Exposition of Psalm 16:10

The New Testament recognizes two Old Testament prophecies of the Resurrection. The second, which we will consider later, is Hosea 6:1-2. The first is Psalm 16:10.

For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

Psalm 16:10

Our confidence that this prophecy is speaking of Christ's return from the grave rests on the authority of Peter's sermon given at Pentecost (Acts 2:25-28).

The word "Holy One" (chasid) does not in itself necessarily betoken Christ (1). It just means a godly man (Psa. 145:10) (2). "Thine Holy One" might also be translated "thy saint" (3). But notice that God would grant the Holy One a most unusual deliverance. The Holy One would share the ordinary human experience of death, and after death, His soul, like the souls of other men, would go to "hell" (in Hebrew, sheol, the realm of the dead) (4). Yet God would not leave His soul in Sheol. By implication, God would remove it by an act of direct intervention. But where would the soul of the Holy One be taken?

The verse goes on to say that although the Holy One would die, He would escape corruption." The corresponding Hebrew word, shachath, is usually rendered "pit," another common designation for Sheol (5). But in this verse, "pit" is not the correct translation, for whereas the Holy One would temporarily reside in Sheol, He would never see shachath. Shachath is the noun form of a verb that, in its many occurrences, always carries the sense "corrupt" or "destroy" (6). Thus, many standard versions including the KJV agree that shachath in Psalm 16:10 refers to corruption (7). Of the various Greek words available to translators of the Septuagint, they chose diaphthora, which means "corruption" (8). Unquestionably, the prophecy contains the thought that no corruption would touch the body of the Holy One after His death. What would happen to avert normal degenerative processes?

The most straightforward resolution of these questions supposes that a single event would both terminate His soul's stay in hell and spare His body from decay. The event that the prophecy foreshadows must be a resurrection, reuniting His soul and body in new, unending life. To forestall the corruption of His body, the resurrection would have to take place soon after His death, within a few days at most.

The Holy One's attainment of immortality almost immediately after death marks Him out as no ordinary man. He is, in fact, Christ. The psalm is a prophetic vision of Christ triumphing over death and the grave.

Answer to an Objection

The heading of Psalm 16 identifies the writer as David. A casual reader might assume that when David speaks of the Holy One, he is referring to himself. The proof that the subject of the prophecy in verse 10 is not David but Christ was effectively stated by Peter on the day of Pentecost.

22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:

23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:

24 Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.

25 For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved:

26 Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope:

27 Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

28 Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.

29 Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.

30 Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne;

31 He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.

32 This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.

Acts 2:22-32

In verses 29-31, Peter answers the question, who is the Holy One? Peter's argument is simple and irrefutable. The Holy One surely cannot be David, because David died and his tomb is still among us. Therefore, the Holy One must be Christ.

But the psalmist claims the Holy One's soul as his own. He calls it "my soul." How can David use the first person when speaking of another man? Peter gives two explanations.

  1. Peter says that when David wrote the psalm, God had already "sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne" (v. 30). The oath is recorded in the Second Book of Samuel.

    And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.

    2 Samuel 7:12

    From this promise of God, David knew that Christ would be "the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh." Thus, in Psalm 16, he is entitled to treat Christ's experience as his own, just as any of us might legitimately think of ourselves as living in and through our children.

    The word translated "set up" in 2 Samuel 7:12 means "raise up" or "cause to rise" (9). Peter supplies the translation anastesion (Acts 2:30), a word commonly employed to signify the raising of Christ (10). Therefore, as David reflected upon the mysterious divine words, "I will set up thy seed after thee," he must have taken the promise to mean that Christ would occupy His forefather's throne only after He had been raised from death. David's assertion in Psalm 16:10 that the Holy One would rise again therefore rested on an insight culled from previous revelation.

  2. Peter gives another reason that David is entitled to speak of the soul of the Holy One as "my soul." He says David is speaking as "a prophet" (v. 30)—that is, as a mouthpiece of God. Therefore, it is, in a sense, God Himself speaking in Psalm 16:10. The person involved in the expression "my soul" can be understood as the person of God. We infer that God Himself would die and rise again.

Despite its foursquare cogency, Peter's argument leaves the critics unmoved. They insist that the writer of Psalm 16:10 (they doubt it was David) has no one in mind but himself. The text, they say, is not Messianic prophecy, but merely an expression of pious hope that the writer will someday live again through the power of God. Three replies expose the folly of equating the Holy One with the writer.

