In Psalm 4:1, why does David call God "God of my righteousness"?:

בבְּקָרְאִי עֲנֵנִי | אֱלֹהֵי צִדְקִי בַּצָּר הִרְחַבְתָּ לִּי חָנֵּנִי וּשְׁמַע תְּפִלָּתִי:

I notice that Rashi doesn't address the phrase:


In other words, how could David look at the Torah and conclude that God had conferred righteousness on him?


Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness (צִדְקִ֗י)! (Psalm 4:1 NKJV)

The question: In other words, how could David look at the Torah and conclude that God had conferred righteousness (צִדְקִ֗י) on him?

Under the Law given through Moses, it is impossible for David to make this statement:

knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. (Galatians 2:16 NKJV)

Under grace and truth a person may be found to be righteous (צְדָקָֽה) before God 1:

he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness (צְדָקָֽה). (Gen 15:6 NKJV)

The Law provided ways for a person to make atonement (יְכַפֵּ֥ר) to be made clean (תִּטְהָֽרוּ) on that day2. However, when a person believes the LORD, God will account it as righteousness (צְדָקָֽה).

Psalm 4 is not the only place David makes the statement:

The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness (כְּצִדְקָתִ֑); According to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me. (2 Samuel 22:21 NKJV)

Therefore the LORD has recompensed me according to my righteousness (כְּצִדְקָתִ֑י), According to my cleanness in His eyes. (2 Samuel 22:25 NKJV)

David could say he was righteous because (like Abram) he believed the LORD.

When David as king had the desire to build a house for the ark of God, Nathan delivered this message from the LORD to David:

...Also the LORD tells you that He will make you a house. (2 Samuel 7:11 NKJV)

And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you, your throne shall be established forever. (2 Samuel 7:16 NKJV)

After hearing that the LORD will make David a house and establish his kingdom forever, David goes and sits before the LORD and offers his thanksgiving and prayer which concludes:

“And now, O Lord GOD, You are God, and Your words are true, and You have promised this goodness to Your servant. Now therefore, let it please You to bless the house of Your servant, that it may continue before You forever; for You, O Lord GOD, have spoken it, and with Your blessing let the house of Your servant be blessed forever.” (2 Samuel 7:28-29 NKJV)

The answer is that David understood that being righteous before God is based on believing the LORD. So he can say he is righteous (2 Samuel) and call upon the God who is the source of his righteousness (Psalm 4).

1. The word צְדָקָֽה (Strong's 6666) is from צִדְקִ֗י (Strong's 6664). Both mean righteousness.

2. As Naaman was cleansed from leprosy (2 Kings 5:10) people could be made clean on the Day of Atonement; yet that did not bring righteousness before God. Being cleansed (even from leprosy) is not the same as being declared righteous.

  • What do you make of the forgiveness promised in Lev 4:20, 4:26, 4:31, 4:35, etc.? – user10231 Apr 29 '16 at 15:58
  • According to Torah, being forgiven of sin does produce righteousness. After all of the sacrifices is anyone declared righteous? – Revelation Lad Apr 29 '16 at 17:07
  • forgiven=righteous. Lev 16:30 For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins. – user10231 Apr 29 '16 at 17:20

Many of the Psalms are written by David in the first person. He meditates on the Torah, which involves personalizing its teachings, and then creates songs that celebrate the truths in his own life. The reason that David could say of Yehovah that God was his righteousness has at least three bases:

  • Yom Kippur
  • God's merciful disposition
  • David's prevailing during testing

For all Jews the forgiveness of sins is annually celebrated in the ritual of Yom Kippur:

Lev 16:21 And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. Lev 16:22 The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness.

When the priest emerges alive from the holiest place and all the people chase the goat into the wilderness, bearing their iniquity there is a profound understanding that their sins have been forgiven.

Lev 16:30 For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins.

  • God's merciful disposition

The Torah records:

Exo 34:6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, Exo 34:7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty [of consequences], visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation."

Notice that this is a description of Yehovah's merciful disposition, not of any particular ritual. The Torah did not have a provision for murder ("blood guiltiness") so could not seek atonement in the Torah. Instead he fell back upon God's gracious nature:

Psa 51:1 To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Psa 51:2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! Psa 51:3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Psa 51:4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Psa 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Psa 51:6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Psa 51:7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Psa 51:8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Psa 51:9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Psa 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psa 51:11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Psa 51:12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Psa 51:13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. Psa 51:14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.

So note particularly that he says he will publicly celebrate "God's righteousness", which is what he does in Psalm 4:1, which we are discussing.

Now, Moses says that God is forgiving but rather than completely erasing the consequences he visits upon a few generations the consequences of their disobedience. So when David killed Uriah and took Bathsheba as his wife he sent Nathan to announce that there would be consequences in the next generation, which there were:

2Sa 12:10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.' 2Sa 12:11 Thus says the LORD, 'Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 2Sa 12:12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.'" 2Sa 12:13 David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." And Nathan said to David, "The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. 2Sa 12:14 Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die."

So in Psalm 3 and 4 we see David "singing aloud of God his righteousness" and we see no mention of his guilt. His failures brought upon himself the consequences but he does not associate his troubles with his guilt:

Psa 3:1 A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son. O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; Psa 3:2 many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. Selah. Psa 3:3 But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. Psa 3:4 I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah. Psa 3:5 I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me. Psa 3:6 I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around. Psa 3:7 Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked. Psa 3:8 Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on your people! Selah.

Not that he isn't aware that this is the harvest of his behavior but that the guilt part has been removed and his focus now is on the complete way in which the mercy of God has provided him with a clean slate.

  • David's prevailing during testing and emerging with a clear conscience

David has gained confidence in God and his good standing with God because he has been tried by God and found faithful and his conscience is clear:

Psa 17:1 A Davidic Prayer. LORD, hear my just plea! Pay attention to my cry! Listen to my prayer, since it does not come from lying lips. Psa 17:2 Justice for me will come from your presence; your eyes see what is right. Psa 17:3 When you probe my heart, and examine me at night; when you refine me, you will find nothing wrong, for I have determined that I will not transgress with my mouth. Psa 17:4 As for the ways of mankind, I have, according to the words of your lips, avoided the ways of the violent. Psa 17:5 Because my steps have held fast to your paths, my footsteps have not faltered. Psa 17:6 I call upon you, for you will answer me, God. Listen closely to me and hear my prayer. Psa 17:7 Show forth your gracious love, save those who take refuge in you from those who rebel against your sovereign power. Psa 17:8 Protect me as the most precious part of the eye; hide me under the shadow of your wings Psa 17:9 from the wicked who have afflicted me, from my enemies who have surrounded me. Psa 17:10 They are imprisoned by their own prosperity, they have boasted proudly with their mouth. Psa 17:11 Now they have encircled our paths and are determined to cast us down to the ground. Psa 17:12 Like a lion they desire to rip us to pieces, like a young lion waiting in ambush. Psa 17:13 Arise, LORD, confront them, bring them to their knees! Deliver me from the wicked by your sword— Psa 17:14 from men, LORD, by your hand—from men who belong to this world, whose reward is only in this life. But as for your treasured ones, may their stomachs be full, may their children have an abundance, and may they leave wealth to their offspring. Psa 17:15 But as for me, justified, I will behold your face; when I awake, your presence will satisfy me.

For the NT saint, the goat of Yom Kippur becomes the Messiah. That role as sin bearer was prophesied by Isaiah:

Isa 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

And this carrying away of the sins of the people is persisted in the new priesthood:

Heb 9:28 so Christ, having been offered [as priest to God] once to bear [carry off] the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

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