|"Have mercy upon me, O God"|
Latin text on a holy water font: see verse 9 below.
Psalm 51 is the 51st psalm of the Book of Psalms, generally known in English by its first verse, in the King James Version, "Have mercy upon me, O God". In the Greek Septuagint version of the bible, and in its Latin translation Vulgate, this psalm is Psalm 50 in a slightly different numbering system. In Latin, it is known as "Miserere mei, Deus" (Ancient Greek: ? ? ?, romanized: elé?són me ho theós), for which it is traditionally known as the Miserere (or the Miserere mei; in Ancient Greek: ? ?, romanized: H? Ele?m?n), especially in musical settings. Psalm 51 is one of the Penitential Psalms. It is traditionally claimed to have been composed by David as a confession to God after he sinned with Bathsheba.
The Midrash Tehillim states that one who acknowledges that he has sinned and is fearful and prays to God about it, as David did, will be forgiven. But one who tries to ignore his sin will be punished by God. The Talmud (Yoma 86b) cites verse 5 in the Hebrew, "My sin is always before me", as a reminder to the penitent to maintain continual vigilance in the area in which he transgressed, even after he has confessed and been absolved.
Spurgeon says Psalm 51 is called "The Sinner's Guide", as it shows the sinner how to return to God's grace.Athanasius would recommend that this chapter be recited each night by some of his disciples. According to James Montgomery Boice, this psalm was recited by both Thomas More and Lady Jane Grey at their executions.
Verse 19 in the Hebrew states that God desires a "broken and contrite heart" more than he does sacrificial offerings. The idea of using brokenheartedness as a way to reconnect to God was emphasized in numerous teachings by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. In Sichot HaRan #41 he taught: "It would be very good to be brokenhearted all day. But for the average person, this can easily degenerate into depression. You should therefore set aside some time each day for heartbreak. You should isolate yourself with a broken heart before God for a given time. But the rest of the day you should be joyful".
|1||Magistro chori. Psalmus. David,||For the conductor, a song of David.|
|2||? ? ?||cum venit ad eum Nathan propheta, postquam cum Bethsabee peccavit||When Nathan the prophet came to him when he went to Bath-sheba.|
|3||? ?||Miserere mei, Deus, secundum misericordiam tuam; et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum dele iniquitatem meam||Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your kindness; according to Your great mercies, erase my transgressions.|
|4||Amplius lava me ab iniquitate mea et a peccato meo munda me||Wash me thoroughly of my iniquity, and purify me of my sin.|
|5||?||Quoniam iniquitatem meam ego cognosco, et peccatum meum contra me est semper.||For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.|
|6||? | ? ?||Tibi, tibi soli peccavi et malum coram te feci, ut iustus inveniaris in sententia tua et æquus in iudicio tuo||Against You alone have I sinned, and I have done what is evil in Your sight, in order that You be justified in Your conduct, and right in Your judgment.|
|7||? ?||Ecce enim in iniquitate generatus sum, et in peccato concepit me mater mea||Behold, with iniquity I was formed, and with sin my mother conceived me.|
|8||? ? ?||Ecce enim veritatem in corde dilexisti et in occulto sapientiam manifestasti mihi||Behold, You desired that truth be in the hidden places, and in the concealed part You teach me wisdom.|
|9||? ?||Asperges me hyssopo, et mundabor; lavabis me, et super nivem dealbabor.||Purify me with a hyssop, and I will become pure; wash me, and I will become whiter than snow.|
|10||?||Audire me facies gaudium et lætitiam, et exsultabunt ossa, quæ contrivisti||Make me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that You crushed exult.|
|11||Averte faciem tuam a peccatis meis et omnes iniquitates meas dele||Hide Your countenance from my sins, and erase all my iniquities.|
|12||? ?||Cor mundum crea in me, Deus, et spiritum firmum innova in visceribus meis.||Create for me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.|
|13||? ? ?||Ne proicias me a facie tua et spiritum sanctum tuum ne auferas a me||Do not cast me away from before You, and do not take Your holy spirit from me.|
|14||? ?||Redde mihi lætitiam salutaris tui et spiritu promptissimo confirma me||Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and let a noble spirit support me.|
|15||? ?||Docebo iniquos vias tuas, et impii ad te convertentur||I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will return to You.|
|16||? | ? ?||Libera me de sanguinibus, Deus, Deus salutis meæ, et exsultabit lingua mea iustitiam tuam||Save me from blood, O God, the God of my salvation; let my tongue sing praises of Your charity.|
|17||? ? ? ?||Domine, labia mea aperies, et os meum annuntiabit laudem tuam||O Lord, You shall open my lips, and my mouth will recite Your praise.|
