Psalm Sixteen – Translation of the Song

16,1: A Michtam. By David.

Guard me, God, for I have sheltered in You.

16, 2: You [I] have spoken to Adonai: “My Master You are;

my good is never up to You.”

16,3: For the holy ones that are in the land, and the powerful,

all my desire [is] for them.

16, 4: Bountiful will be the sorrows of

those who pledged [themselves] to others;

never will I pour their libations of blood, and

never will I lift up their names upon my lips.

16, 5: Adonai, my share of my portion and of my cup,

You sustain my lot.

16, 6: Legacies have fallen to me, pleasant [ones],

even an estate goodly upon me.

16, 7: I will bless Adonai Who counselled me.

Even [in the] nights, tormented me my conscience.

16, 8: I have placed Adonai in front of me always,

for [He is] at my right [side];

never will I stumble.

16, 9: Therefore my heart was gladdened and my being rejoiced.
Even my flesh will rest securely.

 16, 10: For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol,

You will not allow Your devout one to see abomination.

16, 11: You will make me know the way of life.

The fullness of gladness, Your face.

Pleasures in Your right hand eternally.

Notes, Psalm 16

16,1: The meaning of Michtam has been lost. Presumably it refers to a musical instrument or to a profound declaration.


16,1: The Hebrew used here for God is El, a name not usually given to God in Judaism. And while El was the name of the head of the gods of the Canaanites, when used in Jewish writings it denotes that aspect of God that is strength. The Kabbalah perceives El as describing the divine attribute of compassion, indicating that Godliness cannot be seen as untampered power.


16,2: The singer is addressing his own soul as “you”. The Hebrew noun for “soul”, נְשָׁמָה, is feminine as is, accordingly, the form used here of the verb, אָמַרת. Had the singer simply used the pronoun “I”, the image, his soul, would have been lost and, grammatically, the gender used for both pronoun and verb would have been masculine.


16,2: The meaning of the last phrase of the verse is ambiguous (see Analysis), but whatever the interpretation, the negation, translated here as “never” must be taken into consideration.


16,3: The labels, “powerful” and “mighty”, may describe one and the same group or two different groups of authority. (See Analysis.)


16,4: The Hebrew verb, מָ֫הָ֥רוּ, translated here as “pledged”, suggests a dowry given as a contractual pledge of marriage.


16,4: The Hebrew inverts the subject and verb and translates literally as “Will be bountiful the sorrows”. We have used the common English word order for clarity.


16,6: The Hebrew, translated here as “legacies”, is literally “boundaries”. The suggestion is that the singer has inherited parcels of land, but, since land itself is not mentioned, we have used “legacies” to emphasize the idea of an inheritance. The metaphor built into the Hebrew word, חֲבָלִ֣ים, is that of dimensions measured out with ropes.


16,7: The Hebrew word, כִלְיוֹתָֽי, translated here as “my conscience” means, literally, “my kidneys”. The kidneys are the site, in Biblical writings, of the conscience. The metaphor, however, would be confusing if translated literally.


16,9: As in line 4, the Hebrew inverts subject and verb, thereby giving emphasis to the verbs. Literally, the translation is, “Therefore was gladdened my heart, and rejoiced my being.”


16,9: The word translated here as “being” has, in the Hebrew, כְּבוֹדִ֑י, a common root with both “glory” and “liver” (linking it, in imagery, to “kidneys” in line 7).


16,11: The opening phrase, translated here as a declaration, “You will make me know”, can also be read as a request, “Make me know”.


Click here to study “Literary analysis of Psalm 16

King James Psalms 16 Translation:

[1] Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust.
[2] O my soul, thou hast said unto the LORD, Thou art my Lord: my goodness extendeth not to thee;
[3] But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight.
[4] 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.
[5] The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot.
[6] The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.
[7] I will bless the LORD, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons.
[8] I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
[9] Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.
[10] For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
[11] Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.