Psalms 16


The contents of this Psalm are usually given in the following

manner: David, sojourning among idolaters, and being obliged

to leave his own country through Saul's persecution, cries to

God for help; expresses his abhorrence of idolatry, and his

desire to be again united to God's people, 1-4;

and declares his strong confidence in God, who had dealt

bountifully with him, 5-7.

Then follows a remarkable prophecy of the resurrection of

Christ, 8-11.


The title of this Psalm in the Hebrew is michtam

ledavid, which the Chaldee translates, "A straight sculpture of

David." The Septuagint, στηλογραφιατωδαςιδ, "The inscription on

a pillar to David;" as if the Psalm had been inscribed on a

pillar, to keep it in remembrance. As catham signifies to

engrave or stamp, this has given rise to the above inscription.

michtam also means pure or stamped gold; and hence it

has been supposed that this title was given to it on account of

its excellence: a golden Psalm, or a Psalm worthy to be written in

letters of gold; as some of the verses of Pythagoras were called

the golden verses, because of their excellence. Gold being the

most excellent and precious of all metals, it has been used to

express metaphorically excellence and perfection of every kind.

Thus a golden tongue or mouth, the most excellent eloquence; so

Chrysostom means, this eminent man having had his name from his

eloquence;-a golden book, one of the choicest and most valuable

of its kind, &c. But I have already sufficiently expressed my

doubts concerning the meanings given to these titles. See the note

on the title of Psalm lx. Ps 60:1

That David was the author there can be no doubt. It is most

pointedly attributed to him by St. Peter, Ac 2:25-31. That its

principal parts might have some relation to his circumstances is

also probable; but that Jesus Christ is its main scope, not only

appears from quotations made by the apostle as above, but from the

circumstance that some parts of it never did and never could apply

to David. From the most serious and attentive consideration of the

whole Psalm, I am convinced that every verse of it belongs to

Jesus Christ, and none other: and this, on reference, I find to be

the view taken of it by my ancient Psalter. But as he is referred

to here as the Redeemer of the world, consequently, as God

manifested in the flesh, there are several portions of the Psalm,

as well as in the New Testament, where the Divine and human

natures are spoken of separately: and if this distinction be

properly regarded, we shall find, not only no inconsistency, but a

beautiful harmony through the whole.

Verse 1. Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust.] On

the mode of interpretation which I have hinted at above, I

consider this a prayer of the man Christ Jesus on his entering on

his great atoning work, particularly his passion in the garden of

Gethsemane. In that passion, Jesus Christ most evidently speaks as

man; and with the strictest propriety, as it was the manhood, not

the Godhead, that was engaged in the suffering.

shomreni, keep me-preserve, sustain, this feeble humanity,

now about to bear the load of that punishment due to the whole of

the human race. For in thee, chasithi, have I hoped. No

human fortitude, or animal courage, can avail in my

circumstances. These are no common sufferings; they are not of a

natural kind; they are not proportioned to the strength of a

human body, or the energy of a human spirit; and my immaculate

humanity, which is subjected to these sufferings, must be

dissolved by them, if not upheld by thee, the strong God. It is

worthy of remark, that our Lord here uses the term, El, which

signifies the strong God, an expression remarkably suited to the

frailty of that human nature, which was now entering upon its

vicarious sufferings. It will be seen with what admirable

propriety the Messiah varies the appellations of the Divine Being

in this address; a circumstance which no translation without

paraphrase can express.

Verse 2. Thou hast said unto the Lord, Thou art my Lord] Thou

hast said layhovah, to Jehovah, the supreme, self-existing,

and eternal Being; Thou art my Lord, adonai attah,

Thou art my prop, stay, or support. As the Messiah, or Son of God,

Jesus derived his being and support from Jehovah; and the man

Christ was supported by the eternal Divinity that dwelt within

him, without which he could not have sustained the sufferings

which he passed through, nor have made an atonement for the sin of

the world; it is the suffering Messiah, or the Messiah in prospect

of his sufferings, who here speaks.

