Psalm 51 Meaning - Verse by Verse Explanation from Bible

Discover Psalm 51 Commentary in detail, with the Bible study explained, as well as their meaning in the Catholic Bible among others.

Psalm 51-1

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your compassion;
according to the multitude of your tender mercies,
blot out my transgressions.

Psalm 51-2

Wash me completely from my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

Psalm 51-3

For I acknowledge my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.

Psalm 51-4

Against you, you only, have I sinned,
and have done evil in your eyes,
so that you may be recognized in your word
and clear in your judgment.

Psalm 51-5

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.

Psalm 51-6

Behold, you love the truth in the innermost,
and in the secret you have made me understand wisdom.

Psalm 51-7

Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me and I’ll be whiter than snow.

Psalm 51-8

Let me hear joy and gladness,
and the bones you have broken will rejoice.

Psalm 51-9

Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquities.

Psalm 51-10

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew me with the right spirit within me.

Psalm 51-11

Do not drive me away from you,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.

Psalm 51-12

Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and a generous spirit to sustain me.

Psalm 51-13

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.

Psalm 51-14

Deliver me from the shedding of blood, O God, the
God of my salvation;
my tongue will sing of your righteousness.

Psalm 51-15

Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will proclaim your praise,

Psalm 51-16

because you do not want sacrifice, which I would give;
you do not delight in burnt offerings.

Psalm 51-17

God’s sacrifices are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart you will not despise, O God.

Psalm 51-18

Do good with your kindness to Zion;
build the walls of Jerusalem.

Psalm 51-19

Then you will be pleased with the righteous sacrifices,
the burnt offering, or a burnt offering;
then calves will be offered on your altar.

Psalm 51 - Matthew Henry Bible Commentary

David is, in all likelihood, one of the best-known biblical characters. Surely you’ve heard at some point in your life the story of young David and his victory over the giant Goliath. David’s life was one of much action, dedicated to the service of God.

David was the youngest son of his family, sheepherder and musician. Despite the normality of his existence, God chose him from a very young age for a special task: to be the second king of Israel. His brothers were bigger and stronger, but God chose David because he had a good heart in front of him (1 Samuel 16: 7).

David is credited with the authorship of 73 of the Psalms we have in the Bible. The Psalms are poetic compositions that express the joys or sorrows of their authors and their experiences with God. For example, in Psalm 51 David expresses clearly the deep sadness he felt when confronted with his sin, one that brought strong consequences and that marked his family forever.

The story behind the Psalm 51

In 2 Samuel 11 and 12 we read that one evening King David got up and went up to the roof of the palace where he lived from where he could see the roofs of other houses. In one of them he saw a woman bathing, Bathsheba. She was very pretty and David asked for information about her. They told her about her family and about her husband Uriah who was in the battle along with almost all the men of the town. David sent her to come to the palace and he slept with her. The woman became pregnant and he realized that he was in a mess.

David drew up a plan. He gave Uriah permission to return for a few days and tried to get him to go home and sleep with his wife. But Uriah was faithful to his comrades in battle and did not want to enjoy privileges that others could not enjoy at that moment, so he did not.

As this plan did not work, David sent a letter by the hand of Uriah to Joab, the charge of the army. He ordered him to put Uriah on the battlefront, in the most dangerous place. He instructed him to leave Uriah when the battle was more intense for the enemies to kill him. In other words, he plotted the murder of Uriah. After the death of Uriah, David married Bathsheba, but this did not please God.

When Bathsheba learned that Uriah, her husband, had died, she mourned for him. After the mourning, David ordered that they take her to the palace and took her for a wife. Over time, she gave him a son. However, what David had done displeased the Lord. (2 Samuel 11: 26-27)

God sent the prophet Nathan to rebuke David. The baby was already born, God had waited to see if David reconsidered and repented, but that did not happen. Nathan went and told a story to David about two men, one rich and one poor, and how the rich man snatched his most precious possession from the poor. David was very angry when he heard the story and declared that the rich man must die.

