Study Guide

Psalms Psalm 16

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Psalm 16

Verses 1-2

Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, "You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you."

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

  • Seems more like a deal than a prayer: God gets love and devotion, the writer gets protection. Win-win…win.
  • Talking is a big deal here; you have to tell God you're on board with this deal.

Verse 3

As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight.

But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight.

  • The author thinks of himself as one of the "nobles" in the land who truly believed in God's power, justice, and presence.
  • Although a woman certainly could have played a part in writing the Psalms, this is the ancient world; the prominent figures who could have written a text like Psalms were all men.
  • Notice again how the KJV writers made sure that "holy ones" ended up becoming "saints." Got to watch the edition you're reading. On a pure literary level, they're synonyms, but the words carry entirely different meanings in society.

Verse 4

Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips.

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.

  • Clearly, God has some fierce competition.
  • The author seems to be no stranger to people who think that this whole God thing is a bunch of nonsense.
  • You might think the author is trying to brand his opponents as cannibals, but don't jump to conclusions too quickly. Animal sacrifices were the norm in the ancient world, and the Israelites themselves sacrificed animals in Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem. (Want proof? Check out the Cain and Abel story in Genesis.)
  • In reality, we have no way of knowing what this line is about. Is it actually a reference to an alternative practice involving blood of another people? Or an attempt to label worshipers of other gods as cannibals? 
  • One of the problems with a text like Psalms is that the original meanings were lost when the customs disappeared. That means we need handy dandy archaeology to help us reconstruct the author's original intent.

Verses 5-11

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage.
I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.
I keep the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure.
For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit.
You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot.
The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.
I will bless the Lord, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons.
I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.
For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

  • God's constant presence is a major assertion throughout the book of Psalms. No questions asked: God is always around.
  • God offers advice at night during the darkest hours, and the writer "shall not be moved" because he has confidence in God's ability to stay by his side forever.
  • Sounds pretty cozy. Especially because death was a big fear back then, too. For more about death, check out our discussion of "Sheol" in the "Symbols, Imagery, and Allegory" section.
  • The author passionately maintains that God is not just the source and protector of his life, but also the force that endows his life with "pleasures." But it's not that easy; it takes the individual's faith to activate those pleasures. What do you think: is this individualism, or is the poem making the case for God-dependent life? Are the two intertwined?

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