  1. If the writer is predicting his own resurrection in the distant future, his language is certainly sloppy. The words delineate a resurrection soon after death.
  2. If the writer is predicting his own resurrection soon after death, he is voicing a foolish hope that never came to fruition. In all history until the death of Jesus, there were two (Enoch and Elijah) who did not die and six (the widow of Zarephath's son, the Shunammite woman's son, the man who touched Elisha's bones, the widow of Nain's son, Jairus's daughter, and Lazarus) who revived after death only to die again at a later time, but none who rose soon after death and thereby gained life immortal.
  3. The view that the writer sees himself as the Holy One forces an expectation upon him that is completely discordant with the mentality of an ancient Israelite. So far as we know, not one Old Testament figure believed that his death would be followed quickly by resurrection. It is certain that David suffered no such delusion. When upon his death bed, he said,

    1 Now the days of David drew nigh that he should die; and he charged Solomon his son, saying,

    2 I go the way of all the earth: be thou strong therefore, and shew thyself a man.

    1 Kings 2:1-2

    Indeed, God had clearly told David that at his death he would lie down with his fathers, and that his place would be taken by his descendants (2 Sam. 7:12).

Although all conservatives agree that Psalm 16:10 is Messianic, many today have abandoned the traditional view that the prophecy is strictly Christocentric, with no reference to David. It is fashionable to posit a simultaneous double reference, taking in both the speaker and his exalted scion. Yet, Peter says that "David speaketh concerning him" (v. 25). The antecedent of "him" is "Jesus of Nazareth" (v. 22). Moreover, Peter says that "he [David] seeing this before spake [in this prophecy] of the resurrection of Christ" (v. 31). The crux of Peter's argument is that the psalm does not fit David's experience—that it makes sense only as Messianic prophecy. On the authority of the New Testament, we may therefore affirm that Christ is the sole subject of Psalm 16:10.

Exposition of Hosea 6:1-2

Prophecy tells not only that Jesus would rise from the dead, but also specifies the day after His burial when the Resurrection would take place. Jesus said that the prophets indicate the third day (Luke 18:31-33). Paul agreed that Christ's resurrection on the third day is a fact revealed by the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:4). Where does the Old Testament divulge this information? The primary source is Hosea 6:1-2.

1 Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up.

2 After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.

Hosea 6:1-2

Here is a difficult prophecy, but when we examine it carefully, we find that there is only one reasonable interpretation. In verse 2, who is "us?" Further light appears in the previous chapter.

When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound, the went Ephraim to the Assyrian, and sent to king Jareb: yet could he not heal you, nor cure you of your wound.

Hosea 5:13

This flashback reveals who needs the healing mentioned in verse 1. It is Ephraim and Judah—in other words, the nation of Israel. So, it is Israel who will be healed and raised up after three days.

There are two common interpretations, but neither is satisfactory.

  1. The usual interpretation is that Hosea is predicting a time when God will look favorably on Israel again and restore her fortunes. He is simply restating the message of many other prophets that God will someday rescue Israel from her troubles, exalt her among the nations, and under her Messiah give her rule over all the earth. Liberal scholars favor this one.
  2. Others suppose that he is talking about a future resurrection of the righteous dead.

But both interpretations founder on the question, What are the two days and the third day? If the revival is a national revival or a mass resurrection of Old Testament saints, how can either of these be meaningfully placed after an interval of precisely two or three days. What interval is it talking about? No one who favors these two interpretations can say.

The true meaning is revealed in Ephesians 4:8-10.

8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.

9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?

10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)

Ephesians 4:8-10

The "captivity" here is the Old Testament saints. Christ went to Hades after His death, to the abode of the righteous dead of Israel (Luke 16:23). There He preached the gospel (1 Pet. 4:6) so that they could meet their Savior and respond to Him in love. During their lives on earth, they had believed in God and trusted in Him for salvation, but they had not known Jesus, whose coming was still future. They became acquainted with Him, as it were, only after His death and descent into Hades. Yet He did not visit them and then leave them alone. He brought them out of Hades and took them to heaven so that they might dwell in the presence of the Father. Previously, they could not live in the Father's presence because their sins were not covered by the finished work of Christ. Lacking identification with Christ in His perfection, they had no standing before God and no right to dwell in heaven.

This interpretation allows a full explanation of everything stated in Hosea 6:2.

