visible community, circumscribed in point of space; its place is the land of the Lord. The opposite of the saints, who are in the land, are the foreign worshippers of idols, of whom mention is made in Psalms 16:4. Out of the land there are no holy and honourable ones, but such only as Jehovah has not chosen, and who do not trust in Him, do not say to Him, “Thou art the Lord, my salvation is not out of Thee,” but rather purchase others. This same connection between the people of the Lord, and His land, is brought to view by David, in 1 Samuel 26:19, where he says to Saul, “And if the children of men (have stirred: thee up against me), cursed be they before the Lord; for they have driven me out this day from abiding in the inheritance of the Lord, saying, Go serve other gods.” Then Joshua 22:24-25, is also very clear, as, according to it, the tribes beyond Jordan, who did not dwell, strictly speaking, in Canaan, were afraid lest those within Jordan might say, “What have ye to do with the Lord God of Israel? for the Lord hath made Jordan a boundary between us and you, ye have no part in the Lord.” We see here how close the union was represented between an interest in the land of the Lord, and an interest in the Lord Himself. So early as in Genesis we meet with this localization of the Church of God. Cain’s banishment from the rest of the human family was equally a banishment from the presence of God. Jacob is full of admiring gratitude to God, when Jehovah revealed Himself to him after his withdrawal from the place to which the Church of God was at that time confined. The deep truth which lies at the bottom of this view, is unfolded by Melancthon in his Loci de Ecclesia, at the beginning: “By the Church we are to understand the company of the called, which is the visible Church, and are not to dream that we are chosen elsewhere than in this visible community. For God does not wish to be called upon or acknowledged where He has not revealed Himself; and He has nowhere revealed Himself but in the, visible Church, in which alone is heard the sound of the Gospel,” etc.

The last words properly mean: “The nobles, of the entirety of my pleasure in them;” comp. on the stat. constr. as thus used, Ewald, Large Gr. § 303, and the Small, § 509. The ground of the Psalmist’s satisfaction in the holy and the noble, is their holiness and their nobility; he attaches himself with all his heart to those, whom God has distinguished above all others, whom He has ennobled by His election. Of the erroneous expositions, we shall test only the most plausible and widely diffused. 1. Many, and among the last, Gesenius, expound: “As regards the holy, who are in the land, and the honourable, in them is all my delight.” But against this it is to be urged, that the stat. constr. is never used for the stat. absol.; as here אדירים would stand for אדירי . Besides, the sense thus obtained, does not at all suit the connection of the Psalm. As everything to Psalms 16:7 is only an expansion of the idea, “In the Lord I put my trust,” as it all only utters the confidence that is felt in the Lord, so the satisfaction of the Psalmist in the saints might well be expressed by the way, in a sort of side statement, but could not form a substantive and independent declaration. We must give up either this exposition, or the connection. Finally, the words, “who purchase another,” in Psalms 16:4, immediately connect themselves with: “My good is not out of Thee,” in Psalms 16:2, and only in this connection can we understand the word another; but this connection is destroyed the moment we assign to the third verse an independent position. Only on our view, according to which the Psalmist, in this verse, merely gives utterance to the thought, that he was not alone in his recognition of Jehovah, as the Lord and the sole author of salvation, but expressed it as a member of the Church of God, does such a connection exist. 2. De Wette and others expound: “The saints who, in the land, are the honourable, in whom is all my delight.” This exposition avoids only the first of the objections just mentioned. The two others remain against it in full force. According to it also, the thought breaks in upon the connection. De Wette, indeed, thinks that the sense suits admirably with the sentiment in the following verse: “The sense of the verse, according to our exposition, is: the poet holds with the pious in the land; by way of contrast to which, he declares in the next verse, that he abhors the worshippers of idols.” But the main idea placed in the front of the following verse, “that those who purchase another have many sorrows,” is thereby left quite out of view, and of a horror of the worshippers of idols, there is no mention in this verse, when rightly expounded. 3. Hoffmann, in his “Prophecy and its Fulfilment,” takes the l here as correlative to that before Jehovah. In Psalms 16:2, it is what the soul says to the Lord; in Psalms 16:4, what it says to the saints. But the address is, throughout the whole Psalm, only to Jehovah; Psalms 16:4 contains nothing, in point of matter, which is peculiarly suitable for an address to the saints; in point of form, also, there is not the least trace of such an address. It is also against this view, that it destroys the whole strophe-construction. Besides, this view was advanced before Hoffmann, and was also refuted. Boettcher remarks against it: “The reference to Psalms 16:2 involves a too wearisome train of thought; in ירבו , in Psalms 16:4, a too indistinct commencement for an address, for ordinary readers, not accustomed to subtleties of exegesis, to perceive it at such a distance from אמרת .”

