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Psalm chapter 51

English Standard Version

1To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! 3For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. 5Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. 6Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. 7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. 9Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 11Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 12Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. 13Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. 14Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. 15O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. 17The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. 18Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; build up the walls of Jerusalem; 19then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar.
New International Version

New American Standard Bible

1 Be gracious to me, God, according to Your faithfulness; According to the greatness of Your compassion, wipe out my wrongdoings. 2Wash me thoroughly from my guilt And cleanse me from my sin. 3For I know my wrongdoings, And my sin is constantly before me. 4Against You, You only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when You speak And blameless when You judge. 5Behold, I was brought forth in guilt, And in sin my mother conceived me. 6Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in secret You will make wisdom known to me. 7 Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; Cleanse me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness, Let the bones You have broken rejoice. 9Hide Your face from my sins And wipe out all my guilty deeds. 10Create in me a clean heart, God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. 12Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And sustain me with a willing spirit. 13 Then I will teach wrongdoers Your ways, And sinners will be converted to You. 14Save me from the guilt of bloodshed, God, the God of my salvation; Then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness. 15Lord, open my lips, So that my mouth may declare Your praise. 16For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You do not take pleasure in burnt offering. 17The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, God, You will not despise. 18By Your favor do good to Zion; Build the walls of Jerusalem. 19Then You will delight in righteous sacrifices, In burnt offering and whole burnt offering; Then bulls will be offered on Your altar.
Christian Standard Bible

New Living Translation

King James Version

What does Psalm chapter 51 mean?

Psalm 51 is a renowned expression of repentance. David, the greatest of Israel's kings, fell into serious sin and recognized his need to plead with God for forgiveness. This confession was inspired by David's sins of adultery, deception, and even murder in his relationship with Bathsheba.

David's reasons for repentance are explained in 2 Samuel chapters 11 and 12. He noticed a woman, Bathsheba, bathing on her roof, called her into the palace, and she became pregnant by David. At first, David brought her soldier husband, Uriah, back from war, hoping he would sleep with Bathsheba and cover up the illegitimate pregnancy. But Uriah was loyal to his fellow soldiers. He refused to take special privileges while his friends were at war. David even tried getting Uriah drunk, but that failed as well. Finally, David arranged for Uriah to be caught in the midst of a battle maneuver and killed. David then brought Bathsheba into the palace as a wife.

In response, God sent the prophet Nathan to challenge David. Nathan told a story about a rich man stealing a poor man's one and only lamb. Outraged, David said the rich man deserved to die. Nathan simply replied, "You are the man!" He then explained that as a result of this sin, David's family would forever be embroiled in war, conflict, scandal, and violence. The child conceived with Bathsheba would not survive. And David would be humiliated in the presence of the people. These predictions came true: the rest of David's life was spent in turbulence and family controversies. That even included a full-fledged rebellion led by his own son, Absalom.

In this Psalm, David confesses his sins to God, holding back nothing. David does not blame anyone for his errors and makes no attempt to excuse his actions. These words display absolute humility and anguish over sin. David appeals to God's mercy and love, knowing that he can be forgiven. At the same time, David makes no attempt to ask God to spare him from the earthly consequences of his sins. That judgment had already been given and was not going to be rescinded.

Among the Psalms, Psalm 51 is the best-known and most-cited expression of confession. This gives us a model for how to approach God when we've been convicted of sin. The right spirit is one of humility and repentance, without making excuses or blaming others. Even so, we can be confident that God will forgive those who sincerely seek that mercy (Hebrews 4:15–16).
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