For the music director; a psalm of David, written when Nathan the prophet confronted him after David’s affair with Bathsheba. 2
Cleanse me of my sin! 7
I am forever conscious of my sin. 9
I have done what is evil in your sight.
you are right when you condemn me. 13
51:5 Look, I was guilty of sin from birth,
a sinner the moment my mother conceived me. 14
you want me to possess wisdom. 18
Wipe away 28 all my guilt!
Renew a resolute spirit within me! 30
51:12 Let me again experience the joy of your deliverance!
Sustain me by giving me the desire to obey! 34
and sinners will turn 37 to you.
Then my tongue will shout for joy because of your deliverance. 39
Then my mouth will praise you. 41
you do not desire a burnt sacrifice. 44
2 Samuel 11:1--12:25Context
11:1 In the spring of the year, at the time when kings 54 normally conduct wars, 55 David sent out Joab with his officers 56 and the entire Israelite army. 57 They defeated the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed behind in Jerusalem. 58 11:2 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of his palace. 59 From the roof he saw a woman bathing. Now this woman was very attractive. 60 11:3 So David sent someone to inquire about the woman. The messenger 61 said, “Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?”
11:4 David sent some messengers to get her. 62 She came to him and he had sexual relations with her. 63 (Now at that time she was in the process of purifying herself from her menstrual uncleanness.) 64 Then she returned to her home. 11:5 The woman conceived and then sent word to David saying, “I’m pregnant.”
11:6 So David sent a message to Joab that said, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” So Joab sent Uriah to David. 11:7 When Uriah came to him, David asked about how Joab and the army were doing and how the campaign was going. 65 11:8 Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your home and relax.” 66 When Uriah left the palace, the king sent a gift to him. 67 11:9 But Uriah stayed at the door of the palace with all 68 the servants of his lord. He did not go down to his house.
11:10 So they informed David, “Uriah has not gone down to his house.” So David said to Uriah, “Haven’t you just arrived from a journey? Why haven’t you gone down to your house?” 11:11 Uriah replied to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah reside in temporary shelters, and my lord Joab and my lord’s soldiers are camping in the open field. Should I go to my house to eat and drink and have marital relations 69 with my wife? As surely as you are alive, 70 I will not do this thing!” 11:12 So David said to Uriah, “Stay here another day. Tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah stayed in Jerusalem both that day and the following one. 71 11:13 Then David summoned him. He ate and drank with him, and got him drunk. But in the evening he went out to sleep on his bed with the servants of his lord; he did not go down to his own house.
11:14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. 11:15 In the letter he wrote: “Station Uriah in the thick of the battle and then withdraw from him so he will be cut down and killed.”
11:16 So as Joab kept watch on the city, he stationed Uriah at the place where he knew the best enemy soldiers 72 were. 11:17 When the men of the city came out and fought with Joab, some of David’s soldiers 73 fell in battle. Uriah the Hittite also died.
11:18 Then Joab sent a full battle report to David. 74 11:19 He instructed the messenger as follows: “When you finish giving the battle report to the king, 11:20 if the king becomes angry and asks you, ‘Why did you go so close to the city to fight? Didn’t you realize they would shoot from the wall? 11:21 Who struck down Abimelech the son of Jerub-Besheth? Didn’t a woman throw an upper millstone 75 down on him from the wall so that he died in Thebez? Why did you go so close to the wall?’ just say to him, ‘Your servant Uriah the Hittite is also dead.’”
11:22 So the messenger departed. When he arrived, he informed David of all the news that Joab had sent with him. 11:23 The messenger said to David, “The men overpowered us and attacked us 76 in the field. But we forced them to retreat all the way 77 to the door of the city gate. 11:24 Then the archers shot at your servants from the wall and some of the king’s soldiers 78 died. Your servant Uriah the Hittite is also dead.” 11:25 David said to the messenger, “Tell Joab, ‘Don’t let this thing upset you. 79 There is no way to anticipate whom the sword will cut down. 80 Press the battle against the city and conquer 81 it.’ Encourage him with these words.” 82
11:26 When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband Uriah was dead, she mourned for him. 83 11:27 When the time of mourning passed, David had her brought to his palace. 84 She became his wife and she bore him a son. But what David had done upset the Lord. 85
12:1 So the Lord sent Nathan 86 to David. When he came to David, 87 Nathan 88 said, 89 “There were two men in a certain city, one rich and the other poor. 12:2 The rich man had a great many flocks and herds. 12:3 But the poor man had nothing except for a little lamb he had acquired. He raised it, and it grew up alongside him and his children. 90 It used to 91 eat his food, 92 drink from his cup, and sleep in his arms. 93 It was just like a daughter to him.
