New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary


Psa 16:1 A Poem by David.
Preserve me, God, for in You do I take refuge-
The idea is that God was David's city of refuge. These cities were for those who needed to flee when being chased by the avenger of blood (Num. 35:26). The imagery is very appropriate to David when fleeing from Saul and Absalom. David's constant meditation upon God's law would have included the sections about the cities of refuge; he realized that actually no such city was available for him, but the spirit of the law led him to reflect that Yahweh was his refuge, wherever he was. David tends to open wilderness Psalms with this reflection, just as we may tend to begin prayers with the same opening phrase and thoughts (Ps. 7:1; 11:1; 16:1; 31:1; 57:1; 71:1).

Psa 16:2 My soul, you have said to Yahweh, You are my Lord. Apart from You I have no good thing-
David's addressing of his own "soul" or person is what we might call self talk. David is to be commended for so often perceiving the importance of internal spiritual mindedness, at a time when religion was perceived merely as ritualism and externalities. It is part of being human that we speak to ourselves, and often our self talk can be fantasy / imagination about things which are not true. But this will lead to doing what is not right, David reasons in Ps. 15:2. To speak the truth in our hearts all the time is perhaps the litmus test of our spiritual mindedness. See on :7; Ps. 15:2. The truth in David's heart was that God alone was his Lord, and he had nothing apart from Him.

Psa 16:3 As for the saints who are in the earth, they are the excellent ones in whom is all my delight-
David on the run from Saul was aware that there were others in the earth / land who were faithful, and Samuel was obviously one of them. "Excellent ones" is the usual term for nobles or rulers. And so it happened; those who took David's side in the wilderness years were the ones exalted to office in David's kingdom.

Psa 16:4 Their sorrows shall be multiplied who give gifts to another god-
This is further evidence that idolatry was being practiced at David's time (see on Ps. 12:8; 18:31).


Their drink offerings of blood I will not offer, nor take their names on my lips- David knew God well enough to act like the High Priest even when he was not a Levite (2 Sam.6:13-20; and 2 Sam.19:21 = Ex.22:28), he came to understand that God did not require sacrifices, he came to see that the Law was only a means to an end. David’s sons, although not Levites, were “priests” (2 Sam. 8:18 RV). He could say that the Lord was his inheritance [a reference to how he as the youngest son had lost his?], and how he refuses to offer the sacrifices of wicked men for them (Ps. 16:4,5; 119:57)- speaking as if he was a Levite, a priest, when he was not

Psa 16:5 Yahweh assigned my portion and my cup, you made my inheritance secure-
The allusion is to the promise to Aaron and the Levites: "I am thy part ["portion"] and thine inheritance among the children of Israel" (Num. 18:20). It follow straight on from David's reference (noted on :4) to how he acted as a priest, although from Judah. David is presenting himself as a king-priest, after the order of Melchizedek (Ps. 110:4). This is developed in the New Testament, presenting him as a type of the Lord Jesus in this respect. And the following verses in this Psalm are therefore applied to the Lord in the New Testament.

Psa 16:6 The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; truly I have a good inheritance-
I noted on Ps. 15:1 that "Yahweh, who shall dwell in Your sanctuary? Who shall live on Your holy hill?" was written before David took the hill of Zion from the Jebusites. He felt they shouldn't be living there because of how they lived so immorally, and was eager to make it his own inheritance by conquest; and it seems from Ps. 16:5,6 that David considered Zion his personal inheritance where he was to live. "The lines" refer to inheritance markers, and he considered Zion his great joy (Ps. 137:6), the ultimately pleasant place (Ps. 48:2).

There is a repeated Biblical theme that the believer's relationship with the Father too is essentially mutual. We are God's portion / inheritance (Dt. 4:20; 9:29; Eph. 1:18), and He is our inheritance (Ps. 16:5,6; 73:26; Lam. 3:22-24; Eph. 1:11 RV); we inherit each other.

