Psalm 16 Commentary

Psalm 16 Commentary

Psalm 16 Commentary: Introduction

Let’s turn to Psalm 16 for this Psalm 16 commentary.

So often, the psalms are a means of communicating an emotion of the author. In Psalm 16, I believe the emotion that David is expressing is this: Satisfaction with God. That’s what David is feeling and what he wants to express in poetry.

Psalm 16 Summary

And in a nutshell, here is what David has to say about his satisfaction with God.

  • David is satisfied with God because he trusts that God is able to maintain his welfare, generally.
  • He’s satisfied with God because he knows the awful results of falling away from God.
  • He’s satisfied with God as someone would be with a really generous and enviable portion of land as one’s inheritance.
  • He’s satisfied with God because of the stabilizing influence that God has on David.
  • And he’s satisfied with God because ultimately, David believed that he would be with God forever – where there will be abundant pleasures.

So, are you satisfied with God? Or do you feel like you’re missing out on something because you’re following the Lord? I hope that Psalm 16 today will help you and me to realize that we’re not missing out on anything by following God. We as believers have all sorts of reasons to be satisfied with God.

Psalm 16 Commentary: Miktam

So, we’re notified right away that this psalm is a “Michtam” of David. So, first of all, that would seem to indicate that David is the author of the psalm. But what is this word “michtam?” And the rather unsatisfying answer is that ultimately it seems that no one knows for sure. This is often the case with these terms that are found in the superscription of these psalms. But here’s what we do know. “Michtam” is found only here and then in the beginning of every psalm from Psalms 56 – 60. In most of those later psalms, the context given is distressing. One of the psalms has David fleeing from Saul into a cave. Another has David being taken by Philistines at Gath. And yet another has David fighting Edomites. But distressing situations are fairly common in the psalms and most of them are not Michtams.

One translation suggests that “Miktam” means an “epigrammatic poem”. That is, a poem filled with short, terse, pithy statements. And that option might be the best one. Because in the Hebrew, this seems to describe this psalm pretty well. Psalm 16 is actually fairly difficult to translate – let alone interpret! And I think that part of that may be because the statements seem shorter. But again, I think this happens with other psalms and they’re not called Michtams.

So, anyway, as I said – we don’t really know what this term “Michtam” ultimately means. And that’s OK, because we know what most of the rest of the psalm means. And so let’s continue on.

Psalm 16 Commentary: Satisfied with God

So, the rest of verse 1 and all of verse 2 have David describing his satisfaction with the Lord because he trusts that God is able to maintain his welfare. Let’s read those verses.

Preserve me, O God:
for in thee do I put my trust.
2 O my soul, thou hast said unto the LORD, Thou art my Lord:
my goodness extendeth not to thee;

David makes one request to the Lord in all of Psalm 16. And we see it in the first line of the psalm. He says “preserve me”. That’s an imperative. He’s submissively demanding that God watch or guard or protect him. And so we can assume that there’s a need for this protection, though we don’t yet know that reason.

Then David follows up his request for protection with a justification for that request. God should protect David because David puts his trust in God. David has sought and taken refuge in God. David is saying – “Please protect me. That’s why I’ve come to you in the first place.”

For help on understanding verse 2, see our Psalm 16 2 Commentary.

So these first two verses are really David’s 1) request to the Lord for protection, 2) his reasoning for why God ought to protect him, and then 3) his confidence that God will provide for his protection or well-being. And all of that is reason for David to be satisfied with God.

Psalm 16 Commentary: Falling Away from God

Next, in verses 3 and 4, David says that he’s satisfied with God because he knows the awful results of falling away from God. Let’s read that.

3 But to the saints that are in the earth,
and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight.
4 Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god:
their drink offerings of blood will I not offer,
nor take up their names into my lips.

So, I’ve already mentioned that there are a few parts of this psalm that are difficult to interpret. And this might be the hardest part. The King James makes it sound like verses 3 and 4 are disconnected. So, in the translators’ minds, verse 3 is tied to verse 2 where David is saying that his own goodness doesn’t extend to God but rather it extends to these saints in the earth – these excellent ones in whom David delights. Then the translators continued and made verse 4 seem to completely change the focus to those who hasten after other gods.

Now, we’ve already seen that verse 2 isn’t grammatically connected to verse 3. Right? In verse 2, David simply expresses that God can provide for his welfare. Period. End of thought.