12:4 “When a traveler arrived at the rich man’s home, 94 he did not want to use one of his own sheep or cattle to feed 95 the traveler who had come to visit him. 96 Instead, he took the poor man’s lamb and cooked 97 it for the man who had come to visit him.”
12:5 Then David became very angry at this man. He said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die! 98 12:6 Because he committed this cold-hearted crime, he must pay for the lamb four times over!” 99
12:7 Nathan said to David, “You are that man! This is what the Lord God of Israel says: ‘I chose 100 you to be king over Israel and I rescued you from the hand of Saul. 12:8 I gave you your master’s house, and put your master’s wives into your arms. 101 I also gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all that somehow seems insignificant, I would have given you so much more as well! 12:9 Why have you shown contempt for the word of the Lord by doing evil in my 102 sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and you have taken his wife as your own! 103 You have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 12:10 So now the sword will never depart from your house. For you have despised me by taking the wife of Uriah the Hittite as your own!’ 12:11 This is what the Lord says: ‘I am about to bring disaster on you 104 from inside your own household! 105 Right before your eyes I will take your wives and hand them over to your companion. 106 He will have sexual relations with 107 your wives in broad daylight! 108 12:12 Although you have acted in secret, I will do this thing before all Israel, and in broad daylight.’” 109
12:13 Then David exclaimed to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord!” Nathan replied to David, “Yes, and the Lord has forgiven 110 your sin. You are not going to die. 12:14 Nonetheless, because you have treated the Lord with such contempt 111 in this matter, the son who has been born to you will certainly die.”
12:15 Then Nathan went to his home. The Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and the child became very ill. 112 12:16 Then David prayed to 113 God for the child and fasted. 114 He would even 115 go and spend the night lying on the ground. 12:17 The elders of his house stood over him and tried to lift him from the ground, but he was unwilling, and refused to eat food with them.
12:18 On the seventh day the child died. But the servants of David were afraid to inform him that the child had died, for they said, “While the child was still alive he would not listen to us 116 when we spoke to him. How can we tell him that the child is dead? He will do himself harm!” 117
12:19 When David saw that his servants were whispering to one another, he 118 realized that the child was dead. So David asked his servants, “Is the child dead?” They replied, “Yes, he’s dead.” 12:20 So David got up from the ground, bathed, put on oil, and changed his clothes. He went to the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then, when he entered his palace, he requested that food be brought to him, and he ate.
12:21 His servants said to him, “What is this that you have done? While 119 the child was still alive, you fasted and wept. Once the child was dead you got up and ate food!” 12:22 He replied, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept because I thought, 120 ‘Perhaps 121 the Lord will show pity and the child will live. 12:23 But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Am I able to bring him back? I will go to him, but he cannot return to me!’”
12:24 So David comforted his wife Bathsheba. He went to her and had marital relations with her. 122 She gave birth to a son, and David 123 named him Solomon. Now the Lord loved the child 124 12:25 and sent word through Nathan the prophet that he should be named Jedidiah 125 for the Lord’s sake.
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
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.”
6 tn Heb “Thoroughly wash me from my wrongdoing.”
7 sn In vv. 1b-2 the psalmist uses three different words to emphasize the multifaceted character and degree of his sin. Whatever one wants to call it (“rebellious acts,” “wrongdoing,” “sin”), he has done it and stands morally polluted in God’s sight. The same three words appear in Exod 34:7, which emphasizes that God is willing to forgive sin in all of its many dimensions. In v. 2 the psalmist compares forgiveness and restoration to physical cleansing. Perhaps he likens spiritual cleansing to the purification rites of priestly law.
