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Bible Commentaries

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Psalms 16

A.M. 2944. B.C. 1060.

In this Psalm, upon whatever occasion, or in whatever distress David might compose it, we are taught by the Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, Acts 2:25 ; Acts 13:35 , to consider him as speaking, at least in the latter part of it, in the person of Christ. Indeed the former part also, consisting of strong expressions of devotion, may be interpreted of Christ, though not so conveniently as of David; but certainly the latter part, which speaks with such confidence of a resurrection before seeing corruption is true of Christ only, for David died, was buried, and saw corruption. The fact seems to be, as some learned expositors have stated, that, as David was both a member, and an eminent type of Christ, he speaks of himself sometimes in the one, and sometimes in the other capacity, and passes 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 in the latter part; and being inspired by the Holy Ghost with the knowledge and contemplation of Christ’s passion and resurrection, he speaks such things, as though they might be accommodated to himself in a very imperfect and improper sense; yet could not truly, literally, properly, and completely belong to any but Christ, to whom therefore they are justly appropriated in the New Testament. Here then David,

(1,) Speaking of himself as a member of Christ, professes his confidence in God, his adherence to him and love to his people, Psalms 16:1-3 . His attachment to the true worship of God, and his entire complacency and satisfaction in him, Psalms 16:4-7 .

(2,) As a type of Christ, and therefore in the person and language of Christ, he speaks of the presence of God with him, Psalms 16:8 . Of the resurrection and the glory that should follow, Psalms 16:9-11 .

Title. Michtam of David That is, as many render it, a golden Psalm of David, a very precious one, more to be valued than gold, because it speaks of Christ and his resurrection, who is the true treasure hid in the field of the Old Testament. The same title occurs before some other Psalms, and is rendered constantly by the LXX., στηλογραφια , “all inscription for, or to be engraved on, a pillar.” Hence Dr. Waterland translates it, David’s sculpture. It seems to mean, says Dr. Dodd, that those Psalms to which this word is prefixed are especially remarkable, and worthy of everlasting remembrance; worthy to be written in golden letters, and set up, like the ten commandments with us, in some public place, to teach; for so it is expressed in the title of Psalms 60:0., Michtam of David, to teach, that is, that the people might learn it, and be able to join in the repetition of it.

Verse 1

Psalms 16:1. Preserve me, O God Hebrew שׁמרני , shamereeni, keep, support, guard, or defend me These words are evidently spoken by one in trouble and distress, or in danger, either from his enemies or in some other way. As David was frequently in such circumstances, they were probably primarily spoken by him in his own person, as a member of Christ, and they are words which often suit the case of any believer, who has frequently need to pray for support under troubles and distresses, to be protected against his spiritual enemies, and preserved and kept from the sins to which he is exposed. For in thee do I put my trust And therefore thou art in honour and by promise obliged not to deceive my confidence. The Hebrew, חסיתי בךְ , chasiti back, properly means, I have fled to thee for protection, the verb חסה , chasah, meaning, “recipere se ad aliquem, sub cujus protectione tutus sit, ut pulli sub alis gallinarum,” to betake one’s self to any one, under whose protection one may be safe, as chickens under the wings of the hens. Thus they who make God their refuge and strength, and by faith commit themselves to his care, shall be safe under the shadow of the Almighty, and shall find him a present help in the time of trouble. Dr. Horne, who considers the whole Psalm as “one continued speech, without change of person,” supposes the contents of this verse, as well as of the rest of the Psalm, to be spoken by Christ, who, he thinks, is here represented as making his supplication to the Father for the deliverance promised to, and expected by, him. Certainly the words are applicable to Christ, for he prayed, Father, save me from this hour, and trusted in God that he would deliver him.