My goodness extendeth not to thee] There are almost endless

explanations of this clause; no man can read them without being

confounded by them. The SEPTUAGINT read οτιτωναγαθωνμουου

χρειανεχεις; Because thou dost not need my goods. The VULGATE

follows the Septuagint. The CHALDEE: My good is given only by

thyself. So the SYRIAC: My good is from thee. The ARABIC: Thou

dost not need my good works. And in this sense, with shades of

difference, it has been understood by most commentators and


Bishop Horsley translates, Thou art my good-not besides thee.

Dr. Kennicott, My goodness is not without thee.

I think the words should be understood of what the Messiah was

doing for men. My goodness, tobathi, "my bounty," is not to

thee. What I am doing can add nothing to thy divinity; thou art

not providing this astonishing sacrifice because thou canst derive

any excellence from it: but this bounty extends to the saints-to

all the spirits of just men made perfect, whose bodies are still

in the earth; and to the excellent, addirey, "the noble or

supereminent ones," those who through faith and patience inherit

the promises. The saints and illustrious ones not only taste of my

goodness, but enjoy my salvation. Perhaps angels themselves may be

intended; they are not uninterested in the incarnation, passion,

death, and resurrection of our Lord. They desire to look into

these things; and the victories of the cross in the conversion of

sinners cause joy among the angels of God.

The kedoshim, "saints," or consecrated persons, may refer

to the first planters of Christianity, evangelists, apostles, &c.,

who were separated from all others, and consecrated to the great

important work of preaching among the Gentiles the unsearchable

riches of Christ. With these was all the desire, chephets,

the good will and delight of Christ. In all their ministrations he

was both with them and in them.

The passage, taken as referring to David, intimates that he

abhorred the company of the profane and worthless, and delighted

to associate with them that excelled in virtue.

On these two verses the translation and paraphrase of my old

Psalter must not be forgotten:-

Ver. 1. Conserva me, Domine, &c.

Trans. Kepe me Lord, for I hoped in the; I said til Lord, my God

thou ert; for, of my gudes thu has na nede.

Par.-The voice of Crist in his manhede; prayand til the fader,

and sayand: Lord, fader, kepe me imang peplis, for I hoped in the,

noght in me. I said til the, my God, thu ert in that, that I am

man; for thu has no nede of my godes; bot I haf of the, al that I

haf; here is the wil pride of men confounded; that evenes that

thai haf ought of tham self bot syn.

Ver. 2. Sanctis qui sunt in terra, &c.

Trans. Til halowes the qwilk er his land, he selcouthed all my

willes in tham.

Par.-Noght til wiked, bot til halows clene in saule, and

depertid fra erdly bysynes, the qwilk er in his land: that es,

that haf fested thair hope in the land of heven; and rotyd in luf:

the qwilk hope es als anker in stremys of this werld. He

selcouthed al my willes, that of wonderful, he made my willes, of

dying and rysing, sett and fulfilled in tham: that es, in thair

profete, qware in that feled qwat it profeted tham my mekenes that

wild dye, and my myght to rise.

Verse 4. Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after

another god] The Chaldee has: "They multiply their idols, and

afterwards hasten that they may offer their gifts." In the Hebrew

text there is no word for God, and therefore Messiah or Saviour

might be as well substituted; and then the whole will refer to the

unbelieving Jews. They would not have the true Christ; they have

sought, and are seeking, another Messiah; and how amply fulfilled

has the prophetic declaration been in them! Their sorrows have

been multiplied for more than 1800 years.

The Vulgate and Septuagint, and after them the AEthiopic and

Arabic, have given this clause a widely different turn: "their

afflictions have been multiplied, and afterwards they have run

swiftly;" referring to the suffering saints: the more they were

afflicted and persecuted, the more fervent and prosperous they


Their drink-offerings of blood will I not offer] nesech is

a libation, whether of wine or water, poured out on the

sacrifice. A drink-offering of blood is not a correct form of

expression; it is rather the libation on the blood of the

sacrifice already made. Coverdale translates the same; but

Mathewes, who reformed his text in a few places, has Their

brente offeringes of bloude, without much mending the text; though

by this the exceptionable idea of a drink-offering of blood is

avoided. As applicable to our Lord, here is an intimation that

their libations and sacrifices should cease. None of these should

exist under the Christian dispensation; Jesus Christ's offering

upon the cross being the accomplishment and termination of all

such sacrifices.

