Psalm 51:7
Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
David's Prayer for CleansingThomas Horton, D. D.Psalm 51:7
Forgiveness of SinsT. Chalmers, D. D.Psalm 51:7
God Almighty's WhitePsalm 51:7
Human Sin and Divine CleansingWilliam Jones.Psalm 51:7
Hyssop an Emblem of ChristA. Symson.Psalm 51:7
Prayer an Index of the HeartJ. Addison Alexander, D. D.Psalm 51:7
The Complete Acceptance of the PenitentCanon Newbolt.Psalm 51:7
The Wordless BookCharles Haddon Spurgeon Psalm 51:7
Whiter than SnowC. S. Robinson, D. D.Psalm 51:7
Whiter than SnowJ. H. Jowett, M. A.Psalm 51:7
Whiter than SnowT. Alexander.Psalm 51:7
Whiter than SnowPsalm 51:7
Whiter than SnowW. Forsyth Psalm 51:7
Repentance and ForgivenessC. Short Psalm 51:1-8
A Petition and an ArgumentPsalm 51:1-19
Blot Out My TrangressionsAndrew Murray.Psalm 51:1-19
David's RepentanceJ. S. Macintosh, D. D.Psalm 51:1-19
God's Former Dealings a Plea for MercyThomas Horton, D. D.Psalm 51:1-19
God's LovingkindnessT. Alexander, M. A.Psalm 51:1-19
God's MercyA. Symson.Psalm 51:1-19
God's-Tender MerciesT. Alexander, D. D.Psalm 51:1-19
LessonsS. Hieron.Psalm 51:1-19
Sin Blotted OutCampbell Morgan, D. D.Psalm 51:1-19
The Exceeding Sinfulness of SinCanon Newbolt.Psalm 51:1-19
The Fifty-First PsalmF. W. Robertson, M. A.Psalm 51:1-19
The Greatness of Sin to a True PenitentMonday Club SermonsPsalm 51:1-19
The Minister's PsalmW. Forsyth Psalm 51:1-19
The Moan of a KingJ. Parker, D. D.Psalm 51:1-19
The Penitent SinnerHomilistPsalm 51:1-19
The Prayer for MercyAndrew Murray.Psalm 51:1-19
The Prayer of the PenitentG. F. Pentecost, D. D.Psalm 51:1-19
The Prayer of the PenitentDavid O. Mears.Psalm 51:1-19
The Psalmist's Prayer for MercyT. Biddulph, M. A.Psalm 51:1-19
Nothing But SinA. Symson.Psalm 51:5-7
Of Original SinD. Clarkson.Psalm 51:5-7
Original DepravityJ. Parker, D. D.Psalm 51:5-7
Original SinArchbishop Magee.Psalm 51:5-7
Original SinG. F. Pentecost, D. D.Psalm 51:5-7
Secrets of the HeartW. Forsyth Psalm 51:5-7
The Fact of Original Sin IndisputablePsalm 51:5-7
The Natural State of Mankind in Regard of SinT. Horton, D. D.Psalm 51:5-7
Total DepravityG. F. Pentecost, D. D.Psalm 51:5-7

Snow is remarkable for whiteness. As it glistens on the mountains, or lies in virgin purity on the fields, what can compare with it? And yet David speaks of something whiter. Where? Not in nature, but in the kingdom of grace. Of whom? Not Christ, not the holy angels, not the saints in glory, but, strange to say, of himself. Like Paul, he was "the chief of sinners," and he was, therefore, the fitter ensample of the marvellous kindness and grace of God. In his prayer we find -

I. THE RECOIL OF THE SOUL FROM SIN. Many find pleasure in sin; but when once the soul is quickened, there is an end to this. Sin is felt to be vile and loathsome. Its touch is defilement; its presence is abhorrent; its effects are dreaded as the most terrible.

