What does Psalm 51:2 mean?
ESV: Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!
NIV: Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
NASB: Wash me thoroughly from my guilt And cleanse me from my sin.
CSB: Completely wash away my guilt and cleanse me from my sin.
NLT: Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin.
KJV: Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
NKJV: Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin.
Verse Commentary:
In this verse David continues asking God to forgive his sin. He pleads with God to wash him completely from his iniquity and to cleanse him from his sin. His sin had made him feel as defiled as someone who had touched something unclean, or as helpless as someone touched by a disease (Leviticus 11:32; 13:1–3). He longed to have a new start in life, like a person who washed and put on new, clean clothes (Genesis 45:21–22; Exodus 19:10, 14).

In his letter to the Ephesians the apostle Paul referred to the believer's former life of sin as "the old self" and the redeemed life as "the new self." Like changing their clothes, the Ephesian Christians were exhorted to "put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires…and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4:22, 24).
Verse Context:
Psalm 51:1–7 is David's plea for mercy and cleansing. He admits he has sinned against God. His approach to confession is to take God's attitude toward sin. He sees his sins as transgressions, iniquity, evil, and the result of his lifelong offensive nature. First John 1:9–10 corresponds to this passage by teaching believers to confess their sins—to agree with God's stance about those sins—with the promise of God's forgiveness and cleansing.
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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