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the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 116

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-19

Psalms 116:0

1          I love the Lord, because he hath heard

My voice and my supplications.

2      Because he hath inclined his ear unto me,

Therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.

3      The sorrows of death compassed me,

And the pains of hell gat hold upon me:
I found trouble and sorrow.

4      Then called I upon the name of the Lord;

O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.

5      Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;

Yea our God is merciful.

6      The Lord preserveth the simple:

I was brought low, and he helped me.

7      Return unto thy rest, O my soul;

For the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.

8      For thou hast delivered my soul from death,

Mine eyes from tears,

And my feet from falling.

9      I will walk before the Lord

In the land of the living.

10      I believed, therefore have I spoken:

I was greatly afflicted:

11      I said in my haste,

All men are liars.

12      What shall I render unto the Lord

For all his benefits towards me?

13      I will take the cup of salvation,

And call upon the name of the Lord.

14      I will pay my vows unto the Lord

Now in the presence of all his people.

15      Precious in the eight of the Lord

Is the death of his saints.

16      O Lord, truly I am thy servant;

I am thy servant, and the son of thy handmaid:

Thou hast loosed my bonds.

17      I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving,

And will call upon the name of the Lord.

18      I will pay my vows unto the Lord

Now in the presence of all his people,

19      In the courts of the Lord’s house,

In the midst of thee, O Jerusalem.

Praise ye the Lord.


Contents and Composition.—This is not a psalm of complaint (Hupfeld), but the song of thanksgiving of an Israelite rescued from death. It is interspersed with fragments of his yearnings, reflections, complaints, and prayers in that time of peril. It is penetrated also by the refrain-like utterance, gradually and ever more richly unfolding itself, of a vow to proclaim with praises, now after his deliverance, the name of Jehovah, whom he had invoked in his distress; and this he would do as long as he should live, before the whole people, and in the place of God’s worship in Jerusalem. Neither the peculiar nature of this distress, nor the position occupied by the author, nor the time of composition, is discoverable. The Psalm however, by the strong Aramaic coloring of the linguistic forms, set off as they are with all kinds of ornaments (Delitzsch), as well as by its numerous passages borrowed from Psalms composed before the exile, is proved to belong to a late period. A division into two distinct psalms, Psalms 116:1-19, (Sept. and others) is not justified by the character of the poem. [Perowne: “The Psalm is an evidence of the truth and depth of the religious life in individuals after the return from the Exile, for there is little doubt that it must be assigned to that period. Many words and turns of phrases remind us of earlier Psalms, and especially of the Psalms of David. His words must have laid hold in no common degree of the hearts of those who were heirs of his faith, and have sustained them in times of sorrow and suffering, and nothing would be more natural than that later poets would echo his strains, and mingle his words with their own when they poured forth their prayers and praises before God.”—J. F. M.].

Psalms 116:1-3. I love. The explanation: It is dear to me, that is: I am glad or like to see, I rejoice, that thou, etc., (Isaaki, Aben Ezra, Luther, Geier, De Wette, Hitzig), is possible only if we assume an imitation of the Greek, and so descend to a very late period. It is more natural to suppose that the object is omitted, for the same anomaly occurs also in Psalms 116:2; Psalms 116:10, and therefore characterizes the style of the Psalmist. This object is naturally Jehovah, not grammatically but logically (Kimchi, Calvin, Grotius, Stier, Hengst., Del.), and therefore it is not necessary to transpose that word (Hupfeld). The change also in Psalms 116:3, by which מְצָדֵיnets (Hupfeld) is put for מְצָרֵיoppressions, straits, [E. V.: pains] is not demanded, although on account of the affinity with Psalms 18:2, it is not to be utterly slighted.

[Psalms 116:5. Perowne: “Instead of saying directly, ‘Jehovah answered me,’ he magnifies those attributes of God, which, from the days of His wonderful self-revelation to Moses (Exodus 34:6), had been the joy and consolation of every tried and trusting heart. Psalms 116:7 : The deliverance vouchsafed in answer to prayer stills the tumult of the soul. The rest is the rest of confidence in God.”—J.F.M.]

