Introduction: Faith and Psalms | Davidic Authorship: Historicity and Psalms
Part I: Psalm 6 | Part II: Psalm 38

Traditionally Psalms 6, 32, 38, and 51 were considered written after David had committed sin with Bathsheba. Hence, these psalms presented a look into a truly penitent heart. They show a faithful servant of God who confessed and repented of his sin, who knew God had forgiven him, and who knew God would be glorified by his confession.

Now if one were to remove the traditional historical setting from these psalms, will we still arrive at the same conclusions presented above, or will we arrive at fundamentally different conclusions—thus affecting the faith of the 21st century Christian.

PSALM 51

Have mercy upon me, O God,

According to Your lovingkindness;

According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,

Blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,

And cleanse me from my sin.

For I acknowledge my transgressions,

And my sin is always before me.

Against You, You only, have I sinned,

And done this evil in Your sight—

That You may be found just when You speak,

And blameless when You judge.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,

And in sin my mother conceived me.

Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts,

And in the hidden part You will 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 hear joy and gladness,

That the bones You have broken may rejoice.

Hide Your face from my sins,

And blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,

And renew a steadfast 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 uphold me by Your generous Spirit.

Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,

And sinners shall be converted to You.

Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,

The God of my salvation,

And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness.

O Lord, open my lips,

And my mouth shall show forth Your praise.

For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;

You do not delight in burnt offering.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,

A broken and a contrite heart—

These, O God, You will not despise.

Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion;

Build the walls of Jerusalem.

Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness,

With burnt offering and whole burnt offering;

Then they shall offer bulls on Your altar.

The Various Views and their significance:

  1. One who understood and obsessed over an awareness of sin. I personally found this view to be an interesting read. As in subsequent posts on this subject Terrien’s views are presented first. Similar in dating the previous psalms studied, he places Psalm 51 in the sixth century B.C. and therefore not attributed to David but to someone similar to Jeremiah who truly understood the sin of Israel. Commenting of the possibility of Davidic authorship Terrien states: “It is preferable to read ‘For David,’ as if the poem, like a dozen others, were composed by musicians who wished to commemorate or sadly recall dramatic events in the life of the first legendary king of Israel and founder of the Judahite dynasty.” He continues explaining that the poet himself was most likely not thinking of the story of David, instead the editors who compiled the psalms easily assumed the setting.
  2. Presently Unknown. Currently Goldingay’s commentary only covers the first 41 psalms.
  3. David’s struggle over his forgiven sin. Keil and Delitzsch best express this view: “In Ps. 6 and 38 we have already heard David, sick in soul and body, praying for forgiveness; in Ps. 51 he has even become calmer and more cheerful in his soul, and there is nothing wanting to him except the rapturous realization of the favour within the range of which he already finds himself.” In this view, the occasion of the psalm centers on adultery; yet, every sin which has resulted from the initial trespass affects David’s character on a fundamental level. The author of Psalm 51 is ready to confess with an honest and penitential heart. It is this struggle we see David wrestling through, he now understands that all sin committed are against God and God alone; hence it is God who alone can forgive.

The implications of faith between these two views are drastic. One view presents a soul who after hiding in his sin for over a year has reached rock bottom; it is at this lowest point in life King David realizes that his sins are forgiven that all former petitions have been completely answered and that God still loves him. Contrast this against a view which paints the picture of a psalmist who understood sin on a broad scale; this author understood Israel and her sins in relation to God’s overall plan for humanity.

View (1) presents a global understanding of sin, while view (3) presents a personal understanding of sin from one who has firsthand experience. While view (1) presents a decent case for a late writing and therefore understanding of Psalm 51, I would suggest reading the Book of Lamentations if one would like to gain a deeper understanding about global sin and its connection to faith. The personal exultations of understanding experienced in Psalm 51 are better understood through view (3). At this juncture David knows he is wrong, he understands sin simply due to God’s righteous character; a true broken heart.

A broken heart understands a loving God.

-Next, Psalm 32-


[1] Psalms, pp. 403-410.

[2] Ibid., p. 403.

[3] Commentary on the Psalms, vol. 5, p. 365.

[4] Keil and Delitzsch stress, one who has a “true consciousness of sin contemplates sin” (Ibid., p. 366).

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