Psalm 51:7
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
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(7) 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.

51:7-15 Purge me with hyssop, with the blood of Christ applied to my soul by a lively faith, as the water of purification was sprinkled with a bunch of hyssop. The blood of Christ is called the blood of sprinkling, Heb 12:24. If this blood of Christ, which cleanses from all sin, cleanse us from our sin, then we shall be clean indeed, Heb 10:2. He asks not to be comforted, till he is first cleansed; if sin, the bitter root of sorrow, be taken away, he can pray in faith, Let me have a well-grounded peace, of thy creating, so that the bones broken by convictions may rejoice, may be comforted. Hide thy face from my sins; blot out all mine iniquities out of thy book; blot them out, as a cloud is blotted out and dispelled by the beams of the sun. And the believer desires renewal to holiness as much as the joy of salvation. David now saw, more than ever, what an unclean heart he had, and sadly laments it; but he sees it is not in his own power to amend it, and therefore begs God would create in him a clean heart. When the sinner feels this change is necessary, and reads the promise of God to that purpose, he begins to ask it. He knew he had by his sin grieved the Holy Spirit, and provoked him to withdraw. This he dreads more than anything. He prays that Divine comforts may be restored to him. When we give ourselves cause to doubt our interest in salvation, how can we expect the joy of it? This had made him weak; he prays, I am ready to fall, either into sin or into despair, therefore uphold me with thy Spirit. Thy Spirit is a free Spirit, a free Agent himself, working freely. And the more cheerful we are in our duty, the more constant we shall be to it. What is this but the liberty wherewith Christ makes his people free, which is contrasted with the yoke of bondage? Ga 5:1. It is the Spirit of adoption spoken to the heart. Those to whom God is the God of salvation, he will deliver from guilt; for the salvation he is the God of, is salvation from sin. We may therefore plead with him, Lord, thou art the God of my salvation, therefore deliver me from the dominion of sin. And when the lips are opened, what should they speak but the praises of God for his forgiving mercy?Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean - On the word hyssop, see the notes at 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.

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).

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.

Purge me with hyssop,.... Or "thou shalt purge me with hyssop" (f); or "expiate me"; which was used in sprinkling the blood of the paschal lamb on the door posts of the Israelites in Egypt, that the destroying angel might pass over them, 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.
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 51:7The possession of all possessions, however, most needed by him, the foundation of all other possessions, is the assurance of the forgiveness of his sins. The second futures in Psalm 51:9 are consequents of the first, which are used as optatives. Psalm 51:9 recalls to mind the sprinkling of the leper, and of one unclean by reason of his contact with a dead body, by means of the bunch of hyssop (Leviticus 14, Numbers 19), the βοτάνη καθαρτική (Bhr, Symbol. ii. 503); and Psalm 51:9 recalls the washings which, according to priestly directions, the unclean person in all cases of uncleanness had to undergo. Purification and washing which the Law enjoins, are regarded in connection with the idea implied in them, and with a setting aside of their symbolic and carnal outward side, inasmuch as the performance of both acts, which in other cases takes place through priestly mediation, is here supplicated directly from God Himself. Manifestly בּאזוב (not כבאזוב) is intended to be understood in a spiritual sense. It is a spiritual medium of purification without the medium itself being stated. The New Testament believer confesses, with Petrarch in the second of his seven penitential Psalms: omnes sordes meas una gutta, vel tenuis, sacri sanguinis absterget. But there is here no mention made of atonement by blood; for the antitype of the atoning blood was still hidden from David. The operation of justifying grace on a man stained by the blood-red guilt of sin could not, however, be more forcibly denoted than by the expression that it makes him whiter than snow (cf. the dependent passage Isaiah 1:18). And history scarcely records a grander instance of the change of blood-red sin into dazzling whiteness than this, that out of the subsequent marriage of David and Bathsheba sprang Solomon, the most richly blessed of all kings. At the present time David's very bones are still shaken, and as it were crushed, with the sense of sin. דּכּית is an attributive clause like יפעל in Psalm 7:16. Into what rejoicing will this smitten condition be changed, when he only realizes within his soul the comforting and joyous assuring utterance of the God who is once more gracious to him! For this he yearns, viz., that God would hide His face from the sin which He is now visiting upon him, so that it may as it were be no longer present to Him; that He would blot out all his iniquities, so that they may no longer testify against him. Here the first part of the Psalm closes; the close recurs to the language of the opening (Psalm 51:3).
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