II. THE YEARNING OF THE SOUL FOR PURITY. All things around us that retain their freshness and their purity condemn us and put us to shame. They show what we have lost; they intensify our pains and our sorrows. At the same time, they help to keep alive our hopes. While they testify that we are fallen, they testify also that sin is not of our true nature - that it is not something that rightly belongs to us, but that it should be abjured and abhorred. The more we compare ourselves with God's Law, and the more truly we realize God's will concerning us, the more earnestly shall we cry for deliverance.

III. THE SUPREME TRUST OF THE SOUL IN GOD. There is the cry, "Wash me!" This implies weakness and submission. We cannot "wash" ourselves. Our tears and prayers, our penitences and endeavours, are in vain. We cast ourselves implicitly upon God. Let God, who is holy and good, do this great thing for us, and do it in his own way. It is not the priest, it is not the saints; God only can save. There is also the glad faith. "And I shall be whiter than snow." The lost purity will be restored. What God does, he does perfectly. What joy in being "whiter than snow"! - not only pardoned (Isaiah 1:18), but cleansed (1 John 1:7; Revelation 7:14). It is heaven begun. - W.F.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean.
Men's prayers are this. And they show, also, how far men agree with one another, for if we sincerely unite in the prayers of other men, whether living or dead, this shows that we feel as they did and believe what they believed. But it is better to follow the prayers of the Bible, for they are free from the infirmity and error to which merely human prayers are liable. And to provide us with such true patterns of prayer is one reason why the Bible contains so many prayers. If we adopt them we cannot err. And this is especially true of this fifty-first psalm: it teaches the penitent sinner how to pray. Let us take the one petition contained in the text as showing this.

I. It implies conscious defilement. There is the consciousness of sin.

II. AN INTENSE DESIRE FOR CLEANSING. This does not always co-exist with thee sense of defilement, Many men love their sin too well to give it up, and hence could not pray this prayer.

III. THE CONSCIOUSNESS THAT CLEANSING MUST COME FROM OTHER HANDS THAN HIS OWN. It is a confession of inability on the sinner's part to cleanse himself. Else he would not come thus to God.

IV. BELIEF THAT GOD CAN CLEANSE HIM. "Purge me and I shall be clean, wash me," etc. And he believes that the cleansing will be complete. Many men are willing to be partially cleansed, but not wholly. But this man not only desires perfect cleansing, but believes that God can thus cleanse him. He says, "I shall be whiter than snow."

V. THIS PRAYER IMPLIES FAITH IN THE ATONEMENT OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. Some amongst the heathen, and yet others, have desired entire deliverance from sin, but have not known how it is to be accomplished. But this prayer points to that which was the type of Christ's Atonement — the blood sprinkled with hyssop. Now, unless we accept these teachings, which are all plainly implied in this prayer, we can never make it our own: but if we do, then be sure our prayer shall not long be left unanswered.

(J. Addison Alexander, D. D.)


1. He makes use of hyssop, and so has a regard to the outward observation; which shows us what is to be done also in the analogy and proportion by us which are Christians. We are to honour the ordinance of God, and those moans which now under the Gospel God hath appointed as helps of our faith; though in themselves, and in outward appearance, never so mean. There is the same general reason, which holds now, that held then, though the things themselves be abolished; and those which are good Christians will accordingly have respect hereunto, even to be as careful of those performances which now lie upon us, as they were of what lay before them. The baptismal water is in its own nature but common and ordinary, but the use and improvement of it supernatural; the Eucharistical bread and wine in themselves the same with others, but resemblances of higher things. The preaching of the Word in appearance but as other kind of speaking, yet according to Divine appointment and institution, even the power of God to salvation to them that believe. Thus those things which simply considered are but mean and contemptible, yet God's ordinance sets a high price and reckoning upon them, for which cause they should be esteemed so by us.

2. The second is his improvement of it, while he rests not in the outward ceremony, but is carried further to the inward grace, which is signified by it. In every ordinance which is used by us there are two things considerable, somewhat which is done on our part, and somewhat which is done on God's; ours is the external performance, His is the inward blessing, and gives power and virtue to the performance; now, this latter is that which David begs here of God, and so should also be done by us.