Verse 4

Ver. 4. The Lord is the only salvation both of the holy in the land, and of the Psalmist. They who seek their salvation from others, receive, for the sacrifices through which they endeavour to propitiate their favour, instead of the expected fulness of gifts, a fulness of sorrows; therefore he turns himself away with horror from these others, the idol-gods, he will have no part in their abominable service, and their names he will not take upon his lips. Many are the sorrows of those who purchase another; I will not pour out their drink-offerings of blood, and not take their names upon my lips. Instead of “many are the sorrows,” Ewald, Maurer, and several others, expound: “many are the idols.” But this exposition is against the usage; the reading must then have been &#עֲ צַ בּ ֵ יהֶ ם עצבות are always sorrows. But this assured meaning must be retained here also on account of the contrast with טובה , in Psalms 16:2: “I seek my salvation from the Lord, for with the others are only sorrows.” Further, the mention of the many false gods appears in such a case out of place here; this explanation also deprives the verse of that which constitutes an extension of the Psalmist’s declaration, “I trust in the Lord,” and disturbs its relation to the following verse, in which the many sorrows, which alone one can obtain from the false gods, are contrasted with the rich blessings which the Lord imparts. So much only in that exposition is right, that the Psalmist probably plays upon the word עצבים “idols,” points to the mournful omen contained even in the name,—an allusion which has the more significance, as the two words, עצבים and עצבות , actually stand in close connection with each other, idols having received their name from the trouble and toil it cost to make them. On such a commencement no good end could follow. The sorrows consist, not merely in the disappointed hope, but also in the judgments which God suspends over the apostate; comp. Isaiah 65:14, “Behold, My servants shall sing for joy of heart, but ye shall cry for sorrow of heart, and shall howl for vexation of spirit.” אחר מהרו many explain, with De Wette: “who hasten away elsewhere,”—an exposition which was long ago set aside by the older commentators with the remark, that אחר never signifies, “away elsewhere,” and that we are not justified in giving to מהר here the signification of hastening, as this signification elsewhere belongs to it only in Piel, while the Kal is used in Exodus 22:15, as also in Arabic and Syriac, in a quite different signification, viz. “of buying a wife.” Luther, who renders: “they who hasten after another will have great suffering of heart,” has avoided the first objection. But usage admits only one explanation: “who purchase another.” Against those who allege that “another” could not be used thus of other gods without some addition, we must not simply appeal, with Boettcher, to the fact, that “Hebrew poets constantly direct their thoughts toward God, and Divine things.” The expression, “another,” is not used simply by itself for other gods; it is more closely defined by Psalms 16:2, where the Psalmist described Jehovah as the only Lord, as the One, beside whom there is no salvation, and no saviour. Viewed in this connection, “the other” can only be another God beside Jehovah; and when it is maintained that אחר can only signify a false deity, when, as in Isaiah 42:8, Isaiah 48:11, it is directly contrasted with Jehovah, nothing, in fact, is demanded which is not found here. A more explicit description was the less necessary, as, in the Pentateuch, the expression, go away after other gods,” is currently used. Here, as there, אחר is employed, not without emphasis, instead of the proper term for idols, by way of teaching that it matters not whom we seek, if it be another than Jehovah, the Lord, the only Saviour. The word thus clearly shows how unimportant the distinction is between idolatry in the strict sense, here primarily referred to, and idolatry in the more general sense. If the only question is, whether another than the Lord is the object of trust, then does mammon (whom our Lord personified for the purpose of setting it on a level with the false gods, commonly so called) stand on the same footing as Dagon.

