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Bible Commentaries

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Psalms 16


Divers render this word Michtam, a golden Psalm, because of the preciousness and excellency of the matter of it; for it treats of Christ’s death and resurrection. But because this title is prefixed to Psalms 56:1; Psalms 57:1; Psalms 58:1; Psalms 59:1; Psalms 60:1, wherein there is no such peculiar excellency, it may seem rather to be a title belonging to the music or the song, which, with the rest, is now lost and unknown. It is a great question among expositors, in whose name and person he speaketh this Psalm, whether his own or Christ’s. It seems hard to exclude David’s person, to whom almost the whole Psalm properly and literally belongs, and to whom some parts of it do more conveniently belong than to Christ. And some parts of it do peculiarly belong to Christ, of whom it is expounded by the two great apostles, Peter and Paul, Acts 2:25; Acts 13:35. And yet it seems probable by the contexture of the Psalm, and the coherence of the several verses together, that the whole Psalm speaks of one and the same person. But because David was a mixed person, being both a member and an eminent type of Christ, he may without any inconvenience be thought to speak of himself sometimes in the one and sometimes in the other capacity, to pass from the one to the other. And therefore having spoken of himself as a believer or member of Christ in the former part of the Psalm, he proceeds to consider himself as a type of Christ; and having Christ in his eye, and being inspired by the Holy Ghost with the knowledge and contemplation of Christ’s passion and resurrection, towards the close of the Psalm he speaks such things, as though they might be accommodated to himself in a very imperfect, obscure, and improper sense, yet could not truly, literally, and properly, fully and completely, belong to any but to Christ, to whom therefore they are justly appropriated in the New Testament.

David, disttusting his own merit, and hating idolatry, fleeth to God for preservation, Psalms 16:1-4. He showeth the hope in life and death, Psalms 16:5-9, of the resurrection and everlasting life Psalms 16:10,Psalms 16:11.

Verse 1

Preserve me from all mine enemies.

In thee do I put my trust; therefore thou art in honour and by promise obliged not to deceive my trust.

Verse 2

O my soul; which words are fitly understood; for it is manifest he speaks to one person of another. And it is usual with David to turn his speech to his soul, as Psalms 42:6; Psalms 43:5.

Thou hast said; thou hast ofttimes avowed and professed it, and dost still persist to do so.

Thou art my Lord, by creation, and preservation, and otherwise; to whom I owe all service and obedience upon that account.

My goodness; whatsoever piety, or virtue, or good. ness is in me, or is done by me.

Extendeth not to thee, i.e. doth not add any thing to thy felicity; for thou dost not need me nor my service, nor art capable of any advantage from it. Or, is not for thee, as this word is used, Genesis 16:5; 2 Samuel 1:26, i.e. for thy use or benefit. Or, is not upon thee, i.e. it lays no obligation upon thee, as this very word is taken, Judges 19:20; Psalms 56:12; Ezekiel 45:17. All comes to the same thing. The sense is, God is all-sufficient and infinitely happy, and the author of all the good that is in or is done by any of his creatures; and therefore cannot prevent nor oblige God any further than he is graciously pleased to oblige himself. Thus he renounceth all opinion of merit; and though he urged his trust in God, as a motive to persuade God to preserve him, Psalms 16:1, yet he here declares that he did not do it, as thinking that God was indebted to him for it.

Verse 3

But, i.e. but my goodness extendeth, which is easily understood out of the former verse; from which also there may be fetched another supplement; O my soul, thou hast said, to the saints, &c.

To the saints that are in the earth, i.e. to those holy and righteous persons that live upon earth with me; to these only or principally my goodness is extended. Because I cannot reach thee, I endeavour to pay a singular respect, and love, and kindness to all saints for thy sake, whose friends and servants they are, and whose image they bear. This may seem more properly to agree to David than to Christ, whose goodness was principally designed for and imparted to sinners, and did not find men saints, but make them so; nor was it confined to them that lived with him upon the earth, but extended to all the believers of all ages before and after him.