Psalms 116:10-11. The words of Psalms 116:10 are in 2 Corinthians 4:13, after the Sept., employed to express the sense: ἐπίστευσα, διὸ ἐλάλησα. But this does not compel us to give the same translation here (Luth. and others, Hengst.), and to understand the words as a confession expressive of belief in the mercy and help of God, and to refer the other member of the verse to the circumstances or consequences of that confession. The words and their connection are obscure. The second member is most simply viewed as expressing what is spoken. It is not admissible to take כִּי as meaning even if or although (Rosenmüller, De Wette). To explain it as equivalent to: than that (Hitzig) would make the poet say, that his trust was greater than that he could declare it. But this thought would then be very obscurely expressed. It is better to explain: I have believed and do believe henceforth, when I speak, that is, have to speak, must speak (Delitzsch). Psalms 116:10 would then contain the result of what was experienced, and Psalms 116:11 would recall the time when he, abandoned by all those from whom he expected assistance and help, experienced the truth and faithfulness of God. [Dr. Moll accordingly renders: I trust, when I must say: “I am greatly bowed down,” I said in my terror: “all men are liars.” The following rendering with its accompanying exposition, taken from Dr. Alexander, seems to me to be the best, because it gives substantially the same idea as that conveyed in the citation made, and because it adopts the most frequent meaning of כִּי: “I believed, for (this) I speak: I was afflicted greatly. I must have exercised faith, or I could not thus have spoken. The Sept. version, retained in the New Testament (2 Corinthians 5:13), clothes the same idea in a different form, I believed, therefore have I spoken. It was because his faith enabled him to speak, so that his speaking I was a proof of faith.—I said in my terror all mankindkind are false. The form of expression in the first clause is borrowed from Psalms 31:23. But instead of being a confession of error, it is here rather a profession of faith. The proposition; all mankind are false, i.e., not to be trusted or relied upon, implies as its complement or converse that therefore God alone is to be trusted. See the same contrast stated more explicitly in Psalms 118:8, and comp. Psalms 62:9-10; Psalms 108:13; Psalms 146:3-4.”—J. F. M.]

Psalms 116:13-14. The figure of the cup of salvation, or the cup of deliverance, is perhaps taken from the cup of thanksgiving for the deliverance from Egypt, drunk at the paschal meal. Psalms 116:18, especially, favors this view. The allusion made by Gesenius and Hupfeld to the fact that among the Arabs the cup was the symbol of fortune, does not explain the lifting up of this cup in connection with the proclamation and praise of God’s name. [Perowne: “Many see in the words an allusion to the cup of blessing, at the Paschal meal (Matthew 26:27), and this would accord with the sacrificial language of Psalms 116:14; Psalms 116:17. It is true that there is no evidence of any such custom at the celebration of the Passover in the Old Testament, but, as the custom existed in our Lord’s time, the only question is, as to the time of its introduction. If it was introduced shortly after the Exile this Psalm may very well allude to it.” Dr. Moll renders the whole verse, “I will raise the cup of salvation, and proclaim the name of the Lord.” E. V. renders “call upon the name.” Probably both senses are included, according to the remark of Delitzsch that the expression is the usual one for invoking and proclaiming publicly God’s name. Psalms 116:14 b (as likewise 18b) should be translated: “Let me (do so) in the presence of all his people.”—J. F. M.]

Psalms 116:15-16. Psalms 116:15 is said to have been sung by Babylas, bishop of Antioch, when he was being led forth to death under the emperor Decius. The Apostolical Constitutions, 6:30, recommend the chanting of the same verse, along with others from the Psalms, at the funeral solemnities of those who have died in faith (Augusti, Denkwürdigkeit, 9:563). [In Psalms 116:16 a. the true rendering is: Ah now Jehovah!2 for I am thy servant. Alexander: “The expression of entreaty at the beginning has reference to something not expressed, though easily supplied, namely, permission thus to express his gratitude. ”–J.F. M.].


1. Our love to God is essentially a reciprocal love, as being a grateful return for the love actually bestowed upon us (1 John 4:19; Psalms 18:2), and is expressed in the readiness, exhibited by those whom He has delivered, to devote themselves to His name while they live, to invoke and proclaim Him all their days, whether by praying, thanking, confessing, or instructing, and to fix their whole trust and all their hopes upon God alone, and no longer upon men.

2. It reflects no dishonor upon one who has been blessed and saved, to recall his former temptations, cares, and complaints, as well as the misery and distress which he endured, and his natural helplessness. It rather tends to the salvation of himself and others, if he, before God, and in the Church, calls this weakness to remembrance with humility, and thankfully confesses what God has done for his soul. It helps, at the same time, to fix him more firmly in a state of grace, and serves as a defence against the danger of relapsing into his former weakness.
3. When we earnestly endeavor to pay our vows to the Most High, we must bear in mind, that we have not the power to return His benefits. And when we reflect how far our practice falls below our obligations, we are not to infer that we are released from our responsibility, but are to be urged to employ only the more zealously and conscientiously, the means of salvation and grace which God affords in the Church and in the ordinances of her service. We are strongly encouraged to this by the assurance that God has an earnest care over our lives, and that they have a value in His sight; that, therefore, He keeps watch over His chosen, and protects His saints, in order that they, as His servants, should serve Him, for their own salvation, for His glory, and for the building up of the Church.