In מהרו several commentators retain only the general idea of buying, purchasing. They perceive here merely a sort, of antithesis to the sacrifices with which the worshippers of idols seek to propitiate their favour, lavishing much expense upon their worship, and reaping in return nothing but sorrows. But there is no reason for omitting here the special meaning which usage has attached to the word, emit dote uxorem. It furnishes here a fuller and deeper sense; and the application of it in such a connection is the more natural, as it is by images borrowed from the married state, that the relation to the true God and to idols is constantly described. These latter received the title מאהבים , “paramours.” Applying this idea, the verb itself serves admirably to point out the incongruity of the relation between idolaters and idols. According to the oriental fashion, a man purchases his wife. From the nature of the case, this also should take place between the divinity and its worshippers. It was the part of the deity to take the initiative, to go forth and win the regard of its chosen. And this is precisely what was done by Jehovah in relation to Israel: He purchased Israel to Himself from the bondage of Egypt comp. Hosea 3:2. He met Israel with great demonstrations of love—first loved him, and only seeks his love in return. But it was quite otherwise with idols. These had done nothing to prove their existence, or their love; the relation commences with expensive sacrifices to them, on the part of their servants. Such a beginning could lead to no other end than the one here mentioned. A bought god never can afford salvation; the seed of the sacrifices can yield nothing but sorrows. A god who does not begin the connection by giving tokens of his love, will never show it, and it is a piece of folly to cherish such a hope. Analogous is the representation in Hosea 8:9, “Ephraim hath bought for himself love;” and in Ezekiel 16:33-34, where the prophet brings out the absurdity that, whereas in all other cases presents were given to the person loved, the worshippers of idols gave presents to their lovers, the idol-gods. The suffixes נסכיהם , “ their drink-offerings,” and שמותם , “ their names,” are referred by many expositors to those who purchase another, the idolaters; by others, on the contrary, to the idols. The admissibility of the latter exposition cannot be denied, as the אחר is unity only in an ideal sense, in opposition to the one true God, and, in point of fact, comprehends a multiplicity. It is also supported by the undeniable reference which the words, “I will not take their names into my lips,” bear to the original passage, Exodus 28:13, “Make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth;” on which also Hosea 2:17 is based, “And I will take away the names of the Baalim out of their mouth, and they shall be no more remembered by their name.” The words themselves, also, are opposed to the reference to idolaters; the pronouncing of their name, that is, of the name of the heathen nations, the Psalmist could have had no desire to shun. Finally, the reference to idols is demanded by the contrast in Psalms 16:5. The drink-offerings of blood are understood by various expositors literally; but in this reference to a particular heathenish custom, for which only very few proofs can be adduced, and these with much difficulty, the connection is not attended to, which would lead us to expect a rejection of the worship of false gods as such, of those who are no saviours, and to whom is only given what is taken from the true God; not the how, but the fact of idolatry, is an object of abhorrence to the Psalmist. One must rather, comparing Isaiah 63:3, explain the drink-offerings of blood as follows: “drink-offerings which are as much objects of abhorrence as if they consisted, not of the wine, which externally they were, but literally of blood.” The expression, “of blood,” was the more natural, as wine is named the “blood of grapes” in Genesis 49:11, Deuteronomy 32:14, etc. Drink-offerings, outwardly of the blood of grapes, inwardly of the blood of men.

