Die Heuning Pot Literature Guide
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Summary

Chapter Summaries

Psalms Psalm 51 Summary

Verses 1-5

NRSV
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.
Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.

KJV
Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

  • The speaker definitely knows he's caused some trouble, and he's praying to God for forgiveness.
  • So far, the writer is concerned only with his personal transgressions.
  • Take a second to check out the differences in the translations. The NRSV implies that the sinner's transgressions are so bad that they go back all the way to his birth. The KJV takes it one step further, implying that the mother was involved in the sinning, too. Original sin was a Big Deal when the KJV was written, so it makes sense.

Verses 6-12

NRSV
You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

KJV
Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

  • Again, this passage is all personal.
  • It's also all imagery. And powerful metaphors mean punchy metaphors. 
  • P.S. Hyssop is an herb.

Verses 13-19

NRSV
Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.
Deliver me from bloodshed, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.
O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.
For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem,
then you will delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar.

KJV
Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
Deliver me from blood guiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.
Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.

  • It sounds like if God forgives our writer, he'll do some major publicity for God.
  • Now it's a community problem, and the writer is relaying God's ways to everyone else.
  • All that talk of sacrifice? That's actual sacrifice they're talking about—the kind that would go down in the temple in Jerusalem.
  • One critical theme here is the power of the voice. God's voice is always powerful—after all, he created the world by speaking. But in this passage, the speaker is powerful because he is proclaiming God's might.
  • Oh, and he's redeemed through this attempt to convert others.
  • Again, we receive no explanation of what exactly God's law is or how the speaker violated it; we only read an expression of remorse. Secret sinning? Sounds juicy.
  • Twist ending! The psalm concludes by expressing a hope that Jerusalem will be rebuilt so that animal sacrifices can recommence on the altar.
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