To the excellent, or, the magnificent, or mighty, or honourable, to wit, the saints, as he now called them, whom, because they were mean and despicable in the eyes of the world, he honours with their just titles; and by appropriating them to the saints, he sufficiently intimates that all other men, how great soever, are but ignoble and vile persons, as he had called them, Psalms 15:4.

In whom is all my delight, i.e. whose company and conversation is most pleasant and desirable to me. Compare Psalms 119:63.

Verse 4

That hasten after another god; or, that present or endtoo (as this verb signifies, Exodus 22:16) another god, to wit, with oblations, as it follows. God is not expressed in the Hebrew text, but seems fitly and necessarily to be understood, because of the following offerings, which are made to none that is not either really or by reputation a god. The sense is, Idolaters, notwithstanding all their zeal or cost about their idols, gain nothing to themselves but abundance of sorrow and misery. This he mentioneth partly as one reason why he would have no fellowship with them in their idolatrous worship, which he adds in this verse; and partly that by this comparison he might illustrate and commend his own happiness, in having the Lord for his portion, of which he speaks, Psalms 16:5,Psalms 16:6. Or thus, Let their sorrows be rntdtiplied, &c. Having showed his great respect and affection to the saints and excellent servants of the true God, he now declares what an abhorrency he had for those that forsake the true God, and worship idols; to whom he wisheth increase of their sorrows, whereby they may either be awakened and converted to the Lord again, or may be cut off, if they be impenitent and incorrigible.

Drinkofferings; under which he comprehends all their offerings, the reason being for substance the same in all; but he mentions these particularly, because of a special corruption in them above their other sacrifices, to wit, that the very matter of them was unlawful, as we shall see; which also might serve both to convince and deter those Israelites which hearkened after idolatry, and made no conscience of maintaining communion with idolaters, which was the case of many of them in Saul’s time; and to justify himself for his detestation of them, . and of all fellowship with them. Of blood; in which the Gentiles used (as divers learued men have observed) to offer, and sometimes to drink part of the blood of their sacrifices, whether of beasts or of men, as either of them were sacrificed; which must needs be very hateful to God, because he had so severely forbidden the drinking of blood to his people, either at their sacrifices, or in their common food.

Nor take up their names, i.e. of those other gods mentioned before. I abhor the very name and memory of them. Not that he thought it unlawful to name these idols, which is frequently done by holy prophets, but to express the odiousness of the thing by his loathing of the very name and shadow of them. Compare Exodus 23:3; Deuteronomy 12:3; Hosea 2:16,Hosea 2:17; Ephesians 5:3. Or the sense is, I will not swear by them; for taking up one’s name is used for swearing, Exodus 20:7.

Verse 5

Of mine inheritance, or, of my division, i.e. of that inheritance which God hath mercifully divided or distributed to me, and which I by his grace have chosen for myself. I envy not the vast riches and glory of idolaters, but do heartily rejoice in God as my portion, and desire no better nor no other felicity. God, who hath suffered other nations to walk in their own idolatrous ways, hath granted this favour to me, to know and worship him, the only true God. And as other nations have chosen and do adhere to their false gods, so have I chosen God, and will cleave to him.

And of my cup; the same thing repeated in other words. The portion of my cup, is the portion which is put into my cup, as the ancient manner was in feasts, where each had his portion of meat and of wine allotted to him. See Psalms 11:6. The cup oft denotes a man’s portion or condition, as Matthew 20:22; Matthew 26:39.

Thou maintainest my lot, i.e. my inheritance divided to me by lot, as the custom then was, Joshua 18:11; Judges 1:3; q.d. As thou hast given me an excellent lot, having planted me among thine own people, and in that place which thou hast chosen for thy dwelling and worship, so, I doubt not, thou wilt uphold and preserve me there, in spite of all the malicious designs of mine enemies that seek to drive me hence.

