Problem: David writes, “For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay” (Ps. 16:10). Peter cites this passage to refer to the resurrection of Jesus in Acts 2:25-28. Does this passage make his case?
Solution: According to the superscription, David is the author of this psalm. Thus, in order for this to be a messianic psalm, either (1) David is speaking about his offspring in the Davidic covenant or (2) David is speaking of the Holy One who is at his “right hand” (Ps. 16:8).
OPTION #1: David is speaking about his future offspring—the Messiah—even though he speaks in the first person
A number of observations can be made regarding this view:
First, if David believed that he wouldn’t decay after death, then he was wrong. Peter points out that his body did decay (Acts 2:29). Thus this cannot refer to David. David must be referring to one of his offspring in the future.
Second, David knew that one of his descendants would be enthroned by God. God had sworn that this would happen (cf. 2 Sam. 7:12-16).
(Ps. 132:11-12) The Lord has sworn to David a truth from which He will not turn back: Of the fruit of your body I will set upon your throne. If your sons will keep My covenant and My testimony which I will teach them, their sons also shall sit upon your throne forever.
(Ps. 89:3-4) “I have made a covenant with My chosen; I have sworn to David My servant, I will establish your seed forever and build up your throne to all generations.”
(Ps. 89:33-35) But I will not break off My lovingkindness from him, nor deal falsely in My faithfulness. My covenant I will not violate, nor will I alter the utterance of My lips. Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David.
In Psalm 16:10, the Hebrew word for “Holy One” is chaciyd. This same Hebrew word is used in another messianic passage: Psalm 89. Here the term “holy one” is used of David’s messianic line. David writes, “Once You spoke in vision to Your godly ones [chaciyd], and said, ‘I have given help to one who is mighty; I have exalted one chosen from the people. 20 I have found David My servant; with My holy oil I have anointed him’” (Ps. 89:19-20). This passage connects the term “holy one” (chaciyd) with David’s messianic line.
Third, David could have been speaking prophetically about his own resurrection through the Messiah. Because ANE culture was so bound up with the life of their descendants, David could have been speaking about his own resurrection in terms of his descendent—Jesus. That is, “Jesus (the ultimate Holy One) will be raised, and I will be raised as a consequence.”
OPTION #2: David is speaking about God at his “right hand” (v.8)
A simpler explanation is not that David is the “Holy One” mentioned in verse 10. Rather, God’s Holy One is the Messiah, who is at David’s right hand. David writes, “I have set the LORD continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken” (v.8). Under this view, the LORD (Jesus) is the Holy One who is with David in his writing.