Psalm 51:18
Do good in your good pleasure to Zion: build you the walls of Jerusalem.
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(18) Do good.—The last two verses have occasioned much controversy. They do not fit in well with the theory of Davidic authorship, Theodoret long ago saying that they better suited the exiles in Babylon. They seem at first sight to contradict what has just been asserted of sacrifice. On both grounds they have been regarded as a liturgical addition, such as doubtless the compiler made, without any sense of infringement of the rights of authorship. On the other hand, it is not only these two verses which harmonise with the feelings of the restored exiles, but the whole psalm, and the contradiction in regard to the worth of sacrifices is only apparent. While vindicating spiritual religion, the psalmist no more abrogates ceremonies than the prophets do. As soon as their performance is possible they will be resumed.

Psalm 51:18. Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion — Hebrew, ברצונךְ, birtzonecha, for, or according to, thy grace, favour, or pleasure — That is, thy free and rich mercy, and thy gracious purpose and promise, made to and concerning thy church and people, here termed Zion. Build the walls of Jerusalem — Perfect the walls and buildings of that city, and especially let the temple be built and established in it, notwithstanding my great sins whereby I have polluted it, which I pray thee to purge away. But he may also be understood as speaking figuratively in these words, and praying for the enlargement and establishment of God’s church, often meant by Jerusalem.51:16-19 Those who are thoroughly convinced of their misery and danger by sin, would spare no cost to obtain the remission of it. But as they cannot make satisfaction for sin, so God cannot take any satisfaction in them, otherwise than as expressing love and duty to him. The good work wrought in every true penitent, is a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart, and sorrow for sin. It is a heart that is tender, and pliable to God's word. Oh that there were such a heart in every one of us! God is graciously pleased to accept this; it is instead of all burnt-offering and sacrifice. The broken heart is acceptable to God only through Jesus Christ; there is no true repentance without faith in him. Men despise that which is broken, but God will not. He will not overlook it, he will not refuse or reject it; though it makes God no satisfaction for the wrong done to him by sin. Those who have been in spiritual troubles, know how to pity and pray for others afflicted in like manner. David was afraid lest his sin should bring judgements upon the city and kingdom. No personal fears or troubles of conscience can make the soul, which has received grace, careless about the interests of the church of God. And let this be the continued joy of all the redeemed, that they have redemption through the blood of Christ, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of his grace.Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion - From himself - his deep sorrow, his conscious guilt, his earnest prayer for pardon and salvation - the psalmist turns to Zion, to the city of God, to the people of the Lord. These, after all, lay nearer to his heart than his own personal salvation; and to these his thoughts naturally turned even in connection with his own deep distress. Such a prayer as is here offered he would also be more naturally led to offer from the remembrance of the dishonor which he had brought on the cause of religion, and it was natural for him to pray that his own misconduct might not have the effect of hindering the cause of God in the world. The psalms often take this turn. Where they commence with a personal reference to the author himself, the thoughts often terminate in a reference to Zion, and to the promotion of the cause of religion in the world.

Build thou the walls of Jerusalem - It is this expression on which De Wette, Doederlein, and Rosenmuller rely in proof that this psalm, or this portion of it, was composed at a later period than the time of David, and that it must have been written in the time of the captivity, when Jerusalem was in ruins. See the introduction to the psalm. But, as was remarked there, it is not necessary to adopt this supposition. There are two other solutions of the difficulty, either of which would meet all that is implied in the language.

(a) One is, that the walls of Jerusalem, which David had undertaken to build, were not as yet complete, or that the public works commenced by him for the protection of the city had not been finished at the time of the fatal affair of Uriah. There is nothing in the history which forbids this supposition, and the language is such as would be used by David on the occasion, if he had been actually engaged in completing the walls of the city, and rendering it impregnable, and if his heart was intensely fixed on the completion of the work.

(b) The other supposition is, that this is figurative language - a prayer that God would favor and bless his people as if the city was to be protected by walls, and thus rendered safe from an attack by the enemy. Such language is, in fact, often used in cases where it could not be pretended that it was designed to be literal. See Jde 1:20; Romans 15:20; 1 Corinthians 3:12; Galatians 2:18; Ephesians 2:22; Colossians 2:7.

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.

In thy good pleasure; or, for or according to (for the Hebrew prefix beth is frequently used both those ways) thy good grace, or favour, or pleasure, i.e. thy free and rich mercy, and thy gracious purpose and promise made to and concerning Zion, of which see Psalm 132:14, and do not repent of it, nor retract it, as I have given thee cause to do. Unto Zion; synecdochically put for Jerusalem, as the next clause explains it, and both put for the whole people of Israel and church of God; whom I have highly scandalized and injured already, and exposed to the danger of utter destruction, which thou mightest inflict upon them for the sins of their king, as thou usest to do in like cases.