So, then, what’s going on with verses 3 and 4? Well, strange as it may seem, it appears that verse 4 is actually speaking of the people in verse 3. The first line of verse 4 says in the Hebrew without all the italicized words of the King James “They multiply their sorrows. They acquire another.” And it appears that these negative realities apply to these “saints” in verse 3.

Let’s talk about these “saints”. These people are “holy ones” – which might indicate that they’re priests. That’s one way that priests are described in the Old Testament. And these priests are “in the earth (or land – same word)” – the land of Israel.

The second line of verse 3 describes these ones as “majectic” or “mighty”. That word can also be translated as “nobles” – people who are powerful and wealthy in that society. So, we have in mind these mighty, powerful priests that David is calling attention to.

And David says that all of his delight in them. But another way to translate that – based on how Ecclesiastes uses that word that’s translated here as “delight” – is to say that David has all his “activity” or “business” with them. Ecclesiates says that there’s a time for every “activity” – that’s the word – under the Sun. So, David is saying in verse 3 that he works with these powerful priests all the time. And you can imagine that the king WOULD work constantly with priests in the times of Old Testament Israel.

But even though David works with them, apparently they’re turning from the Lord – at least some of them are. They are – verse 4 multiplying their sorrows. How? Again – verse 4 – they’re hastening after another God.

This word “hasten” appears only one other time in the Old Testament. And THERE it means “to pay a dowry for a wife”. So, these powerful priests are multiplying their sorrows BECAUSE they’re going after another god as if they were pursuing a wife – with all the intensity and interest that that involves. As well as all the infidelity and immorality that pursuing another wife when one already has a wife would involve. These poweful priests then are forsaking their true spouse as it were – the Lord, with whom David is completely satisfied.

And so David continues in verse 4 to vow that he will never offer the drink offerings of these other gods. In the Old Testament, the sanctioned, approved drink offerings were made with wine. One time with water. But what are they made with here? Blood. Yuck. That sounds unclean. And that’s just what false gods are – unclean, abominable, detestable. And so, David, as if he himself were a priest, won’t offer the drink offerings of these disgusting idols.

And neither will David take the names of these gods on his lips. That doesn’t mean he won’t pronounce their names when speaking of them. That phrasing about “taking their names” reminds us of the commandment to not take the Lord’s name in vain. Don’t swear an oath with God’s name when you have no intention of fulfilling that oath. That’s the command. And so here David is saying that he’s not going to swear by the names of these false deities like his associates among the powerful priests are starting to do.

And I mentioned earlier that David starts the psalm with a request for protection. Protection from whom? Well, this group of powerful individuals and their faithless activities are really the only thing I can think of from this psalm from which David might need to be spared and rescued.

So, David is satisfied with God and knows that only sorrows will come from turning from the Lord. And so we’ve seen that that’s the second reason David gives as to why he’s satisfied with God.

Psalm 16 Commentary: Inheritance

But positively, David pictures his satisfaction with God as if he had received a very generous inheritance of land. Let’s read verses 5 and 6.

5 The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup:
thou maintainest my lot.
6 The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places;
yea, I have a goodly heritage.

Now, land inheritance might not thrill us so much. I mean, if your great uncle dies and leaves you a strip of land somewhere, I imagine that most of us might be ambivalent about it – unless, of course it’s worth a lot of money and you can sell it or something like that.

But that’s not what David has in mind here. And I can tell you that Old Testament Israelites were excited about inheriting land. Think about how often we hear about land being granted or bought or promised in the Old Testament. Much of God’s promise to Abraham included land. That promise extended to Isaac and Jacob. God then moved Israel into the land of Canaan to inherit that land. They divvied up the land and we read about that in chapter after chapter in Joshua. Land was a big deal to Old Testament Israelites. Most of them were farmers. This was their living and livelihood. They could hardly do anything without land. And that’s how David pictures his relationship with God. As if God were HIS land inheritance. And he’s declaring that he could be satisfied with such a portion or allotment of land.

David goes on to say in verse 5 that God maintains or supports his lot. The “lot” was how land was divided in the Old Testament – especially in the book of Joshua where all the land was initially divided. God is pictured then as upholding David’s allotted territory – which of course poetically is the Lord, anyway.

The “lines” then in verse 6 are speaking of the same basic concept. Apparently, the picture is of lines being laid down or drawn on the ground to demark where one region or territory stopped and the other started.

