Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Psalms 16:3

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

But to the saints that are in the earth - This verse also has been very variously rendered. Our translators seem to have understood it, in connection with the previous verse, as meaning that his “goodness,” or piety, was not of so pure and elevated a character that it could in any way extend to God so as to benefit him, but that it “might” be of service to the saints on earth, and that so, by benefiting them, he might show his attachment to God himself. But if the interpretation of the previous verse above proposed be the correct one, then this interpretation cannot be admitted here. This verse is probably to be regarded as a further statement of the evidence of the attachment of the psalmist to God. In the previous verse, according to the interpretation proposed, he states that his happiness - his all was centered in God. He had no hope of anything except in him; none beyond him; none besides him.

In this verse he states, as a further proof of his attachment to him, that he regarded with deep affection the saints of God; that he found his happiness, not in the society of the wicked, but in the friendship of the excellent of the earth. The verse may be thus rendered: “As to the saints in the earth (or in respect to the saints in the earth), and to the excellent, all my delight is in them.” In the former verse he had stated that, as to God, or in respect to God, he had no source of blessing, no hope, no joy, beyond him, or independent of him; in this verse he says that in respect to the saints - the excellent of the earth - all his delight was in them. Thus he was conscious of true attachment to God and to his people. Thus he had what must ever be essentially the evidence of true piety - a feeling that God is all in all, and real love for those who are his; a feeling that there is nothing beyond God, or without God, that can meet the wants of the soul, and a sincere affection for all who are his friends on earth. DeWette has well expressed the sense of the passage, “The holy, who are in the land, and the noble - I have all my pleasure in them.”

In the earth - In the land; or, perhaps, more generally, “on earth.” God was in heaven, and all his hopes there were in him. In respect to those who dwelt on the earth, his delight was with the saints alone.

And to the excellent - The word used here means properly “large, great,” mighty; then it is applied to “nobles, princes, chiefs;” and then to those who excel in moral qualities, in piety, and virtue. This is the idea here, and thus it corresponds with the word “saints” in the former member of the verse. The idea is that he found his pleasure, not in the rich and the great, not in princes and nobles, but in those who were distinguished for virtue and piety. In heaven he had none but God; on earth he found his happiness only in those who were the friends of God.

In whom is all my delight - I find all my happiness in their society and friendship. The true state of my heart is indicated by my love for them. Everywhere, and at all times, love for those who love God, and a disposition to find our happiness in their friendship, will be a characteristic of true piety.