Rebuild Zion (Ps 51:18-51:19)

“Do good to Zion!

In your good pleasure!

Rebuild the walls of Jerusalem!

Then you will delight in right sacrifices.

You will delight in burnt offerings.

You will delight in whole burnt offerings.

Then bulls will be offered on your altar.”

This psalm ends with this addition about rebuilding Zion that had nothing to do with David and his sin with Bathsheba.  David had not even built the Temple so that to rebuild it would have been a post-exilic effort such as in Ezra and Nehemiah. This addition is almost in contradiction to the preceding verses that were pointing out the non-importance of sacrifices.  Here it is the opposite.  God would delight in right sacrifices, various burnt offers, and all those bulls on his altar.  This seems to go against the whole theme of this psalm, but brings the repentance back to ritual sacrifices.

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May God have mercy (Ps 51:1-51:2)

To the choirmaster leader, a psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone into Bathsheba

“Have mercy on me!

O God!

According to your steadfast love,

According to your abundant mercy,

Blot out my transgressions!

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity!

Cleanse me from my sin!”

Psalm 51 is the great penitential psalm when David was confronted by the prophet Nathan for his sexual encounter with Bathsheba in 2 Samuel, chapters 11 and 12. Eventually, David and Bathsheba were punished with the death of their first born. David wanted God’s mercy because of God’s steadfast love. This psalm is like Psalm 6 as a lament that is addressed to God directly. David wanted his transgressions blotted out. He wanted his iniquities washed away. He wanted to be cleansed from his sin. He wanted everything back to normal.