|18||| ? ?||Non enim sacrificio delectaris; holocaustum, si offeram, non placebit||For You do not wish a sacrifice, or I should give it; You do not desire a burnt offering.|
|19||? ? ?||Sacrificium Deo spiritus contribulatus; cor contritum et humiliatum, Deus, non despicies||The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; O God, You will not despise a broken and crushed heart.|
|20||? ?||Benigne fac, Domine, in bona voluntate tua Sion, ut ædificentur muri Ierusalem||With Your will, do good to Zion; build the walls of Jerusalem.|
|21||? ? ? ? ?||Tunc acceptabis sacrificium iustitiæ, oblationes et holocausta; tunc imponent super altare tuum vitulos||Then You will desire sacrifices of righteousness, a burnt offering and a whole offering; then they will offer up bulls on Your altar.|
Several verses from Psalm 51 are regular parts of Jewish liturgy. Verses (in Hebrew) 3, 4, 9, 13, 19, 20, and 21 are said in Selichot. Verses 9, 12, and 19 are said during Tefillat Zakkah prior to the Kol Nidrei service on Yom Kippur eve. Verse 17, "O Lord, open my lips", is recited as a preface to the Amidah in all prayer services. Verse 20 is said by Ashkenazi Jews before the removal of the Sefer Torah from the ark on Shabbat and Yom Tov morning; it is also said in the Atah Horaisa ("You have been shown") prayer recited before opening the ark on Simchat Torah. In the Sephardi liturgy, Psalm 51 is one of the additional psalms recited on Yom Kippur night.
The most frequently used psalm in the Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic Churches, Psalm 50 (Septuagint numbering) it is called in the Greek language ? ? He Ele?mon, and begins in Greek ? , ? ? Eléïsón me, o Theós.
In the Divine Liturgy it is recited by the deacon while he censing the entire church at the conclusion of the Proskomedie, which is also known as killing Satan. It is also a part of many sacraments and other services, notably, as a penitential psalm, during the Mystery of Repentance.
In Western Christianity, Psalm 51 (using the Masoretic numbering) is also used liturgically.
In the Roman Catholic Church this psalm may be assigned by a priest to a penitent as a penance after Confession. Verse 7 of the psalm is traditionally sung as the priest sprinkles holy water over the congregation before Mass, in a rite known as the Asperges me, the first two words of the verse in Latin. This reference lends a striking significance to the Mass as Sacrifice, given that Hyssop was used for the smearing of blood on the lintels at the first Passover.
In the Divine Office, it was traditionally said at Lauds on all ferias; the 1911 reform restricted this use to the ferias of Advent and Lent. It is otherwise said as part of the weekly cycle on Wednesday at Matins. In the Liturgy of the Hours, it is prayed during Lauds (Morning Prayer) every Friday.
The Miserere was a frequently used text in Catholic liturgical music before the Second Vatican Council. Most of the settings, which are often used at Tenebrae, are in a simple falsobordone style. During the Renaissance many composers wrote settings. The earliest known polyphonic setting, probably dating from the 1480s, is by Johannes Martini, a composer working in the Este court in Ferrara.The extended polyphonic setting by Josquin des Prez, probably written in 1503/1504 in Ferrara, was likely inspired by the prison meditation Infelix ego by Girolamo Savonarola, who had been burned at the stake just five years before. Later in the 16th century Orlande de Lassus wrote an elaborate setting as part of his Penitential Psalms, and Palestrina, Andrea Gabrieli, Giovanni Gabrieli, and Carlo Gesualdo also wrote settings.Antonio Vivaldi may have written a setting or settings, but such composition(s) have been lost, with only two introductory motets remaining.
One of the best-known settings of the Miserere is the 17th century version by Roman School composer Gregorio Allegri. According to a famous story, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, aged only fourteen, heard the piece performed once, on April 11, 1770, and after going back to his lodging for the night was able to write out the entire score from memory. He went back a day or two later with his draft to correct some errors. That the final chorus comprises a ten-part harmony underscores the prodigiousness of the young Mozart's musical genius. The piece is also noteworthy in having numerous high Cs in the treble solos.
Modern composers who have written notable settings of the Miserere include Michael Nyman, Arvo Pärt, and James MacMillan. References in secular popular music include the Antestor song "Mercy Lord", from the album Martyrium (1994), "In Manus Tuas" (Salvation 2003) by the group Funeral Mist, "White As Snow" (Winter 2008) by Jon Foreman, the song "Restore To Me" by Mac Powell and Candi Pearson-Shelton from Glory Revealed (2007). Bukas Palad Music Ministry includes their version of "Miserere" in their album "Christify" (2010).
Verses 12-13 have been set to music as a popular Jewish inspirational song.[by whom?][year needed] Titled Lev Tahor ("A pure heart"), this song is commonly sung at Seudah Shlishit (the third Shabbat meal).