What does Psalm 51:7 mean?
ESV: Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
NIV: Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
NASB: Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; Cleanse me, and I will be whiter than snow.
CSB: Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
NLT: Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
KJV: Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
NKJV: Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Verse Commentary:
Again, David pleads for cleansing. He asks the Lord to purge him with hyssop to make him clean and to wash him to make him whiter than snow. To purge meant to purify by removing a stain. Hyssop was a plant that the priests used in ceremonial cleansings. They dipped a bunch of hyssop in the blood of a sacrificial animal and then sprinkled the blood on the person who required cleansing. Leviticus 14:4–7 refers to the use of blood-dipped hyssop in sprinkling seven times the person who is to be cleansed of leprosy.

David recognized that he would be whiter than snow if the Lord washed away his sin. In Isaiah 1:18 the Lord invited the sinful people of Judah to come to Him and reason with Him, promising, "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool." When Jesus washed His disciples' feet in the upper room, He told unwilling Peter he would have no share with Him unless He washed them (John 13:8).
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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