Nor take up their names into my lips.] None of those sacrifices

shall be mentioned with any kind of respect after the end of their

institution shall have been accomplished; for sacrifice, offering,

burnt-offering, and sacrifice for sin, such as are offered

according to the law, God would no longer receive; therefore Jesus

said; "Lo, I come to do thy will; a body hast thou prepared me."

Since that time all these sacrifices have ceased. The old Psalter

is curious:-

Ver. 4. Multiplicate sunt infirmitates eorum; postea


Trans. Manyfalded er thair sekenes: and sythen thai hasted


Par.-That es at say; thai knew that thai war ful seke in body

and saule, and sythen thai hasted tham til the Leche; for he that

feles him seke, he sekes remedy. Il men wenes that thai er noght

seke for thi that dye in thair syn.

Non congregabo conventicula eroum de sanguinibus, &c.

Trans. I sal noght gadyr the coventes of tha of blodes; ne I sal

be menand of their names thurgh my lippis.

Par. That est at say, by the coventes of haly men, my servaundes

sal nout fleschely, but gastly: for blode bytakyns syn and

unclenes that that er in, that folous thair flesche, and the

vanites of thair blode; that er comen of grete kyn. Ne I sal by

menand of thair names; for thai er chaunged fra syn till

ryghtwisnes on domesday, qwen I sal speke thrugh my lippes til

thaim that haldes the name of wykednes: sa ye weryed til fyer with

outen end.

Verse 5. The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance] The

Messiah speaks. Jehovah is the portion of mine inheritance; I seek

no earthly good; I desire to do the will of God, and that only. It

is God who has given me this lot-to redeem mankind-to have them

for mine inheritance. From him I have received the cup of

suffering, which I shall drink for their sake, through which I

shall impart to them the cup of consolation. He, by the grace of

God, has tasted death for every man; and he has instituted the cup

of blessing to commemorate his passion and death.

Verse 6. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places] Here

is an allusion to the ancient division of the land by lot among

the Israelites, the breadth and length being ascertained by lines

which were used in measuring. I have got a rich inheritance of

immortal spirits; and I myself, as man, shall have a name above

every name, and be raised to thy throne, on which I shall sit, and

be admired in my saints to all eternity.

I have a goodly heritage.] A Church, an innumerable multitude of

saints, partakers of the Divine nature, and filled with all the

fulness of God. And these shall dwell with me in the heaven of

heavens to all eternity. The old Psalter:-

Ver. 5. Dominus pars hereditatis mee et calicis mei, &c.

Trans. Lord es part of myn herytage and of my chalyce; thow ert

that sal restore myn herytage til me.

Par. Lord the fader es part, that es, he es porcioun and mede of

myn herytage; that es of haly men, qwam I weld in herytage. Other

men cheses tham what tham lyst: my part es God, and he es part of

my chalyce: that es, he es my copp of al my delyte and boor.

Wereldys men drynkes the venemus lustes, and the drubly delytes of

lychery and covatys: I in my halows sal drynk God; for thu ert

fadyr that sal restore till me, that es, til my men, myn herytage,

that thai lost in Adam: that es thu restores til tham the knawyng

of my bryghthede.

Ver. 6. Punes ceciderunt michi in preclaris, &c.

Trans. Strynges fel to me in ful bryght: for qwy, myn herytage

is ful bryght til me.

Par. Strynges, that er merkes of my possessioun, in thi

bryghtnes, fel als with cutte; als the possessioun of prestes and

dekens in the alde law, was God; for qwy myn herytage, that es

haly men es bryght til me of that seme layth and aute castyng til

some of the werld, til me thai er fairer and bryght.

