Psalms 51:5 MEANING

Psalm 51:5
(5) Behold, I was shapen . . .--Better, Behold, I was born in iniquity.

The later rabbis, combining this verse with the mystery hanging over the origin and name of David's mother, represent him as born in adultery. (See Stanley, Jewish Church, chap. ii., p. 46, Note.) The word rendered conceived is certainly one generally used of animal desire. (The marginal warm me is erroneous.) But the verse is only a statement of the truth of experience so constantly affirmed in Scripture of hereditary corruption and the innate proneness to sin in every child of man. The argument for a personal origin to the psalm from this verse seems strong; but in Psalm 129:1, and frequently, the community is personified as an individual growing from youth to age, and so may here speak of its far-back idolatrous ancestry as the mother who conceived it in sin.

Verses 5-12. - The prayer now makes a stride in advance. It has been hitherto for the first step in justification - the wiping out of past transgressions. It is now for restoration, for a renewal of spiritual life, for a return to God's favour, and to the spiritual joy involved in it. First, however, an additional confession is made (vers. 5, 6). Not only have I committed acts of sin (vers. 1-4), but sin is thoroughly ingrained into my nature. I was conceived in it; I was brought forth in it; only the strongest remedies can cleanse me from it (ver. 7). But cleansing alone is not enough. I need renewal (ver. 10); I need thy Holy Spirit (ver. 11); I crave, above all, the sense of a restoration to thy favour - a return to the old feelings of "joy and gladness" (ver. 8), even "the joy of thy salvation" (ver. 12). Verse 5. - Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; rather, in iniquity was I brought forth. And in sin did my mother conceive me. It is doubtless true, as Professor Cheyne says, that "the Old Testament contains no theory of the origin of sin" - no formulated doctrine on the subject. But the fact of congenital depravity is stated, not only here, but also in Job 14:4; Psalm 58:3; it is also implied in Isaiah 43:27 and Hosea 6:7.

51:1-6 David, being convinced of his sin, poured out his soul to God in prayer for mercy and grace. Whither should backsliding children return, but to the Lord their God, who alone can heal them? he drew up, by Divine teaching, an account of the workings of his heart toward God. Those that truly repent of their sins, will not be ashamed to own their repentance. Also, he instructs others what to do, and what to say. David had not only done much, but suffered much in the cause of God; yet he flees to God's infinite mercy, and depends upon that alone for pardon and peace. He begs the pardon of sin. The blood of Christ, sprinkled upon the conscience, blots out the transgression, and, having reconciled us to God, reconciles us to ourselves. The believer longs to have the whole debt of his sins blotted out, and every stain cleansed; he would be thoroughly washed from all his sins; but the hypocrite always has some secret reserve, and would have some favorite lust spared. David had such a deep sense of his sin, that he was continually thinking of it, with sorrow and shame. His sin was committed against God, whose truth we deny by wilful sin; with him we deal deceitfully. And the truly penitent will ever trace back the streams of actual sin to the fountain of original depravity. He confesses his original corruption. This is that foolishness which is bound in the heart of a child, that proneness to evil, and that backwardness to good, which is the burden of the regenerate, and the ruin of the unregenerate. He is encouraged, in his repentance, to hope that God would graciously accept him. Thou desirest truth in the inward part; to this God looks, in a returning sinner. Where there is truth, God will give wisdom. Those who sincerely endeavour to do their duty shall be taught their duty; but they will expect good only from Divine grace overcoming their corrupt nature.Behold, I was shapen in iniquity,.... This cannot be understood of any personal iniquity of his immediate parents; since this respects his wonderful formation in the womb, in which both he and they were wholly passive, as the word here used is of that form; and is the amazing work of God himself, so much admired by the psalmist, Psalm 139:13; and cannot design any sinfulness then infused into him by his Maker, seeing God cannot be the author of sin; but of original sin and corruption, derived to him by natural generation: and the sense is, that as soon as ever the mass of human nature was shaped and quickened, or as soon as soul and body were united together, sin was in him, and he was in sin, or became a sinful creature;

and in sin did my mother conceive me; by whom cannot be meant Eve; for though she is the mother of all living, and so of David, yet could not, with any propriety, be said to conceive him: this only could be said of his immediate parent, not even of his next grandmother, much less of Eve, at the distance of almost three thousand years. Nor does the sin in which he was conceived intend any sin of his parents, in begetting and conceiving him, being in lawful wedlock; which acts cannot be sinful, since the propagation of the human species by natural generation is a principle of nature implanted by God himself; and is agreeably to the first law of nature, given to man in a state of innocence, "increase and multiply", Genesis 1:28. Marriage is the institution of God in paradise; and in all ages has been accounted "honourable in all, when the bed is undefiled", Hebrews 13:4. Nor does it design his being conceived when his mother was in "profluviis", of which there is no proof, and is a mere imagination, and can answer no purpose; much less that he was conceived in adultery, as the contenders for the purity of human nature broadly intimate; which shows how much they are convicted by this text, to give into such an interpretation of it, at the expense of the character of an innocent person, of whom there is not the least suggestion of this kind in the Holy Scriptures; but on the contrary, she is represented as a religious woman, and David valued himself upon his relation to her as such, Psalm 86:16. Besides, had this been the case, as David would have been a bastard, he would not have been suffered to enter into the congregation of the Lord, according to the law in Deuteronomy 23:2; whereas he often did with great delight, Psalm 42:4. Moreover, it is beside his scope and design to expose the sins of others, much less his own parents, while he is confessing and lamenting his own iniquities: and to what purpose should he mention theirs, especially if he himself was not affected by them, and did not derive a corrupt nature from them? Nor is the sin he speaks of any actual sin of his own, and therefore he does not call it, as before, "my" iniquity and "my" sin; though it was so, he having sinned in Adam, and this being in his nature; but "iniquity" and "sin", it being common to him with all mankind. Hence we learn the earliness of the corruption of nature; it is as soon as man is conceived and shapen; and that it is propagated from one to another by natural generation; and that it is the case of all men: for if this was the case of David, who was born of religious parents, was famous for his early piety, and from whose seed the Messiah sprung, it may well be concluded to be the case of all. And this corruption of nature is the fountain, source, and spring of all sin, secret and open, private and public; and is mentioned here not as an extenuation of David's actual transgressions, but as an aggravation of them; he having been, from his conception and formation, nothing else but a mass of sin, a lump of iniquity; and, in his evangelical repentance for them, he is led to take notice of and mourn over the corruption of his nature, from whence they arose. The Heathens themselves affirm, that no man is born without sin (c).

(c) "Nam vitiis nemo sine nascitur". Horat. Sermon. l. 1. Satyr. 3.

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