15 million Ukrainian are displaced by Russia's war.
Millions miss a meal or two each day.
Help us change that! Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Psalms 16

In Psalm 14, God does not see anyone who does good. In Psalm 15, the question arises whether there is anyone who can dwell with God, someone who meets the conditions for it, that is, someone who does good. In Psalm 16 we see that there is Someone. We also see that there are the saints, the God-fearing who are on earth, that is the faithful remnant of Israel in the end time. These saints are connected with the true David, the Messiah. Each saint possesses His features.

Psalm 16 describes the individual believer who lives in fellowship with God. That is perfectly the case with that one Man: Christ. That this psalm is specifically about Him, we can see from what both Peter and Paul say in a speech which is recorded in the book of Acts.

Peter speaks of the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus and therefore quotes from this psalm as an explanation (Acts 2:25-31). He does not make an application of the psalm to the Lord Jesus, as if it were about someone else, but says emphatically “David says of Him” (Acts 2:25), meaning that he is speaking of the Lord Jesus. Therefore, the psalm is not primarily about David, but about the Lord Jesus (Acts 2:30-31). Paul similarly refers to this psalm when he speaks of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus (Acts 13:35-37).

This psalm, therefore, connects beautifully as the third messianic psalm to the previous two messianic psalms, Psalm 2 and Psalm 8. Psalm 2 speaks of the birth of the Lord Jesus (Psa 2:7). Psalm 8 speaks of His humiliation and death (Psa 8:5b-6). Psalm 16 speaks of His resurrection.

Psalm 16 has two topics: faith trust (Psa 16:1-4; 7-8) and experience of faith and its blessing (Psa 16:5-6; 9-11). In terms of content, it corresponds to Psalm 23, for that psalm too is about faith trust. Through suffering, the inner trust in God is revealed. In Psalm 17 we see that through the same suffering the outward attitude toward people is revealed.

Verse 1

Prayer for Preservation

The psalm is not called “a psalm” but “a Mikhtam” (Psa 16:1a). This expression occurs here for the first time and further in Psalms 56-60, six times in all. It is the translation of the Hebrew word miktam. Some say its meaning is derived from a word for “gold”, which has led to the translation “a golden gem”, as in the Dutch translation we use.

Also this psalm is “of David”. Since David speaks here as a prophet (Acts 2:29-31), we hear the Lord Jesus speaking in Him during His life on earth.

The first word of the psalm is a prayer to God for preservation (Psa 16:1b). The pleading ground for this is that the poet takes refuge in Him. This is in perfection and always true of the Lord Jesus (Heb 2:13a), Whom we see and hear speaking through David as Man on earth. On earth He called upon God’s preservation. Every believer may do the same by imitating Him. As Man, the Lord Jesus has had to deal with all the temptations that a human being may have to face. Thus He has suffered hunger and thirst and has been weary.

The Lord Jesus has always been the eternal God. That has not changed at His coming to earth. God cannot cease to be God. The Son became Man in order to be able to lead people to salvation, to be the Guide of those whom He redeemed through His work.

As Man, He is equal to us, “[yet] without sin” (Heb 4:15). He knows from experience what it means to go through a hostile world. As Man, this has led Him to a constant prayer for preservation. His only refuge on earth is His God. In this He is an impressive example for us and for all His own in all times. He shows how someone is truly man, man as intended by God.

This prayer for preservation will also be the prayer of the believing remnant in the midst of wicked people in the great tribulation.

Verses 2-3

You Are My Lord

In Psa 16:2, David continues to speak of his relationship with his God. As mentioned, David is first and foremost a type of Christ. As Man, Christ confesses the LORD (Yahweh) as the Lord (Adonai), that is Sovereign Lord or Commander. He shows that as Man He subjected Himself to the Lord (Adonai) and became the obedient Servant (Phil 2:6-8). He did everything that God said to Him. This submission He expressed once, at His coming into the world (Heb 10:5-7), and this determined His entire path on earth.

This is also the feature of the believing remnant in the future. They want nothing but to do the will of God. It is also the feature of everyone who comes to repentance in our time, the time of the church on earth. We see this in Paul, who immediately after his conversion asks: “What shall I do, Lord?” (Acts 22:10).

The meaning of the second line of Psa 16:2 is: ”I have nothing in this world that I possess but You. There is nothing that gives me happiness but You alone.” What David says is again fully true of the Lord Jesus and is also the confession of the believing remnant. The Lord Jesus says here that the Father is everything to Him. His life on earth has been marked by His relationship with His Father. He has done everything with and for Him.