And David says that this poetic dividing of his portion of land from others has happened to him “pleasantly”. He likes the way his inheritance has fallen out to him. That’s what that second line means. David has a “goodly heritage” – or in other words “my inheritance in pleasant to me” he says. God is satisfying to David.

So, this whole two-verse section is speaking of inheriting land. And David is using this poetically to describe his satisfaction with God.

Now, there WAS a group in Old Testament Israel who didn’t receive ANY land. Do you remember what group that was? The priests. The very ones that David was just reporting on – that some of their most powerful and wealthy were abandoning their inheritance – that is, the Lord. In CONTRAST then – and this explains why David starts speaking of land inheritance after he revealed the faithlessness of some of these priests – David DOES have literal physical land granted to him. But even if he WAS a priest with NO land inheritance — because the Lord was to be their inheritance – David says that he’d be satisfied with that arrangement. With God as his only inheritance – his only earthly possession.

And you and I know what that’s like. We have stuff. We have gadgets. We have clothing and food and homes. But when it comes down to it – we’d rather have Jesus than those houses or lands. And really, what good are those houses or lands or whatever other material possession – if we don’t have God? Even if we were incredibly wealthy, without God we’d be truly impoverished.

And so, David is satisfied with God as if God were David’s pleasant abundant inheritance of land.

Psalm 16 Commentary: Stability

And not only that, but David is satisfied with God because of the stabilizing influence that God has on David. Verses 7 and 8.

7 I will bless the LORD, who hath given me counsel:
my reins also instruct me in the night seasons.
8 I have set the LORD always before me:
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

Have you experienced what David refers to in verse 7? The Lord giving you counsel? His word counsels us. His Holy Spirit counsels us. The conscience which he’s put into us counsels us. He’s constantly giving the believer counsel. And, so often, our biggest problem is not FINDING counsel for a particular situation – the problem is ACCEPTING the counsel that God has already given us.

And the second line of verse 7 says that in addition to the Lord counseling him, David also has his “reins” instructing or disciplining or correcting him where he needs it. That word “reins” is literally “kidneys”. And that’s just a Hebrew way of referring to what WE think of as the “mind” or our “inmost being”. David is saying that part of the Lord’s counsel and advice and guiding of him is his own inner man correcting him.

And this all causes David to “bless the Lord”. He is thankful for this ministry of the Lord to him. This counsel and correction – these things that lead to stability in David’s inner man.

Then in verse 8, David says it’s as if he has physically set the Lord in front of his eyes. He’s constantly mindful of the Lord. It’s as if he’s physically at David’s right hand – right there with him. And because David senses that the Lord is near him and with him, David is confident that he won’t be moved. He won’t slip. Why? Because of the stabilizng influence that God has on him and on all those who believe in him.

And again, I think the contrast with the faithless powerful priests is in view even here. Those priests apparently were not setting the Lord before them. They refused his counsel and even their own consciences. And so – as opposed to David – they were being moved. They were slipping. And David doesn’t want that for his life. He’s thankful for God’s stabilizing influence on him.

Psalm 16 Commentary: Enjoy God Forever

And lastly, David is satisfied with God because he believed that he would enjoy God forever. Verses 9 through 11. For more information on David’s enjoying God forever, see our Psalm 16 11 Meaning post.

Well, what a satisfying God! I trust we’ll be fully satisfied with him today – and all the more so today on the first day of the week when we remember that God raised his son from the grave, never to experience decay.


  1. Your words were from God’s heart to me. I woke early this morning knowing I needed to read Psalm 16. I was overwhelmed with how perfect the words of the Psalm were to the wrestling in my heart. And your commentary expanded on that and cemented what I believed the Lord was saying to me.


