Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Hyssop.—The mention of this connects this verse with the priestly ordinances concerning leprosy and contact with a dead body (Leviticus 14; Numbers 19); but generally it is a repetition of the former prayer to have the breach made in the covenant - relationship healed. (Comp. Isaiah 1:18.)Psalm 51:7. Purge me with hyssop — Or, as with hyssop; the note of similitude being frequently understood. As lepers, and other unclean persons, are by thy appointment purified by the use of hyssop and other things, Leviticus 14:6; Numbers 19:6; so do thou cleanse me, a most leprous and polluted creature, by thy grace, and by the virtue of that blood of Christ, which is signified by those ceremonial usages. The word
תחשׂאני, techatteeni, here rendered purge me, properly means, expiate my sin. “The psalmist well knew that his sins were too great to be expiated by any legal purifications, and therefore prays that God would himself expiate them, and restore him; that is,” not only remove their guilt, but “make him as free from those criminal propensities to sin, and from all the bad effects of his aggravated crimes, as though he had been purified from a leprosy, by the water of cleansing, sprinkled on him by a branch of hyssop; and that he might be, if possible, clearer from all the defilement and guilt of sin than the new fallen snow. I think both these senses are included in the expiation which the psalmist prays for; as the person whose leprosy was expiated was wholly cured of his disease, and freed from all the incapacities attending it.” — Dodd.John 19:29; notes at Hebrews 9:19. The plant or herb was much used by the Hebrews in their sacred purifications and sprinklings: Exodus 12:22; Leviticus 14:4, Leviticus 14:6,Leviticus 14:49, Leviticus 14:51; 1 Kings 4:33. Under this name the Hebrews seem to have comprised not only the common "hyssop" of the shops, but also other aromatic plants, as mint, wild marjoram, etc. - Gesenius, "Lexicon" The idea of the psalmist here evidently is not that the mere sprinkling with hyssop would make him clean; but he prays for that cleansing of which the sprinkling with hyssop was an emblem, or which was designed to be represented by that. The whole structure of the psalm implies that he was seeking an "internal" change, and that he did not depend on any mere outward ordinance or rite. The word rendered "purge" is from the word חטא châṭâ' - which means "to sin." In the Piel form it means to bear the blame (or "loss") for anything; and then to "atone for, to make atonement, to expiate:" Genesis 31:39; Leviticus 6:26; Numbers 19:19. Here it conveys the notion of cleansing from sin "by" a sacred rite, or by that which was signified by a sacred rite. The idea was that the sin was to be removed or taken away, so that he might be free from it, or that "that" might be accomplished which was represented by the sprinkling with hyssop, and that the soul might be made pure. Luther has rendered it with great force - Entsundige mich mit Ysop - "Unsin me with hyssop."
Wash me - That is, cleanse me. Sin is represented as "defiling," and the idea of "washing" it away is often employed in the Scriptures. See the notes at Isaiah 1:16.
And I shall be whiter than snow - See the notes at Isaiah 1:18. The prayer is, that he might be made "entirely" clean; that there might be no remaining pollution in his soul.
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).With hyssop; or, as with hyssop; the note of similitude being frequently understood. As lepers and other unclean persons are by thy appointment purified by the use of hyssop and other things, Leviticus 14:6 Numbers 19:6; so do thou cleanse me, a most leprous and polluted creature, by thy grace, and by the virtue of that blood of Christ, which is signified by those ceremonial usages. Exodus 12:22; and in the cleansing of the leper, Leviticus 14:4; and in the purification of one that was unclean by the touch of a dead body, &c. Numbers 19:6; which the Targum on the text has respect to; and this petition of the psalmist shows that he saw himself a guilty creature, and in danger of the destroying angel, and a filthy creature like the leper, and deserving to be excluded from the society of the saints, and the house of God; and that he had respect not hereby to ceremonial sprinklings and purifications, for them he would have applied to a priest; but to the sprinkling of the blood of Christ, typified thereby; and therefore he applies to God to purge his conscience with it; and, as Suidas (g) from Theodoret observes, hyssop did not procure remission of sins, but has a mystical signification, and refers to what was meant by the sprinkling of the blood of the passover; and then he says,
and I shall be clean; thoroughly clean; for the blood sprinkled on the heart by the spirit clears it from an evil conscience, purges the conscience from dead works, and cleanses from all sin;
wash me; or "thou shall wash me" (h); alluding to the washing at the cleansing of a leper, and the purification of an unclean person, Leviticus 14:8; but had in view the fountain of Christ's blood, in which believers are washed from all their sins, Zechariah 13:1;
and I shall be whiter than snow; who was black with original corruption, and actual transgressions; but the blood of Christ makes not only the conversation garments white that are washed in it; but even crimson and scarlet sins as white as wool, as white as snow, and the persons of the saints without spot or blemish, Revelation 7:14, Ephesians 5:25; "whiter than the snow" is a phrase used by Homer (i), and others, to describe what is exceeding white.