Verses 2-3

Psalms 16:2-3. O my soul, thou hast said, &c. The words, O my soul, not being in the original, Houbigant translates the clause, I have said unto the Lord I have oftentimes avowed and professed it, and still persist so to do. Thou art my Lord By creation, preservation, and on various other accounts: the king, to whom I am subject, the master whom I serve, the father whom I obey, the husband and portion whom I love, and to whom I cleave. My goodness extendeth not to thee Whatever piety, or virtue, or goodness may be in me, or be done by me, it does 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 the expression, בל עליךְ , bal gnaleka, is sometimes used; that is, for thy use or benefit. Or, is not upon thee, that is, it lays no obligation upon thee. All which interpretations come to the same thing, and signify that 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 that good cannot prevent or oblige God any further than he is graciously pleased to oblige himself. Thus he renounces all opinion of merit; and, though he urged his trust in God, as a motive to induce God to preserve him, Psalms 16:1, yet he here declares he did not do it as supposing that God was indebted to him for it. The words, as applied to Christ, mean, that the services which he performed by his ministry, and the benefits which he procured by his sufferings, did not, properly speaking, make any addition of happiness and glory to God; because, being infinitely perfect in himself, his glory cannot be increased by any services which are paid him, nor be diminished by the crimes of his creatures. But to the saints That is, the faithful, who are sanctified in Christ Jesus. See 1 Corinthians 1:2; John 17:0. As if he had said, I bear singular respect and love to all saints, for thy sake, whose friends and servants they are, and whose image they bear. This more properly agrees to David than to Christ, whose goodness was principally designed for, and imparted to, sinners, and who did not find men saints, but made them so; nor was it confined to them that lived with him upon the earth, but extended to all believers, of all ages, before and after him. And to the excellent Hebrew ואדירי , veadiree, the magnificent, or mighty, or honourable, namely, the saints, as he now termed them, whom, because they were mean and despicable in the eyes of the world, he honours with their just titles, and by appropriating these titles to the people of God, he sufficiently intimates that all other men, how great soever, are truly ignoble before God, and vile persons, as he had termed them, Psalms 15:4. In whom is all my delight That is, whose company and conversation are pleasant and desirable to me. See Psalms 119:63.

Verse 4

Psalms 16:4. Their sorrows, &c. Having showed his great respect and affection to the saints and servants of the true God, he now declares what an abhorrence he had for those that worshipped idols, the increase of whose sorrows he foretels, that a consideration thereof might be a means of awakening and converting them to the Lord. That hasten after another God Or, that present to, or endow, (as the verb מהר , mahar, signifies, Exodus 22:16,) another God, namely, with oblations, as it follows. 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 mentions as a reason why he would have no fellowship with them in their idolatrous worship; and also, that by this comparison he might illustrate and commend his own happiness, in having the Lord for his portion, of which he speaks, Psalms 16:5-6. Their drink-offerings of blood Under which he comprehends all their offerings, none of which would he be concerned in offering; but he mentions these particularly, because of the peculiar wickedness implied in these sacrifices, more than in others. For in these, as divers learned men have observed, the heathen used not only to offer, but even to drink part of the blood of their sacrifices, whether of beasts or men, according as either of them were sacrificed. Which must needs have been very hateful to God, because he had so severely forbidden his people to drink or eat blood, either at their sacrifices or at their common meals. By this the psalmist probably meant to convince those Israelites of the greatness of their sin who hankered after idolatry, and made no conscience of maintaining communion with idolaters, (which was the case with many of them in Saul’s time,) as well as to justify himself for his detestation of them and of all fellowship with them. Nor take up their names into my lips The names of those other gods mentioned before. I abhor the very name and memory of them. Not that he thought it absolutely unlawful to mention the names of these idols, which is frequently done by holy prophets, but he means thus to express the odiousness of idolatry, by showing his hatred to the very names of idols. Compare Exodus 23:13; Deuteronomy 12:3; Hosea 2:16-17; Ephesians 5:3.

Verse 5

Psalms 16:5. The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance Hebrew, חלקי , chelki, of my division, that is, of that portion which God hath mercifully divided, or distributed to me, and which, by his grace, I 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 any other felicity. God, who hath suffered other nations to walk in their own idolatrous ways, hath granted this favour to me, that I should know, worship, and serve him, the only true God. And as other nations have chosen, and adhere to their false gods, so have I chosen Jehovah, and will cleave to him. And of my cup The portion that is put into my cup, as the ancient manner was in feasts, in which each had his portion of meat and of wine allotted to him: see Psalms 11:6. Thus while the carnal part of mankind take the world for their chief good, and place their felicity in the enjoyments of it, every truly pious and spiritual person, like David, will say, The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance, and of my cup. This is the portion I make choice of, and will gladly take up with, how poor soever my condition may be in this world. Let me have the love and favour of God, and be accepted of him: let me have the comfort of communion with him, and satisfaction in the communications of his graces and comforts: let me have an interest in his promises, and a title by promise to everlasting life and happiness in the future state, and I have enough, I need no more, I desire no more, to complete my felicity. Thou maintainest my lot My heritage, in allusion to the land of Canaan, divided by lot. As thou hast given me an excellent lot, having planted me among thy own people, and in that place, which thou hast chosen for thy dwelling, and for the house and ordinances of thy 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. Thus may the true Christian say: Thou, that hast by promise made over thyself to me to be mine, wilt graciously make good what thou hast promised. Thou wilt not leave me nor forsake me, nor put it into the power of mine enemies to rob me of my happiness in communion with thee, while I cleave to thee with full purpose of heart; and while the life I live in the flesh is by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Verse 6