God bestows upon us so many blessings that none of us can return them to Him; and He asks nothing in exchange but our love.—If we love God sincerely, we will trust in Him implicitly in our times of need, will give Him thanks for His help, and serve Him in His Church.—It is not equally well with us at all times; but we are blessed indeed if we, with God’s help, have happily overcome the evil days, not merely of earthly calamity and outward danger, but also of spiritual weakness and inward trial.—Our life has a value in God’s sight. Do we employ it to His praise?—Wouldst thou come to thy rest? Cling always to God with simplicity of heart.

Starke: Who would be saved from despair when the tempest rages in the poor conscience, if God would not deliver?—He who can pray in distress and trials has gained half the victory; but this it is hard to do.—Childlike simplicity has powerful protection from God, and therefore also have believing souls.—Far from the world is rest; far from God is unrest.—We can never learn better what men are than in times of great distress, when we most need their help.—If the death of God’s saints is precious in His sight, He will know the right time to avenge it on those who have poured out their blood as water.—The true application of redemption consists in a life spent in obedience to God, in His kingdom, and in His service.

Selnecker: God’s love to me and mine to Him are here brought together.—Believing, the confession of our belief, and suffering, are mutually connected.—Frisch: Receive with thanksgiving what you must else receive whether you are thankful for it or not. Remember (1) that this cup comes from the hand of the Lord; (2) that it has been filled for many saints and beloved ones of God before you; (3) that it is not dealt out at random, but that all that you are to drink has been carefully measured; (4) that it is not a cup of wrath or intoxication, but rather a cup of salvation; (5) that, after the cup of affliction, comes the cup of rejoicing.—Stier: A joyful testimony to the confidence of God’s saints in Christ, who die and yet live.—Tholuck: A sincere prayer of gratitude is to the Lord the most pleasing sacrifice.—Guenther: It is a wonderful mystery in the relationship in which men stand to God as His children, that the more they give thanks, the more they have to be thankful for, and thus receive the more good.—Diedrich: We have all been raised from death and hell by God’s mercy helping us; therefore do we love and praise Him, and find described in this Psalm our own experience.—Lean much on God’s help, and thou wilt learn what He is; avail thyself of it much, yea, even to the utmost; have recourse to Him in order that thou mayest be purified and quickened, and thou wilt experience who and what kind of a God He is.—Taube: All true thanksgiving and songs of praise have their final result in an upright walk before the Lord. If the feet stand again upright through Him, they should also run in His ways, and walk according to His precepts and laws.

[Bp. Patrick: The very bonds which Thou hast loosed shall tie me faster to Thee.

Matt. Henry: As long as we continue living, we must continue praying; this breath we must breathe till we breathe our last; because then we shall take our leave of it, and till then we shall have occasion for it.—God’s people are never brought so low but that the everlasting arms are under them, and they cannot sink who are thus sustained.—Quiet thyself and then enjoy thyself: God has dealt kindly with thee, and thou needest never fear that He will deal hardly with thee.—I know no word more proper to close our eyes with at night, when we go to sleep, nor to close them with at death, that long sleep, than this: Return unto thy rest, O my soul.—The land of the living is a land of mercy, which we ought to be thankful for: it is a land of opportunity, which we should improve. If God has delivered our soul from death, we must walk before Him. Our new life must be a new life indeed.

Barnes: What does not the world owe, and the cause of religion owe, to such scenes as occurred on the death-beds of Baxter, and Thomas Scott, and Halyburton, and Payson!—J. F. M.]


[2][אָגָה (here for אָנָּא). In regard to its composition and intensity of expression, see Ewald Gr. § 262, Boettcher, § 967, B. It is unnecessary to assume that the לְ in the last word of the verse is the sign of the accusative. It is often assumed as an imitation of the Aramaic without the least necessity, as by Hupfeld in Psalms 73:18, where see the addition. It is better to regard the noun to which it is joined as the indirect object. See Green, Gr. § 272, 2, a. For the other view see Ewald, § 277 e.—J. F. M.].

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 116". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/psalms-116.html. 1857-84.
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