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Psalms 51:5-6

Context

51:5 Look, I was guilty of sin from birth,

a sinner the moment my mother conceived me. 1 

51:6 Look, 2  you desire 3  integrity in the inner man; 4 

you want me to possess wisdom. 5 

1 tn Heb “Look, in wrongdoing I was brought forth, and in sin my mother conceived me.” The prefixed verbal form in the second line is probably a preterite (without vav [ו] consecutive), stating a simple historical fact. The psalmist is not suggesting that he was conceived through an inappropriate sexual relationship (although the verse has sometimes been understood to mean that, or even that all sexual relationships are sinful). The psalmist’s point is that he has been a sinner from the very moment his personal existence began. By going back beyond the time of birth to the moment of conception, the psalmist makes his point more emphatically in the second line than in the first.

2 sn The juxtaposition of two occurrences of “look” in vv. 5-6 draws attention to the sharp contrast between the sinful reality of the psalmist’s condition and the lofty ideal God has for him.

3 tn The perfect is used in a generalizing sense here.

4 tn Heb “in the covered [places],” i.e., in the inner man.

5 tn Heb “in the secret [place] wisdom you cause me to know.” The Hiphil verbal form is causative, while the imperfect is used in a modal sense to indicate God’s desire (note the parallel verb “desire”).

sn You want me to possess wisdom. Here “wisdom” does not mean “intelligence” or “learning,” but refers to moral insight and skill.



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