Verse 5

Ver. 5. Not those others, who only give sorrow, are the Psalmist’s salvation; the Lord alone is that, and in Him he finds fulness of blessing. The Lord is my portion and my cup; Thou makest my lot glorious. The meaning is given quite correctly by Muis “All my good is of God, and in God alone.” That the Psalmist here names God his portion, not after the manner of the pure love of the mystics, does not count himself, blessed, as Boettcher supposes, on account of his inward union with God, but rather simply declares that God is the sole author of his salvation, is clear from the circumstance, that this verse further carries out the sentiment, “I put my trust in Thee;” also from the expression, “Thou makest glorious my, lot;” but especially from the affirmation in Psalms 16:2, “My good is not apart from Thee,” which here returns in another form (according to which the Psalmist expressly renounces connection with those who seek good out of God), and, finally, from the contrast of the many sorrows which the service of those others brings in its train. The Lord is viewed here, therefore according to the entire fulness of the blessings and gifts which belong to Him; and the declaration, “The Lord is my portion and my cup,” is substantially the same as if he had said: What the Lord has, and gives, that alone do I seek; that is for me, and with it I am content. This meaning receives confirmation as the only correct one, from a comparison of the original passages in the Pentateuch, which the Psalmist manifestly has in view here. They are those in which the Lord is designated. Levi’s portion and inheritance: Numbers 18:20, “The Lord spake unto Aaron, Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them; I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel,”—where J. H. Michaelis thus gives very correctly the sense: “From Me alone thou shalt receive what is amply sufficient; and what things are due to Me, these shall be thine;” Deuteronomy 10:9, Deuteronomy 18:1-2, where the words, “The Lord is his inheritance,” are explained by, “The offerings of the Lord and His inheritance shall they eat.” Not as if it were demanded of Levi, to be content with the simple enjoyment of the favour of God, and to consider this as compensation for his sacrifices, resigning all happiness besides. Rather was a participation in the rich goods of the Lord assigned him as compensation. So here also the declaration, “The Lord is my portion,” is equivalent to: In the possession of the Lord and His goods and gifts, I freely give up to the world its seeming givers and goods, which, more carefully examined, are but sorrows. Calvin justly remarks, that the opposite state of feeling, unbelieving and ungrateful dissatisfaction with the highest and only good, or the only true source of all happiness, is the basis of superstition and of all false worship. On the form מנת , comp. on Psalms 11:6. What is the import of, “The Lord is my cup,” is evident from Psalms 23:5, “My cup runneth over;” comp. also Psalms 11:6. The Lord is for His people a cup which is never empty, and never suffers them to become thirsty, the source of all good; He provides them richly with everything that can contribute to their refreshment during life, so that it were thankless folly for them to seek for refreshment elsewhere. The last words are commonly expounded: “Thou supportest, or maintainest, my lot.” After the example of the older translators, תומיךְ? is taken as a participle. But such a participle-form is wholly without example. The יוֹ סִ ף in Isaiah 29:14, and Isaiah 38:5, which is referred to, is manifestly not a participle, but the third person Future. It is to be observed, besides, that the expression, “to support or maintain the lot,” has a strange sound; the Psalmist’s lot is not maintained by God, but bestowed on him. As the word stands here, it can scarcely be anything else than the Fut. in Hiph. of ימךְ? . Now this verb has in Arabic the highly suitable signification, amplus fuit; consequently, in Hiph. “to make broad, glorious.” So first Schultens Inst. ad fundam. 1. Hebr. p. 298.

Verse 6

Ver. 6. My possession has fallen to me in bliss; also a goodly heritage became mine. The sense is excellently given by Calvin: “He confirms what he had already said in the preceding verse, namely, that he rested with a composed and tranquil mind in the one God (and His salvation); may, he so glories therein, that he looks down with contempt on whatever the world might imagine to be desirable apart from God.” חבלים , “lines,” “measuring cord,” then the “measured out portion, the possession.” So Joshua 17:5. The possession of the Psalmist is the Lord, with His goods and gifts. The falling is, according to most interpreters, derived from the figure of a lot. But no ground exists for this supposition. נפל with ל occurs, in the signification of, “to fall to any one,” without respect to casting lots, in Numbers 34:2, Judges 18:1. בנעימים is commonly rendered: “in pleasant places.” But against this Boettcher justly alleges, that no example is to be found of an adjective, not of , local import, being directly used in regard to localities; that נעימות , in Psalms 16:11, is parallel with שמחות ; and that in Job 36:11, the equivalent בנעימים is used with the signification, “in bliss.” These reasons are decisive. The plural is used here, as frequently, to mark the abstract: “delightful things,” for “delightfulness, bliss.” But when Boettcher further maintains, that “in delightfulness” stands for, “in the most delightful manner,” we cannot agree with him. When a noun with ב , follows the words, “a possession fell to me,” every one expects it to designate the locality of the possession. We consider the bliss and delight as the spiritual region, in which a possession has fallen to the lot of the Psalmist. אף is used here, as also in Psalms 16:9, not as a particle of enhancement, but with a weaker import, in the sense of also; comp. Winer, s. v. נחלת is, not stat. constr., but a poetical form of the stat. absol. The expression, “an inheritance, it is excellent,” is a loose construction for, “an inheritance, which is excellent,” a glorious or goodly heritage. עלי strictly means, upon me, for, “it is with me,” “I possess it,” and is to be explained by the fact, that the possessor of anything is considered as its bearer. Precisely so is על used in Psalms 7:8, Psalms 131:2, Nehemiah 5:7. Quite correctly already Luther: “A fine inheritance has become mine.” Gesenius, De Wette, and others, render: “and the possession pleases me.” But then אף , which can only mean also, not and, must be connected, not with the noun, but with the verb; we should have expected the art. or the suff. at נחלת ; and though שפר with על occurs in Chal. in the sense of to please, it never does so in Hebrew.