(f) "purificabis me", Pagninus, Montanus; "exiabis me", Vatablus, Musculus, Cocceius, Gejerus. (g) In voce (h) "lavabis me", V. L. Pagninus, Montanus, Vatablus, Musculus, Cocceius. (i) Iliad. 10. v. 437. So Martial. l. 7. Epigr. 27. Ovid. Amor. l. 3. Eleg. 6.Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)7, 8. The verbs in these verses may be regarded as optatives (mayest thou purge me), but it is preferable to render them as futures: Thou shalt purge me … thou shalt wash me … thou shalt make me hear. They thus give utterance to the Psalmist’s faith that God can and will cleanse and restore him. In Psalm 51:9 ff direct prayer is resumed by the imperative, as in Psalm 51:1-2.
The figurative language is borrowed from the ceremonial of the law. A bunch of hyssop, some common herb which grew upon walls (Tristram, Nat. Hist. of the Bible, p. 455), was used as a sprinkler, especially in the rites for cleansing the leper and purifying the unclean. (Exodus 12:22; Leviticus 14:4 ff; Numbers 19:6 ff, Numbers 19:18 ff; Hebrews 9:19.) Washing of the person and clothes regularly formed part of the rites of purification. The Psalmist is of course thinking of the inward and spiritual cleansing of which those outward rites were the symbol. He appeals to God Himself to perform the office of the priest and cleanse him from his defilement.
whiter than snow] Cp. Isaiah 1:18, where this natural emblem of purity is contrasted with the scarlet of sin, suggested by the stains of blood upon the hands (Psalm 51:15). Terms usually applied to garments (Psalm 51:2 note) are transferred to the person. Cp. Revelation 3:4-5; Revelation 4:4; &c.
It is unnecessary to follow the Syr. in reading thou shalt satisfy me with joy (Psalm 90:14) for thou shalt make me hear joy, though the change would be a simple one. The language is still borrowed from the law. As the purification of the unclean was the prelude to his readmission to the gladness of the worship of the sanctuary (Psalm 42:4), so the cleansing of the Psalmist’s heart will be the prelude to his restoration to that ‘joy of God’s salvation’ (Psalm 51:12), which he desires.
the bones which thou hast broken] For the sense of God’s displeasure had as it were crushed and shattered his whole frame. See note on Psalm 42:10, and cp. Psalm 32:3.Verse 7. - Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean. "Hyssop" alone could by the Levitical Law cleanse from contact with a corpse (Numbers 19:18) or from the defilement of leprosy (Leviticus 14:4). David recognizes that his impurity is of the extremest kind, and needs the remedy which has the greatest purifying power. Legally, this was the hyssop, with its "blood of sprinkling" (Leviticus 14:6, 7); spiritually, it was the blood of Christ, which was thus symbolized. Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Again the word is used which corresponds to the Greek πλῦνον. "Wash me as garments are washed by the fuller" (see the comment on ver. 2). Psalm 32:1. Although the primary occasion of the Psalm is the sin of adultery, still David says פּשׁעי, not merely because many other sins were developed out of it, as his guilt of blood in the case of Uriah, the scandal put into the mouths of the enemies of Jahve, and his self-delusion, which lasted almost a whole year; but also because each solitary sin, the more it is perceived in its fundamental character and, as it were, microscopically discerned, all the more does it appear as a manifold and entangled skein of sins, and stands forth in a still more intimate and terrible relation, as of cause and effect, to the whole corrupt and degenerated condition in which the sinner finds himself. In מחה sins are conceived of as a cumulative debt (according to Isaiah 44:22, cf. Isaiah 43:25, like a thick, dark cloud) written down (Jeremiah 17:1) against the time of the payment by punishment. In כּבּסני (from כּבּס, πλύνειν, to wash by rubbing and kneading up, distinguished from רחץ, λούειν, to wash by rinsing) iniquity is conceived of as deeply ingrained dirt. In טהרני, the usual word for a declarative and de facto making clean, sin is conceived of as a leprosy, Leviticus 13:6, Leviticus 13:34. the Kerמ runs הרב כּבּסני (imperat. Hiph., like הרף, Psalm 37:8), "make great or much, wash me," i.e., (according to Ges. ֗142, 3, b) wash me altogether, penitus et totum, which is the same as is expressed by the Chethמb הרבּה (prop. multum faciendo equals multum, prorsus, Ges. ֗131, 2). In כּרב (Isaiah 63:7) and הרב is expressed the depth of the consciousness of sin; profunda enim malitia, as Martin Geier observes, insolitam raramque gratiam postulat.
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