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The New Oxford Annotated Bible New Revised Standard Study Bible that provides essential scholarship and guidance for Bible readers.

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Commentary on Psalms

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Ps 51 : Prayer for forgiveness.

An exilic individual lament (one of the penitential psalms; see Ps 6n.), divided into two parts (vv. 1–9,10–19 ). Each part begins with a vocative appeal to God and ends with a reference to the Temple. (For the superscription, see 2 Sam 12 and cf. Ps 3n. ).

3–4 :

Conscious of sin, the remorseful psalmist confesses his sin, a precondition for forgiveness (Ps 32.5 ). Verse 4 echoes 2 Sam 12.9,13 ; this is why the tradition reflected in the superscription (title) connects the psalm with David's adultery with Bathsheba.

5 :

An expression of the guilt‐prone nature of humanity (see Job 7.17–21 ).

7 :

see Lev 14.6–9 for an example of cleansing involving hyssop, a wild bush whose branches were used for sprinkling liquids.

8 :

Hear joy and gladness, the prayers and songs the psalmist hopes to hear in the (rebuilt) Temple.

11 :

Your presence … your holy spirit, expressions indicating God's presence (“face”) and power (Isa 63.10–11 ).

13 :

Teach transgressors, warning them to return to God (Ezek 3.18–21; 33.7–9 ).

15–17 :

With the Temple destroyed, the psalmist can only offer hymns of praise and a penitent heart in place of sacrifice. The anti‐sacrificial sentiment of these verses, though tempered in the following verses, may explain this psalm's juxtaposition to Ps 50 (see esp. vv. 8–13 ).

18–19 :

The psalmist looks forward in hope to the rebuilding of the Temple and its reinstituted sacrificial worship.

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