8 tn Heb “know.”
9 tn Heb “and my sin [is] in front of me continually.”
10 tn Heb “only you,” as if the psalmist had sinned exclusively against God and no other. Since the Hebrew verb חָטָא (hata’, “to sin”) is used elsewhere of sinful acts against people (see BDB 306 s.v. 2.a) and David (the presumed author) certainly sinned when he murdered Uriah (2 Sam 12:9), it is likely that the psalmist is overstating the case to suggest that the attack on Uriah was ultimately an attack on God himself. To clarify the point of the hyperbole, the translation uses “especially,” rather than the potentially confusing “only.”
11 tn The Hebrew term לְמַעַן (lÿma’an) normally indicates purpose (“in order that”), but here it introduces a logical consequence of the preceding statement. (Taking the clause as indicating purpose here would yield a theologically preposterous idea – the psalmist purposely sinned so that God’s justice might be vindicated!) For other examples of לְמַעַן indicating result, see 2 Kgs 22:17; Jer 27:15; Amos 2:7, as well as IBHS 638-40 §38.3.
13 tn Heb “when you judge.”
14 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.
16 tn The perfect is used in a generalizing sense here.
17 tn Heb “in the covered [places],” i.e., in the inner man.
18 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.
19 tn The imperfect verbal form is used here to express the psalmist’s wish or request.
20 tn Heb “cleanse me with hyssop.” “Hyssop” was a small plant (see 1 Kgs 4:33) used to apply water (or blood) in purification rites (see Exod 12:22; Lev 14:4-6, 49-52; Num 19:6-18. The psalmist uses the language and imagery of such rites to describe spiritual cleansing through forgiveness.
21 tn After the preceding imperfect, the imperfect with vav (ו) conjunctive indicates result.
22 tn The imperfect verbal form is used here to express the psalmist’s wish or request.
24 tn Heb “cause me to hear happiness and joy.” The language is metonymic: the effect of forgiveness (joy) has been substituted for its cause. The psalmist probably alludes here to an assuring word from God announcing that his sins are forgiven (a so-called oracle of forgiveness). The imperfect verbal form is used here to express the psalmist’s wish or request. The synonyms “happiness” and “joy” are joined together as a hendiadys to emphasize the degree of joy he anticipates.
25 sn May the bones you crushed rejoice. The psalmist compares his sinful condition to that of a person who has been physically battered and crushed. Within this metaphorical framework, his “bones” are the seat of his emotional strength.
26 tn In this context of petitionary prayer, the prefixed verbal form is understood as a jussive, expressing the psalmist’s wish or request.
27 sn In this context Hide your face from my sins means “Do not hold me accountable for my sins.”
29 sn The heart is viewed here as the seat of the psalmist’s motives and moral character.
30 tn Heb “and a reliable spirit renew in my inner being.”
31 tn Heb “do not cast me away from before you.”
33 sn Do not take…away. The psalmist expresses his fear that, due to his sin, God will take away the Holy Spirit from him. NT believers enjoy the permanent gift of the Holy Spirit and need not make such a request nor fear such a consequence. However, in the OT God’s Spirit empowered certain individuals for special tasks and only temporarily resided in them. For example, when God rejected Saul as king and chose David to replace him, the divine Spirit left Saul and came upon David (1 Sam 16:13-14).
34 tn Heb “and [with] a willing spirit sustain me.” The psalmist asks that God make him the kind of person who willingly obeys the divine commandments. The imperfect verbal form is used here to express the psalmist’s wish or request.
35 tn The cohortative expresses the psalmist’s resolve. This may be a vow or promise. If forgiven, the psalmist will “repay” the Lord by declaring God’s mercy and motivating other sinners to repent.
36 tn Heb “your ways.” The word “merciful” is added for clarification. God’s “ways” are sometimes his commands, but in this context, where the teaching of God’s ways motivates repentance (see the next line), it is more likely that God’s merciful and compassionate way of dealing with sinners is in view. Thanksgiving songs praising God for his deliverance typically focus on these divine attributes (see Pss 34, 41, 116, 138).
