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Bible Commentaries

Scott's Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations on the book Psalms

Psalms 16

Verses 1-11

David seeks protection from God, disclaims all merit ; and avows his love to the saints, and his hatred of idolatry, 1- 4. He rejoices in God as his Portion, and thanks him for giving him counsel, 5- 7. He speaks prophetically of the resurrection and glory of* Christ, and of the happiness of his people, 8 -11.

Psalms 16:1-11. Michtam. This word signifies golden; and the title is supposed to intimate, that the psalm is upon a most precious subject : accordingly it is quoted by two apostles as a prophecy of Christ ; and the language of it towards the close can suit no other person. (Notes, Acts 2:25-32; Acts 13:24-37.) It is probable, David began his meditation with reference to his own case: but he was carried out beyond himself to use expressions prophetical of the Messiah ; and indeed he seems to have known, that the Holy Spirit intended much greater things than any of his personal concerns. In this view, it may be considered, as throughout the soliloquy of Christ.

V. 2, 3. While the Psalmist most solemnly avouched JEHOVAH for his God, and owned him as his Governor and Judge ; he disclaimed all merit in his services, and ascribed all his goodness and the honour of it to God. His good works could not profit the Source of all happiness ; (Notes, Job 22:1-4; Job 35:4-8:) ’yet they might be useful to the saints, in whom, as the most excellent persons on earth, and as especially beloved by the Lord, the Psalmist delighted. ’If thou wilt... protect me, I will ’ employ all my power, when I come to the throne, to ’ protect the pious ; worthy men. . .shall be preferred and ’ honoured ; for they are the persons who are most dear to ’ me, and in whose company alone I delight.’ Bp. Patrick. Even the perfect righteousness of the Saviour can add nothing to the essential glory and happiness of the Father ? but it is the meritorious cause of the acceptance, and sanctification, and eternal felicity of his people, in whom alone

of Adam’s race he greatly delights. (Notes, Proverbs 8:31. Is. 62. 1- 5. John 15:9-11. Ephesians 5:22-27.)

V. 4. It is the opinion of learned men, that this psalm was composed when David lived among the Philistines; ;md when, perhaps, some of his associates were strongly tempted to join the idolatrous worship, which they witnessed. But he shewed them, that this would certainly bring on them additional miseries, by the just judgment of God. Adverting perhaps to Joshua’s resolution, " As " for me and my house we will serve the LORD ; " (Note, Joshua 24:15 ;) he avowed his determination to have no communion in such abominations, and not so much as to

mention the names of their detestable idols. We do not read of " drink-offerings of blood " in any other place. Either it was customary among the idolaters to taste the blood of the victims, (which were often human victims,) before it was poured out in honour of the idol ; or they poured the blood, as the Israelites did wine, for a libation, on the sacrifice when burning on the altar : or else the wine, used in idolatrous sacrifices, was as abominable to God, as if the blood itself had been drunk ; which, being the atonement for sin, was expressly prohibited to be tasted

by the Israelites. Even the sacrifices at the sanctuary of God at length became an abomination to those who rejected Christ ; and to those who hastened after others professing to be the promised Messiah. In like manner, the most splendid services of those, who approach God through other mediators than Jesus Christ, whether deceased men, or angels, are, as idolatrous, an abomination

to God. (Notes, h. Psalms 66:3-4. Colossians 2:18-19. Hebrews 10:26-27.)

V. 5, 6. JEHOVAH was David’s present comfort, a Source of exultation and refreshoient, as the cup of water to the thirsty, or of wine to the faint : he was also his future Inheritance ; and he who allotted him his portion, would maintain him in it, and never leave him to forfeit it. As Canaan was divided by lot and line, these metaphors are used to represent his joy in the favour of God. (Ixxviii. 55. Notes, Psalms 23:5-6. Numbers 26:53 . Joshua 13:6.) But the Saviour himself has obtained the most goodly heritage ; and his people are admitted to partake of it. (Notes, Matthew 25:19-23. Luke 19:11-27.

V. 7 The Psalmist’s meditation, experience, and chastisements, and the immediate communications of wisdom and knowledge, which he received during his midnight reflections and devotions, concurred with outward instructions, in counselling him, and teaching him to act, with prudence and caution, in his difficult circumstances. They likewise combined, in confirming him to choose God for his Portion. In the dark season of adversity and affliction, and when chastened with painful sickness, as well as in the silent hours of the night, heavenly wisdom was communicated to him. The reins, or kidneys, were considered by the Israelites, as especially affected, by whatever caused uneasiness or satisfaction ; nay, they are often spoken of as the seat of reflection and the secret purposes of the soul. (Marg. Ref. t.)

