Psalm 51 and Commentary

Psalm 51

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

1 Have mercy on me,a O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!

3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.

4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.

5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.

6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.

9 Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a rightb spirit within me.

11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.

14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.

15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.

16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
build up the walls of Jerusalem;

19 then will you delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.

a 1 Or Be gracious to me
b 10 Or steadfast

A Commentary from Tehillim followed by a brief comment by me.

“This chapter is among the few Psalms that make explicit reference to the context in which they were written. The opening verse informs us that David composed this chapter when he was approached by prophet Natan after his sin with Batsheva. As we read in the Book of Shemuel II (chapter 12), God sent Natan to David to condemn his sin and to warn of the harsh punishment he will endure as a result (“the sword shall not leave your household forever” – Shemuel II 12:10). Upon hearing Natan’s prophecy, David composed this stirring prayer begging the Almighty to forgive his wrongdoing.

“David’s prayer consists of a number of noteworthy elements, most prominently, perhaps, the emphasis on the theme of “cleansing.” He begs not merely for forgiveness, that he escape punishment, but also that he be “laundered” and “purified” from his sin (see verses 4,9). In fact, he asks for purification with “hyssop” (verse 9), which, as Rashi notes, refers to the purification process of a Metzora (leper) which included a hyssop (see Vayikra 14:4) and was required before the Metzora may enter the Mikdash. David recognizes that his misdeed not only renders him worthy of punishment, but also leaves an impression upon his soul; it hampers his ability to reach greater spiritual heights, just as a Metzora’s condition bars him from entering the Temple. He thus beseeches God for not only forgiveness, but for purification, for the complete eradication of the sin’s effects from his being so that he can continue his life of sanctity and Godliness. As he famously prays in verses 12-13, “Create for me a pure heart, O God, and renew within me a proper spirit. Do not cast me away from You, and do not take from me Your sacred spirit.”

“David also declares as part of his plea, “I shall teach betrayers Your ways, and sinners shall return unto You” (verse 15). Rashi and Radak explain this to mean that the forgiveness granted to David shall serve as inspiration for all sinners of all future generations, who will learn from his experience about the immense power of repentance. David understands full well the prominent place he has attained in Jewish history, that everything he does and that happens to him will be carefully studied for generations to come. He therefore appeals to God that for the benefit of all Jews for the rest of time, God should accept his repentance and thereby establish an inspiring precedent for all future sinners to follow.

“Towards the end of this Psalm, David proclaims that God is interested less in sacrificial offerings that in sincere, wholehearted repentance: “The offerings of God are a broken spirit, a broken and sorrowful heart – God will not reject” (verse 19). This, too, is likely intended for us, the readers and students of Tehillim who do not have the ability to offer sacrifices, reminding us that the true “sacrifice” is made by the heart, through genuine Teshuva. Even in the absence of the Temple, sinners can earn atonement and God’s favor through the process of repentance – the one “sacrifice” that the Almighty will never reject.”

We can be grateful for the full purification offered by Yeshua Messiah and L-RD. Our souls are washed and purified by Him. Spiritually we are seated with Him. In this present world, in our bodies, we are being made holy as we await the compete glorification of our bodies when we are with Yeshua. Hallelujah!

The L-RD bless you and protect you!
The L-RD deal kindly and graciously with you!
The L-RD bestow His favor upon you and grant you peace!
(Numbers 6:24-26)

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