II. THE SPECIAL GOOD AND BENEFIT WHICH HE PROMISES TO HIMSELF FROM THIS PURGING; and that is in two expressions more: first, in the positive, "I shall be clean"; and, secondly, in the comparative, "I shall be whiter than snow." First, we see here in general how David was rightly opinionated of the means of grace; he was sound in this article of justification and reconcilement by Christ. And we see further of what use it was to him in the condition in which he now was, as thereby to hold up his spirit, and keep him from despair, which otherwise he might have fallen into. These words here are not a motive or argument which he uses to God for which He should purge him; but only a comfort and encouragement to himself, when he considers with himself what effect would follow hereupon of His purging of him. As a sick and diseased person, who is repairing to some skilful physician, and, while he goes to him, thinks of that health and recovery which he should obtain by him, so does David here in this place. But then for the particular words themselves:" "I shall be clean, and I shall be whiter than snow." It is doubled for the certainty of the thing, and also to show the largeness of David's affection to it. But we must know what is meant by them, and what they refer unto. Now, for this there is a double whiteness or purity of the saints; the one is in point of justification from righteousness imputed, and the other is in point of sanctification from righteousness inherent. Now, it is not the latter, but the former, which is hero intended: our sanctification in this life is imperfect, and the whiteness which we have from that is not so transcendent. But David in this text speaks of his whiteness from being washed in the blood of the Lamb, and having this blood sprinkled upon him in justification and remission of his sins for Christ's sake; and so there is in it, That that person which is justified by Christ, and hath His blood sprinkled upon him, he is perfectly free from all guilt in the sight of God, and is in God's account as if no sin had been committed by him. When we say that a justified person is thus perfectly clean and white, as to the pardon and forgiveness of his sins, we mean it in these two respects especially: first, as to the discharge of him from punishment and condemnation; God will not exact any penalty of him for them: He may chastise His servants (as He did David) after pardon, in a way of discipline; but He does not punish them in a way of satisfaction. Secondly, in regard of God's love and affection. He is now as perfectly friends with him as He was before, though perhaps He may not express Himself so lovingly towards him; as it is thought also He did not now to David, who lost much of his former sweetness in God. The ground and reason of all is, the sufficiency of Christ's satisfaction and obedience which he hath exhibited to God's law for ourselves, both passive and active (Ezekiel 16:14). Now therefore because the righteousness of Christ is such as is whiter than the snow, therefore are we so upon His account.

(Thomas Horton, D. D.)

The imagery of the acceptance, the details, so to speak, of the pardon, are taken from the ceremonies employed in purifying the sufferer from that most loathsome, most deadly disease, leprosy, whose lingering corruption has been called a very sacrament of sin. God is treating us for leprosy.

I. THE CLEANSING OF THE LEPER, WHICH DAVID HERE REFERS TO, IS FULL OF SIGNIFICANCE. The two birds to be taken speak of Him who is of two natures, human and Divine. The cedar-wood speaks of the fragrant wood of the cross. The hyssop, the lowly plant used for purifying, sets forth the personal application of Christ's pardon to the soul. The scarlet is the royal robe of Him who "reigns from the tree." And these are all bound to the living bird, typical of the Divine nature in Christ, from whom all ordinances derive their significance. Arid then there is the sprinkling of the blood and water on the penitent, and the living bird carries away the taint, as it were, with him, in his escape to the open field. Truly as we gaze upon the Cross, shining more and more clearly through the symbols', we see His figure bending towards us; we hear Him saying, "This is He that came by water and blood."

II. "THOU SHALT PURGE ME WITH HYSSOP." Do we quite believe it? That the hyssop is bound to the scarlet robe of the King, and tied to the cedar of the cross, and dipped in the blood and water, and bound up with the living bird — the Divine nature of Jesus Christ? Do we quite believe it, that we can have something more to help us, beyond the strong resolution, so often broken; more than the effort of our own will — the grace of the blood of Jesus Christ Himself, to help us to overcome the old sin.

