What does Psalm 51:18 mean?
ESV: Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; build up the walls of Jerusalem;
NIV: May it please you to prosper Zion, to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
NASB: By Your favor do good to Zion; Build the walls of Jerusalem.
CSB: In your good pleasure, cause Zion to prosper; build the walls of Jerusalem.
NLT: Look with favor on Zion and help her; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
KJV: Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.
NKJV: Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion; Build the walls of Jerusalem.
Verse Commentary:
In this verse David prays for Jerusalem. His disgraceful conduct had serious implications for Israel's security. Proverbs 14:34 declares, "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people." When Achan sinned in the days of Israel's conquest of Canaan, the army of Israel could not conquer the tiny town of Ai until Achan's sin was judged. One man's sin had destroyed the nation's effectiveness (Joshua 7).

David refers to Jerusalem's walls in this verse. He asks God to build up the city's walls. Some Bible teachers believe verses 18 and 19 were added to Psalm 51 during the Babylonian exile. There is no compelling reason to think these verses were added later. It seems David was in the process of repairing and building the city's walls and longed for the successful completion of the project. Perhaps David's sins had distracted him from the task of rebuilding the walls, which would leave Jerusalem vulnerable to attacks. Before David's son Solomon built the temple, secure city walls had to be in place. We read in 1 Kings 3:1 that Solomon finished building the wall around Jerusalem.
Verse Context:
Psalm 51:16–19 is the final section of Psalm 51. These verses indicate that God doesn't primarily want sacrifices when someone sins. He accepts and deeply desires a broken spirit and a contrite heart, however. Isaiah 1:18 reinforces David's observation about what is important to God. Isaiah reported that the Lord was tired of hypocritical sacrifices. He refused to accept them, but summoned the people to have a personal relationship with Him, and He would cleanse their sin. David ends his psalm with a prayer for Jerusalem. He recognizes that when the Lord revives Jerusalem, He will accept the people's sacrifices.
Chapter Summary:
This psalm opens with David's plea to God to show him mercy. He asks God to blot out his transgressions, wash his iniquities, and cleanse him from sin. He admits his sinning was against God. He also confesses his human sin nature. David asks God to make him as white as snow by purging him with hyssop. He longs for joy to return to him, but knows he was suffering because God had turned away from him. He pleads with God for a clean heart and a right spirit. He does not want God to cast him aside and remove His Holy Spirit. David longs for a renewal of the joy of his salvation. If cleansing from sin occurred and joy returned to him, David would teach transgressors God's ways, and sinners would be converted. He promises near the end of the psalm to declare God's praise if God would forgive him. He knew it would be futile to offer a sacrifice to God, because God delights in a broken and contrite heart and not in sacrifices offered with an unrepentant heart. David closes the psalm with a prayer for God to bless Jerusalem.
Chapter Context:
Second Samuel 11—12 provides the sad background for Psalm 51. Instead of being out on the battlefield and leading his troops, David was walking on the roof of his palace. A woman named Bathsheba was taking a bath on a neighboring roof. David lusted for her and had her brought to the palace, where he committed adultery with her. Learning later that she was pregnant, David summoned Uriah, her soldier-husband and one of David's mighty men, to come home from the battlefield. He expected Uriah to have relations with Bathsheba so it would appear that Uriah was the baby's father. But Uriah did not touch Bathsheba, so David launched an alternate plan. He arranged for Uriah to be put on the frontline of battle and be killed. The plan worked, but the Lord sent the prophet Nathan to confront David with his sin. Overcome with guilt, David poured out his heart to the Lord in confession. Psalm 51 records his confession, and Psalm 32 reports the forgiveness he received from the Lord. Even though he was forgiven, David's sins still carried life-ruining consequences.
Book Summary:
The book of Psalms is composed of individual songs, hymns, or poems, each of which is a ''Psalm'' in and of itself. These works contain a wide variety of themes. Some Psalms focus on praising and worshipping God. Others cry out in anguish over the pain of life. Still other Psalms look forward to the coming of the Messiah. While some Psalms are related, each has its own historical and biblical context.
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