Verse 7. Who hath given me counsel] Jesus, as man, received all

his knowledge and wisdom from God; Lu 2:40-52. And in him were

hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

My reins also instruct me] kilyothai, reins or kidneys,

which from their retired situation in the body, says Parkhurst,

and being hidden in fat, are often used in Scripture for the most

secret workings and affections of the heart.

The kidneys and their fat were always to be burnt in sacrifice,

to indicate that the most secret purposes and affections of the

soul are to be devoted to God.

In the night seasons.] That is, in the time of my passion, my

secret purposes and determinations concerning the redemption of

man support me. "For the joy that was set before him he endured

the cross, despising the shame;" Heb 12:2.

Verse 8. I have set the Lord always before me] This verse, and

all to the end of Ps 16:11, are applied by St. Peter to the

death and resurrection of Christ. Ac 2:25, &c.

In all that our Lord did, said, or suffered, he kept the glory

of the Father and the accomplishment of his purpose constantly in

view. He tells us that he did not come down from heaven to do his

own will, but the will of the Father who had sent him. See

Joh 17:4.

He is at my right hand] That is, I have his constant presence,

approbation, and support. All this is spoken by Christ as man.

I shall not be moved.] Nothing can swerve me from my purpose;

nothing can prevent me from fulfilling the Divine counsel, in

reference to the salvation of men.

Verse 9. Therefore my heart is glad] Unutterably happy in God;

always full of the Divine presence; because whatsoever I do

pleaseth him. The man Christ Jesus must be constantly in communion

with God, because he was without spot and blemish.

My glory rejoiceth] My tongue, so called by the Hebrews, (see

Ps 57:8; 30:12,) because it was bestowed on us to glorify God,

and because it is our glory, being the instrument of expressing

our thoughts by words. See Dodd. But soul bids as fair to be the

meaning. See Clarke on Ac 2:25, &c.

My flesh also shall rest in hope.] There is no sense in which

these and the following words can be spoken of David. Jesus, even

on the cross, and breathing out his soul with his life, saw that

his rest in the grave would be very short: just a sufficiency of

time to prove the reality of his death, but not long enough to

produce corruption; and this is well argued by St. Peter,

Ac 2:31.

Verse 10. Thine Holy One] This is in the plural number,

chasideycha, thy Holy Ones; but none of the versions translate

it in the plural; and as it is in the singular number,

chasidecha, in several ancient editions, among which is the

Complutensian Polyglot, and no less than two hundred and

sixty-four of Kennicott's and De Rossi's MSS., and in the

quotation by St. Peter, in Ac 2:27; 13:35, we may take it for

granted that the present reading is a corruption; or that

is an emphatic singular.

As to leaving the soul in hell, it can only mean permitting the

life of the Messiah to continue under the power of death; for

sheol signifies a pit, a ditch, the grave, or

state of the dead.

See Clarke on Ac 2:25, &c.

See corruption.] All human beings see corruption, because born

in sin, and liable to the curse. The human body of Jesus Christ,

as being without sin, saw no corruption.

Verse 11. Thou wilt show me the path of life] I first shall find

the way out of the regions of death, to die no more. Thus Christ

was the first fruits of them that slept. Several had before risen

from the dead, but they died again. Jesus rose from the dead, and

is alive for evermore. Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead

was the first entrance out of the grave to eternal life or lives,

chaiyim, for the word is in the plural, and with great

propriety too, as this resurrection implies the life of the body,

and the life of the rational soul also.

In thy presence] paneycha, thy faces. Every holy soul

has, throughout eternity, the beatific vision, i.e., "it sees God

as he is," because it is like him; 1Jo 3:2. It drinks in

beatification from the presence of the Eternal TRINITY.

Thy right hand] The place of honour and dignity; repeatedly used

in this sense in the Scriptures.