  2. Rowean Santolucito says:

    I really enjoyed and enlighten spiritually


  3. I liked the explanation of the importance of the land in comparison to our relationship to God


  4. Christy S. says:

    Shalom! Thanks for your nice explanation. Today is the day Jesus Christ was in hell about 1995years ago. Jesus died on the cross on Wednesday 3pm, and moved to sepulchur around 5~6pm, so his dead body doesn’t breach the Passover, the High Day, the special Sabbath on Thursday, and that started after sunset on Wednesday. Then Jesus went down to paradise (Hades has two places for good and evil) as he told one robber on the cross. Then Jesus went further down to hell (where one goes after judgment). Some ppl don’t believe this but I am sure that he went to hell as he was judged by his Father God as Jesus got all our sins on him.
    Jesus Christ was in the heart of the earth (there are places like hades, hell, bottomless pit…) for 3days and 3 nights as Jonah’s sign where he went into belly of fish. So Jesus was in the earth for at least 72 hours. That’s from Wednesday at 5~6pm (sepulcher), to Saturday 6~7 pm (sunset time). That makes exactly 3days and 3nights. Now many church not know this truth, and teach wrong thing that Jesus died on Friday and rose on early Sunday, which makes only 30hours and make Jesus’ word false.
    So, anyway, Jesus Christ rose out of sepulcher Saturday around 7~8 pm when the first day of the week started. We don’t know exact time, but we can do right estimation. For the Gentiles, he rose on Saturday, which is the 3rd day since his death: He died on Wednesday, so the next day is the Thursday, and that is the first day since his death. Then the Friday is the 2nd day since his death. Then the Saturday is the 3rd day since after his death. So it’s definitely Saturday is the 3rd day of his death. Also it is the 3 days after his death, because it is after 72 hours!
    Word of God is so great that no one can know it perfectly. All of us learn each other and make it one thorough fitted puzzle, and only the Holy Spirit can do this as he leads us. Tomorrow (Saturday night after sunset) is the timing Jesus came out of the grave with new incorruptible body. He resurrected to heaven after 40days, and his Spirit came down in 10days. We praise Lord God Almighty, and we are waiting for Jesus’ return!! BUT he will be in the air, to rapture people very soon. Then we all raptured people will be in the heavenly mansion, where Jesus prepares for 1995 years roughly. We will be there for 7years (Jesus will shorten this time otherwise all the ppl on the earth will be perished), having the feast with the Lamb of God. Then after the great tribulation, all the saints who has new incorruptible bodies will come down on eath for 1000 year Kingdom of God. There we will live like tree. Then there will be White Throne Judgement at the end for the carnal people (who survived in 7yr great trib on earth, and their carnal offsprings both dead and alive. We all with the incorruptible bodied angel like ppl will went to everlasting realm without the judgement. God bless you all. Let’s wait our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ of Nazareth (Yeshua Hamashiach) and live holy till his coming. HalleluYah! Maranatha. Amen.


    1. Christy,

      Thank you for visiting and leaving a response.

      I have just a few questions:

      Has anyone else in Church history believed like you do that Jesus died on Wednesday at 3 PM?

      When did people start thinking that there was going to be a literal 7 year period of tribulation?

      Thank you.



      1. C.S. says:

        Hi, thanks for your interest. Yes there are people who believe like me that Jesus died on Wednesday and the next day was a High day, the special Sabbath. I couldn’t find it logical if Jesus died on Friday and alive on early Sunday. And one day in 2016? I met this Ethiopian Messianic Jew and he explained that the Thursday was the Sabbath. Then all the mystery solved. But he believed the mid tribulation not like me.
        I literally believe 7year great tribulation, and this is so so biblical. After I became Christian in 2015, I was shocked to see that Jesus was real Son of God. So I did read bible and listen sermons day and night, sometimes 17hours a day. As a result, I got to know much and holy spirit is guiding me I believe.
        Now I am very pleased to know this all and truly believe it is coming very soon. I don’t see many ppl know this exactly aligned with my believing. Some ppl know this part while others know that part. But my view point is very complete. Let me explain the main points simply. There are 3 things you may need to keep in mind before the 7yr great trib. This will surprise you probably.
        1. The seals are just seals of the scroll NOT the content. So seals are the warning to people to prepare for the real disastor (the content of scroll of wrath of God).
        2, 7seals are not the part of great tribulation (7 yr Jacob’s trouble). These seals are worldly tribulation of what God allows to happen on this earth after Jesus Christ’s resurrection to heaven.
        3. Once each seal opens, it stays open, meaning the corresponding work happens continuously as the seal is staying broken, not seal it back to scroll. For example, when the first seal opens, it continuously opened till the God’s wrath (7yr period: first 3.5 is wrath of Lamb, latter 3.5 is wrath of Father God. But Jesus mentioned from Matt 24, the day will be shortened).
        Now, let me explain about 4 seals.
        1st seal: white horse, the man on it has crown and a bow. This seal is weak gospel of Jesus Christ. The man has crown, means he has very honorable position. But he has only bow no arrow. He spread gospel of Jesus Christ, but weak as he mixes with idol or foreign gods….such as sun worship, mother-son worship, dragon, dead saints worship….nowadays mix with buddism, hiduism, muslim etc. Contantin made Christianity as legal but mixed with idol.
        The first seal is STILL conquering the world but very weak. ppl have not much idea about Jesus Christ as they don’t read bible.
        2nd seal: red horse, war (sword)
        3rd seal: black horse, scale (famine)
        4th seal: pale horse, sickness (Death)
        So now, we have 4seals were opened. How I know? Revelation 6:8 says …after 4th seal opened, 1/4 earth will be killed by sword (2nd seal), hunger (3rd seal), death (4th seal) and the beasts of the earth… I don’t know exactly what are the beasts…could be both animals or beasts minded evil human.