V. 8- 11 . David might perhaps have some regard to his own hope and experience, in these verses : but doubtless Christ was especially intended. As Man, he relied on the power, truth, love, and promise of the Father : therefore he was not moved in his deepest sufferings ; but " for the joy set before him, he endured the cross, and " despised the shame." (Note, Hebrews 12:2-3.) He willingly yielded to death, assured that his human soul should not be left in the place of separate spirits, nor his body in the grave till it began to corrupt ; but that he should arise on the third day, and afterwards ascend to heaven, as the First-fruits of the Resurrection, and the Fore-runner of his people. Thus was he shewn " the path of life," and he pointed it out to his followers ; even the way into the presence of God, where is fulness of joy: and he ’was seated at the right hand of the Father, where are pleasures, for him and for his people, for evermore.

Acts 2:27-32. Many learned men interpret the two clauses of this verse to mean exactly the same thing, referring both of them to the body of Christ, laid in the grave, and raised before it saw corruption : but, as the article concerning ’ Christ’s descending into hell,’ in the very ancient form called the apostle’s creed, though doubtless of something later date than the apostolical age, is grounded on this expression, and the application of it; it is evident, that the compilers of it supposed that something further was intended than merely being buried. And the original (as

well as the translation of the LXX quoted in the Acts of the Apostles,) favours the idea of a distinct meaning in each clause. Both the Hebrew word and the Greek, by which it is constantly rendered, denote the state of man, when no longer seen on earth. ’ When spoken * of the body, they signify the grave ; when of the soul, ’ they refer to that state in which the soul is without the body, whether Paradise or Hell, properly so called.’ Archbp. Usher. The human nature of Christ consisted of body and soul : his soul was, during the space between his death and his resurrection, as certainly in the place of separate spirits, as his body was in the grave ; but when he arose, they were both called forth and reunited. (Notes, Acts 2:25-32; Acts 13:24-37) These words are never used, but with respect to men between death and the resurrection ; and never concerning angels, or the state of men after the resurrection : nor are they ever used, when the burial or grave of an individual is spoken of. But they are applied, both with respect to the grave and the place of separation, to good and to bad men in general, without much discrimination and the representation given in the parable of the rieh man and Lazarus, seems to place Lazarus as well as the rich man, in Hades ; but in another division of it. (Notes, Luke 16:19-31.) Thus the pagans placed their Elysium adjacent to Tartarus, as two parts in the same region of the dead.


Our Lord and Saviour has shewn us, by his example, how to overcome temptations, and how we may be preserved through trials : we must trust in God, and pour out our prayers before him, as in Christ reconciled to every believer. But we must also remember continually, that all good comes from God, to whom the whole glory appertains; and that the most perfect obedience, of his noblest creatures, cannot render him their Debtor, or add to his felicity. What then are our defective and polluted services ! Yet, when from our heart we avouch the God of heaven for our Lord, we shall for his sake do good to his people : and if we account them to be, as they really are, " the excellent of the earth," and delight in them, and in their prosperity ; we may, after his example, in a subordinate degree, be very useful to them. And, as our righteousness and snlvation were the purchase of his blood, we should not be reluctant to deny ourselves, to labour, or to suffer for that purpose. Not only they who seek after other gods, but those who worship other mediators, and invent other methods of salvation than that revealed in the scripture, are hastening to multiply their own sorrows : God abhors their pompous and expensive superstitions and services ; our great High Priest will not present such sacrifices, nor mention the names of such worshippers, in his continual intercession; and Christians should carefully avoid all fellowship with anti-christian delusions. They need not have recourse to these vain expedients, any more than to worldly vanities : for " the " God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" is their God and Father in him ; their present Comforter and their allsufficient and eternal Portion ; and he will maintain their lot, as well as that of their Surety, in defiance of the united power and policy of earth and hell. The poorest believer may therefore triumphantly say, " The lines are " fallen unto me in pleasant places ; yea, I have a goodly " heritage." (Notes, Romans 8:28-39.) What thanks then are due to him, who has counselled us to make this happy choice ; who has taught us to profit by our daily experience, and to find comfort in him in the hours of solitude, and in seasons of affliction ! He who has learned to set God before him, to act as in his presence, and to rely on his watchful care and protection, may be sharply tried and tempted : but he cannot be moved ; for the power, which upheld the Saviour, is engaged on his side. While our hearts rejoice in such blessings, let us use our tongues, as indeed " the glory" of our nature, in celebrating the praises of our God ; while too many are proving their tongues to be " unruly evils full of deadly " poison." And as the Saviour, the Holy One of God, saw not corruption, but arose the First-fruits of them that slept, and ascended into heaven to open for us the paths of life and salvation ; so the believer need not fear, either lest his soul should be left to perish, or lest his body should remain in the grave. His flesh too may rest in hope ; for though it see corruption, it shall be raised again incorruptible : and both body and soul shall be shewn the path of life, and admitted into the presence of God, " where " is fulness of joy, and to his right hand, where are pleasures for evermore." Wherefore let us comfort ourselves and each other, with these words.

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Bibliographical Information
Scott, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 16". Scott's Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations on the book Psalms. 1804.