God expects of all the redeemed that they confess this with their hearts, both with regard to Him and to the Lord Jesus. The Son must “have first place in everything” (Col 1:18). He is entitled to our “first love” (Rev 2:4), which is our total love.

The sentence, begun in Psa 16:2, adds something in Psa 16:3. The Lord Jesus says in Psa 16:2 that He has no good beside God. In Psa 16:3 He adds that He finds all His delight in “the saints who are in the earth”. After His love for God follows inextricably His love for the believers (cf. Pro 8:31b).

“The saints” are not the holy angels, for they are in heaven. Angels are sometimes called “holy angels”, but they are nowhere called “saints”. Nor are they the saints of the church, for the church belongs to heaven according to its position and is already in heaven in Christ (Eph 1:3).

“The saints” are the faithful remnant of Israel, God’s earthly people. Upon them are the eyes of the LORD (Psa 101:6). They consecrate themselves to God and sanctify themselves for Him, following Christ, Who does the same. These saints are also called “the majestic ones” or better, “the glorious ones”. The “saints” are the “glorious ones” because they are connected to the Glorious One, Christ. For us, God sees us in the glory of Christ which we have received from and in Him (Jn 17:22; cf. Eph 1:6).

Christ is united with these saints. With them He occupies the same position before God, as it is written: “For both He who sanctifies [that is Christ] and those who are sanctified [that is the saints, the believers] are all from one” (Heb 2:11). Of the saints Christ says here: “In whom is all my delight.” We see this expressed in a remarkable way when He lets Himself be baptized by John the baptist. By letting Himself be baptized, He makes Himself one with His own (cf. Pro 8:31b).

In being baptized, Christ joins those who, “as they confessed their sins”, were baptized by John (Mt 3:5-6; 13-16).That He does join them, but at the same time is far above them, is evident from what the Father says to all present immediately after His baptism: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Mt 3:17). The Father makes it clear that in the midst of them He is the unique Son of God. He has no sins to confess, for He is the Sinless One.

We see here the illustration of what God’s Word says to us New Testament believers about loving God and loving those who belong to Him. Those who say they love God will also love God’s people. Those two aspects are inseparable in the new nature of the believer (1Jn 5:1-2). You are lying if you say you love God, while you hate your brother.

Verse 4

No Homage to Idols

In this verse, David speaks of the multiplication of “the sorrows of those who have bartered for another [god]”. Who does not find his only good in God and therefore also does not have fellowship with believers, is fundamentally focused on idols. He will follow those idols gives an abundance of time and effort to them. This applies to the apostate mass of God’s people in the future.

In the time of the Lord Jesus, these are the Pharisees and the scribes who only seek their own honor. They are their own idol. Applied to our time, we see it in the honoring of movie stars, athletes, appearance, wealth or whatever someone has idolatrous admiration for. The sorrows that befalls someone who worships other gods, he causes himself (cf. 1Tim 6:9-10).

For David, and also for the saints, the faithful remnant, it is clear. He pays no attention to it whatsoever. A drink offering is an offering poured over the main offering. In Israelite worship service it is an offering of wine (cf. 2Tim 4:6). Here it is an offering of blood, that is, it is an idolatrous sacrifice. Sacrifices to idols, even in the slightest form of them, he will never bring (cf. Mt 4:9-10). David does not even take the names of the idols upon his lips because to mention them would already mean to give too much honor to them. He ignores them completely.

In the end time, the unbelieving mass of the Jewish people will worship the antichrist and fall into idolatry (Jn 5:43; Mt 12:43-45). This will be seen by the mark of the beast which they have had put on their right hand or on their forehead. The faithful, the saints, will not even take the name of the beast and other idols upon their lips to pronounce it (cf. Exo 20:3-5; Exo 23:13; Hos 2:17; Zec 13:2). Their faithfulness to God will bring them the hatred and persecution of the antichrist.

If we want to be faithful to God and not participate in any of the myriad forms of modern idolatry, especially those that come from the prevailing materialism, we will experience the same (2Tim 3:12).

Verses 5-6

My Portion

In these verses the great contrast with the idolaters follows. David speaks first of the LORD Himself (Psa 16:5) and then of all that he has received (Psa 16:6). He – and every God-fearing one of the believing remnant in the future – distances himself in the clearest way from every idol because in the LORD Himself he has everything that fills his heart.

An idol, any idol, receives no attention, not even in the slightest degree such as uttering its name. His undivided attention goes to the LORD, Who is his only portion. We see this also with the Levites, of whom the LORD is also their only portion (Deu 10:9; Deu 18:1-2; Jos 13:33; Eze 44:28). The expression is also used for the allotted portion of a sacrificial animal (Lev 6:17).