III. "WHITER THAN SNOW." More than cleansed: white — whiter than snow; that is, something to be afraid of defiling; something to fear falling away from; not a mere pall of whiteness, hiding corruption beneath, to be trodden down by the busy traffic of life, but in itself white and pure, attracting the rays of heavenly love. In the days of the martyrdoms, it is said that a Christian the night before his sufferings fell asleep in his prison, and dreamed a dream of Paradise. He was walking in a garden of delight, where all was made of the purest transparent glass, clear as crystal. The trees glanced and flashed as they waved their boughs, the ground sparkled and shone; and the people themselves, who moved up and down there, they were of glass too; but as he went along his way, he noticed that hands were pointed at him in amazement. Men shrank from him in horror, and he looked. He was of glass as well; and on his breast was a dark spot, a shadow amidst all this light. In an agony of shame he clasped his hands over the place. In vain! they also were of glass, and the defilement shone through them. And he remembered that he was not in charity with a fellow-Christian; some trifling difference he had thought it, but it was a dark spot in Paradise, and a strange spectacle among the blessed, lie sent for him, he asked his pardon; he was called to Paradise. If a Christian could feel thus of an act or thought simply wanting in charity, what of our whiteness; what of our hearts?

IV. "THAT THE BONES WHICH THOU HAST BROKEN MAY REJOICE." The broken bones of our life may yet be sources of icy. Selfishness may be so completely crushed out as to leave us the real virtue of self-respect. Cowardice, which shrunk from danger, may lead us, still feeling the danger, to be the first to meet it. Faults of temper, want of self-control, undisciplined life, indolence — in all these points, where we sink back beaten, we may yet rejoice. Is not this something for us to do this Lent?

(Canon Newbolt.)


1. A deep sense of sin.(1) Sin is a disease odious in its nature. It. is contrary to the nature of God, and defiling to the soul of man.(2) Sin, like leprosy, is contagious in its influence. All ranks and orders of men are pervaded with it.(3) Sin, like leprosy, is fatal in its effects. If it be not speedily cured, it will issue in death, an everlasting separation of soul and body from God.(4) Sin, like leprosy, is incurable by any remedy of our own prescription. It bids defiance to every hand but God's.

2. A believing discovery of the only effectual way of deliverance from sin.(1) The blood of Christ is of value sufficient to cleanse from all sin.(2) In order to enjoy its virtue, it must be applied.(3) Wherever it is thus applied, its transcendent efficacy will be made apparent.

II. IMPROVEMENT.(1) The encouragement which the Gospel affords to awakened sinners, and to drooping saints.

2. The character of those who will be welcome guests at the table of the Lord.

(T. Chalmers, D. D.)


II. THE POWER OF GOD TO CLEANSE FROM SIN. "Purge me with hyssop," etc.

1. Sin and its stains may be removed from the soul. "The blood of Jesus Christ" is but another word for the love of God, which found its supreme expression in Christ's death for us.

2. The cleansing power of the Word of Christ is more than sufficient for the removal of the stains of sin, "whiter than snow."

III. THE WAY BY WHICH THE EXERCISE OF THIS POWER IS SECURED. Some men are cleansed from sin, yet not all men. What is the reason?

1. To be personally effective, this cleansing power must be personally realized. Water is abundant, but only those who apply it to their bodies are cleansed by it.

2. To be personally realized, it must be personally solicited. Asking is the condition of receiving.

(William Jones.)

The hyssop hath many things wherein it representeth Christ very nigh.

1. It is obscure, humble and abject; so that Solomon is said to have written of all trees, from the cedar the highest tree, opposed to the hyssop springing out of the wall, that is to the basest and most common: growing amongst stones, not through man's industry planted, as other trees are. So Christ in whom we believe was contemptible, in Him was no beauty, with Him no riches or earthly honours, which make men come in credit and account.

