Psa 51.1-19 is a psalm about the concept of Teshuvah, or “repentance” with no excuses. The events behind this psalm are described in 2 Sam 11-12. The heading reads, “For the Conductor, a Song of David, when Nathan the Prophet came to him after he had gone into Bathsheba.” This psalm is customarily recited on the Sabbath when the Torah portion Parah Adumah (Red Heifer) is read. This is to remind the congregation to purify themselves before Passover.
Psa 51.1-5 begins with an appeal to Yehovah (the attribute of mercy and favor enforced) but calls upon Elohim (attribute of justice enforced). David believes that he is sincere in what he has to say to withstand the strict scrutiny and justice of God (v 1). He wants Yehovah to wash him thoroughly from his transgressions and sins (murder, lying, taking Bathsheba) and cleanse him (v 2).
David knew what he did and his sin is “ever before me” because of his anxiety, regret and he could not get it off his mind. Guilt and remorse are hard to avoid (v 3). Primarily, this sin was against God and him only, as is all sin. He did this evil in God’s sight (known only to God). By confessing his sin, God’s justice is confirmed and it also proved that his Torah was holy, righteous, good and perfect, even if David (or us) does not obey it. Also, the wicked can’t say it does no good to repent because “God doesn’t forgive anyone anyway” (v 4).
David knows he was “brought forth in iniquity” meaning he has a stubborn sin nature from birth. He is not excusing his sin but this is to show how deep his sin was. He sinned his whole life and was corrupt (v 5).
Psa 51.6-9 tells us that God desires truth in the inward parts, described as the kidneys, bowels, spirit, soul, heart and mind in Hebrew. All these terms are synonymous and God taught David wisdom in these “hidden parts.” This means that even though David had a sin nature within him, Yehovah wanted to do a deep work in him (v 6). David says, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean.” Hyssop was used in the first Passover with the blood of the lamb as we all know. It was the “agent” (like Yeshua) to reinstate ritual purity. Hyssop was also used in the water with the ashes of the Parah Adumah (Red Heifer), and used to purify the people and vessels that were ritually “Tamai” or unclean. It was also used in the ceremony to cleanse a leper (Exo 12.12; Lev 14.4-6, 51-52; Num 19.6, 18). David’s sin is an impurity and the hyssop is a type of Messiah, the agent of God who washes away our sin, which is like a leper’s spot (v 7).
David wants to hear “joy and gladness” meaning he wants God to inform him that he is forgiven. He also says “let the bones which thou hast broken rejoice” meaning sin is like a broken bone and it causes pain, and he wants things “set correctly” so that it can heal and he can be relieved of that distress and pain (v 8). He wants Yehovah to “hide” his face from his sins and to blot out his iniquities. In other words, he wants forgiveness and restoration (v 9).
Psa 51.10-13 says he wants the Lord to create in him a “clean heart” meaning he wants to consider himself as “born again” and to put out error. Then he says, “Renew a right spirit within me” and you can see in this verse that “heart” and “spirit” are synonymous terms. The word “renew” is “chadash” and it is the word used when people say “new covenant” or “testament.” It means “renewed covenant” or “testament.” The renewed covenant is something that is already there, not brand new. The new covenant is the Torah being renewed and written on our hearts (Jer 31.31-33). David is not lost but his life with the Lord has been interrupted. The teaching that the new testament has replaced the “old testament” and the Torah commandments is a false doctrine. The new covenant is a renewal of the Torah on a person’s heart, desires and thoughts, and not just written on stone tablets (v 10). The renewal has to do with where the Torah is written, not the Torah itself.
David wants sensible communion with God, something he can feel through his senses. He wants to enjoy his presence, his word and fellowship when he says he does not want to be taken away from God’s presence or face, like what happened to Cain in Gen 4.14. He also does not want Yehovah to take the Ruach Ha Kodesh from him. He wanted to feel his inspiration and he knew what happened to Saul when that happened (1 Sam 16.14). Some believe that this could not happen to a believer today, but they are wrong. A believer can certainly feel “uninspired” by the Spirit of God and feel separated from Yehovah because of their sins (v 11). The joy of David’s salvation needs to be restored by an application of Yehovah’s pardoning grace and mercy, and to sustain him with a generous spirit, which is the same as the Ruach Ha Kodesh (v 12).
God’s mercy on David will “teach transgressors thy ways” and “sinners will be converted to thee.” The word “converted” is the same word translated “restore” in 51.12. David wants to be “restored” and he wants to be used by Yehovah to help “restore” sinners also (v 13).
Psa 51.14-17 tells us that David makes a specific request to be delivered from “bloodguiltiness” in regards to the murder of Uriah. He doesn’t mention his adultery because he considered this sin to be especially grievous. He did not want to die violently because of his sin with Uriah (v 14). He wants the Lord to “open my lips” so that he can praise God again with a free spirit and boldness, with no sense of his sin anymore (v 15).
Yehovah does not delight in korbanot, otherwise he would give one (an offering). David knew there was no korban (offering) for murder and adultery in the Torah. He would not be pleased with a burnt offering (Korban Olah) because he could not offer one for this sin according to the Torah anyway (v 16). The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit (“ruach” or “heart”) which means being humbled under the sense of sin and being “wounded.” David is expressing the concepts we have already gone over in Psa 50.14 (v 17).