Pleasures for evermore.] netzach, onwardly; perpetually,

continually, well expressed by our translation, ever and more; an

eternal progression. Think of duration in the most extended and

unlimited manner, and there is still more; more to be suffered in

hell, and more to be enjoyed in heaven. Great God! grant that my

readers may have this beatific sight; this eternal progression in

unadulterated, unchangeable, and unlimited happiness! Hear this

prayer for His sake, who found out the path of life, and who by

his blood purchased an entrance into the holiest! Amen and Amen.

For the application of the whole Psalm to David, see the

analysis at the end, which is a little altered from David's Harp

Strung and Tuned.

The remains of this Psalm in the old Psalter are worthy to be


Ver. 7. Benedicam Dominum qui tribuit michi intellectum, &c.

Trans. I sal blis the Lord that gaf til me undirstandyng; and

over that til the nyght, suyled me my neres.

Par. That es I sal luf the fader that hafs gyfen undyrstandyng

til my servauntes, thurgh the qwilk the herytage of heven may be

sene and welded; and aver that undyrstandyng, in the qwilk I saw,

sais Crist, al sothefast thynges and haly. Of that I sal lof him

that my nerys that es the Jewis of qwas kynd I toke flesch, that

es my kyn snybbed me in wranges and temptaciounis, and passiouns,

til the nyght, that es al the dede thai missaid hym, als so oure

nerys; that es our fleschely delytes makes us worthy snybbyng til

our dede; for perfytely may we noght be with outen syn, qwyles we


Ver. 8. Providebam Dominum in conspectu meo, &c.

Trans. I pervaide God ay in my syght; for he es at the ryght

hand til me, that I be nout styrred.

Par. And in al thys anguys I for gatt nout God: bot I pervayde

hym ay in my syght; that es, I comande o mang passand thynges: I

toke nout my nee fra hym that ay es; bot I fested it in hym, so

that he was ay in my sight, and he es nout fyled in synnes that

assyduely with the ee of his thoght, byhaldes God, for he es at

the ryght hand of me: that I be noght styred; that es, he helps me

in desyre of endless gudes, that I last stabil in hym, and for thi

nane il thyng may haf mayster of me.

Ver. 9. Propter hoc, elatum, est cor meum, et exultavit lingua

mea, &c.

Trans. Thar fore gladded es my hert, and my toung joyed over

that, and my flesch sal rest in hope.

Par. This es ful joy that in hert es resayved, and with toung

schewed, and over that joy in hert and mouth, my flesch sal rest

in hope of rysyng.

Ver. 10. Quoniam non derelinques in Inferno animam meam, &c.

Trans. For thow sal noght lefe my Saule in hell, ne thu sal

noght gyf thi Halow to se corrupcion.

Par. That es at say, the Saule that I haf als veray man, sal

noght be left in hell; and my body that thu haloued, sal noght

rote. Here men may knaw that this es goddes word; for other mens

bodis rotes.

Ver. 11. Notas michi fecisti vias vite, &c.

Trans. Knawen thu maked til me, the wayes of lyf: thou sal fil

me of joy with thi face, delytynges in thi ryghth and in til the


Par. Knawen thu maked thurgh me till myne, the wayes of lyf,

that es the wayes of mekenes and charite, that men came til heven

thurgh mekenes, fra qwethyn thai fel thurgh Pryde: and thow sal

ful fil me; that es, my servaundes, of joy with thi face; that es,

in the syght of the, apertly; so that thai desyre nothing over,

qwen thai af sene the, face til face, and ay til than delytynges

til tham in way of this lyf. In thi ryght hand; that es thi

favoure, and thi mercy the qwilk delytyngs ledys tham intil the

ende, that es, in til perfectioun of endeles Blisfulhede.

I have given the whole of the translation and comment of this

Psalm from this ancient Psalter, as a curious specimen of the

doctrine and language of our northern neighbours in the thirteenth

or fourteenth century.


Michtam David: David's precious jewel, or Psalm of gold;

literally to be understood of David, but primarily and principally

of Christ, Ac 2:22-28 &c., whom he calls chased, God's Holy

One, Ps 16:10. And foretells his passion, resurrection, and

ascension, Ps 16:9-11.

This Psalm has two parts: I. Petition, Ps 16:1. II.

