Keil & Delitzsch (K&D) say that David is here confessing “his hereditary sin as the root of his actual sin.” That’s a possible explanation but it is not the best one in this writer’s opinion. What is David doing in Psalm 51? Is David excusing his action on an underlying fallen nature, or is David taking responsibility for his own sinfulness? Something that is “hereditary” or “originating” from someone else cannot be my fault. If David’s adultery originated from Adam’s sin, David could hardly be held responsible. If the cause of my sin is a fallen nature, making me totally depraved and separated from God, I could no make take responsibility for that than I could having blue eyes. David’s sin had nothing to do with original or hereditary sin.
Children might be tempted to blame their actions on others, but grownups know better. The teaching of inherited or original sin is not in keeping with the personal responsibility that God lays on every man. People like to say that the fallen nature, inherited from Adam, is the explanation for why David and others committed their sins. First of all, it’s not necessary to believe it since Adam sinned having a perfectly good nature. And secondly, it’s couldn’t be the case with David who was a man of God, the annointed King, and was a prophet having the the Holy Spirit inspiring him to write the Word.
Adam did not sin because he had a fallen nature.
And though it’s true that “all sin” and “there
are none righteous”, just like Adam, we do not
sin because we have a fallen nature. With the
good nature God gave to Adam and to us, we reach
a point of temptation, and knowing right and wrong,
we give in to disobeying God.
And then we die spiritually.
David sinned grievously by committing adultery with Bathsheba, and then he sinned by attempting a cover up by jeopardizing her husband’s life placing him on the front line of war. K&D and others believe that David’s sinfulness is the fault of his parents: he inherited it. But it doesn’t fit the context. “Against Thee alone have I sinned”, David said to God. The erroneous idea of inherited or original sin has nothing to do with David’s probleml. To blame his adultery and murder on his mother or Adam would be the wrong way to ask God for forgiveness.
It is more likely that David is using exaggerated speech, hyperbole, to confess how utterly sinful he is. He is saying, “Lord, I am so sinful that I have been sinful from the moment of my conception.” Psalm 58:3 seems to support this interpretation when David says that his enemies have been liars from birth; i.e. sinful from birth. Obviously David is using exaggerated speech to describe how utterly deceitful are his enemies. This is what David is saying about himself. David is not teaching hereditary sin, as K&D say. Ezekiel 18:18-20 show that sin is not inherited. Each person has only his own sin to be responsible for. My father’s sinfulness is not upon me and mine is not upon him. “Brought for in iniquity” is a way of describing the utterly sinful state David finds himself in. And he is sorry.
Inheriting the Father’s Sins