Translating Psalm 16

By David.

Keep me safe, God,
Because I take refuge in you!

You have said to Yahweh, “You are my Lord.
There is nothing good for me apart from you.”
As for the holy ones who are in the land,
“They are also majestic. All my delight is in them.”

Those who set a bride-price with another (god) have their sorrows multiplied.
I will not pour out their drink offerings of blood
And will not take their names upon my lips.

Yahweh is my chosen portion and my cup;
You yourself will hold my lot.
The boundary lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Yes, my inheritance is pleasing to me.

I will bless Yahweh who has counseled me;
Yes, by night my heart instructs me.
I have set Yahweh before me continually;
Because he is at my right hand I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my whole being rejoices;
Yes, my flesh will dwell in security,
Because you will not abandon my soul to Sheol
Nor will you make your holy one to see corruption.
You make known to me the path of life;
Fullness of joys are with your face;
Pleasures are in your right hand forever.


I took advantage of John Barach’s excellent translation of Psalm 16. I concur with John when he writes that “the word mohar likely refers to a bride-price, money negotiated with a woman’s father but given to the woman.” In other words, those who make bargains with false gods end up with great sorrow. Further, verse 11 generally has “presence” for paniym. I find the translation of “face” to be more faithful to the Hebrew. The benediction of Aaron implies this translation. I prefer the consistency throughout. “His face shine upon you,” rather than “his presence shine upon you.” The idea is that God is turning his sight toward our afflictions and needs and blessing us. I also continue the translation of “Yahweh” for “LORD” which gives us God’s covenantal name. I was pleased to see John Goldingay’s translation of the Old Testament follow this pattern throughout.

  1. Classically this refers to a liturgical setting; certainly a musical reference  (back)
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