David was not only a man, husband and father, he was also a king. He had failed the kingdom and wants the Lord to restore his favor and “build the walls of Jerusalem. David was interested in building the Temple and the walls of the city was involved in that venture. He did not want to be found unworthy to do that, or his sons (v 18). Then Yehovah will delight in righteous sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings. The “burnt offering” refers to the daily Tamid offerings and the “whole burnt offering” refers to the minchah (additional) offering brought by the priests which is burned whole (Lev 6.15-16). Then young bulls will be offered on the altar.
God despises the korbanot when they are not accompanied by true repentance and a contrite heart. On the other hand, God does not despise a broken heart even though it is not accompanied by korban, as in the case of David. David is saying that once reconciled external worship is accepted (v 19).
Psa 52.1-9 is a psalm about what happened when Doeg the Edomite told Saul about David’s presence at the Mishkan when he went there for help. Saul had Doeg kill the priests and others at the Mishkan for helping David (1 Sam 22.18-21). Doeg is condemned and David looks into the roots of Doeg’s evil. The heading reads, “For the Conductor. A Maskil (instruction) by David, upon the arrival of Doeg the Edomite, who informed Saul, and said to him, ‘David came to the house of Abimelech.'”
Psa 52.1-4 says that Doeg was a “mighty man” who boasted in evil. He killed eighty-five priests who were not warriors, so David is being “sarcastic” when he says he was a “mighty man.” He is called an “Edomite” for several reasons. First, he is from Edom, and Edom means “red” and Doeg was “red” with envy about David. Edom is also related to the Hebrew word “dam” meaning blood, and his lies resulted in innocent blood being spilled, and he also called for David’s blood. The word Edom also has the same root as “Adam” and Adam means “blood of God” or “first blood” (v 1).
Doeg’s tongue devised evil and destruction and it cut like a razor. He loved evil more than good, and he loved words that “devour” like lies that cause ruin (v 2-4).
Psa 52.5-7 tells us that God will break Doeg down like breaking down a leprous house (Lev 14.45). In his war against David he is fighting against God. He will snatch him up and tear him away from his “tent” (house) like he did the priests, and from the land of the living, and the Olam Haba (v 5). The tzaddikim (righteous) will see his punishment and fear (a godly fear). They will reverence God and respect him when they see the destruction of evildoers. They will laugh when they see the irony in what happens to him. Doeg failed to trust God and trusted riches and this desire motivated him (v 6-7).
Psa 52.8-9 tells us that David saw himself as a green tree (righteous, alive, with life) in the house of God, where Doeg isn’t. He trusts in the mercy of God. He will thank God forever because “thou hast done it” (took revenge on Doeg). He will wait on God’s name and will let the talkers boast for now. David will be patient on the Lord to do good on his behalf (v 8-9).
Here is a concept on prayer that is related to what David is doing here. When we pray we should be quiet before the Lord, which basically means we should not complain or talk about the problem with others too much, but we should be confident that he has heard us. Then we should never be overwhelmed by current events that might look contrary to what we are praying for. But we should continue to wait on the Lord (keep serving the Lord, following the Torah) and to watch for further developments that will make God’s plan more evident in the area that we are praying about. That is what David is doing here. Even though David is crushed by what Doeg is doing, he will be strong , as all the righteous should be (Psa 1.3, 96.12; Isa 61.3; Jer 11.16).
Psa 53.1-6 is a repeat of Psa 14 and some scholars see this as significant. They see an allusion to the destruction of the first Temple in Psa 14, and an allusion to the destruction of the second Temple in Psa 53. The heading reads, “For the Conductor upon Machalat, a Maskil of David.” We know “maskil” means instruction, but what does machalat mean? Some Jewish scholars (Rashi) believe that it is a musical instrument (a lyre). Others believe it means sickness, weakness and said emotions. It is only used here and in Psa 81. It alludes to the sickness and disease of sin, and the weakness that follows.
Psa 53. 1-3 tells us that the fool ( Hebrew “naval” like Nebuchadnezzar and Titus who destroyed the first and second Temple) has said in his heart (desires, thoughts, intentions) that “there is no God” to punish the wicked. Their ways are corrupt and there is none who does good (even his desire to do good is tainted by evil). God looks down on man, even though they don’t believe there is a God who sees anything, to see if there is any understanding to seek the guidance that comes from the Torah. Is there one who seeks Yehovah? But man has turned away from God and is corrupt inside and out. There is no one who does good, not one (v 1- 3).
Psa 53.4-6 tells us that God defends the righteous when attacked. The workers of iniquity have no knowledge, who eat up God’s people as bread. Don’t they realize what they are doing (v 4)? Psa 53.5 says, “There they were in great fear where no fear had been. For God scattered the bones of him who encamps against you.” It is interesting to note that this verse was actually fulfilled at the death of Titus, who destroyed the second Temple in 70 A.D. In the Talmud, Gittin 56b, it says that Titus wanted to be cremated upon his death and his bones scattered over the seven seas so that the God of the Jews will not be able find him and bring him before a tribunal of justice.
David knew that God was a defense for his people and the wicked will never win. God will bring his people back from dispersion or any situation where his people are persecuted when salvation (Yeshuat in Hebrew) comes out of Tzion. This alludes to when Messiah Yeshua comes to set up the Messianic Kingdom, and when Jacob (Israel) will rejoice when the second exile comes to an end.