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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 51

Dummelow's Commentary on the BibleDummelow on the Bible

Verses 1-19

Title.—(RV) ’For the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David: when Nathan the prophet’ came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.’ It is impossible not to feel the general appropriateness of this Ps. to the occasion mentioned in the title, and there is no historic OT. figure except David to whom we can point as an illustration of the great sin and deep penitence which are the theme of the Ps. The theory that the speaker is the nation of Israel hardly accounts for the highly personal tone of the whole poem. At the same time, the affinity of the thought and language with the closing chapters of Isaiah (see especially on Psalms 51:11) favours the view that the writer lived during the exile, in which case he may well have chosen David’s great transgression and its results as the subject of a ’dramatic lyric’ On any supposition as to authorship and date Psalms 51:18-19 are to be regarded as a liturgical addition appended to the Ps. when it came to be used in the Temple services. Part of Psalms 51:4 is quoted (from LXX) in Romans 3:4.

4. Against thee, thee only] David had sinned against Uriah and Bathsheba as well as against God: but as all obligations to men have their foundation in God’s law, so all sin against them is included and hidden in the one fact of offence against God. That thou mightest be justified.. be clear] that Thy justice and holiness might be clearly shown.

5. This v. does not reflect any stain on the Psalmist’s birth, but traces his sin to the inborn evil of his nature.

6. Truth in the inward parts] truth as opposed to self-deception or conscious hypocrisy, in the inward parts as opposed to mere superficial goodness. Thou shalt make me to know] God is willing to give what He desires men to have.

7. Hyssop] employed in the OT. ceremonies of purification, a bunch of the herb being used to sprinkle blood (Leviticus 14:6-7) or water (Numbers 19:18) on the unclean. Snow] cp. Isaiah 1:18.

8. Bones which thou hast broken] see on Isaiah 42:10.

10. Create in me] RM ’create for me.’

Renew] better, ’make new.’ What is sought is something that has never been in the Psalmist’s life before. A right spirit] RM ’a, stedfast spirit,’ that will not yield to temptation.

11. Thy holy spirit] The only other mention of this in the OT. is in Isaiah 63:10, Isaiah 63:11.

12. With thy free spirit] RV ’with a free spirit,’ a spirit of willing and unforced obedience.

16. Desirest not] RV ’delightest not in.’ Delightest not] RV ’hast no pleasure.’

17. Cp. Psalms 34:18

18. This and the next v. form a prayer for the restoration of Jerusalem, written either during the exile or in the troublous times before Nehemiah’s mission.

19. Be pleased with] RV ’delight in.’ Burnt offering and whole burnt offering] two expressions for the same sacrifice, the one emphasising its being burnt, the other the completeness with which it was consumed. The conception of the essence of religion here is evidently very different from that of Psalms 51:16-17, which almost look like a criticism of—some even maintain, a protest against—animal sacrifice. In any case they assert that the sacrifice of the broken heart is that which God loves best.

Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Psalms 51". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcb/psalms-51.html. 1909.
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