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Against you—you above all[a]—I have sinned;
I have done what is evil in your sight.
So[b] you are just when you confront me;[c]
you are right when you condemn me.[d]

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  1. Psalm 51:4 tn Heb “only you,” as if the psalmist had sinned exclusively against God and no other. Since the Hebrew verb חָטָא (hataʾ, “to sin”) is used elsewhere of sinful acts against people (see BDB 306 s.v. 2.a) and David (the presumed author) certainly sinned when he murdered Uriah (2 Sam 12:9), it is likely that the psalmist is overstating the case to suggest that the attack on Uriah was ultimately an attack on God himself. To clarify the point of the hyperbole, the translation uses “above all,” rather than the potentially confusing “only.”
  2. Psalm 51:4 tn The Hebrew term לְמַעַן (lemaʿan) normally indicates purpose (“in order that”), but here it introduces a logical consequence of the preceding statement. (Taking the clause as indicating purpose here would yield a theologically preposterous idea—the psalmist purposely sinned so that God’s justice might be vindicated!) For other examples of לְמַעַן indicating result, see 2 Kgs 22:17; Jer 27:15; Amos 2:7, as well as IBHS 638-40 §38.3.
  3. Psalm 51:4 tn Heb “when you speak.” In this context the psalmist refers to God’s word of condemnation against his sin delivered through Nathan (cf. 2 Sam 12:7-12).
  4. Psalm 51:4 tn Heb “when you judge.”

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