Verse 7

Ver. 7. I will bless the Lord, who has counselled me; also by night my reins admonish me. The words, “who has counselled me,” receive light by being viewed in connection with what precedes. The Psalmist, placed in the midst of possessions, knows not what to choose, or where to settle. Then the Lord conveys to him the counsel, to choose the pleasant inheritance delineated in the preceding verses, i.e. to put his trust in Him, to seek his salvation only in Him, to turn to Him as the only Saviour; and this counsel he celebrates here with grateful praise. Calvin: “Finally, David confesses that it was entirely of the grace of God, that he had come by faith into the possession of so great a good. For the mere gracious offer by itself is nothing, seeing it is made to all alike. We must therefore know that both are the gift of God’s free grace

His being our inheritance, and our possessing Him in faith.” The object of the counsel is inaccurately defined by Jarchi, “to choose the life, and to walk in His ways;” by De Wette, “that I have remained true to Him;” and by Boettcher, “not to renounce it,”—to say nothing of the arbitrary view of Hitzig. Others render: “because He has cared for me;” but this explanation is philologically baseless. יעץ with the accus. signifies, “to give any one counsel;” comp. Exodus 18:19; Jeremiah 38:15; 1 Kings 1:12. In the second clause, that to which the Psalmist is admonished, is manifestly the praise and thanksgivings mentioned in the first. The impulse to thank the Lord for His gracious counsel, springing from the most profound and lively apprehension of the greatness of the salvation, with which the Psalmist had been mercifully favoured, is so powerful in him, that it continues with him even through the night-season, and leads him to praise and give thanks, when the whole world is asleep.

Here begins the second part of the Psalm, in which hope springs out of confidence.

Verse 8

Ver. 8. I set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. According to the connection, the eye of the Psalmist continually directed to the Lord, hopes in the very midst of difficulty ( Psalms 16:8), or looks to the Lord to be a helper in trouble and death. Luther: “Such a thing gives fresh courage and an undaunted heart to those who have God always before their eyes; so that even adversity, the cross, and sufferings, can then be cheerfully met and borne. Verily, such a faith can be overmastered and vanquished by no cross and calamity.” In the words, Because He is, etc., the Psalmist gives the ground of his hope being placed upon the Lord. The hope is based on confidence. The expression, “He is on my right hand,” as my Saviour and helper, corresponds to the, “I put my trust in Thee,” in Psalms 16:1, and briefly sums up the substance of Psalms 16:2-7, where the Psalmist sets forth that the Lord is his Saviour.

Verse 9

Ver. 9. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also shall rest secure. Therefore, namely, because the Lord is on my right hand, and I therefore shall not be moved. In the preceding verse, “I hope in the Lord, for He is my Saviour;” here, “He is my Saviour, therefore I hope in Him; I am full of joy and gladness, and sure of my deliverance.” The glory or honour is here also an emphatic designation for the soul. What the heart and soul rejoice in, namely, the certainty of salvation, security in trouble and against death, is clear from the parallel: “My flesh also shall dwell secure,” in Psalms 16:10. By the flesh, many of the Messianic interpreters understand the lifeless body, the corpse; to this the Psalmist is considered to promise a safe repose in the tomb; so Luther: “My flesh also will lie secure.” But the following reasons are against this:

1. בשסר , “flesh,” denotes elsewhere, when used in connection with the soul and heart, not the corpse, but the living body: the soul in such cases is not that which is separated from the body, but the soul in the body. Comp. Psalms 63:1, “My soul thirsteth for Thee, my flesh longeth for Thee;” Psalms 84:2, “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord, my heart and my flesh.”

