Psalm 16

Notes (NET Translation)

A prayer of David.

The translation and interpretation of this psalm is difficult in a number of places. To start with, the Hebrew word miktam (“prayer”) is of uncertain meaning. The LXX and targums take it to mean “inscription”.1

1 Protect me, O God, for I have taken shelter in you.

The occasion for this prayer is not stated explicitly but it might be in relation to idolatry (v 4) or the threat of death (v 10). But even then it is not clear if the psalm is expressed in the midst of a crisis or after the psalmist has been delivered from a crisis.

2 I say to the LORD, “You are the Lord, my only source of well-being.”

The first “Lord” is Yahweh while the second “Lord” is Adonai. The psalmist is saying that he submits to Yahweh.

3 As for God’s chosen people who are in the land, and the leading officials I admired so much – 4 their troubles multiply, they desire other gods. I will not pour out drink offerings of blood to their gods, nor will I make vows in the name of their gods.

The NET translates addiyr as “the leading officials” but the Hebrew is more ambiguous, meaning something like “the glorious ones.” It may also be that a period should follow v 3 and that v 4a should read: “The troubles of those will multiply who desire other gods.” The psalmist is strongly stating his antipathy towards idolatry.

5 Lord, you give me stability and prosperity; you make my future secure.

The NIV provides a more literal translation: “LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.” Exactly what the psalmist’s portion is is not specified. Whatever it is, the NET translation makes it clear that it is safe with God.

6 It is as if I have been given fertile fields or received a beautiful tract of land.

The NIV reads: “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.”

7 I will praise the Lord who guides me; yes, during the night I reflect and learn.

8 I constantly trust in the Lord; because he is at my right hand, I will not be upended.

To be upended would be to be unfaithful. With God at his right hand the psalmist can remain faithful.

9 So my heart rejoices and I am happy; My life is safe.

10 You will not abandon me to Sheol; you will not allow your faithful follower to see the Pit.

The phrase “see decay” [see the Pit] (v. 10) is a metaphor for total isolation and banishment from God’s presence. It is not clear whether the psalmist had in mind the experience of God’s presence in the life hereafter or specifically in the resurrection of the body. But in the apostolic preaching this verse did have a particular apologetic significance, as both Peter (Ac 2:27, 31) and Paul (Ac 13:35) quoted v. 10 as proof of the resurrection of Jesus.2

The main point is that the psalmist does not see his relationship with God ending at death.

11 You lead me in the path of life; I experience absolute joy in your presence; you always give me sheer delight.

The NIV reads: “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” This translation of the third clause, if correct, may refer to eternal life.

Bibliography

Craigie, Peter C., and Marvin E. Tate. Psalms 1-50. Nashville: Nelson Reference & Electronic, 2004.

Goldingay, John. Psalms: Volume 1: Psalms 1-41. Kindle Edition. Baker Academic, 2006.

Kidner, Derek. Psalms 1-72: An Introduction and Commentary. Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 2008.

VanGemeren, Willem. Psalms. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2008.


  1. Goldingay 2006, loc. 4568-4569 
  2. VanGemeren 2008, p. 191 
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