Psalm 16

This composition is ascribed to David. The Hebrew expression commonly transliterated Miktam is rendered stelographía (inscription) in the Septuagint. This meaning of the Greek, however, is not necessarily the significance of the Hebrew term.

For David, YHWH was his refuge, the One to whom he looked for protection and help or, according to the Septuagint, in whom he hoped. Therefore, he prayed to be safeguarded.

David recognized YHWH as his Lord, the One whose willing and appreciative servant he was. The Hebrew phrase including the reference to “my good” or “my goodness” is obscure. It literally reads, “you are my good not from you.” The Vulgate rendering of the Hebrew for “not from you” eliminates the ambiguity (non est sine te [not is without you]). This may be understood to mean that David recognized that, apart from or without God, he had no good. YHWH was the source of all the good he possessed. According to the Septuagint, however, the Most High had “no need” of the psalmist’s “good things,” suggesting that he really had nothing to give to God.

The “holy ones” would be those who live an upright or pure life in the land, and (in the parallel expression) the “majestic” or “magnificent” ones would be persons who conducted themselves in a noble and dignified manner. David’s delight or pleasure was in such persons whose conduct was laudable, and he chose them as his associates. Although referring to the “holy ones,” the Septuagint represents them as being in God’s land and says that “he magnified all his desires in them.” This could mean that YHWH found his greatest delight in the holy ones.

The psalmist’s focus is next directed to those who are disloyal to YHWH. Evidently by their wrong course, they increased their pains. The reference to “another” may be understood to apply to another god they chose for themselves and after which deity they hurried or which they eagerly pursued. David determined not to share with such disloyal ones in venerating other deities. He would refuse to pour out libations of blood and to mention the names of these gods in a manner that would attribute any existence to them.

For David, YHWH was the portion of his share or his “inheritance” (LXX). His relationship with the Most High meant everything to him. It was his precious possession and nothing else really mattered. This desirable portion was comparable to his being given a cup from which he could drink to satisfaction. The “lot” itself was secure, for YHWH held it firmly for him. This indicated David’s confidence that YHWH would not forsake him, leaving him without his precious portion.

Measuring lines would be used to determine the size of an inheritance. Because David treasured his inheritance, his relationship with YHWH, he referred to these lines as having fallen in delightful places. His inheritance proved to be beautiful or, according to the Septuagint, the “best” or “most excellent.”

David valued the advice or counsel he had received, which would have included the guidance of the law and the words of the prophets. This advice he attributed to YHWH and determined to bless or praise him for it. Apparently that advice had become a part of his deepest feelings, and this is probably why he spoke of his “kidneys” admonishing him at night. During periods of wakefulness, he would be moved to reflect seriously on the divinely given advice.

David kept YHWH ever before him, deeply appreciating the need for aid. He saw his God as a loyal friend at his right hand, ready to assist and protect him. This gave David the confidence that he would not be shaken or experience a calamitous fall.

It is his confidence in YHWH that provided the basis for the gladness of his heart, his deep inner self. His “glory” (his “tongue,” LXX) or he himself, by reason of the dignity he enjoyed, rejoiced. Also his “flesh,” his physical organism, did dwell in a state of security.

Apparently in his own case, the psalmist felt that YHWH would not allow him (his “soul”) to go down into Sheol, the realm of the dead, prematurely. Being God’s faithful or “holy one” (LXX), David was confident that he would not “see” the pit because of an early death.

The words of the psalmist respecting his joy and confidence are expressed in terms that found their complete meaning in the experiences of the one greater than David, the Messiah. On the basis of a direct divine revelation through the prophet Nathan and with God’s spirit operating upon him, David, as a prophet, used words that came to apply to Christ’s not being forsaken in Sheol or Hades but being raised from the dead. This is the point the apostle Peter made when calling attention to this psalm. (Acts 2:31; also see Acts 13:35-37, where the apostle Paul is quoted as using and applying the words of Psalm 16:10 [15:10, LXX].)

David was confident that YHWH would make known to him or teach him the “path of life,” likely meaning the course that would enable him to enjoy living as God’s devoted servant. Before YHWH’s face, in his presence, or with his favor turned toward him, David would experience complete joy. He would always be a recipient of pleasures or delights either because of having YHWH at his right hand as a helper and friend or by reason of what he would be receiving from this hand of favor.


With the exception of one minor spelling variation involving only one letter, the text of Acts 2:25-28 and the reading of the Septuagint are identical.

The following translation of Psalm 16:8-11 (15:8-11, LXX) is being provided for comparison purposes.

Masoretic Text: I have set YHWH before me always. Because [he is] at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore, my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices. Also my flesh dwells in security because you will not abandon me to Sheol nor permit your faithful one to see the pit. You make me know the path of life. Fullness of joy [is] before your face.

Septuagint: I saw the Lord before me always, for he is at my right hand in order that I may not be shaken. Therefore, my heart rejoiced, and my tongue exulted. Furthermore, my flesh will dwell in hope because you will not abandon my soul in Hades nor will you permit your holy one to see corruption. You have made known to me ways of life. With your face, you will fill me with joy.

The Hebrew noun sháchath is used to designate a “pit,” and the verb shacháth means “ruin,” “spoil,” “corrupt,” or “annihilate.” Evidently the Septuagint translator regarded the noun as being linked to the verb meaning “corrupt” and therefore used the Greek noun diaphthorá (corruption, destruction). Similarly, in The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible, the very fragmentary Hebrew text has been reconstructed to read, “Because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your holy one see decay.”

Whereas David did experience decay or corruption after his death, his descendant, the Messiah or Christ, did not, for he was raised from the dead. This is the point the apostle Paul is quoted as having made when speaking to assembled worshipers in the synagogue located in Antioch of Pisidia. (Acts 13:35-37)

In Acts 2:31, words from this psalm are also applied to Christ’s resurrection.