Psalm 51:5

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 5. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity. He is thunderstruck at the discovery of his inbred sin, and proceeds to set it forth. This was not intended to justify himself, but it rather meant to complete the confession. It is as if he said, not only have I sinned this once, but I am in my very nature a sinner. The fountain of my life is polluted as well as its streams. My birth tendencies are out of the square of equity; I naturally lean to forbidden things. Mine is a constitutional disease, rendering my very person obnoxious to thy wrath. And in sin did my mother conceive me. He goes back to the earliest moment of his being, not to traduce his mother, but to acknowledge the deep tap roots of his sin. It is a wicked wresting of Scripture to deny that original sin and natural depravity are here taught. Surely men who cavil at this doctrine have need to be taught of the Holy Spirit what be the first principles of the faith. David's mother was the Lord's handmaid, he was born in chaste wedlock, of a good father, and he was himself, "the man after God's own heart;" and yet his nature was as fallen as that of any other son of Adam, and there only needed the occasion for the manifesting of that sad fact. In our shaping we were put out of shape, and when we were conceived our nature conceived sin. Alas, for poor humanity! Those who will may cry it up, but he is most blessed who in his own soul has learned to lament his lost estate.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 1,5. Transgressions ... iniquity ... sin.

  1. It is transgressions, ([fp), pesha, rebellion.
  2. It is iniquity, (!w[), avon, crooked dealing.
  3. It is sin, (tajx), chattath, error and wandering. Adam Clarke.

Verse 5. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, etc. He said not, "Behold, this evil have I done," but, Behold, I was conceived in sin, etc. He says not, "Behold, I, David," a king, that have received such and such mercies from God, who would have given me more (as God told him), who had that entire communion with him, and graces from him, I, even I, have done this evil. No; he keeps it in till he came to this, and then his heart could hold no longer: Oh, behold I was conceived in sin. His debasement was at his auge here. And to whom is it he utters this behold? What, to men? No; his meaning is not to call on men, q.d., O ye sons of men, behold! That is but his secondary aim, arising out of his having penned it, and delivered it unto the church; but when he uttered it, it was to God, or rather afore God, and yet not as calling on God to behold, for that needed not. David had elsewhere said, "God looked down," etc., "and beheld the sons of men," when speaking of this very corruption. He therefore knew God beheld it sufficiently; but he utters it afore God, or, as spoken of himself between God and himself, thereby to express his own astonishment and amazement at the sight and conviction of this corruption, and at the sight of what a monster he saw himself to be in the sight of God in respect of this sin. It was a behold of astonishment at himself, as before the great and holy God; and therefore it was he seconds and follows it with another behold made unto God: "Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts." And it is as if he had said in both, Oh, how am I in every way overwhelmed, whilst with one eye cast on myself I see how infinitely corrupt I am in the very constitution of my nature; and with the other eye I behold and consider what an infinite holy God thou art in thy nature and being, and what an holiness it is which thou requirest. I am utterly overwhelmed in the intuition of both these, and able to behold no more, nor look up unto thee, O holy God! Thomas Goodwin.

Verse 5. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, etc. We are not to suppose that David here reflects upon his parents as the medium of transmitting to him the elements of moral evil; and that by the introduction of the doctrine of original sin he intended to extenuate the enormity of his own crimes. On the contrary, we are to regard him as afflicting himself by the humbling consideration that his very nature was fallen, that his transgressions flowed from a heart naturally at enmity with God; that he was not a sinner by accident, but by a depravity of purpose extending to the innermost desires and purposes of the soul; and that there was "a law in his members, warring against the law of his mind, and bringing him into captivity to the law of sin and death" Romans 7:23 ; and that he was one of a race of guilty beings, none of whom could plead an exemption from an evil heart of unbelief, ready at all times to depart from the living God. Till we see sin in the fountain of the heart, we shall never truly mourn over it in the life and conversation. John Morison.

Verse 5. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity. He is not low enough down yet, he must come lower. It is not enough for him to confess that the water is filthy at the pool; he goes back to the source, and confesses that the whole river is polluted up to its head. The source is unclean; the very spring wells forth foul waters. Thomas Alexander.

Verse 5. I was shapen in iniquity. I shall not easily be persuaded to think that parents who are sinners themselves and too much under the influence of bad affections and passions, will be very likely to produce children without transmitting to them some of those disorders and corruptions of nature with which they themselves are infected. And if this be a difficulty, I would beg leave to observe that it is a difficulty which affects natural as well as revealed religion. Since we must take human nature as it is, and if it be really in a state of disorder and corruption, and cannot be otherwise, considering the common law of its production, the difficulty must have been as ancient as the first man that was born; and therefore can be no objection against the truth of revelation, but it must be equally so against natural religion, which must equally allow the thing, if it be in reality a fact, with revelation itself. Samuel Chandler.

Verse 5. Infants are no innocents, being born with original sin, the first sheet wherein they are wrapped is woven of sin, shame, blood, and filth. Ezekiel 16:4 , etc. They are said to sin as they were in the loins of Adam, just as Levi is said to pay tithes to Melchizedek, even in the loins of his forefather Abraham Hebrews 7:9-10 ; otherwise infants would not die, for death is the wages of sin Romans 6:23 ; and the reign of death is procured be the reign of sin, which hath reigned over all mankind except Christ. All are sinners, infected with the guilt and filth of sin; the rot (according to the vulgar saying) over runs the whole flock. Hence David reflects upon original sin as the cause of all his actual, saying, Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Thus man's malady begind betimes, even in our conception; this subtle serpent sowed his tares very early, so that we are all "born in sin." John 9:34 . Christopher Ness's "Divine Legacy," 1700.

Verse 5. 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. Adam Clarke.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

None.