Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Ps 51:1-19. On the occasion, compare 2Sa 11:12. The Psalm illustrates true repentance, in which are comprised conviction, confession, sorrow, prayer for mercy, and purposes of amendment, and it is accompanied by a lively faith.
1-4. A plea for mercy is a confession of guilt.
blot out—as from a register.
transgressions—literally, "rebellions" (Ps 19:13; 32:1).
Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
2. Wash me—Purity as well as pardon is desired by true penitents.
For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
3. For … before me—Conviction precedes forgiveness; and, as a gift of God, is a plea for it (2Sa 12:13; Ps 32:5; 1Jo 1:9).
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
4. Against thee—chiefly, and as sins against others are violations of God's law, in one sense only.
that … judgest—that is, all palliation of his crime is excluded; it is the design in making this confession to recognize God's justice, however severe the sentence.
Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
5, 6. His guilt was aggravated by his essential, native sinfulness, which is as contrary to God's requisitions of inward purity as are outward sins to those for right conduct.
Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
6. thou shalt make, &c.—may be taken to express God's gracious purpose in view of His strict requisition; a purpose of which David might have availed himself as a check to his native love for sin, and, in not doing so, aggravated his guilt.
truth … and …wisdom—are terms often used for piety (compare Job 28:28; Ps 119:30).
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
7-12. A series of prayers for forgiveness and purifying.
Purge … hyssop—The use of this plant in the ritual (Ex 12:22; Nu 19:6, 18) suggests the idea of atonement as prominent here; "purge" refers to vicarious satisfaction (Nu 19:17-20).
Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
8. Make … joy—by forgiving me, which will change distress to joy.
Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.
9. Hide, &c.—Turn from beholding.
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
10. Create—a work of almighty power.
in me—literally, "to me," or, "for me"; bestow as a gift, a heart free from taint of sin (Ps 24:4; 73:1).
renew—implies that he had possessed it; the essential principle of a new nature had not been lost, but its influence interrupted (Lu 22:32); for Ps 51:11 shows that he had not lost God's presence and Spirit (1Sa 16:13), though he had lost the "joy of his salvation" (Ps 51:12), for whose return he prays.
right spirit—literally, "constant," "firm," not yielding to temptation.
Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
12. free spirit—"thy" ought not to be supplied, for the word "free" is, literally, "willing," and "spirit" is that of David. "Let a willing spirit uphold me," that is, with a soul willingly conformed to God's law, he would be preserved in a right course of conduct.
Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
13. Then—Such will be the effect of this gracious work.
ways—of providence and human duty (Ps 18:21, 30; 32:8; Lu 22:32).
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
14. Deliver—or, "Free me" (Ps 39:8) from the guilt of murder (2Sa 12:9, 10; Ps 5:6).
righteousness—as in Ps 7:17; 31:1.
O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
15. open … lips—by removing my sense of guilt.
For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
16. Praise is better than sacrifice (Ps 50:14), and implying faith, penitence, and love, glorifies God. In true penitents the joys of pardon mingle with sorrow for sin.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.
18. Do good, &c.—Visit not my sin on Thy Church.
build … walls—is to show favor; compare Ps 89:40, for opposite form and idea.
Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.
19. God reconciled, material sacrifices will be acceptable (Ps 4:5; compare Isa 1:11-17).