“Miserere ” Psalm 50 in the Septuagint

"Miserere " Psalm 50 in the Septuagint A prayer of repentance of David
“Miserere ” Psalm 50 in the Septuagint A prayer of repentance of David

A prayer of repentance of David

A meditiaion on contrition

Miserere,” also known as Psalm 51 in the Christian Bible or Psalm 50 in the Septuagint, is a poignant psalm that has inspired countless believers, artists, and composers throughout the centuries with its deep expression of contrition and plea for mercy. Attributed to King David following his affair with Bathsheba, it encapsulates the essence of repentance and the yearning for spiritual cleansing and renewal.

The opening lines, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin,” set the tone for the entire psalm. It acknowledges the psalmist’s sins and imperfections before God and pleads for mercy and forgiveness based on God’s character—His love and compassion, rather than any merit of the psalmist.

As a meditation on contrition, “Miserere” dives deep into the human condition, recognizing that sin is not just a matter of external actions but originates from the heart. The psalmist’s request, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me,” highlights a desire not just for pardon but for inner transformation—a fundamental change that can only be brought about by divine intervention.

The psalm also reflects a profound understanding of the nature of true worship and relationship with God. It suggests that sacrifices alone are not what God desires; rather, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” This verse underscores the importance of a sincere heart and true repentance over mere religious rituals or outward displays of piety.

Musically, “Miserere” has been set to some of the most moving choral works, most famously by Gregorio Allegri. His setting, composed in the 17th century for the Sistine Chapel, is renowned for its haunting beauty and emotional depth, capturing the essence of the psalm’s plea for mercy and forgiveness. The piece, particularly its soaring high C in the soprano part, has become synonymous with the solemnity and introspection of Lent and Holy Week in the Christian liturgical calendar, inviting listeners to reflect on their own need for mercy and the vastness of God’s grace.

In a broader spiritual context, “Miserere” serves as a timeless meditation on the human need for God’s mercy, the reality of our imperfections, and the transformative power of divine forgiveness. It invites believers to approach God with a humble and contrite heart, trusting in His capacity to wash away sin and renew the spirit.

The contrition of King David as described in Psalm 51 (“Miserere”).

To find an image that illustrates King David’s contrition, you might look for classic artworks that depict David in a moment of repentance or prayer after his realization of his sin with Bathsheba. Many artists throughout history have been inspired by this moment, capturing the emotional depth and spiritual anguish of David.

A particularly famous artwork you might seek out is “David and Bathsheba” by Rembrandt, which, although focusing on the moment of temptation, also conveys the deep emotional and spiritual turmoil that leads to David’s contrition. For a more direct depiction of contrition, you could look for images of “The Penitent King David” by various artists. These artworks often show David in a state of deep sorrow, prayer, or contemplation, sometimes with the attributes of his kingship set aside, symbolizing his humility before God.

To find such images, you could use a search engine with terms like “Penitent King David painting” or “King David contrition art.” This should yield a variety of artworks from different periods, each artist’s interpretation offering a unique lens through which to view David’s repentance. Remember to check the artwork’s context to ensure it aligns with the moment of contrition you’re interested in.

Difference between contrition and repentance from a biblical perspective

From a biblical perspective, contrition and repentance are closely related concepts that together play a crucial role in the process of turning away from sin and returning to God. While they are often used interchangeably in casual conversation, they have distinct nuances that are important in understanding the depth of biblical teaching on the subject of sin and forgiveness.


Contrition refers to a deep sense of remorse and sorrow for having offended God with one’s actions. It is the emotional or heart aspect of recognizing one’s sinfulness and the moral and spiritual damage caused by sin. This sorrow arises not merely from fear of punishment but from an awareness of having estranged oneself from the love and goodness of God. Psalm 51 (50 in the Septuagint) is often cited as a prime example of contrition, where King David expresses profound sorrow for his sins against God, particularly highlighted in his plea, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).


Repentance, on the other hand, encompasses both the sorrow for sin (contrition) and the decisive turning away from sin to return to God. In the biblical context, the Hebrew word for repentance is “teshuvah,” meaning “return” or “turn back,” indicating a physical and metaphorical turning away from sin and back towards God. The Greek term used in the New Testament, “metanoia,” means a change of mind or direction, implying a transformation in how one understands and approaches life, away from sin and towards God’s will.

Repentance involves an acknowledgment of one’s sins (contrition), an asking for forgiveness, and a commitment to a changed life that reflects one’s reorientation towards God and His commandments. It is both an inner change of heart and an outer change of action. John the Baptist’s call to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 3:2) underscores the urgency and necessity of repentance as a response to the proximity of God’s transformative presence.


In essence, contrition can be seen as the emotional component of repentance, the heartfelt sorrow for having sinned against God, while repentance is the broader term that includes contrition but also encompasses the decision and actions taken to turn away from sin and return to God. Both are crucial steps on the path to reconciliation with God, highlighting the biblical call to a deep, personal transformation and a life lived in accordance with divine will.

Let us express sorrow and lament on our sins, and turn our back to evil doing

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