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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 116

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Psalms 116:0


Thanksgiving for Deliverance From DeathNo MT IntroThanksgiving for Deliverance From DeathThanksgiving for HealingSomeone Saved From Death Praises GodThanksgiving
Psalms 116:1-4Psalms 116:1-2Psalms 116:1-4Psalms 116:1-4Psalms 116:1-2
Psalms 116:3-4 Psalms 116:3-4a
Psalms 116:4b
Psalms 116:5-11Psalms 116:5-7Psalms 116:5-7Psalms 116:5-7Psalms 116:5-6
Psalms 116:7-9
Psalms 116:8-11Psalms 116:8-11Psalms 116:8-11
Psalms 116:10-13
Psalms 116:12-19Psalms 116:12-14Psalms 116:12-19Psalms 116:12-14
Psalms 116:14
Psalms 116:15 Psalms 116:15-19bPsalms 116:15
Psalms 116:16-17 Psalms 116:16-17
Psalms 116:18-19b Psalms 116:18-19
Psalms 116:19c Psalms 116:19c

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-4

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 116:1-4 1I love the Lord, because He hears My voice and my supplications. 2Because He has inclined His ear to me, Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live. 3The cords of death encompassed me And the terrors of Sheol came upon me; I found distress and sorrow. 4Then I called upon the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I beseech You, save my life!”

Psalms 116:1-4 This Psalm was written by a faithful follower facing death (cf. Psalms 116:3). He explains his thought processes on how to deal with this situation.

1. affirmation - I love the Lord, BDB 12, KB 17, Qal perfect (cf. Deuteronomy 6:5; Deuteronomy 30:6; Psalms 31:23)

2. why he loves YHWH

a. He hears my prayers, BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal imperfect

b. He has inclined His ear to me (parallel to a.), BDB 639, KB 692, Hiphil perfect

3. result - I will call upon Him, BDB 894, KB 1128, Qal imperfect

4. the psalmist's condition

a. cords of death (cf. Psalms 18:4-5) encompassed him, BDB 67, KB 79, Qal perfect

b. terrors (BDB 865 twice, of distress, cf. Psalms 118:5; Lamentations 1:3) of Sheol came upon (lit. “found,” BDB 592, KB 619, Qal perfect) him (see Special Topic: Where Are the Dead?)

5. conclusion - I called upon the name of the Lord, BDB 894, KB 1128, Qal imperfect

His words were, “O Lord, I beseech You, save my life,” BDB 572, KB 589, Piel imperative

Verses 5-11

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 116:5-11 5Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; Yes, our God is compassionate. 6The Lord preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me. 7Return to your rest, O my soul, For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. 8For You have rescued my soul from death, My eyes from tears, My feet from stumbling. 9I shall walk before the Lord In the land of the living. 10I believed when I said, “I am greatly afflicted.” 11I said in my alarm, “All men are liars.”

Psalms 116:5-11 After the psalmist prays he contemplates the characteristics of YHWH (see Special Topic: Characteristics of Israel's God).

1. gracious

2. righteous

3. compassionate

4. preserves the simple (BDB 834, KB 989, an untrained or naive person, but open to instruction, cf. Psalms 19:7)

YHWH shows His character.

1. He saved me - BDB 446, KB 440, Hiphil imperfect, Psalms 116:6; Psalms 116:6b

2. return to rest - BDB 996, KB 1427, Qal imperative (he talks to himself of a mental place of safety and security in YHWH), Psalms 116:7b

3. He has dealt bountifully with him (cf. Psalms 13:6; Psalms 119:17; Psalms 142:7), Psalms 116:7b

4. He rescued my soul (i.e., nephesh, BDB 659) from death - BDB 322, KB 321, Piel perfect, Psalms 116:8a

5. He rescued my eyes from tears, Psalms 116:8b

6. He rescued my feet from stumbling, Psalms 116:8c (cf. Psalms 56:13)

The psalmist's response.

1. see #2 above

2. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living (i.e., YHWH will heal/save him)

3. Psalms 116:10-11 is difficult to interpret in context. It may reflect

a. current faith

b. past statements (Paul quotes Psalms 116:11b in Romans 3:4)

These two verses must refer to those who seek/plot against the psalmist's life. If so, the context of this Psalm is not sickness but treachery (cf. Psalms 116:11b).

The LXX translation of Psalms 116:10 can be seen in 2 Corinthians 4:13, but the MT is uncertain.

Psalms 116:11 “in my alarm” This Qal infinitive construct (BDB 342, KB 339) denotes a state of mental fear, panic (cf. Psalms 31:22). The “rest” of Psalms 116:7 is the direct opposite of this word!

“All men are liars” As “rest” is the opposite of “alarm,” lying humans are the opposite of YHWH (cf. Numbers 23:19a; 1 Samuel 15:29; Romans 3:4).

Verses 12-19

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 116:12-19 12What shall I render to the Lord For all His benefits toward me? 13I shall lift up the cup of salvation And call upon the name of the Lord. 14I shall pay my vows to the Lord, Oh may it be in the presence of all His people. 15Precious in the sight of the Lord Is the death of His godly ones. 16O Lord, surely I am Your servant, I am Your servant, the son of Your handmaid, You have loosed my bonds. 17To You I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, And call upon the name of the Lord. 18I shall pay my vows to the Lord, Oh may it be in the presence of all His people, 19In the courts of the Lord's house, In the midst of you, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord!

Psalms 116:12-19 This strophe has all imperfects (except Psalms 116:16c), which denotes ongoing, continuous idolatry. The psalmist describes what he will do in worship at the temple and in life (cf. Psalms 116:9) because of YHWH's great care and deliverance (cf. Psalms 116:12).

1. he will lift up the cup of salvation, Psalms 116:13; Psalms 116:13a - AB (p. 149) says it was a ritual part of the thanksgiving sacrifice in the temple; it denotes a libation, not a drink (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 618)

2. he will call upon the name of the Lord, Psalms 116:13b, Psalms 116:17b (see Special Topic: “The Name” of YHWH)

3. he will pay his vows, Psalms 116:14, Psalms 116:18 (cf. Leviticus 27:0)

4. he will offer sacrifice, Psalms 116:17

5. he will praise YHWH in the temple, Psalms 116:19 (cf. Psalms 116:14) - this imperative may go at the beginning of Psalms 117:0 (LXX)

Psalms 116:15 The adjective “precious” (BDB 429) is usually used of valuable items. In this context it denotes the fact that YHWH cares deeply when His faithful followers go through trials and sickness on earth (cf. Psalms 72:14). He is aware of their situations and quickly comes to their aid (cf. Exodus 3:7).

In a fallen world, not every believer is physically delivered. Crises, problems, and fears do come. Even if we do not see God's presence, He is with us and for us. One day we will be with Him!

The NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 525, has a suggested an emendation that an “n” has dropped out of the word “death” and the root should be seen as the Aramaic word for “trust,” thereby rendering the line as

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the faith/trust of His loyal ones.”

The problem is the use of “precious” with “death.” Surely the death of saints is not precious (i.e., valuable). Some scholars have changed the meaning of the Hebrew “precious” (BDB 429) to “costly” or “painful.” It grieves YHWH for His faithful followers to suffer and die! The terrible results of the Fall were never His purpose in creation!

“saints” See note online at Psalms 16:10 and Psalms 30:4.

Psalms 116:16 Notice “I am Your servant” is repeated for emphasis. The term “servant” (BDB 713) has a wide semantic field but here it probably denotes “worshiper.”

The next line, “the son of Your handmaid,” is also found in Psalms 86:16 and denotes

1. a righteous mother

2. an Israelite mother

3. an idiom of humility

4. a slave family or faithful servant family

The psalmist bases this conclusion on the fact that YHWH has loosed (BDB 834, KB 986, Piel perfect) his bonds (BDB 64), which could denote

1. saved him from terminal sickness (straits or Sheol)

2. saved him from enemies

3. saved him from prison or exile

4. saved him from distress (the term [BDB 865] “straits” in Psalms 116:3 [twice] is used in Psalms 118:5 and Lamentations 1:3 of “distress”)

A simple way to express this verse would be “Here Am I” or “I am available for service.” YHWH has saved him, now he will willingly and fully serve Him (cf. Romans 12:1-2).


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Explain the possible life settings of this Psalm.

2. Is it unusual for death and Sheol to be personified?

3. List the characteristics of YHWH.

4. Why is Psalms 116:10-11 so hard to interpret?

5. What OT imagery lies behind Psalms 116:16?

6. List the words, phrases that reflect temple worship.

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Psalms 116". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/psalms-116.html. 2021.
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