Thanksgiving, Ps 16:7.

I. The petition begins the Psalm. It is for preservation:

"Preserve me, O God." Keep me to the kingdom both temporal and

eternal that thou hast promised. Guard me; guide me; keep me. To

induce the Lord to do this, he produces his reasons:-

1. His confidence: "For in thee I trust." This is a powerful

plea, for to trust God is the highest honour we can do him; it

acknowledges him as Sovereign.

2. His relation: "O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord, Thou

art my God."

3. For this I would show myself thankful, and return the best of

my best. But what can I give, save τασαεκτωνσων, "thy own

things from thy own property?" My goods or goodness, my

beneficence or bounty, is nothing unto thee. Sacrifice thou

needest not, Ps 50:8, nor art delighted in them: but mercy thou

requirest, Ho 6:6.

4. Then I will seek out thy receivers: "Thy saints that are in

the earth." The family of the saints were the object of David's

bounty, and his delight. But my liberality and charity shall

extend to the saints that are in the earth, and unto such as are

excellent; "in whom is all my delight."

5. But as for the wicked men and idolaters, I have no delight in


These he points out by two characteristics:-

1. They "hasten after another god," or endow another god. They

spare no cost, but are lavish in endowing their gods: "Israel,

part with thy jewels," &c.

2. They offer their children to Molech: "Their drink-offerings

of BLOOD will I not offer." On these accounts:-

1. "Their sorrows shall be multiplied." They shall be grievously


2. I will not participate with them: "Their offerings I will not


3. They are objects of my detestation: "I will not take up their

names into my lips."

6. He gives another reason why he should show himself so

thankful to God and bountiful to his saints-God's great bounty

and liberality to him.

1. That God had given him a satisfactory portion: "The Lord is

the portion of mine inheritance, and of my cup."

2. That God defended him in it: "Thou maintainest my lot."

3. That it was a fair portion: "The lines are fallen to me in

pleasant places," &c.

II. The second part of this Psalm is David's THANKSGIVING. It

begins with, "I will bless the Lord," Ps 16:7, not only for the

temporal blessings mentioned before, but for the following

spiritual blessings:-

1. For the illumination of his mind; that I may understand the

thing that is right: "The Lord hath given me counsel."

2. For the sanctifying influence on his heart: "My reins

instruct me in the night seasons." When he was most retired he

seemed to hear a voice within him, saying, "This is the way; walk

in it."

3. For his confidence and watchfulness: "I have set the Lord

always before me." I do not forget my God; and he does not forget


4. For the consciousness he had of the Divine presence. "The

Lord is at my right hand;" always ready to help and support me.

5. For his power to preserve: "I shall not be moved." Satan may

stand at my right hand to resist and trouble me; Zec 3:1; but God

is on my right hand to assist and comfort me; therefore, "I shall

not be moved." While David prays and trusts, God supports; and

while God supports, Satan cannot conquer.

6. For his inward happiness: "Therefore, my heart is glad."

Wicked men rejoice in appearance; but David rejoiced in heart. He

was all happy. His heart, glory, flesh, spirit, soul, body-all

were overjoyed; and the reason was the prospect of his


1. "My flesh shall rest or dwell in hope." 1. In this world, as

in an inn; 2. In the grave, as in a repository; 3. In heaven,

as in an endless mansion.

2. "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell." Thou wilt not suffer

death to have a final triumph; my flesh shall revive.

3. "Neither wilt thou suffer thy HOLY ONE to see corruption,"

meaning the Messiah, who should descend from his family. Christ's

resurrection is the cause and pledge of ours.

7. He is thankful for the promise of a future life, which is

here illustrated:-

1. From the quantity: "Fulness of joy."

2. From the quality: "Pleasures."

3. From the honour: "At thy right hand."

4. From the perpetuity: "For evermore."

5. From the cause: "Thy presence." The sight of God, the

beatific vision. "Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy

presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures

for evermore."

For the application of the whole Psalm to Christ alone, see the

preceding notes.

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