Build thou the walls of Jerusalem; perfect the walls and buildings of that city, and especially let the temple be built and established in this city, notwithstanding its pollution by my sins, which I pray thee to purge away. Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion,.... This verse, and Psalm 51:19, are thought, by a Spanish Rabbi mentioned by Aben Ezra, to have been added by one of the holy men that lived in the time of the Babylonish captivity; though rather it is thought, by the latter, to be written by David, under a spirit of prophecy, concerning, times to come; and so Kimchi thinks they are prophetic of future things; of the destruction of the first and second temple, and of the acceptableness of sacrifices in the times of the Messiah: and by Zion is meant the church, under the Gospel dispensation, Hebrews 12:22; and the "good" prayed for includes all the good and glorious things spoken of the church of Christ in the latter day; such as an increase of its numbers, the bringing in the fulness of the Gentiles, the conversion of the Jews, and the kingdoms of this world becoming the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ; the spread of the Gospel all over the world, the purity of Gospel doctrine, worship, and ordinances, the spirituality of religion, the power of godliness, and an abounding of brotherly love, and the like. The "good pleasure" of God, in which this is desired to be done, may denote either , "the acceptable time"; or "time of good pleasure"; the Gospel dispensation, so called Isaiah 49:8, in which it has been foretold, and may be expected these things shall be done; or else the cause, source, and spring of them, which is the sovereign good will and pleasure of God, from whence flow all the blessings of grace and goodness;

build thou the walls of Jerusalem; not literally taken; for these do not appear to have stood in need of being repaired or rebuilt in David's time; but the church of God, which is a spiritual house, built up of lively stones, true believers; which may be said to be more and more built up by an addition of such unto it: it is as a city compact together, whose walls are salvation, and its gates praise, Isaiah 26:1; of the wall of the new Jerusalem, see Revelation 21:12.

Do good in thy good pleasure unto {p} Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.

(p) He prays for the whole Church, because through his sin it was in danger of God's judgment.

18. Cp. Psalm 102:13 ff.

18, 19. Prayer of Israel in exile for the restoration of Jerusalem and the renewal of the Temple worship.

Reasons have already been given for thinking that these verses are not part of the original Psalm, but an addition by the exiles who adapted it to their own needs.Verses 18, 19. - That this is an addition made to the original psalm, during the time of the Babylonian exile, or later, for liturgical purposes, has been maintained by a large number of the commentators who ascribe the rest of the psalm to David. The chief ground for the supposition is the prayer in ver. 18, "Build thou the walls of Jerusalem," which has been supposed to imply that the walls were in ruins, whereas under David they should have been, it is thought, in good condition. But it has been pointed out, very justly, that the fortifications of Jerusalem were not complete in David's time, and that both he and Solomon added considerably to them (2 Samuel 5:9; 1 Kings 3:1; 1 Kings 9:15, 19). David may well have thought that, as a punishment for his sin, God might interfere with the work which he was doing for the benefit of his people, and hence have felt it needful to pray, "Do good unto Zion: build thou the wails of Jerusalem." Verse 18. - Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion. It is characteristic of David to pass from prayer for himself to prayer for the people committed to him, and especially to do so at or near the end of a psalm (see Psalm 5:11, 12; Psalm 25:22; Psalm 28:9; Psalm 40:16). And he closely connects - nay, identifies - the people with their capital city (see Psalm 46:4; Psalm 48:11: 69:35, etc.). Build thou the walls of Jerusalem. Josephus says that David encompassed the whole city of Jerusalem with walls ('Ant. Jud.,' 7:3, § 2); and we are told, in the Second Book of Samuel, that he "built round about from Mille and inward." It has been argued that his walls were just approaching their completion at the time of his great sin (Christian Observer, No. 333). In connection with רוּח נדיבה, the old expositors thought of נדיב, a noble, a prince, and נדיבה, nobility, high rank, Job 30:15, lxx πνεύματι ἡγεμονικῷ (spiritu principali) στήριξόν με, - the word has, however, without any doubt, its ethical sense in this passage, Isaiah 32:8, cf. נדבה, Psalm 54:8; and the relation of the two words רוח נדיבה is not to be taken as adjectival, but genitival, since the poet has just used רוח in the same personal sense in Psalm 51:12. Nor are they to be taken as a nominative of the subject, but - what corresponds more closely to the connection of the prayer - according to Genesis 27:37, as a second accusative of the object: with a spirit of willingness, of willing, noble impulse towards that which is good, support me; i.e., imparting this spirit to me, uphold me constantly in that which is good. What is meant is not the Holy Spirit, but the human spirit made free from the dominion of sin by the Holy Spirit, to which good has become an inward, as it were instinctive, necessity. Thus assured of his justification and fortified in new obedience, David will teach transgressors the ways of God, and sinners shall be converted to Him, viz., by means of the testimony concerning God's order of mercy which he is able to bear as the result of his own rich experience.
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