Psalms 16:6. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places In a sweet land, flowing with milk and honey, and, above all, blessed with the presence and knowledge of the true God. The allusion is the same as it was in the preceding verse, lines signifying the lot or tract of land which it was anciently the custom to divide by lines. Those have reason to speak in this language who have God for their portion, for they have a worthy portion, a goodly heritage. What can they have better? What can they desire more? Return unto thy rest, O my soul, and look no farther. “Gracious souls,”

says Henry, “though they still covet more of God, never covet more than God; but, being satisfied they possess his loving-kindness, are satisfied with it, and envy not any their carnal mirth and sensual pleasures and delights, but account themselves truly happy in what they have, and doubt not but to be completely happy in what they hope for. And those whose lot is cast, as David’s was, in a land of light, in a valley of vision, where God is known and worshipped, have, upon that account, reason to say, the lines are fallen to them in pleasant places, much more they that have not only the means but the end not only Immanuel’s land, but Immanuel’s love.”

Verse 7

Psalms 16:7. I will bless the Lord who hath given me counsel The Hebrew,

יעצני , jegnatzani, may be rendered, hath consulted for me, that is, by his wise and gracious counsel hath provided so good a heritage for me: or, who hath inspired that counsel and wisdom into me by which I have chosen him for my portion and happiness, and am so fully satisfied with him. So ignorant and foolish are we, that, if we be left to ourselves, our hearts will follow our eyes, and we shall choose our own delusions, and forsake our own mercies, for lying vanities: and, therefore, if we have indeed taken God for our portion, and preferred spiritual and eternal blessings before those that are sensible and temporal, we must thankfully acknowledge the power and goodness of divine grace, directing and enabling us to make that choice. My reins also That is, my inward thoughts and affections (which are commonly signified by the reins, Psalms 7:9; Psalms 26:2; Jeremiah 11:20; Jeremiah 12:2; Jer 17:10 ) being inspired and moved by the Holy Spirit; instruct me Admonish me concerning my duty and happiness, direct me what course to take, how to please and glorify God, and to put my whole trust in, and live to him; in the night seasons Even when others are asleep my mind is employed about God and things divine, and engaged to improve the silence and solitude of the night in holy meditation, prayer, and devotion. All this may be applied to Christ, who made the Lord his portion, and was pleased with that portion; made his Father’s glory his highest end, and made it his meat and drink to seek that, and to do his will, and delighted to prosecute his undertaking, pursuant to his Father’s counsel, depending upon him to maintain his lot, and carry him through his undertaking. And we ought so far to apply it to ourselves as to learn from it wherein our duty and happiness consist, and to examine ourselves by it, whether we are properly influenced by such discoveries, and act accordingly.

Verse 8

Psalms 16:8. I have set the Lord always before me I have always presented him to my mind 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 chiefly in his own person, and with special regard to himself, but now he appears to be transported by the Spirit of prophecy, to be carried above himself, and to have an eye to the man Christ Jesus only, who is, and was, the end of the law, and the great subject and scope of all the prophecies. In other words, having hitherto spoken of himself as a member, he now begins to speak of himself as a type of Christ, in whom this, and the following verses, were truly and fully accomplished. Christ, as man, did always set his Father’s will and glory before him, as he himself often declares: see John 10:18; John 14:31. He is at my right hand To strengthen, protect, assist, and comfort me. And this assistance of God was necessary to Christ as man. I shall not be moved Either from the discharge of my duty, or from the attainment of that glory and happiness which are prepared for me. Though archers shoot grievously at me, and both men and devils seek my destruction, and God sets himself against me as an enemy; yet I am assured, he will deliver me from all my distresses.