2. Hyssop is bitter and sour, not pleasant to the drinkers: so the cross of Christ, by which our affections are mortified, is very odious to the flesh, and agreeth not with its taste. His cross is therefore a stumbling-block to the Jews, and folly to the Gentiles.

3. Albeit it be sour, yet it is most wholesome: so albeit the doctrine of repentance (wherein we are taught to run out of ourselves and to take hold on Christ) be irksome and unsavoury to the flesh, yet it is wholesome to the soul. Natural men esteem this doctrine to be an enemy to them, which would slay their corruptions and lusts. Medicine, which at first seemeth bitter, afterwards becometh more comfortable: so the doctrine which is salted with salt and hyssop, is fitter for us than that which is sweetened with honey; for honey was never appointed to be used in the Lord's sacrifices, but salt.

(A. Symson.)

I. HERE IS A PRAYER WHICH IS UNIVERSAL, AND YET PERSONAL. Like some great battle-plain at nightfall, where the wild hosts have contended, leaving the shade to cover the dying and the dead, the whole world is vocal with wailings and desperation and pain and hopeless agony. Pierced and bleeding, souls suffer and cry, and each one says "me" and "my" with a dreadful sense of ownership, and yet all seem to say the same.


III. THIS IS A PRAYER WHICH IS CHARACTERIZED BY UTTER DESPERATION, COUPLED WITH A SUPREMELY CONFIDENT HOPE. When the guilt-burdened penitent prays, "Wash me," he is certain that he has reached a point at which he cannot wash himself. He lets go of all dependences he had previously tried to lean upon, precisely as Naaman did when he gave up his pleading for the rivers of Damascus, and started for the Jordan, commanded to bathe there and be clean. He accepts help on the helper's terms.


(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

"Whiter than snow!" What can be whiter than newly fallen snow? You have seen it in the first early light of the morning, before it has been stained by the world, and it has been so dazzlingly pure that it has made your weak eyes smart with the brilliance. It stretches out before you clean and white as an angel's wing. Then the city awakes. Its fires are lighted. Its chimneys pour out continuous streams of smoke. The atmosphere becomes thick and heavy, and dirty. A thousand impurities pass over the white snow-robes, and leave the black impressions of their unclean feet. It loses all its radiance. It becomes more and more impure, until at last it becomes the uncleanest of all things, dirty snow. Now, the whiteness of the snow is our type and symbol of innocence. We speak and think of the little ones as innocent, and when we wish to express their purity, we use the figure of nature's purity, and declare them "white as snow." But the snow is soon soiled. Innocence is soon lost. The foul air of worldliness is breathed upon it, and its white lustre is gone. Well, now, placed in that atmosphere, what does the Lord expect of us? Does He expect us to retain our whiteness? Yea, we have to keep our garments undefiled. His purpose is that we should pass through temptation, and yet stand before Him at last "not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing." The demand of our religion is that we keep ourselves "unspotted from the world." Our Master prayed that we might be in the world, and yet not of it; in the world but not worldly; not merely walking in innocence, but in the more perfect whiteness of holiness. Now, can that be realized? Take the life of a business man in these days when there is such a terrible strain in the procuring of daily bread. There is, in business circles to-day, an immense quantity of defiling pitch. Can any man keep himself white and unspotted? Again and again I have heard the answer, "No, it is impracticable and impossible. A man must be spotted; he cannot keep himself white, and if he is wise he will go into the world with garments that will show spots as little as possible, garments as near the world's colour as he is able to procure." So much for the business man's life. Now, take a minister's life. A minister can sell his honour to gain the bread of applause. He can be besmirched by flattery. He can be lured by a false ambition. He is beset by innumerable temptations to worldliness. Can the Master's ideal be realized? Can he keep his garments white? Can we appeal to experience both for the minister and the business man? I do not believe in that sweeping condemnation of business men, which proclaims them all to be a spotted flock. There are men who in their business life keep their hands as clean and their hearts as tender as when they pray, or as when they talk to their little child. Social life with all its uncleanness is illumined by souls who walk in spotless white. The ministry is adorned by many men whose hands and hearts are undefiled. There are souls who wear the white flower of a blameless life. But even if we had no such examples of.pure and spotless lives, to which we could make appeal, we have still before us the Word of God, with its clear demand for spotless purity. The Bible never makes a compromise. It never lowers its standard. Jesus of Nazareth passed through our world unspotted, with garments whiter than snow. He lived our common life. He experienced our infirmities. He was beset with temptations, hedged about by worldliness. He felt the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them. I ask, how was it accomplished, that in a corrupt and sinful world He kept Himself unspotted from the world? I turn to the simple record of His life, and there is one outstanding feature which impresses me deeply from beginning to end. I am impressed with Jesus' overwhelming sense of the reality of God's immediate and continual presence. He carried about His own atmosphere. So did Paul. So do all true followers of Christ. We must carry about with us the atmosphere of heaven if we are to escape defilement from the atmosphere of earth.

