Psalm 116

Submitted by admin on Tue, 2008-02-05 09:21.

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The psalmist loved YHWH because he heard or responded to his supplications, providing aid in his time of distress. Based on the way the Most High had dealt with him, granting him a hearing, the psalmist resolved to “call” upon him or make his supplications to him as long as he lived—all his “days.”

Regarding the danger that had confronted him, the psalmist felt that the ropes or snares of death had encompassed him and that the straits of Sheol had found him or laid hold of him. He already regarded himself as in death’s grip, as if constricting ropes were tightening around him and he was about to enter the realm of the dead. Distress and agony had “found” him, plunging him into a seemingly hopeless state.

At that time, he called upon the name of YHWH (the bearer of the name), pleading that his “soul” or life be delivered. In view of the aid he then received, the psalmist acknowledged YHWH as being “gracious” (“merciful,” LXX) or kind and “righteous” or just. God’s graciousness is revealed in the loving response to his needy servants and his righteousness when acting in harmony with his promise to assist them. Speaking for all of his people, the psalmist declared, “Our God is merciful.” They could rely on his compassionate response in their time of need.

YHWH’s protective care is extended to the “simple,” persons who are vulnerable like children on account of their trusting nature and who often become victims of unscrupulous persons. When the psalmist had been brought low, reduced to a weak and helpless state, YHWH delivered him.

For the psalmist’s “soul” or for him himself to return to his “rest” would denote that he would again enjoy tranquility, free from the distress and anguish he had experienced. YHWH had “dealt bountifully” with him, liberating him from the distressing circumstances, and this made it possible to return to his “rest,” the former state of well-being.

YHWH had delivered the psalmist’s “soul” or life from death, his eyes from tears (removing all causes for weeping), and his foot from stumbling (preventing him from experiencing a serious fall from which recovery would have been humanly impossible). In the “land of the living,” the psalmist would walk before YHWH, conducting himself in a manner that would be divinely approved.


Even when he had been greatly afflicted, the psalmist maintained his faith in YHWH but realized that humans were of no help. According to the Septuagint, he “spoke” because he believed or had faith. (See the Notes section for comments about the quotation of verse 10 in 2 Corinthians 4:13.) In his time of fear or terror (as when hastening in an anxious state), the psalmist said, “All men are liars.” With reference to providing dependable aid, they were not deserving of trust but as unreliable as speakers of falsehood.

YHWH, however, had proved to be trustworthy in the ultimate sense. So the psalmist asked what he should repay for all of God’s “bounties” to him or for all the aid YHWH had generously given to him.

The expression “cup of salvation” may serve to indicate that the psalmist’s being granted deliverance was like a cup or blessed portion. In that case, the words about lifting the cup would refer to his thanking YHWH (the one upon whose name he called) for having rescued him from danger. A number of translations, however, interpretively render the expression about the cup as denoting a drink offering of thanksgiving. “I will bring a wine offering to the LORD, to thank him for saving me.” (GNT, Second Edition) “I will show Him my thanks for saving me with a gift of wine and praise His name.” (NLB) Whether the cup is understood to be literal (with its contents being an offering of thanksgiving) or to mean a divinely provided portion, the basic thought is still the psalmist’s expression of gratitude for divine deliverance. Later, in verse 17, the psalmist specifically mentions a sacrifice of thanksgiving, which could have been an offering of wine.

When faced with threatening circumstances, the psalmist made vows to YHWH. These vows he resolved to pay or fulfill, doing so in the presence of all of God’s people. This would have been at the sanctuary, where many worshipers would be assembled. (These words of verse 14 about vows are not found in the Septuagint but are included where they are repeated in verse 18 of the Masoretic Text [115:9, LXX].)

The psalmist had been rescued from experiencing a premature death. Accordingly, his expression about the death of God’s devoted or holy ones may signify that such a death would be too precious in his eyes to allow it to occur. A number of translations make this significance explicit in their renderings. Der Herr bewahrt alle, die ihn lieben, denn in seinen Augen ist ihr Leben wertvoll. (“The Lord keeps all whom he loves, for their life is precious in his eyes.” [German, Hoffnung für Alle]) Der Herr lässt die Seinen nicht untergehen, dafür ist ihm ihr Leben zu wertvoll. (“The Lord will not let his own go to ruin; for this, their life is too precious to him” [German, Gute Nachricht Bibel].) Other translations, however, take the psalmist’s words to refer to the way in which God views the actual death of his servants, which meaning, in view of the context, appears less likely. “How painful it is to the LORD when one of his people dies!” (GNT, Second Edition) “The death of His faithful ones is valuable in the Lord’s sight.” (HCSB) “You are deeply concerned when one of your loyal people faces death.” (CEV) “The LORD’s loved ones are precious to him; it grieves him when they die.” (NLT) “The death of His holy ones is of great worth in the eyes of the Lord.” (NLB)

The psalmist identified himself as YHWH’s servant and the son of his handmaid, thereby acknowledging his mother as a faithful servant of the Most High. On the basis of his own relationship to YHWH and that of his mother, he made his appeal. Only the Most High did and, in the future, could loose him from any restricting or distressing bonds.

In appreciation for all that his God had done for him, the psalmist would offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call upon the name of YHWH (the bearer of the name) as the provider of unfailing aid.

After repeating his resolve to pay his vows to YHWH in the presence of his people assembled in the sanctuary courts and in the midst of Jerusalem, the psalmist concluded with the imperative, “Praise Yah [the abbreviated form of YHWH]!” This imperative is directed to all worshipers in the courts of YHWH’s house and in the midst of the city. The Septuagint, however, does not include an equivalent for “Praise Yah.”


In the extant Septuagint text, Psalm 116 appears as two separate psalms, with 116:1-9 being Psalm 114 and 116:10-19 being Psalm 115. Both open with the expression Hallelujah (Praise Yah).

Regarding the divine name (YHWH), see Psalm 1.

In verse 8, an extant Dead Sea scroll omits the reference to the stumbling of the foot.

In 2 Corinthians 4:13, the words “I believed [had faith]; therefore I spoke” (115:1, LXX) are quoted. The apostle Paul referred to having the same spirit of faith as the psalmist. Although repeatedly in grave danger (as was the psalmist), the apostle believed or had faith in God and Christ. The dangers he faced did not stop him from making known the glad tidings about God’s Son. He did not waver in his conviction that a resurrection from the dead was certain for all who were devoted disciples of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:10-14)