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Psalms 51:1

Context
Psalm 51 1 

For the music director; a psalm of David, written when Nathan the prophet confronted him after David’s affair with Bathsheba. 2 

51:1 Have mercy on me, O God, because of 3  your loyal love!

Because of 4  your great compassion, wipe away my rebellious acts! 5 

1 sn Psalm 51. The psalmist confesses his sinfulness to God and begs for forgiveness and a transformation of his inner character. According to the psalm superscription, David offered this prayer when Nathan confronted him with his sin following the king’s affair with Bathsheba (see 2 Sam 11-12). However, the final two verses of the psalm hardly fit this situation, for they assume the walls of Jerusalem have been destroyed and that the sacrificial system has been temporarily suspended. These verses are probably an addition to the psalm made during the period of exile following the fall of Jerusalem in 586 b.c. The exiles could relate to David’s experience, for they, like him, and had been forced to confront their sin. They appropriated David’s ancient prayer and applied it to their own circumstances.

2 tn Heb “a psalm by David, when Nathan the prophet came to him when he had gone to Bathsheba.”

3 tn Or “according to.”

4 tn Or “according to.”

5 tn Traditionally “blot out my transgressions.” Because of the reference to washing and cleansing in the following verse, it is likely that the psalmist is comparing forgiveness to wiping an object clean (note the use of the verb מָחָה (makhah) in the sense of “wipe clean; dry” in 2 Kgs 21:13; Prov 30:20; Isa 25:8). Another option is that the psalmist is comparing forgiveness to erasing or blotting out names from a register (see Exod 32:32-33). In this case one might translate, “erase all record of my rebellious acts.”



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