Psalms 16 Summary - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
This Psalm is a joyous profession of faith and hope, springing from the sense of a living fellowship with Jehovah. The danger, if special danger there was, which prompted the prayer of Psa 16:1, lies entirely in the background. The Psalmist’s whole soul is possessed and kindled by the thought that Jehovah is his highest good.
It has been suggested that the Psalm was written by David during his outlaw life. He had been banished from his share in the inheritance of Jehovah, and exposed to the danger of apostasy (1Sa 26:19, R.V. marg.). In this hour of trial he triumphs in the thought that Jehovah Himself is the portion of his inheritance, a fairer portion than the goodliest fields and vineyards which could have fallen to his lot ( Psa 16:5-6); and he energetically repudiates the idea of yielding to the temptation to serve another god ( Psa 16:4).
There are many links of connexion (see Introd. to Psalms 17) between this Psalm and Psalms 17, and they may with good reason be assigned to the same author. As Psalms 17 may with much probability be referred to the time of David’s persecution by Saul, the presumption in favour of the Davidic authorship of Psalms 16 is strengthened.
Many critics however refer both Psalms to a much later period. Ewald groups together 17, 16, 49 (in this order), and on the ground of language and contents places them in the Exile.
If, as is often assumed to be the case, Psa 16:9-11 and Psa 17:15 explicitly declare the Psalmist’s belief in a resurrection and a future life of blessedness, in sharp contrast to such passages as Psa 6:5, Psa 30:9, Psa 88:10-12, these Psalms could hardly be placed earlier than the Exile. Delitzsch indeed, while admitting that the doctrine of a Resurrection does not appear in pre-exilic times as a truth of revelation, asks why it should not appear in Davidic Psalms as ‘a bold postulate of faith.’ But if the line of interpretation adopted below is correct, the Psalmist’s thoughts are to be viewed from a different stand-point altogether. “His antithesis is not this world and the next, but life with God and life without God.” (Cheyne.)
The Psalm falls into three divisions.
i. The Psalmist grounds his prayer for protection on his relation to Jehovah, Who alone is the source of happiness. His delight is in the society of the faithful; with apostates he will have no fellowship (Psa 16:1-4).
ii. The thought that Jehovah is his sole good, the source of all his weal, is taken up and developed (Psa 16:5-8).
iii. Secure in this faith he anticipates a life of true felicity in unbroken fellowship with Jehovah (Psa 16:9-11).
For a valuable exposition of this Psalm by Prof. W. Robertson Smith see The Expositor, 1876, Vol. iv. pp. 341 ff.
On the title Michtam see Introd. p. xx.
Consult other comments:
The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges is a biblical commentary set published in parts by Cambridge University Press from 1882 onwards. Anglican bishop John Perowne was the general editor. The first section published was written by theologian Thomas Kelly Cheyne and covered the Book of Micah.
Perowne exercised limited editorial control over the writers of individual commentaries: his aim was "to leave each contributor to the unfettered exercise of his own judgment".