2. The expression, שכן לבטח , cannot of itself be properly understood of the rest of the body in the grave; the word, “to dwell,” is not very suitable, as is clear from the fact, that these expositors for the most part quietly substitute, “to lie,” in its place. And if we compare the primary and parallel passages, this exposition appears all the more inadmissible. In them, the expression denotes a condition of settled prosperity, endangered and disturbed by no hostile assault. So Deuteronomy 33:12, of Benjamin, “The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety with him;” Deuteronomy 33:28, “And Israel dwells in safety,”—which passages, in particular the latter, are the rather to be considered as primary or ground-passages, seeing that the expression of, “to dwell safely,” when used of an individual, has a certain air of strangeness, and that there is an unquestionable reference to it in Psalms 4:8, “For Thou, Lord, only makest me to dwell in safety.” Comp., besides, Jeremiah 23:6, Jeremiah 33:16; Judges 18:7.

3. The succeeding context decides against the exposition in question. For, first, the circumstance that there the “soul” is substituted for “flesh,” naturally leads us to reject the idea that here the flesh denotes the soulless body. Then, we do not find there, as that interpretation would lead us to expect, the hope of preservation in death, but of preservation against death.

We may not, therefore, even adopting the strict and direct Messianic meaning, refer the words to secure repose in the grave, but only to salvation and deliverance in general. That Peter understood the words so, appears from his finding in the words of the following verse a declaration of Christ’s preservation, not in death, but from it.

Verse 10

Ver. 10. For Thou, my only good, my portion and my cup, Thou, who makest my lot glorious. That we must fill up thus, appears from the words, “Thy holy ones,” in the second member

Thou wilt not leave my soul to hell, nor give up Thy holy, ones to see the grave. The confidence of salvation expressed in the preceding verse, is here grounded upon the consideration, that the Lord, as the Psalmist’s Saviour, cannot surrender him a prey to death. The corresponding positive idea is presented in the next verse, viz. that He will impart to him life, joy, and bliss. עזב with ל , means, “to leave over, to give up to any one;” Comp. Leviticus 19:10; Psalms 49:10; Job 39:14. The exposition of Luther, and of many others: “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell,” has both usage and the parallelism against it; according to which, the pious is not even to see the grave, and, consequently, his soul will not attain to hell (sheol). Peter, for the sake of whom this exposition has been adopted, has not followed it. He renders, in Acts 2:27, “Thou wilt not leave my soul to hell,” εἰ?ς ᾅ?δου , or, according to Lachman, ᾅ?δην , as also the LXX. have “not to die and be buried,”—this is the hope Peter finds expressed in the Psalm, and realised in Christ, notwithstanding His death and burial. For a death such as His (and in consequence of His, that also of His people), is but as a passage into life, and does not deserve the name of death. We may here also take into account the words of Christ, Matthew 9:24: “The maid is not dead, but sleepeth.” Comp. also John 11:11.

To decide between the two readings, חשידיךָ? , “Thy holy ones,” and חסידךָ? , “Thy holy one,” is difficult. Were the latter a mere Kri, we should not hesitate to reject it, as of no greater consequence than a conjecture of some modern critic. But the matter is not so. A great many manuscripts, and among them some very good ones, have “Thy holy one” in the text. All the old translations express the singular, and so also do Paul and Peter in their quotations. Besides this, the Jewish polemical interest, their opposition to the Messianic interpretation, favoured the plural reading חסידךָ? . The passages in Jewish writers, in which it is employed for this purpose, may be found collected by Aurivillius, de vera lectione vocis, חסידך . We are still inclined, however, to regard the plural form as the original reading. It is supported, 1. By the preponderance of the external critical authorities; the testimony of the manuscripts, which is chiefly upon its side, cannot be outweighed by the testimony of the old translations, which carry no great weight in such matters. 2. The plural, as the more difficult reading, might readily be exchanged for the more easy singular by those who knew not what to do with it, seeing that, throughout the rest of the Psalm, one individual appears as the speaker. That the Jewish polemical interest favoured the plural, is not enough to counterbalance this reason; for such considerations can never exercise more than a partial influence.