Psa 16:7 I will bless Yahweh, who has given me counsel. Yes, my heart instructs me in the night seasons-
The parallelism seems to suggest that David's heart and Yahweh's counsel were the same thing. Perhaps the idea is that the self talk of the spiritually minded person becomes effectively God advising them. See on :2.

Psa 16:8 I have set Yahweh always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved-
The context is of David's desire to take the hill of Zion from the Jebusites, and for it to become his by conquest. He was confident he could do this in God's strength, and by saying "I shall not be moved" he identifies himself with Zion which "shall not be moved" (Ps. 46:5). And indeed God came through for David. Because he put Yahweh "always before me", he was given mount Zion and established his kingdom there. This verse is then quoted about the Lord Jesus- who likewise shall establish His Kingdom upon David's throne in Zion (Lk. 1:34,35) because of His trust in Yahweh.

The Lord Jesus so struggled against sin, He so groaned beneath the mental weight of our sins, that it was as if  He had been through everything David went through emotionally and spiritually. The main reason why there is so much deep personal detail about David is because we are intended to come to know him as a person, to enter into His mind- so that we can have a clearer picture of the mind and personality of the Lord Jesus. Likewise the book of Genesis covers about 2000 years of history, but almost a quarter of the narrative concerns Joseph; surely because we are intended to enter into Joseph, and thereby into the mind of Christ. This is why the thoughts of David in Ps. 16:8-11 are quoted as being the very thoughts of the Lord Jesus (Acts 2:27). David's ultimate success in taking the hill of Zion and establishing his Kingdom there was because God foresaw His own work through the Lord Jesus. And so Peter suggests that David appreciated this, and that his trust in Yahweh was in fact his trust in the future Messianic figure who would one day rule upon his throne, and be the basis of his salvation. And so Peter says that so Christ-centered was David's mind that he "foresaw (not "saw" - disproof of the pre-existence) the Lord (Jesus) always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved" (Acts 2:25). David was obsessed, mentally dominated, by his imagination of Christ, so much so that his imagination of his future descendant gave him practical strength in the trials of daily life. Small wonder we are bidden know and enter into David's mind.

Psa 16:9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my tongue rejoices. My body shall also lay to rest in hope-
David was singing this Psalm ["my tongue rejoices"] because he believed that even if he didn't permanently inherit Zion in his lifetime, he would be resurrected to receive it, and to see his Davidic throne eternally established there; see on :5,6. It is therefore absolutely appropriate that these words are applied to the Lord Jesus.

Psa 16:10 For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, neither will You allow Your holy one to see corruption-
The Greek word translated "leave" or "forsaken" occurs in Acts 2:27, where Peter quotes from Psalm 16 concerning how Christ was always aware of His own righteousness, and therefore confidently knew that God would not "leave (forsake) his soul in hell". In Ps. 22:1, our Lord was doubting these previous thoughts, as expressed here in Ps. 16:10. He then feared that God had forsaken / left Him, when previously He had been full of confidence that God would not do so, on account of His perfect character. Because Christ felt such a sinner deep within Him, He even doubted if He really was the Messiah. This is how deeply, our Lord was our representative, this is how thoroughly He bare our own sins in His own body on the tree, this is how deeply He came to know us, to be able to exactly empathize with us in our spiritual weakness; this was how He became able to have a fellow feeling with those who are out of the way, who have lost the faith, "for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity" (Heb. 5:2).

Psa 16:11 You will show me the path of life. In Your presence is fullness of joy, in Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore
- "For the joy that was set before him" Christ endured the cross (Heb. 12:2). "Set before" can imply a vision, as if Christ saw something in front of Him as He hung on the cross. The spirit of Christ in Ps. 16:11 describes Christ looking forward to fullness of joy in God's Heavenly presence, because "at thy right hand are pleasures for evermore". Christ is now at God's right hand interceding for us. Therefore one aspect of the joy set before Christ in vision as He hung on the cross was the joy of His future mediation for our sins, as we repent of them and confess them in prayer.