The LORD is also his cup, which speaks of all the blessings he receives as fulfillment of all the promises made to him. Through this he is encouraged, refreshed and supported. The cup may speak of the many blessings that have been given to him, but what he is saying is that the LORD is his cup. He is not primarily concerned with the gift, but with the Giver.

In this David is an example for us as well. We can apply that to our spiritual blessings. It will bring us into great admiration for the Giver of them. The Giver of the blessings is always much greater than the blessings. That leads to worship.

That the LORD is his only portion and his cup, he does not see as his own merit, but as assigned to him by “the lot”, that is, determined by God (cf. Jn 15:16a). Joshua used the lot to divide the land among the tribes who did not yet have an inheritance. In this way, the portion for each tribe was determined by God (Jos 18:6).

David also says that God “supports” the portion allotted to him. This is an unshakable assurance that he will receive it. This is in sharp contrast to what the fools possess. All of that will be lost to them, perhaps already during their lifetime and in any case at their death.

In Psa 16:1, David asks if God will preserve him. In Psa 16:5, he says that God will support or preserve what has been assigned to him. The same is true for us and the inheritance given to us. By virtue of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, the inheritance is reserved or preserved for us in the heavens, while we ourselves are protected or preserved by the power of God for the inheritance (1Pet 1:3-5).

After the allotment of the inheritance by lot, there is the measuring of it with “lines” (cf. Amos 7:17; Zec 2:1). This demarcates the inheritance from the inheritances of others and allows the inheritance to be viewed. This brings to delight in the loveliness of the inheritance, which is expressed by jubilant exclaiming: “Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.” The blessings are overwhelming because the LORD is the inheritance. This means that the God-fearing person shares in all that is of God.

If we apply this to the Lord Jesus, His inheritance consists of all that He created. He receives this inheritance by virtue of His work on the cross, where He redeemed the inheritance for God (Rev 5:1-9).

Verses 7-8

Council and Support

Here begins the second half of the psalm which, like the first half, begins with a declaration of faith. By now, the confidence of faith has become so certain that David can begin this second half with blessing or praising the LORD (Psa 16:7). He praises God for counseling him. He leads him by His counsel as he goes through the land by day.

We also see this in perfection with the Lord Jesus. Because He let Himself to be led by the counsel of God, He is, for example, at the right time at the well of Jacob to meet a woman there and offer her the Gift of God (Jn 4:4-10). God is the ever-Present in His life. He lived on earth in close fellowship with Him. God calls Him “My Associate” (Zec 13:7). Never was there a moment when He took His eyes off Him.

David is not only open to the counsel of God during the day, but also at night. Even then he reflects on the teaching the LORD gives him by which he receives insight to discern what matters. In the night his mind – literally kidneys, figurative for inner man – instructs him. Kidneys refer to the inner self, the inside of man, where wisdom resides (Job 38:36). They symbolize wisdom to be able to discern what is useful and what is useless or even harmful. The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to give insight and to be able to discern God’s will.

The kidneys in the body are a special purification system. They excrete in the body what is not good and retain what is good. This is wisdom. In the spiritual sense, they represent the purity of inner feelings. The Lord Jesus is completely pure in His deepest, most inner feelings. This is evident when He listens to His God in the night. Everything in Him is focused on God.

In His contemplation, He constantly has His eye fixed on the LORD His God (Psa 16:8). We see this throughout the way He goes about which we read in the Gospels (Jn 14:31). This is an important indication for us. If we are engaged in God’s Word in order to receive from it counsel and instruction for the way we should go, we will only come to know that way if in doing so we always look to the Lord Jesus.

David put the LORD “continually before” him. For us, it is important to always look to the Lord Jesus. By doing so we will get to know Him better which will make us go our way on earth with all the more confidence. Through this we will also see that He is at our right hand. The right hand represents strength. He gives us the strength to walk to the glory of God and ensures with His strength that we will not be shaken.

The right hand also represents the place of honor. The Lord Jesus always gave God the place of honor, the highest place in His life. For us, that God is at our right hand means that we give Him the place of honor, the highest place in our lives. That dependence gives unprecedented joy in the heart and preservation of the body, even when the body is in death. We hear that in the closing verses of this psalm.

Verses 9-11

The Path of Life

The word “therefore” indicates a conclusion based on the foregoing (Psa 16:9). David has acknowledged God as his sovereign Lord, Adonai, and resorted to Him (Psa 16:1-2). While rejecting all idolatry, he experienced the goodness of God (Psa 16:3-8).