        Revelation 6:8 is very important. Because Jesus let us see all these previous seals work together to kill probably 1~2 billions (this number is only my guess, could be more or less) of people on the 1/4 of earth. How did I know we are already opened 4th seal? Because it says the man who sat on the 4th horse is Death, and hell follows. This is very good hint for us to know the time. In the bible anywhere I found nothing like this verse of “sword, hunger, death followed by hell.” I was thinking why hell follows Death? Then I was reminded that the current toxicshots which change the human dna results in fetal deaths and many children’s death. Their cells are not fully developed. God creation and scientists crispr mutated dna are not the same. God has His name imprinted on all his creation. We don’t know how God decided which is His or not. But the unholy things are perish to hell.
        These are my rough explanation about 4seals.
        Now the 5th seal is the rapture of dead martyred saints, followed by 6th seal of alive believers. These alive believers get worldly tribulation of hunger, thirst, heat exposure as the end of chapter 7 mentioned.
        Then the 7th seal of introducing the 7 trumpets follows. These 7 trumpets are the wrath of the Lamb, and less severe than the Father God’s 7 vial judgments.
        I will stop here as it will be so lengthy if I explain everything. If you have any question about the Revelation verses, let me know I will explain what I know.
        Thanks God bless you.


      2. Christy,

        Thank you for your response.

        Beside the Ethiopian Messicanic Jew, who else throughout Church history has believed that Jesus died on Wednesday and rose Saturday?

        I understand your references to Revelation to prove a literal seven year tribulation on earth, but who else throughout Church history has thought this way before the twentieth century?

        Please, if you would, provide names. I would appreciate that.



      3. c.s. says:

        Hello Paul,
        I basically read bible myself, and meditate on it. Then holy spirit let me know in many courses. Then I check the bible and see if it’s going with it or against it. So I know my understanding of bible is right. If you have any discrepancy over my explanation, pls let me know. I don’t really go ancient teaching in certain cases, such as Revelation. Many previous and current believers think that the mark of the beast is just a symbol, or Sunday worship. If that’s the case, they make Jesus Christ as liar. Jesus Christ told to apostle John not to seal the book of Revelation. This because the book will open when the time arrives, the end time. I know so many pastors can’t open the Revelation, because they follow the traditional view. That’s why they can’t interpret that book.
        There are many things that holy spirit reveal to me. One example in Genesis 1. Most people know that Jesus was Word, and he was with God. One day, all of a sudden holy spirit told me that God Father was the one who ordered, and Jesus, the Word was the one followed the order and created things for his Father God.
        1. And God said, Let there be light:
        2. and there was light.
        3. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
        From here, who said #1 is Father God, and who did in #2 is Word, Jesus Christ, as he obeyed the Father, and he made for Him, and the #3 is Father God who checked it after Word made it. And He liked it the way Word made it.
        This is an example and I am greatly pleased when holy spirit reveal things like this.
        If you’d like to know the Word of God, just read bible (KJV is the best I found), over and over. Then the holy spirit inside of you will remind you something is not fitting each other. Then you keep meditate on it. It will be answered by holy spirit.

        The Ethiopian Messianic Jew let me know only one thing that the Thursday was a High Day, special Sabbath. So, then I try to find out myself with bible. That’s why I knew it. But he believe the mid trib saying we all need to go to great tribulation. I told him that’s not true, we are not appointed to wrath of God. Of course we are going through the worldly tribulation, I try to explain but he didn’t listen to me.
        If one don’t believe in Jesus Christ, but Father God, he will go through the wrath of God, so, in this case, his mid trib is right. But all the believers who believe in Jesus Christ don’t go through the 7yr great trib. We are about to enter it very soon. God is long suffering, and try to take as many as possible, so he is delaying his time. But very soon he will come as thief in the night to unbelievers.
        Ok, please let me know if you have any question.
        Thanks, God bless you!!


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