Verse 6

The lines, i.e. my portion, which was measured with lines. Compare Joshua 17:5; Deuteronomy 32:9.

In pleasant places; in a sweet land flowing with milk and honey, and, above all, blessed with the presence, and knowledge, and service of the true God.

Verse 7

Who hath given me counsel, Heb. consulted for me, i.e. by his wise and gracious counsel hath provided so good an heritage for me, and withal inspired that counsel and wisdom into me, by which I have chosen the Lord for my portion, and am so fully satisfied with him.

My reins, i.e. my inward thoughts and affections, (which are commonly signified by the reins, as Psalms 7:9; Psalms 26:2; Psalms 73:21; Psalms 139:13; Jeremiah 11:20; Jeremiah 12:2; Jeremiah 17:10) being inspired and moved by the Holy Spirit.

Instruct me, i. e. direct me what course to take, how to please and serve God, and to put my whole trust and confidence in him, as it follows.

In the night seasons; not only in the day time, but also in the night, when others are asleep, but my mind is working upon God, and the things of God, and improving the silence, and leisure, and solitude of the night to holy meditations, and the exciting of my affections towards God.

Verse 8

i.e. I have always presented him to my mind as my rule and scope, as my witness and judge, as my patron and protector, in the discharge of my office, and in all my actions. Hitherto David seems to have spoken in his own person, and with special respect to himself; but now he seems to have been transported by a higher, inspiration of the Spirit of prophecy, and to be carried above himself, and to have an eye to the man Christ Jesus, who is and was the end of the law, and the great scope of all the prophets, and to speak of himself only as a type of Christ, and with more special respect unto Christ, in whom this and the following verses were much more truly and fully accomplished than in himself. Christ as man did always set his Father’s will and glory before him, as he himself oft declareth, especially in St. John’s Gospel.

He is at my right hand, to wit, to strengthen me, (for the right hand is the chief seat of a man’s strength, and, instrument of action,) to protect, assist, and comfort me, as this phrase signifies, Psalms 119:31; Psalms 90:5. And this assistance of God was necessary to Christ as man.

I shall not be moved, or, removed, either from the discharge of my duty, or from the attainment of that glory and happiness which is prepared for me. Though the archers shoot grievously at me, and both men and devils seek my destruction, and God sets himself against me as an enemy, withdrawing his favour from me, and filling me with deadly sorrows, through the sense of his anger; yet I do not despair, but am assured that God will deliver me out of all my distresses.

Verse 9

Therefore; upon this ground and confidence. My heart; the proper seat of joy, and of all the affections.

My glory; either,

1. My soul, which isindeed the glory of a man. Or rather,

2. My tongue, which also is a man’s glory and privilege above all other living creatures, and the instrument of glorifying both God and man; and which is oft called a man’s glory, as Genesis 49:6; Psalms 30:12; Psalms 57:8; Psalms 108:1; Psalms 149:5. And so this very word is translated Acts 2:26. And thus the distinction between heart, and glory, and

flesh is more certain and evident. Rejoiceth; or, exulteth, i.e. declares or expresseth my inward joy. For this verb signifies not so much internal joy, as the outward and visible demonstrations of it in words or gestures and carriages.

My flesh shall rest, i.e. my body shall quietly and sweetly rest in the grave, to which I am hastening.

In hope, i.e. in confident assurance of its incorruption there, and of its resurrection to a blessed and immortal life, as it is explained, Psalms 16:10,Psalms 16:11. The flesh or body is in itself but a dead and senseless lump of clay, yet hope is here ascribed to it figuratively, as it is to the brute creatures, Romans 8:19, because there is matter and foundation for such hope, if it were capable of it, the good promised and expected being certainly future.

