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Psalms 51:5

King James Version (KJV)
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Behold, I was shapen in iniquity - A genuine penitent will hide nothing of his state; he sees and bewails, not only the acts of sin which he has committed, but the disposition that led to those acts. He deplores, not only the transgression, but the carnal mind which is enmity against God. The light that shines into his soul shows him the very source whence transgression proceeds; he sees his fallen nature, as well as his sinful life; he asks pardon for his transgressions, and he asks washing and cleansing for his inward defilement. Notwithstanding all that Grotius and others have said to the contrary, I believe David to speak here of what is commonly called original sin; the propensity to evil which every man brings into the world with him, and which is the fruitful source whence all transgression proceeds. The word חוללתי cholalti, which we translate shaped, means more properly, I was brought forth from the womb; and יחמתני yechemathni rather signifies made me warm, alluding to the whole process of the formation of the fetus in utero, the formative heat which is necessary to develope the parts of all embryo animals; to incubate the ova in the female, after having been impregnated by the male; and to bring the whole into such a state of maturity and perfection as to render it capable of subsisting and growing up by aliment received from without. "As my parts were developed in the womb, the sinful principle diffused itself through the whole, so that body and mind grew up in a state of corruption and moral imperfection."

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Behold, I was shapen in iniquity - The object of this important verse is to express the deep sense which David had of his depravity. That sense was derived from the fact that this was not a sudden thought, or a mere outward act, or an offence committed under the influence of strong temptation, but that it was the result of an entire corruption of his nature - of a deep depravity of heart, running back to the very commencement of his being. The idea is, that he could not have committed this offence unless he had been thoroughly corrupt, and always corrupt. The sin was as heinous and aggravated “as if” in his very conception and birth there had been nothing but depravity. He looked at his, sin, and he looked back to his own origin, and he inferred that the one demonstrated that in the other there was no good thing, no tendency to goodness, no germ of goodness, but that there was evil, and only evil; as when one looks at a tree, and sees that it bears sour or poisonous fruit, he infers that it is in the very nature of the tree, and that there is nothing else in the tree, from its origin, but a tendency to produce just such fruit.

Of course, the idea here is not to cast reflections on the character of his mother, or to refer to her feelings in regard to his conception and birth, but the design is to express his deep sense of his own depravity; a depravity so deep as to demonstrate that it must have had its origin in the very beginning of his existence. The word rendered “I was shapen” - חוללתי chôlaletiy - is from a word - חול chûl - which means properly, “to turn around, to twist, to whirl;” and then it comes to mean “to twist oneself with pain, to writhe;” and then it is used especially with reference to the pains of childbirth. Isaiah 13:8; Isaiah 23:4; Isaiah 26:18; Isaiah 66:7-8; Micah 4:10. That is the meaning here. The idea is simply that he was “born” in iniquity; or that he was a sinner when he was born; or that his sin could be traced back to his very birth - as one might say that he was born with a love of music, or with a love of nature, or with a sanguine, a phlegmatic, or a melancholy temperament.

There is not in the Hebrew word any idea corresponding to the word ““shapen,”” as if he had been “formed” or “moulded” in that manner by divine power; but the entire meaning of the word is exhausted by saying that his sin could be traced back to his “very birth;” that it was so deep and aggravated, that it could be accounted for - or that he could express his sense of it - in no other way, than by saying that he was “born a sinner.” How that occurred, or how it was connected with the first apostasy in Adam, or how the fact that he was thus born could be vindicated, is not intimated, nor is it alluded to. There is no statement that the sin of another was “imputed” to him; or that he was “responsible” for the sin of Adam; or that he was guilty “on account of” Adam‘s sin, for on these points the psalmist makes no assertion. It is worthy of remark, further, that the psalmist did not endeavor to “excuse” his guilt on the ground that he was ““born”” in iniquity; nor did he allude to that fact with any purpose of “exculpating” himself. The fact that he was thus born only deepened his sense of his own guilt, or showed the enormity of the offence which was the regular result or outbreak of that carly depravity. The points, therefore, which are established by this expression of the psalmist, so far as the language is designed to illustrate how human nature is conceived, are

(1) that people are born with a propensity to sin; and

(2) that this fact does not excuse us in sin, but rather tends to aggravate and deepen our guilt.

The language goes no further than this in regard to the question of original sin or native depravity. The Septuagint agrees with this interpretation - ἰδού γὰρ ἐν ανομίαις συνελήφθην idou gar en anomias sunelēfthēn So the Vulgate: in iniquitatibus conceptus sum.

And in sin did my mother conceive me - Margin, as in Hebrew, “warm me.” This language simply traces his sin back to the time when he began to exist. The previous expression traced it to “his birth;” this expression goes back to the very beginning of “life;” when there were the first indications of life. The idea is, “as soon as I began to exist I was a sinner; or, I had then a propensity to sin - a propensity, the sad proof and result of which is that enormous act of guilt which I have committed.”

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
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.
Ellen G. White
Education, 165

In that hour of darkest trial, David sang: Ed 165.1

“I cried unto the Lord with my voice,
And He heard me out of His holy hill.
Ed 165.2

“I laid me down and slept;
I awaked; for the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people,
That have set themselves against me around about.”
Ed 165.3

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Ellen G. White
Patriarchs and Prophets, 724-5

God intended the history of David's fall to serve as a warning that even those whom He has greatly blessed and favored are not to feel secure and neglect watchfulness and prayer. And thus it has proved to those who in humility have sought to learn the lesson that God designed to teach. From generation to generation thousands have thus been led to realize their own danger from the tempter's power. The fall of David, one so greatly honored by the Lord, has awakened in them distrust of self. They have felt that God alone could keep them by His power through faith. Knowing that in Him was their strength and safety, they have feared to take the first step on Satan's ground. PP 724.1

Even before the divine sentence was pronounced against David he had begun to reap the fruit of transgression. His conscience was not at rest. The agony of spirit which he then endured is brought to view in the thirty-second psalm. He says: PP 724.2

“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is
covered.
Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no guile.
When I kept silence, my bones waxed old
Through my roaring all the day long.
For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me:
My moisture was changed as with the drought of summer.”
PP 724.3

Read in context »
Ellen G. White
Steps to Christ, 25

“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord
imputeth not iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no guile.”
SC 25.1

Psalm 32:1, 2. SC 25

“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to
Thy loving-kindness:
According unto the multitude of Thy tender
mercies blot out my transgressions....
For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my
sin is ever before me....
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean:
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow....
Create in me a clean heart, O God;
And renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from Thy presence;
And take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation;
And uphold me with Thy free spirit....
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, Thou
God of my salvation:
And my tongue shall sing aloud of Thy
righteousness.”
SC 25.2

Read in context »
Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 3 (EGW), 1147

O that we might have a consuming desire to know God by an experimental knowledge, to come into the audience chamber of the Most High, reaching up the hand of faith, and casting our helpless souls upon the One mighty to save. His loving kindness is better than life (Manuscript 38, 1905). 3BC 1147.1

1-17. The Way Back to God—I present before you the fifty-first psalm, a psalm filled with precious lessons. From it we may learn what course to follow if we have departed from the Lord. To the king of Israel, exalted and honored, the Lord sent a message of reproof by His prophet. David confessed his sin and humbled his heart, declaring God to be just in all His dealings [Psalm 51:1-17 quoted] (Manuscript 147, 1903). 3BC 1147.2

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