Then Nathan said to David, “You are that man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: “I anointed you as king over Israel, and I delivered you from the power of Saul. I gave you your master’s palace, and I put your women in your arms. I also allowed you to rule over Israel and Judah. And if this had been little, I would have given you much more. Why, then, did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what he dislikes? You murdered Uriah the Hittite to seize his wife! You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites! That is why the sword will never be separated from your family, for you despised me by taking the wife of Uriah the Hittite to make her your wife. ” (2 Samuel 12: 7-10)

The consequences of sin

David would stop receiving some of the blessings that God could have given him. By sinning we always lose some good things that God wants to give us because we get away from His plan.

We also see that David’s family would be at war and disunity and so it was. Several of his children were involved in horrible plots of jealousy, envy, incest, desire for power, and died violently. All this could have been avoided. David’s sin opened the door to many calamities within his family.

Also Read: Psalm 91 Meaning: Prayer from Bible for Powerful Protection

What we can find in Psalm 51

This is a Psalm of penance that expresses the psalmist’s guilt and regret.

Confession and request for forgiveness in Psalm 51

David begins by asking God for mercy and forgiveness. He recognizes and confesses his sin as rebellion against God knowing that only he could forgive him. God is the only one who can give us a new beginning. No matter how great our error is in coming before God in humility recognizing that we have failed Him, He forgives us, restores us and helps us move forward.

In verse 6 David expresses the importance that our intimate and secret life be directed by God.

I know that you love the truth in the intimate; You have taught me wisdom in the secret. (Psalm 51: 6)

When the truth of God and His wisdom reign in the deepest part of our being we make wise decisions that glorify Him and save us from many problems.

Request for cleaning and renovation

Verses 10 through 12 are a prayer asking for a new, clean and upright heart before God. God can always create something new and beautiful even from our mistakes. David pleads with God not to cast him out of his presence or take away the Holy Spirit. We need to take time to listen to the Holy Spirit and live within his will. The joy we feel in obeying confirms that we are on the right path, while the loss of joy is a good indicator that something is wrong.

The result of the restoration

David commits himself to be a witness of the Lord, to teach others the correct and pleasing way to God (verses 13 to 15). He decides to live a life full of praise. He was not going to let his sin ruin the rest of his life , he knew that there is always a new beginning in God. He would take advantage of his speaking of God’s love and forgiveness. David longed to see the fruit of salvation, sinners repentant and transformed by the power of God. The restoration of God brings meaning and a new purpose to our life.


David realizes that humility brings us closer to God because he expresses our submission and dependence on him. When we think we know everything, we fill ourselves with pride and do what seems best to us. We begin to trust in our strengths and make decisions without first consulting with God in prayer. We must humble ourselves, recognize that God knows what is best for us. By obeying him we will enjoy the fullness of blessings that he wants to give us.

Let’s seek to live lives that glorify our Lord . Let us acknowledge our mistakes with humility knowing that the path by which God leads us is the best, one full of his peace and fullness.

What does Psalm 51 mean?

It clearly does not refer to any guilt that David bore. In the context David manifests repentance for his “REBELLIONS” that is, voluntary acts of rebellion against God and His Holy Will. But he DOES NOT confess OR apologize for the ALLEGED “original sin” taught by the Roman Catholic religion and many “Evangelical” sects that follow the philosophy of John Calvin.

There are two possible explanations: (1) It refers to his mother’s sin; (2) It refers to the fact that sin exists everywhere and that it begins to AFFECT our life even from the moment of conception in the mother’s womb.

It should be noted that being conceived “in sin” DOES NOT MEAN to be conceived GUILTY of sin but to be conceived IN THE MIDST OF sin, that is, under the influence and negative effects of sin.

In simple terms it refers to the evil that exists everywhere and disturbs us in the struggle to be pure and without blemish before God. Sin is part of human existence and experience from conception to the moment of death. BUT this DOES NOT mean that children are born GUILTY of sin or that sin is part of man’s NATURE from conception.
Sin is an act of the human will in willful rebellion and disobedience against God, NOT something we inherit from parents such as eye color or physical height. Read carefully Ezekiel 18:20 ; I John 3: 4 ; Romans 3:23 ; 5:12 ; Isaiah 53: 6.


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