37 tn Or “return,” i.e., in repentance.
38 tn Heb “from bloodshed.” “Bloodshed” here stands by metonymy for the guilt which it produces.
39 tn Heb “my tongue will shout for joy your deliverance.” Another option is to take the prefixed verbal form as a jussive, “may my tongue shout for joy.” However, the pattern in vv. 12-15 appears to be prayer/request (see vv. 12, 14a, 15a) followed by promise/vow (see vv. 13, 14b, 15b).
40 tn Heb “open my lips.” The imperfect verbal form is used here to express the psalmist’s wish or request.
41 tn Heb “and my mouth will declare your praise.”
42 tn Or “For.” The translation assumes the particle is asseverative (i.e., emphasizing: “certainly”). (Some translations that consider the particle asseverative leave it untranslated.) If taken as causal or explanatory (“for”, cf. NRSV), the verse would explain why the psalmist is pleading for forgiveness, rather than merely offering a sacrifice.
43 tn The translation assumes that the cohortative is used in a hypothetical manner in a formally unmarked conditional sentence, “You do not want a sacrifice, should I offer [it]” (cf. NEB). For other examples of cohortatives in the protasis (“if” clause) of a conditional sentence, see GKC 320 §108.e. (It should be noted, however, that GKC understands this particular verse in a different manner. See GKC 320 §108.f, where it is suggested that the cohortative is part of an apodosis with the protasis being suppressed.)
44 sn You do not desire a burnt sacrifice. The terminology used in v. 16 does not refer to expiatory sacrifices, but to dedication and communion offerings. This is not a categorical denial of the sacrificial system in general or of the importance of such offerings. The psalmist is talking about his specific situation. Dedication and communion offerings have their proper place in worship (see v. 19), but God requires something more fundamental, a repentant and humble attitude (see v. 17), before these offerings can have real meaning.
45 tn Heb “a broken spirit.”
46 tn Heb “a broken and crushed heart.”
47 tn Or “despise.”
48 tn Heb “do what is good for Zion in your favor.”
49 tn Or “Build.” The imperfect verbal form is used here to express the psalmist’s wish or request.
51 tn Or “desire, take delight in.”
52 tn Heb “then they will offer up bulls.” The third plural subject is indefinite.
54 tc Codex Leningrad (B19A), on which BHS is based, has here “messengers” (הַמַּלְאכִים, hammal’khim), probably as the result of contamination from the occurrence of that word in v. 4. The present translation follows most Hebrew
55 tn Heb “go out.”
56 tn Heb “and his servants with him.”
57 tn Heb “all Israel.”
58 tn The disjunctive clause contrasts David’s inactivity with the army’s activity.
60 tn The disjunctive clause highlights this observation and builds the tension of the story.
61 tn Heb “he”; the referent (the messenger) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
62 tn Heb “and David sent messengers and he took her.”
63 tn Heb “he lay with her” (so NASB, NRSV); TEV “he made love to her”; NIV, CEV, NLT “he slept with her.”
64 tn The parenthetical disjunctive clause further heightens the tension by letting the reader know that Bathsheba, having just completed her menstrual cycle, is ripe for conception. See P. K. McCarter, II Samuel (AB), 286. Since she just had her period, it will also be obvious to those close to the scene that Uriah, who has been away fighting, cannot be the father of the child.
65 tn Heb “concerning the peace of Joab and concerning the peace of the people and concerning the peace of the battle.”
66 tn Heb “and wash your feet.”
67 tn Heb “and there went out after him the gift of the king.”
68 tc The Lucianic recension of the Old Greek translation lacks the word “all.”
69 tn Heb “and lay.”
70 tn Heb “as you live and as your soul lives.”
71 tn On the chronology involved here see P. K. McCarter, II Samuel (AB), 287.
72 tn Heb “the valiant men.” This refers in context to the strongest or most valiant defenders of the city Joab and the Israelite army were besieging, so the present translation uses “the best enemy soldiers” for clarity.
73 tn Heb “some of the people from the servants of David.”
