Psalms 51


לַמְנַצֵּחַ מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִד׃   51:1

Psal. 51:1   A psalm of David's for the leader,

בְּבוֹא־אֵלָיו נָתָן הַנָּבִיא כַּאֲשֶׁר־בָּא אֶל־בַּת־שָׁבַע׃   51:2

Psal. 51:2   on the coming in of Nathan, the prophet, to him,

                              as he had gone in to Bath-sheba:

חָנֵּנִי אֱלֹהִים כְּחַסְדֶּךָ כְּרֹב רַחֲמֶיךָ מְחֵה פְשָׁעָי׃   51:3

Psal. 51:3   Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your mercy;

                              according to the abundance of Your compassions, blot out my transgressions.

הַרְבֵּה) [הֶרֶב] כַּבְּסֵנִי מֵעֲוֹנִי וּמֵחַטָּאתִי טַהֲרֵנִי׃   51:4

Psal. 51:4   Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,

                              and purify me from my sin.

The spelling of the first word (before the left parenthesis) is not that of the adverb I translate as thoroughly, but of an adjective, which is incorrect..  The correction is in the brackets.

כִּי־פְשָׁעַי אֲנִי אֵדָע וְחַטָּאתִי נֶגְדִּי תָמִיד׃   51:5

Psal. 51:5   For I can discern my transgressions

                              and my sin is continually before me.

לְךָ לְבַדְּכָ חָטָאתִי וְהָרַע בְּעֵינֶיךָ עָשִׂיתִי לְמַעַן תִּצְדַּק בְּדָבְרֶךָ תִּזְכֶּה בְשָׁפְטֶךָ׃   51:6

Psal. 51:6   Toward You, only You, have I sinned,

                              and have done such evil in Your eyes,

                      that You would be righteous with Your speech,

                              justified in Your judgment.

Some scholars cite the phrase “Toward You, only You,...”  in this verse as “proof” that David didn’t compose this psalm.  David’s sin was not only against God but also against Uriah, and he would know that with certainty.  Moreover, scholars believe that it is not David to whom this psalm refers, but to Israel.  However, v. 51:1 above refers to David’s going in to Bath-sheba, and I refuse to discount that.  So I conclude that the psalm is from David, but it was composed before he plotted and arranged for Uriah’s demise.  During this relatively short duration of time, his sin would have been only adultery and that would have been only against God.

הֵן־בְּעָווֹן חוֹלָלְתִּי וּבְחֵטְא יֶחֱמַתְנִי אִמִּי׃   51:7

Psal. 51:7   Behold, in iniquity I was born,

                                 and my mother conceived me in sin.

I can neither find nor imagine any meaningful explanation of the meaning of this verse.  Born in iniquity?  Conceived in sin?  What is he saying?

הֵן־אֱמֶת חָפַצְתָּ בַטֻּחוֹת וּבְסָתֻם חָכְמָה תוֹדִיעֵנִי׃   51:8

Psal. 51:8   Behold, truth You desire in the innermost places;

                                 so may You cause me to know wisdom in the most secret place.

תְּחַטְּאֵנִי בְאֵזוֹב וְאֶטְהָר תְּכַבְּסֵנִי וּמִשֶּׁלֶג אַלְבִּין׃   51:9

Psal. 51:9   May You purify me with hyssop so I will be clean;

                                 may You wash me so I will be whiter than snow.

תַּשְׁמִיעֵנִי שָׂשׂוֹן וְשִׂמְחָה תָּגֵלְנָה עֲצָמוֹת דִּכִּיתָ׃   51:10

Psal. 51:10   May You cause me to hear joy and gladness;

                                 the bones You have crushed would rejoice.

הַסְתֵּר פָּנֶיךָ מֵחֲטָאָי וְכָל־עֲוֺנֹתַי מְחֵה׃   51:11

Psal. 51:11   Hide Your “face” from my sin

                                 and blot out all my iniquities.

לֵב טָהוֹר בְּרָא־לִי אֱלֹהִים וְרוּחַ נָכוֹן חַדֵּשׁ בְּקִרְבִּי׃   51:12

Psal. 51:12   Create a pure heart for me, O God,

                                 and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

אַל־תַּשְׁלִיכֵנִי מִלְּפָנֶיךָ וְרוּחַ קָדְשְׁךָ אַל־תִּקַּח מִמֶּנִּי׃   51:13

Psal. 51:13   Do not cast me away from Your presence,

                                 or take Your holy spirit from me.

הָשִׁיבָה לִּי שְׂשׂוֹן יִשְׁעֶךָ וְרוּחַ נְדִיבָה תִסְמְכֵנִי׃   51:14

Psal. 51:14   Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,

                                 and may You let a willing spirit support me.

אֲלַמְּדָה פֹשְׁעִים דְּרָכֶיךָ וְחַטָּאִים אֵלֶיךָ יָשׁוּבוּ׃   51:15

Psal. 51:15   I will teach transgressors Your ways,

                                 so sinners may return to You.

הַצִּילֵנִי מִדָּמִים אֱלֹהִים אֱלֹהֵי תְּשׁוּעָתִי תְּרַנֵּן לְשׁוֹנִי צִדְקָתֶךָ׃   51:16

Psal. 51:16   Deliver me from blood guilt, O God, God of my salvation;

                                my tongue will sing aloud of Your righteousness.

What does he mean by blood guilt?  Am I wrong, and Uriah was already dead?  I doubt it.  I suspect he’s referring to one or more other incidents known only to him.

אֲדֹנָי שְׂפָתַי תִּפְתָּח וּפִי יַגִּיד תְּהִלָּתֶךָ׃   51:17

Psal. 51:17   O Master, may You open my lips

                                 that my mouth can declare Your praise.

כִּי לֹא־תַחְפֹּץ זֶבַח וְאֶתֵּנָה עוֹלָה לֹא תִרְצֶה׃   51:18

Psal. 51:18   Surely You must not desire sacrifice, or I would give;

                                 You must not be pleased with burnt offering.

Once again David reveals his belief that only animal sacrifices by themselves are not enough.

זִבְחֵי אֱלֹהִים רוּחַ נִשְׁבָּרָה לֵב־נִשְׁבָּר וְנִדְכֶּה אֱלֹהִים לֹא תִבְזֶה׃   51:19

Psal. 51:19   My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;

                                 a heart broken and contrite;

                        O God, may You not despise.

הֵיטִיבָה בִרְצוֹנְךָ אֶת־צִיּוֹן תִּבְנֶה חוֹמוֹת יְרוּשָׁלִָם׃   51:20

Psal. 51:20   Make Zion glad by Your acceptance;

                                 may You build the walls of Jerusalem.

אָז תַּחְפֹּץ זִבְחֵי־צֶדֶק עוֹלָה וְכָלִיל אָז יַעֲלוּ עַל־מִזְבַּחֲךָ פָרִים׃   51:21

Psal. 51:21   Then You will delight in sacrifices of righteousness,

                                 burnt offering, and whole offering;

                         then they will offer bullocks upon Your altar.


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