Taking the plural as the correct reading, we perceive here, as was remarked in the introduction, the non-individualistic character of the Psalm, its destination for all pious persons, precisely as in Psalms 17:11.

The expression, “Thy holy ones,” contains the ground of confidence. It combines all that the Psalmist—or those in whose name, and out of whose soul he speaks—has uttered, in Psalms 16:2-8, with regard to his relation to the Lord; the pious, or holy man, is he who trusts in the Lord, takes Him for his only good etc.—שחת is rendered διαφθορά?ν by the LXX.; and that there is a noun שחת with the meaning “corruption,” derived from שחת , “to corrupt, destroy,” beside the common שחת , which is derived from שוח , and signifies, pit, grave, is recognised even by Gesenius and Winer. But the passage which is chiefly appealed to, Job 17:14, is by no means decisive, since the common signification, “pit, grave,” may very well be admitted there as parallel with worm; and the most urgent reasons ought to be produced, as it is very improbable that one and the same word can have different derivations and meanings. Here the sense of corruption is the less admissible, as the same expression שחת ראה is elsewhere, Psalms 49:9, demonstrably used in the sense of, “to see the grave.” The defenders of the other exposition have wrongly adduced the authority of Peter in support of it. It appears that Peter, Acts 2, who undoubtedly addressed the “men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem” in the Aramaic dialect, took שחת (he probably retained the word) in the sense of grave, and not of corruption; for, to the expression, “see שחת ,” corresponds, in reference to David, the expression, “He died and was buried, and his sepulchre is with us to this day;” as also the expression, “he died,” corresponds to, “Thou wilt not leave my soul to hell.” Hence it appears, that no stress is to be laid upon the διαφθορά? , which Luke may easily have adopted from the received translation. The argument of Peter remains in full force, even if we substitute grave for corruption, if only we understand by “seeing the grave,” something abiding continuous. “Seeing life,” is always in such a sense. Christ’s death and burial are not considered as death and burial. Paul, also, in his line of argument, Acts 13:36-37, lays no stress upon the idea of corruption, as distinguished from the grave: “David, after he had in his own generation served the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption; but He, whom God raised again, saw no corruption.” The argument is not at all overthrown, if we substitute grave for corruption. Christ did not see the grave in the same sense that David did; He did not see it in the sense of the Psalmist.

Verse 11

Ver. 11. Thou wilt make known to me the way of life; fulness of joy is mine before Thy face; blessedness through Thy right hand for evermore. The Psalmist hopes to receive from the Lord, his Saviour and his confidence, negatively, preservation from death (the preceding verse), positively, life, joy, and bliss. The way of life is, as Luther rightly renders: the way to life. In Proverbs 2:19, the paths of life are the paths which lead to life. Life is in the first instance opposed to that death, from which the Psalmist hopes, in Psalms 16:10, to be preserved; and therefore it is incorrect to interpret life, as some do, to mean exactly salvation. But that, on the other hand, neither bare life, nor bare immortality is meant, is shown by its connection with joy and bliss. A miserable life is not to be called life at all, in the Bible sense; it is only a form of death. The words, “Thou wilt make known to me the way of life,” involve, therefore, a double idea: “Thou wilt preserve the in life, and endow me with blessing.” את פניך , prop. “with Thy countenance,” occur again in Psalms 21:6: “Thou enlivenest him through joy with Thy countenance.” The joy springs out of fellowship with the Lord’s countenance, which was turned towards the Psalmist; light breaks in upon the darkness of his misery. Comp. Psalms 4:6, “Lift upon us the light of Thy countenance.” Psalms 80:3. בימינך can only mean, “through Thy right hand;” and the interpretation of Luther and others, “at Thy right hand,” is wrong. As joy-proceeds from God’s countenance, so from His right hand, which is almighty either to punish or to deliver, bliss: comp. Psalms 17:7.

