Psalm 51 – Against You Only (Confessions, Pt. LI)

Bible opened to Psalm 51 with Equal Exchange Organic Very Dark Chocolate

Today’s passage: Psalm 51

Today’s chocolateEqual Exchange Organic Very Dark Chocolate (71 % Cacao)

Psalm 51 is another of David’s better-known works. The epigraph provides a quick-and-dirty summary: “A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.” It’s a psalm of confession, and to anyone who’s had The Talk, the verb “had gone in to” leaves no question as to what physical act constituted David’s sin here. The psalm is a confession of adultery, and of all the sins that compounded when David tried to cover the deed up.

You may be familiar with the line “Against You, You only, I have sinned” (4). Pastors, theologians, and such types often refer to this verse to indicate that what makes sin bad is that it violates God’s design for humans and damages or severs our relationship with God–it’s ultimately all against him. But my friend Victoria recently posted a sermon to her blog, Lutheran Moxie, in which she suggests that David, in this line, may be minimizing Bathsheba’s suffering as a victim of his sin. His violation of God’s law left a woman pregnant and mourning, and her husband dead. These were valuable human beings created in God’s image. And sure, if the universe didn’t have an omnibenevolent architect, adultery and murder wouldn’t be sins, but it does, and they are. Is it really fair to say, with David, of all our sins: “Against God, God only, I have sinned?”

So here’s our question of the day: is David portraying God as the only offended party in this scenario? Is he doing a disservice to Bathsheba, her husband, and others in omitting their victimhood from his confession? What do you think?

 

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4 thoughts on “Psalm 51 – Against You Only (Confessions, Pt. LI)

  1. The king has earthly rights to everyone and everything in the kingdom. So taking Bathsheba was immoral but legal. That’s what it means to be enslaved to a king and why it was wrong for Israel to reject God’s Kingship in I Sam 8. So your frind Victoria would be right for anyone else but David.

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  2. לְךָ֤ לְבַדְּךָ֙

    Above is Hebrew for Against you, you alone (or only)…. At start of vs 6. The ending on both words indicates 2nd person action toward. 1st word, is L kind of a preposition indicating toward and BD indicating separation or alone. Below is the Brown-Driver-Briggs lexicon for BD with several other verses with BD in them.

    I think David is not necessarily ignoring the impact or againstness of his wrong toward Bathsheba or Uriah or others but speaking ultimately of God as being the one against whom all sin ultimately is. He also is addressing some means of forgiveness believing he will receive it. I thought about places in Torah where sacrifice for willful sin is allowed and realized quickly that adultery and murder both are capital offenses in Torah so resolving sacrifice isn’t presented anywhere for that sort of thing.

    Your friend’s lens on David’s sin being not just against God but against humans is certainly worthwhile. In Yom Kippur, high holy days ritual of asking God for forgiveness every service we’ve been in cites the necessity of going to friends, family, fellow congregants and making things right with them by asking forgiveness, making restitution.

    Good thoughts and questions on your “chocolate blog”!

    Dad (Tom Ferrell)

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    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Dad. It looks like the Hebrew characters got garbled somehow, but I still get the gist of what you’re saying. It’s kind of as if there’s an implied “ultimately” in there–that at the end of the day, it’s sin because it goes against God’s law and God himself. Good point about adultery and murder both having no sacrificial provision in the Torah; I hadn’t thought of that.

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