  1. It says He would "revive us." They must be revived because they are dead.
  2. It says He would "raise us up." They must be raised because their souls dwell in the earth.
  3. The raising would occur "after two days"—to be precise, "in the third day." Their deliverance from Hades would be accomplished at the resurrection of Christ, on the third day after His burial. Yet they were not immediately taken to heaven. On the Sunday when Jesus rose from the dead, before He ascended to the Father with them, many were seen walking about Jerusalem (Matt. 27:52-53). Apparently, His ascension took place later on Sunday. Early on Sunday morning, Christ would not let Mary touch Him because He had not yet ascended (John 20:17), yet in the evening He let the disciples touch Him (Luke 24:39).
  4. The passage says that "we shall live in his sight." After being removed from Hades, they would literally live in the sight or presence of God.

The same interpretation makes sense of verse 3 in Hosea 6.

Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.

Hosea 6:3

The first assertion can be translated, "Then shall we know, we who press on to know the Lord." They had always looked for the Redeemer's coming, but now they would know who He is. They would see Him face-to-face.

The expression, "his going forth," refers to His resurrection. The next expression, "prepared as the morning," can be translated, "certain as the morning." Thus, His resurrection would be as certain as the morning.

The word "morning" has special meaning. Morning is shachar, usually translated "dawn." It occurs one other time in Hosea.

So shall Bethel do unto you because of your great wickedness: in a morning shall the king of Israel utterly be cut off.

Hosea 10:15

According to Matthew 2:15, the next verse refers to Christ.

When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.

Hosea 11:1

This is the prophecy foretelling that Christ would sojourn for a time in Egypt. So, there can be little doubt that the king of Israel in Hosea 10:15, one verse before, is Christ. His death happens in a morning. The thought here is that Christ is the Light of the world (John 8:12), and His coming would be like a dawning, but in that morning He would die. Thus, when Hosea 6:3 says His going forth is certain as the morning, it means that just as He must come and die, He must also rise again.

According to verse 3, His going forth would take place after He came to Israel like rain. What does this mean? The explanation is given later in the book of Hosea.

Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.

Hosea 10:12

In other words, after Christ finished His work of redemption, He would bring righteousness to the dead who died in faith and who dwell in Hades. As a result, they would be accounted worthy to enter the presence of God. Their translation would occur after a period of two days.

Having looked at Hosea 10:12, we can now understand the significance of the well-known prophecy that follows, in Hosea 11:1. This prophecy together with later texts in Hosea convey a message similar to John 3:16. The latter states God's program for the whole world; the former, His program for Israel. In both, the motive is love. In both, God acts by putting His Son in danger. In one, He sends Him from heaven's tranquility into a world that would crucify Him. In the other, He brings Him out of the place of safety, Egypt, to the place where men had conspired to kill Him and where eventually they would succeed. Both Hosea and John reveal that through the Son's victory over death, He would obtain life for us.

I will ransom them from the hand of Sheol; I will redeem them from death: O death, where are your plagues; O Sheol, where is your ruin: repentance is hidden from My eyes.

Hosea 13:14 (11)

The last phrase apparently means that God would have no doubt or regret about doing as He states. God is speaking prophetically about the time when Christ would remove the saints of Israel from Sheol, providing them with eternal life. Both Hosea and John reveal that the life God provides is conditional on repentance or belief.

Take with you words, and turn to the LORD: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips.

Hosea 14:2


  1. Robert Young, Analytical Concordance to the Bible, 22d American ed., revised by Wm. B. Stevenson (repr., Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), 488.
  2. Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, The New Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon with an Appendix Containing the Biblical Aramaic (n.p., 1906; repr., Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1979), 339.
  3. In nineteen instances, the KJV gives "saint" for chasid. See, for example, 1 Samuel 2:9, Psalm 145:10, and Proverbs 2:8.
  4. Young, 474; Brown et al., 982.
  5. Young, 204; Wm. B. Stevenson, Index Lexicons to the Old and New Testaments, in Analytical Concordance to the Bible, by Robert Young, 22d American ed., revised by Wm. B. Stevenson (repr., Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), 43; Brown et al., 1001.
  6. Stevenson, 43; Merrill F. Unger and William White, Jr., Nelson's Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament (Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1980), reprinted in, An Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, by W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, and William White, Jr. (Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984), 96.
  8. William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, eds., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), 189.
  9. Jay P. Green, Sr., The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew/English, 3 vols. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1983), 2:819; Young, 868.
  10. George Ricker Berry, Interlinear Greek-English New Testament (n.p., 1897; repr., Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1981), 426; Young, 792.
  11. Jay P. Green, Sr., trans., The Literal Translation of the Holy Bible (Lafayette, Ind.: Sovereign Grace Publishers, 2001).