It still remains for us, now that we have finished our exposition of the Psalm; to investigate its Messianic import. That it has such an import, is certain, even apart from the testimonies of the New Testament. The situation does, unquestionably, appear to be that of one, who found himself in great danger, and whose life was threatened. But the Psalmist does not express merely the hope of obtaining deliverance from that particular danger; his soul rises higher; he triumphs not only over a particular danger of death, but over death itself; he exclaims confidently, “Death, where is thy sting? Hell, where is thy victory?” The ground of hope leads him beyond that, which was momentarily necessary, and the hope itself is expressed more comprehensively. He expresses quite generally the assurance, that death and the grave can exercise no power over those who are inwardly united to the living God; of this he is confident, nor for the present moment merely, but for ever, נצח , in Psalms 16:11; and on that account, he feels sure, for that present also, in respect to which primarily he gives utterance to the general hope.

Apart from Christ, this hope must be regarded as a chimera, which the issue will put to shame. David served God in his generation; and then he died, was buried and corrupted. But in Christ, who has brought life and immortality to light, it becomes perfectly true. David, in Christ, could speak as he does here with full right. Christ has conquered death, not merely for Himself, but also for His members His resurrection is the ground of our resurrection; “for can the head fail to draw its members after it?” In so far as what is here hoped for the members, can only become theirs through its first becoming the Head’s, so far the Psalm must be considered as a direct prophecy of Christ.

But how far David himself clearly understood the Messianic substance of his hope, we cannot ascertain. That the prophecy of Christ was not a matter of total ignorance to him, is implied by the declaration of Peter, in Acts 2:30-31. Paul, however, contents himself with the simple fact, that the Psalm was fully verified in Christ. That the heroes of the Old Testament, in their more elevated moments, were favoured with a deep insight into the mystery of the future redemption, is presupposed by our Lord Himself, John 8:56. A more or less conscious connection between the hope of eternal life, and the expectation of Christ, is attended with the less difficulty, as this connection constantly appears, where we find, in later times, the hope of eternal life expressed in Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel.

Our explanation of the Messianic import substantially agrees with that of Calvin, expressed by him with the greatest clearness and distinctness in his Comm. on the Acts of the Apostles: “When he glories that he shall not see the grave, he doubtless considers himself as a member of Christ’s body, by whom death is overcome, and its empire abolished. But if David promised himself deliverance from the grave, only in so far as he was a member of Christ, it is evident that with Christ, as the Head, we must take our start.”

Many of the older expositors, on the ground of the New Testament quotations of this Psalm, and not perceiving that the contrast in them lies, not between David and Christ, but between David apart from Christ, and David in Christ, have maintained that the Psalm refers directly and exclusively to Christ, who is introduced by the Psalmist as speaking. But against the Messianic interpretation thus understood, which was also advocated in my Christology, there are certain difficulties not easily disposed of. That the Psalmist should, from the commencement, speak in the person of another, does not comport well with the prevailing subjective character of the Psalmodic poetry; and even from the circle of prophetic literature, scarcely can an example be produced, where this is done so directly, and without some previous more exact designation of the person. Further, the matter of Psalms 16:1-8 is too little of a special Messianic character;—a consideration which is unintentionally shown to be of importance by the forced interpretations to which those are driven, who attempt to introduce a specially Messianic element. Also, that in Psalms 16:9-11, the direct and exclusive Messianic references rest entirely on a false exposition, has already been shown. Further, by this exposition the Psalm is wrested from its connection with so many others, which are unquestionably very closely related to it, and, above all, with the following one, which is united with it into a pair. Finally, we are necessitated by this exposition, to hold the reading חסידיך , Psalms 16:10, to be incorrect, which cannot be done, at all events, with positive certainty; and the less so, when we compare it with Psalms 17:11, where, in a similar manner, the plurality, concealed under the unity, manifests itself all at once.

The only apparent ground for this opinion, the testimony of the New Testament, must certainly be regarded as quite decisive by any one who examines the citation isolatedly; but those will judge differently, who, taking properly into account the whole relation in which the New Testament stands to the Old, have attained to a comprehensive view of the free and genial manner in which our Lord and His Apostles use prophecy for proof.

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Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Psalms 16". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms.