The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Psalm 16

Psa 16:1

SUPERSCRIPTION: "A MICHTAM OF DAVID". "Michtam" sig "to cut, engrave (Jer 2:22), or write (Exo 17:14)", and hence to remember. The 6 "michtam" psalms are thus "memorial" psalms, of a very personal nature, having the hope of resurrection as a common theme (Psa 16:10,11; 56:13; 57:3; 58:10,11; 59:16; 60:5,12).

HISTORICAL SETTING: Poss David establishing worship on mount Zion (2Sa 6).

IN YOU I TAKE REFUGE: Justification by faith for Messiah as well as for those in him.

Psa 16:2

"Thou hast no need of my goodness" (WK), ie of the sacrifices he has brought: 2Sa 6:13,17,22.

It is difficult to believe that the "I have said" refers to Jesus. If vv 2c,3 are the Father's reply to v 2ab, the emphasis is on Christ as a sacrifice for sins, for the benefit of "the saints... in whom is all my delight". Thus, "my goodness is not to thee (only), but (also) to the saints."

Psa 16:3

THE SAINTS... THE GLORIOUS ONES IN WHOM IS ALL MY DELIGHT: The people of Israel who shared David's religious enthusiasm that day: 2Sa 6:18,19. And David's delight was God's delight also: v 14. The phrase is almost identical with Isa 62:4, where God's "delight" in Zion and her people is mirrored in good king Hezekiah's delight in his bride Hephzibah.

SAINTS: "Saints", or "holy ones": applied to angels (Dan 8:13), to God (Psa 71:22; Isa 43:3; 2Ki 19:22), and to men (Psa 34:9; 106:16).

IN THE LAND: Or "earth" (AV), indicates that these saints are men.

IN WHOM IS ALL MY DELIGHT: Cp Isa. 53:10,11.

Psa 16:4

The lure of false worship scarcely crops up at all in the life of David. The greatness and guidance of God filled his entire horizon. Then why these insistent contrasts? (Is the "other god" Mammon, perhaps? Mat 6:24. Consider Paul's allusion to this verse in 1Ti 6:10.)

THE SORROWS OF THOSE WILL INCREASE: An echo of the original judgment upon the woman Eve: "I will greatly multiply thy sorrow" (Gen 3:16). The "other god" which she sought was herself, elevated to the status of the Elohim!

OTHER GODS: "Another god" (AV) is italicized. Instead, "another salvation"? -- thus this v perfectly describes the Judaistic confidence in the Mosaic law and offerings. RV reads: "exchange the Lord for another", as the Jews exchanged Jesus for Barabbas.

Psa 16:5

MY PORTION... CUP... LOT: Deu 32:9 has the same idea in reverse; 2Sa 6:19 has the same word: "portion". Also, the special Levitical allotments in midst of Israel: Num 18:20; Deu 10:8,9; 18:1. LXX: "Thou art the restorer of my inheritance." After Christ's resurrection the disciples put v 10 alongside these words and inferred that their Master would now "restore again the kingdom to Israel" (Acts 1:8)?

Psa 16:6

BOUNDARY LINES: In the sense of demarcation lines: Jos 17:5,14; 19:9. Apt to the firm establishment of a wider empire, as indicated in 2Sa 8:2 (sw). Lines is used here as boundary lines of an inheritance. In Joh 2:15, sw = cords of a whip, as though with ref to v 4 here. In driving the moneychangers out of his Father's house, Christ was asserting his own right of inheritance: he was the messenger of the Lord and of the covenant, come suddenly to his temple (Mal 3:1)!

Psa 16:7

CT Psa 13:2; cp Psa 32:8.

WHO COUNSELS ME: Christ's constant counsel with the Father (Mar 1:35; Joh 6:15). The personal fellowship with the Father, constantly emphasized in John's gospel (Joh 5:19,20; 8:28; 12:49; 14:10). All this, of course, uniquely qualifies Jesus to be the Wonderful Counselor of his people (Isa 9:6,7; Mic 4:9).

MY HEART: "My reins" (AV). An indirect allusion to the girdle of the high priest -- worn about the reins -- and the counsel of Urim and Thummim contained therein (Lev 8:7; cp 2Sa 6:14)?

Psa 16:8

ALWAYS: A word used often for the daily sacrifice. (NT) Not strictly true regarding David, but always true of Jesus; hence Peter's inclusion of this verse in his quotation in Act 2:25-28: it serves to reinforce his v 24: "because it was not possible that he should be held" by the grave.

HE IS AT MY RIGHT HAND: Ct Psa 110:1, also quoted (about the Ascension) in Act 2:34. The apparent contradiction is readily resolved by reading v 8 here (God at Christ's right hand) with ref to Jesus on trial; and Psa 110:1 (Christ at God's right hand) with ref to Jesus ascended to heavenly glory.

I WILL NOT BE SHAKEN: The early days of David's reign had not been without crisis: foes on every side: 2Sa 8.

Psa 16:9

TONGUE: "Kabod" = glory, as in AV. A metonym for tongue or voice; ie that which gives glory to God (Psa 30:12; 108:1). It is so used by Peter in Act 2:26, when quoting this v.

MY BODY ALSO WILL REST SECURE: "My flesh shall rest (ie tabernacle) in hope." 'In hope of resurrection', seems to be the obvious idea. But "hope" is a word strongly associated with hope of children (Rth 1:12,13; Rom 4:18; 1Pe 1:3), so there may be here a hint of Jesus as the Firstborn from the dead, the first of a new generation. Isa 53:8,10: "Who shall declare his generation?... He shall see his seed..."

Psa 16:10

With ref to David these phrases need to be qualified with a "not now, not yet". Read thus, the words are very appropriate to the sickness which laid David low at this time: Psa 30, notes.

ME: "My soul" (AV). Simply a more emphatic way of saying "me", as in 59:3; 35:1,3; Jer. 18:20.

GRAVE: "Sheol". Clearly used by Peter in Act 2:27,31; and by Paul in Act 13:35 as meaning 'my body in the grave, in death'. Cp Num 9:6, where 'dead body' is nephesh. The // in this v supports this meaning.

YOUR HOLY ONE: So speaks David the "priest": Deu 33:8; 2Sa 6:14. (2) A title suggesting divinity: cp Isa 1:4; 10:17; Hos 11:9; Hab 1:12; etc. According to RV, RSV, NEB, and NIV, it was conferred upon Jesus by Peter in Joh 6:69, in recognition of his Messiahship. (The only other time in the gospels that this title was given to Jesus was by the demoniac in the synagogue: Mar 1:24.)

NOR WILL YOU LET YOUR HOLY ONE SEE DECAY: This certainly implies resurrection before the physical corruption of the body could set in (Joh 11:39). But there is more. The superb accuracy of the prophetic phrase shows up here. Through centuries, burial custom in Palestine was to practice multiple burials in large tombs with many side-chambers; then, after long years, some of these chambers would be partially cleared to allow for yet more burials. But Jesus was buried in Joseph's "own new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid" (Joh 19:41). So there was no suggestion of decay about that tomb whatsoever. In his resurrection Jesus did not so much as see corruption. So Christ was like the manna that came down from heaven (Joh 6:35,41, 48,50,51,58), preserved from corruption in God's presence (Exo 16:32-24; Heb 9:4).

Psa 16:11

THE PATH OF LIFE: This is his resurrection. Also, "the way of the tree of life", the only way, for those in him (Gen 3:24; cp Joh 14:6).

YOU WILL FIND ME WITH JOY IN YOUR PRESENCE: One of the few prophecies of the ascension: cp Rev 5:5-7. For "presence", see Psa 17:15.

WITH ETERNAL PLEASURES AT YOUR RIGHT HAND: Christ's intercessory work: Psa 110:1,4; and also his authority to open the Book of Life, hence... pleasures for evermore: Rev 5:9,10; Also, Isa 53:10. There are several allusions to Heb 12 in these last few verses.

ETERNAL PLEASURES: "Every minute of your life belongs to God. It is doubly His. It is His to begin with, and you have freely dedicated it to Him in solemn covenant. Do not rob Him: it is folly -- He is a jealous God. His holiness and righteousness require that He punish folly in those who have taken on His holy Name before men. And do not rob yourself of the total joy of total service. There is no happiness of the consciousness of a day fully immersed in the divine atmosphere, and fully, energetically spent in the divine service. You have unmeasured treasures of pleasure within hand's reach. Reach out! Why be satisfied with present passing worldly crumbs and ashes when eternal joy beckons?" (GVG).

"What will make you happy? Will that new car make you happy? Will that new home make you happy? How about a new job? What about a new spouse, will that make you happy? It seems that there is always "something else" that will make us happy. Then, after we have obtained that new object of our affection, we find that the happiness was temporary and we must find something else to sustain our happiness.

"Everlasting happiness is found only in the presence of God. God has promised us a joy that can never fade if we will only follow the path that He has made for us; following Him in our daily life will bring permanent joy and happiness.

"Today, don't strive too much for temporary happiness. Strive to obtain the eternal happiness that can only be found through Him" (MT).

AT YOUR RIGHT HAND: Sb "in thy right hand" (RV), ie in the hand that dispenses blessings and gifts (Gen 48:14-20; Pro 3:16).

RIGHT HAND: Strength (Exo 15:6; Psa 20:6; 63:8; 118:15,16); righteousness (Psa 48:10); authority (Isa 62:8); honor (Gen 48:13-18; 1Ki 2:19); salvation (Psa 17:7; 60:5); and fellowship (Psa 16:11).

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