Verse 10

My soul, i.e. my person, as this word is every where used by a synecdoche of the part, and then the person by another synecdoche of the whole is put for the body. The soul is oft put for the body; either for the living body, as Psalms 35:3 105:18, or for the carcass or dead body, as it is taken Leviticus 19:28; Leviticus 21:1; Numbers 5:2; Numbers 6:6,Numbers 6:9,Numbers 6:11; Numbers 9:10; Numbers 19:11,Numbers 19:13; and so it is interpreted in this very place, as it is produced, Acts 2:29, &c.; Acts 13:36,Acts 13:37.

In hell, i.e. in the grave or state of the dead, as appears,

1. From the Hebrew word scheol, which is very frequently so understood, as is undeniably evident from Genesis 42:38; Numbers 16:30; Job 14:13; compared with Job 17:13; Psalms 18:5; Psalms 30:3; Psalms 141:7; Ecclesiastes 9:10; Ezekiel 32:21,Ezekiel 32:27; Jonah 2:2, and many other places.

2. From the following clause of this verse.

3. From Acts 2:0; Acts 13:0;, where it is so expounded and applied. Thine Holy One, i.e. me thy holy Son, whom thou hast sanctified and sent into the world: It is peculiar to Christ to be called the Holy One of God, Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34. To see corruption, or rottenness, i.e. to be corrupted or putrefied in the grave, as the bodies of others are. Seeing is oft put for perceiving by experience; in which sense men are said to see good, Psalms 34:12, and to see death, or the grave, Psalms 89:48; Luke 2:26; John 8:51, and to see sleep, Ecclesiastes 8:16. And the Hebrew word shochath, though sometimes by a metonymy it signifies the pit or place of corruption, yet properly and generally it signifies corruption or perdition, as Job 17:14; Job 33:18,Job 33:30; Psalms 35:7; Psalms 55:23; Jonah 2:6, and is so rendered by the seventy Jewish interpreters, Psalms 107:20; Proverbs 28:10; Jeremiah 13:4; Jeremiah 15:3; Lamentations 4:20; Ezekiel 19:4; Ezekiel 21:31. And so it must be understood here, although some of the Jews, to avoid the force of this argument, render it the pit. But in that sense it is not true; for whether it be meant of David, as they say, or of Christ, it is confessed that both of them did see the pit, i.e. were laid in the grave. And therefore it must necessarily be taken in the other sense now mentioned; and so it is properly and literally true in Christ alone, although it may in a lower and metaphorical sense be applied to David, who had a just and well-grounded confidence, that although God might bring him into great dangers and distresses, which are called the sorrows of death, and the pains of hell, Psalms 116:3; yet God would not leave him to perish in or by them.

Verse 11

Thou wilt show me, i.e. give me an exact and experimental knowledge of it, for my own comfort, and the benefit of my people.

The path of life, i.e. the way that leadeth to life; not to a temporal and mortal life here, for he is supposed to be dead and buried, Psalms 16:10; but to an endless, and immortal, and blessed life after death in the presence of God, as it followeth; the way to which is by the resurrection of the body. So the sense is, Thou wilt raise me from the grave, and conduct me to the place and state of everlasting felicity.

In thy presence, Heb. with or before thy face, i.e. in that heavenly paradise, where thou art graciously and gloriously present, where thou dost clearly and fully discover thy face, and the light of thy countenance; whereas in this life thou hidest thy face, and shewest us only thy back parts, and we are in a state of absence from thee, and see thee only through a glass darkly, and enjoy thee but in part.

Fulness of joy, i.e. full and perfect joy and satisfaction, which it is in vain to expect in this life, and is only to be found in the sight of thee. See Exodus 33:14; Psalms 17:5; Matthew 5:8; 1 John 3:2.

At thy right hand; which he mentions as a place of greatest honour, as this was, Genesis 48:13, &c.; 1 Kings 2:19; Psalms 45:9, and the place where the elect and saints are placed at the last day, Matthew 25:33, &c.; and lastly, at the place where Christ himself is said to sit, Psalms 110:1; Matthew 26:64; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3.

Pleasures for evermore; everlasting delights in the contemplation and fruition of God.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Psalms 16". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.