Verse 9

Psalms 16:9. Therefore Upon this ground and confidence; my heart is glad I feel, not only a perfect satisfaction, but joy and triumph in my heart. And my glory My tongue, as St. Peter explains it, Acts 2:26. For the Hebrews give the tongue the name of glory, Psalms 30:12; Psalms 57:8; Psalms 108:1, because it was bestowed upon us that we might thereby glorify God and because it is our glory, as being the instrument of expressing our thoughts by words, a privilege not vouchsafed to any of the inferior creatures; rejoiceth Hebrew, יגל , jagel, exulteth; declares my inward joy. For this word signifies, not so much inward joy, as the outward demonstrations of it. My flesh also shall rest in hope My body shall quietly and sweetly rest in the grave, to which I am hastening, in confident assurance of its not suffering corruption there, and of its resurrection to immortal life. The flesh, or body, is in itself but a dead lump of clay; yet hope is here ascribed to it figuratively, as it is to the brute creatures, Romans 8:19, because there is a sufficient cause and foundation for such hope, if it were capable of it, the good promised and expected being future and certain.

Verse 10

Psalms 16:10. Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell Hebrew, לשׁאול , lesheol, rendered, εις αδην , by the LXX., and εις αδου , in hades, Acts 2:27, which word generally means the invisible world, or the state of separate spirits; not a place of torment, which the word αδης , hades, seldom means, and into which Christ’s soul certainly did not go after it left the body, but into paradise, Luke 23:43-46. See Bishop Pearson on the Creed, and Revelation 20:14, where death and hell (in the original hades) are said to be cast into the lake of fire, which shows that hades is a different place, or state, from the lake of fire, or what we call hell. The meaning of which passage is evidently, that then, the dead being raised, the state of separate spirits shall no longer have any existence, but men’s souls and bodies, being again united, the wicked shall have their place in the lake of fire, or in hell, properly so called, and the righteous in the third heaven, the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour, evidently distinguished from paradise, the place of holy souls, 2Co 12:2 ; 2 Corinthians 12:4; neither wilt suffer thy Holy One Me, thy holy Son, whom thou hast sanctified and sent into the world; (for it is peculiar to Christ to be called the Holy One of God, Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34;) to see corruption To be corrupted in the grave as the bodies of others are. Perhaps we ought to observe here that, in our printed Hebrew copies, the word rendered Holy One is plural, חסידיךְ , chesideika: but as the best expositor of the text, St. Peter, (with the LXX.,) renders it in the singular, τον οσιον σου , Acts 2:27; Acts 13:35, and as several Hebrew manuscripts read it in the singular, and as the Masorites themselves have ordered it to be so read, we may be satisfied it is the true reading.

Verse 11

Psalms 16:11. Thou wilt show me the path of life That is, 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, immortal, and blessed life after death, in the presence of God, as it follows; the way to which is by the resurrection of the body. The sense, therefore, is, Thou wilt raise me from the grave, and conduct me to the place and state of everlasting felicity. In thy presence Hebrew, את פניךְי , eth panecha, or, before thy face, that is, in that heavenly world 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 showest us only thy back parts, and we are in a state of comparative absence from thee, and see thee only through a glass darkly, and enjoy thee but in part. Is fulness of joy Full and perfect joy, and satisfaction, which it is in vain to expect in this life, and which is only to be found in the vision and fruition of thee, Exodus 33:14. See the margin. At thy right hand Which he mentions as a place of the greatest honour, the place where the saints have their station at the last day, Matthew 25:33, and where Christ himself is said to sit, Psalms 110:1; Matthew 26:64; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3. There are pleasures for evermore Everlasting delights in the contemplation and fruition of God. Observe, reader, through the resurrection of Christ, here foretold, every dying believer in him, like his dying Master, may cheerfully put off his body in confident expectation of a blessed immortality. His flesh also shall rest in hope. Our bodies have little rest in this world; but in the grave they shall rest as in their beds, Isaiah 57:2. We have little to hope for from this life, but we may rest in hope of a better life, and put off the body in that hope. Death destroys the hope of man, Job 14:14, but not the hope of a true Christian, Proverbs 14:32. He has hope in his death, “living hopes,” says Henry, “in dying moments; hopes that the body shall not be left for ever in the grave; but though it see corruption for a time, it shall, at the end of time, be raised to immortality; Christ’s resurrection is an earnest of ours, if we be his.” Observe further: “In this world sorrow is our lot, but in heaven there is joy; all our joys here are empty and defective; but, in heaven, there is fulness of joy; our pleasures here are transient and momentary, and such is the nature of them that it is not fit they should last long; but those at God’s right hand are pleasures for evermore; for they are the pleasures of immortal souls in the enjoyment of an eternal God.”

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 16". Benson's Commentary. 1857.