“Therefore” his heart is glad and his glory rejoices (cf. Lk 10:21; Heb 12:2). His “heart” is the center of his existence. From there his life is governed. His heart is in constant fellowship with God. The word “glory” has the meaning of all the value of his inner being, all his feelings for God. He also feels secure as far as his “flesh” is concerned. “My heart”, “my glory”, and “my flesh” constitute the whole man, as the New Testament speaks of “spirit and soul and body” (1Thes 5:23).

Peter, in his speech in Acts 2, quotes this verse as Scripture proof for the resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:25-31). This is not a concoction of the authors of this commentary, but it is the commentary of Scripture, inspired by the Holy Spirit, on what is contained in this psalm. That is why it is necessary to quote the verses from Acts 2 here.

David writes this psalm ten centuries earlier than the time of Peter’s speech. He writes in the I-form. Yet he cannot write about himself. After all, he has died, been buried, and, when Peter quotes this scripture, still has not risen. David, then, is here a prophet writing about Another, the Lord Jesus.

No one but the Lord Jesus went His way without for a moment taking His eye off God, His Father. He always saw God, His Father, before Him. Always He also knew Him beside Him (Jn 8:29). His fellowship with His God gave Him joy in His heart, which He expressed with His mouth, even in the time of His rejection (Mt 11:25).

Through His fellowship with His God, He had hope with regard to rest for His body. He knew that He would die the sinner’s death, but He faced that death with the Father before and beside Him, looking forward to the joy that would come afterwards (Heb 12:2).

He knew that God would not abandon His soul to Sheol (Psa 16:10). By Sheol is not meant the grave. By a grave we mean a place in which the body of a dead person is laid. The Hebrew word sheol does not refer to the body, but to the soul. Sheol is the place where the souls of the dead go immediately after death, the realm of the dead. In Peter’s quote, taken from the Septuagint – the Greek translation of the Old Testament – we read the word hades, the Greek translation of sheol (Acts 2:27).

Next, the quote says that God will not “abandon” Christ’s soul to Hades, i.e. to the realm of the dead. Christ was “the Holy One” of God Who lived in perfect faithfulness to the covenant as God’s godly man to His glory. He suffered the pains of death in His soul in the three hours of darkness on the cross under God’s judgment for all who believe in Him. After His death, His soul went to paradise (Lk 23:43). Every unbeliever will suffer in Hades and finally eternally in hell.

After Christ died, He was laid in a tomb, but His body did not “undergo decay”. That is, His body was not affected by the decay of death. Even in His death, He was “the Holy One” of God. Therefore, after a short stay in the tomb – “a short time” (Heb 2:9) – He was raised. As a result of His work, the New Testament believer knows that his spirit and soul are with the Lord immediately after his death (2Cor 5:8; Phil 1:23), while his body is in the grave. His body will again emerge from the grave at the coming of the Lord Jesus for His own, but renewed, and be united with his spirit and soul (1Thes 4:16; 1Cor 15:52).

After hearing Christ speak in the quotation of His death and the special preservation therein by God, we next hear how He speaks of life and joy (Psa 16:11). Here He speaks of His resurrection. This is life and joy after He has passed through death. After the resurrection, ways of life are opened and revealed. Life in the resurrection is a life of joy, it is life with the eye fixed on the face of God. In the spiritual sense, this applies today to every believer who keeps his eye fixed on Christ. Such a person always walks on the way of life, even though it may lead through death.

This path of life is made known by God to the Lord Jesus and thereby to His own. The path of life is always the path through death. God raises from the dead. He is the origin of that path, for He is life, He is the living God, life is only in Him. It is not so much the path that leads to life as the path on which life is enjoyed. It is the path marked by life (cf. Psa 25:9-10).

Life in the full sense of the word and joy belong together. On the path of life is “fullness of joy” because it is a path in the “presence” of God, indicating His constant presence. Only on that path, only in a life of fellowship with Him, there is fullness of joy. This is the case both in this life and in the life after this life.

This is also the case with the “pleasures” that are in His “right hand”. They are there “forever”. By “pleasures” is meant a vast array of pleasant things that will gladden our hearts again and again, without interruption. There is not a moment when this is not so. Both in the present and in the future, He is able – the right hand speaks of power – to give those pleasures to all who are associated with Him in the world of resurrection. His presence and His right hand represent His Person and His deeds, what He gives and what He does.

Copyright Statement
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
No part of the publications may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.
Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 16". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.