What does Psalm 65:3 mean?
ESV: When iniquities prevail against me, you atone for our transgressions.
NIV: When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions.
NASB: Wrongdoings prevail against me; As for our offenses, You forgive them.
CSB: Iniquities overwhelm me; only you can atone for our rebellions.
NLT: Though we are overwhelmed by our sins, you forgive them all.
KJV: Iniquities prevail against me: as for our transgressions, thou shalt purge them away.
NKJV: Iniquities prevail against me; As for our transgressions, You will provide atonement for them.
Verse Commentary:
In this verse David praises God for atoning for his sins and those of the nation. He calls these sins "iniquities" and "transgressions." Iniquities are something warped, perverted, or deprived of God's goodness. This describes the fallen human nature. Human sin is so ingrained that it's impossible for any person to personally overcome (Psalm 38:4; Romans 3:20). Transgressions are violations of some boundary or rule. Here, David uses both personal and group terms: he is a sinner, and Israel is a sinning nation.

However, David recognized that God provides atonement: a way to make amends for sin. As the apostle Paul observed, "Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more" (Romans 5:20). David understood that he could approach God in prayer only as a forgiven sinner. On the Day of Atonement that occurred once a year, Israel's high priest shed the blood of a bull and sprinkled it on the altar and mercy seat to symbolically cover his sins and his family's sins. He did the same with the blood of a goat for the nation's sins. Yet the Old Testament law required this to be repeated every year. By contrast, by the once-for-all sacrifice of His blood on the cross, Jesus provided forgiveness forever for those who believe on Him (Hebrews 7:26–27; 9:11–14; 10:10–14).
Verse Context:
Psalm 65:1–4 affirms that God hears prayers and forgives His people's sins. Whoever seeks to follow God's will experiences blessing. The Lord provides the ultimate satisfaction and the greatest measure of goodness. This is expressed, in part, through worship in places such as the temple.
Chapter Summary:
David begins by anticipating praise to the Lord, expecting that He will bring atonement, fellowship, and blessing. The psalm mentions God's miraculous examples before referring to various natural examples of His provision. These benefits are both visible and available to all people of the world.
Chapter Context:
Psalms 65—68 express praise to the Lord using frequent references to nature and harvest. Only this and psalm 68 are explicitly credited to David. This song also thanks God for His kindness to His people; it encourages worshipers to offer thanksgiving. The song might have been meant to celebrate an especially abundant harvest.
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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