Erase my sins
A psalm of David. For the music leader. Written after the prophet Nathan confronted David about his adultery with Bathsheba.1 Please be kind to me, God,
Since lovingkindness is who you are.
So I’m asking for your compassion.
Please erase my sin.
2 Wash my sin away.
Get rid of every trace.
3 I know what I did was wrong.
I think of it all the time.
4 When it comes right down to it,
You’re the one I sinned against.
What I did was evil. You know it was.
Whatever judgment call you make will be fair.
You’ll have every right to do whatever you decide.
5 It feels like I was born sinful,
Conceived in sin.
6 You want me to be honest with you about everything,
You’ll need to teach me the wisdom I need
To deal honestly with those secrets.
I know you will.
Wash me whiter than snow7 Touch me and I will be clean.
Wash me and I will be whiter than snow.
8 I want to hear the sound of joy.
I want my broken spirit to sing.
9 Don’t look at my sin anymore.
Get rid of it. Wipe my sin away.
10 Please God, create a clean heart in me.
And give me a spirit stubbornly devoted to you.
11 Don’t send me away.
Don’t leave me alone,
Without your Holy Spirit.
12 Again let me feel the joy of you saving me.
Strengthen me with a spirit devoted to you.
13 Then I can teach others like me your way of life
So they, too, might come back to you.
Blood on my hands14 Save me from the blood on my hands.
Please, God. Only you can save me.
Then I’ll sing about how good you’ve been to me.
15 Please Lord, give me the words.
Help me tell others how wonderful you are.
16 Sacrifices aren’t what you want from me.
If they were, I’d give them to you.
But an animal burned on the altar
Will not please you this time.
17 The best sacrifice for sin
Is a broken heart.
You won’t turn your back
On a heart full of regret and sorrow.
Smile on Jerusalem18 Please be good to Jerusalem.
Build walls to protect the city.
19 Then you’ll again accept sacrifices
Offered in the right spirit:
Burnt offerings of whole animals,
With bulls presented to you on the altar.
The note “of David,” isn’t necessarily a byline. The vague phrase could mean the song was written by David, about David, or was inspired by David. Almost half of the psalms are attributed to David in this way, 73 of 150. Ancient Jewish history tells of David playing a lyre and writing songs. For one, he wrote a song of mourning at the battlefield death of King Saul and his sons: “How have the mighty fallen!” (2 Samuel 1:19-27 New American Standard Bible). An ancient Jewish scroll from about the time of Jesus, discovered among the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, reports that David wrote 3,600 songs.
The story of Nathan confronting David is reported in 2 Samuel 12.
If this song is about David’s adultery with Bathsheba, God wasn’t the only one David offended. David’s sin probably angered his wives, humiliated his children, and it killed Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah (2 Samuel 11:14-18). But some Bible experts say that many Jews considered all sins essentially sins against God. If you hurt a person, you’ve sinned against God. And that is the sin that counts most of all.
More literally, “Look, I was born sinful.” The writer feels so badly about what he did that he possibly uses some exaggeration to express his attraction to sin. It’s rare for a Bible writer to suggest people are born sinful. Perhaps Genesis 8:21 comes closest: “These people have a perpetual attraction to bad thoughts and behavior, even when they’re kids.”
Probably more exaggeration, some scholars say. They explain that the writer is probably not accusing his parents of doing something sinful in conceiving him. Instead, he’s expressing what overwhelming guilt feels like. It pollutes with poison every part of who we are. Other scholars say the writer is saying his parents did, in fact, do something wrong. Or perhaps the writer presumed the passion of lovemaking was wrong. Many people of faith have taught that over the centuries, saying sex was for making babies, not for throwing a party.
More literally “Purify me with hyssop.” Hyssop is a bush with small, white flowers. Jews would take branches from the bush, dip it in water, and sprinkle the water on anyone or anything ritually contaminated, to cleanse them. For example, they would sprinkle water on someone who touched a dead body (Numbers 19:18). Jews had to be cleansed of ritual defilement before they could worship at the tent worship center or, later, at the Jerusalem Temple.
Literally “burnt offering.” Burnt offerings atoned for sin, and were entirely consumed in the fire. With some other offerings, some meat was burned but some was shared between priest and worshiper.
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