74 tn Heb “Joab sent and related to David all the matters of the battle.”
75 sn The upper millstone (Heb “millstone of riding”) refers to the heavy circular stone that was commonly rolled over a circular base in order to crush and grind such things as olives.
76 tn Heb “and came out to us.”
77 tn Heb “but we were on them.”
78 tc The translation follows the Qere (“your servants”) rather than the Kethib (“your servant”).
79 tn Heb “let not this matter be evil in your eyes.”
80 tn Heb “according to this and according to this the sword devours.”
81 tn Heb “overthrow.”
82 tn The Hebrew text does not have “with these words.” They are supplied in the translation for clarity and for stylistic reasons.
83 tn Heb “for her lord.”
84 tn Heb “David sent and gathered her to his house.”
86 tc A few medieval Hebrew
87 tn Heb “him”; the referent (David) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
88 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Nathan) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
89 tn The Hebrew text repeats “to him.”
90 tn Heb “his sons.”
91 tn The three Hebrew imperfect verbal forms in this sentence have a customary nuance; they describe past actions that were repeated or typical.
92 tn Heb “from his morsel.”
93 tn Heb “and on his chest [or perhaps, “lap”] it would lay.”
94 tn Heb “came to the rich man.” In the translation “arrived at the rich man’s home” has been used for stylistic reasons.
95 tn Heb “and he refused to take from his flock and from his herd to prepare [a meal] for.”
96 tn Heb “who had come to him” (also a second time later in this verse). The word “visit” has been supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons and for clarity.
97 tn Heb “and prepared.”
99 tc With the exception of the Lucianic recension, the Old Greek translation has here “sevenfold” rather than “fourfold,” a reading that S. R. Driver thought probably to be the original reading (S. R. Driver, Notes on the Hebrew Text and the Topography of the Books of Samuel, 291). However, Exod 22:1 [21:37 HT] specifies fourfold repayment for a stolen sheep, which is consistent with 2 Sam 12:6. Some
tn Heb “the lamb he must repay fourfold because he did this thing and because he did not have compassion.”
100 tn Heb “anointed.”
101 tn Heb “and the wives of your lord into your chest [or “lap”].” The words “I put” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons and for clarification.
102 tc So the Qere; the Kethib has “his.”
104 tn Heb “raise up against you disaster.”
105 tn Heb “house” (so NAB, NRSV); NCV, TEV, CEV “family.”
106 tn Or “friend.”
107 tn Heb “will lie with” (so NIV, NRSV); TEV “will have intercourse with”; CEV, NLT “will go to bed with.”
108 tn Heb “in the eyes of this sun.”
109 tn Heb “and before the sun.”
110 tn Heb “removed.”
111 tc The MT has here “because you have caused the enemies of the
112 tn Heb “and the
113 tn Heb “sought” or “searched for.”
114 tn Heb “and David fasted.”
115 tn The three Hebrew verbs that follow in this verse are perfects with prefixed vav. They may describe repeated past actions or actions which accompanied David’s praying and fasting.
116 tn Heb “to our voice.”
117 tn Heb “he will do harm.” The object is not stated in the Hebrew text. The statement may be intentionally vague, meaning that he might harm himself or them!
118 tn Heb “David.” The name has been replaced in the translation by the pronoun (“he”) for stylistic reasons.
119 tc For the MT בַּעֲבוּר (ba’avur, “for the sake of”) we should probably read בְּעוֹד (bÿ’od, “while”). See the Lucianic Greek recension, the Syriac Peshitta, and the Targum.
120 tn Heb “said.”
121 tn Heb “Who knows?”
122 tn Heb “and he lay with her.”
123 tn Heb “he”; the referent (David) has been specified in the translation for clarity. While some translations render the pronoun as third person plural (“they”), implying that both David and Bathsheba together named the child, it is likely that the name “Solomon,” which is related to the Hebrew word for “peace” (and may be derived from it) had special significance for David, who would have regarded the birth of a second child to Bathsheba as a confirming sign that God had forgiven his sin and was at peace with him.
124 tn Heb “him,” referring to the child.
125 sn The name Jedidiah means “loved by the