(J. H. Jowett, M. A.)

What could be blacker than this man as he lay in his sins? His soul was stained with the most horrid and revulsive sins. Yet he seeks to be washed, and knows that, when washed, he will we clean, whiter than the driven snow. Ah, that virgin flake is very white, as it spreads its delicate network on the withered leaf: but there is one thing whiter still. Who are these in white robes, and whence came they? These are they that came out of great tribulation; out of dark pits of sin and death. Some were thieves, and some were murderers: and some were adulterers and murderers combined, as David was. Manasseh is there, who filled the streets of Jerusalem with innocent blood; and Mary Magdalene, out of whom Christ cast seven devils; and thousands more, once vile as they: but now there is not a stain on their garments; they have all been washed in the blood of the Lamb, and they are all whiter than snow, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing.

(T. Alexander.)

The Prince of Wales (now King Edward) once heard an unexpected sermon from a little girl, and it came about in this way. A nobleman, a widower, had a little daughter under ten years of age. He was very fond of his daughter, though his engagements prevented him seeing very much of her. The child was, therefore, mostly in the society of her governess, or in the nursery. Now, her nurse was an earnest Christian woman. She felt for her motherless little charge, and early stored the child's mind with Scriptural truths. The father used sometimes to amuse his little daughter by asking riddles; and one night, when she came in after dinner for dessert, she said to her father, who was not a Christian, "Father, do you know what is whiter than snow? No," said he, somewhat puzzled; "I do not." "Well," replied the child, "a soul washed in the blood of Jesus is whiter than snow." The nobleman was surprised, and asked, "Who told you that?" "Nurse," was the reply. The father did not discuss the point, and conversation changed to other topics; but he afterwards privately requested the nurse, whose opinions he respected, not to mention these matters to his daughter, as at her tender age he feared she might take too "gloomy" a view of life. The incident was accordingly forgotten; but not long after the Prince of Wales was visiting the house, and the little girl was allowed to be present. The Prince, with his usual affability, noticed the child, and, thus encouraged, she said, "Sir do you know what is whiter than snow?" The Prince, not seeing the drift of the question, smiled as he answered, "No." "Well," she answered, "a soul washed in the blood of Jesus Christ is whiter than snow." The remark was overheard by the father; his little girl's words, heard by him a second time, were used to carry conviction to his heart; he became an earnest and devoted Christian, and thousands will hereafter rise up and call him blessed.

The Rev. F. B. Meyer, in the course of his visitation, saw a woman hanging out clothes which impressed him as being unusually white, for which he commended her. After spending a short time with her in the house, and coming to the door, he found a flurry of snow had whitened the ground. "Ah," said Mr. Meyer, "the clothes do not look so white as they did." "Oh, sir," cried the woman, "the clothes are right; but what can stand against God Almighty's white?"

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