The verse states, "Behold, with iniquity I was formed, and with sin my mother conceived me. Most the commentaries are not available in english (https://mg.alhatorah.org/Full/Tehillim/51.6#e1n6). Some explain about David ha-melech's mother, and some about his father. Onkelos in the Targum comments, "Behold, in iniquities my father thought to create me; and in the sin of the evil impulse my mother conceived me." If "father" refers to Yishai, how can we reconcile that with Shabbat 55b which says Yishai had no sin or flaw of his own? If "father" referred to Hashem, how could Hashem create in iniquity, unless it should be read that Hashem of course created with purity, but created David with iniquity in him in order to give him an obstacle to overcome to earn his reward? And similar questions for the mother aspect of the interpretation on any levels it could apply (about Nitzevet, about Eve, and if applicable about the Shechinah, which I'm not saying it is, just that I'd like to learn those interpretations too if they exist).

Another midrash, google translates as "Both in my sinful space and in G-d - the tendency to sin and iniquity is natural in man." You cannot go off google translations, sometimes they are correct, sometimes they make huge errors that have heretical implications. I would discount any translation that flirted with the idea of sin in G-d as heretical and wrong, but since some texts do flirt with the idea of illicit desire within G-d, I can't know if it's the translation or if this commentary is exploring a similar idea? So I am asking for help to learn the key concepts from the most instructive commentaries on this verse, whether from the ones available in english on altorah or elsewhere. For example they don't have many of the major kabbalists there, but that is not my focus, since if there are non-kabbalists with great interpretations elsewhere, I am just as interested in those. In general I am always searching for the interpretations that mean the most to me and expand my scope of contemplation the most (part of the process of understanding but that is a much longer process). I seem to connect most with the more philosophic and (at first) counter-intuitive interpretations which are often found with the kabbalists, thus my interest, but many times these come from non-kabbalists also, or sometimes I connect to the peshat or pemez more than the derash or sod. It just depends on a case by case basis, which is why I always want to know the full scope of the interpretations, from the most "simple" explanations to the most complex.

  • See the story of the controversy surrounding David's birth here: chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article_cdo/aid/280331/jewish/… . A connection could be made from that to being conceived in iniquity.
    – Menachem
    Jun 3, 2022 at 5:47
  • @Menachem Thank you very much. I was aware of most of that, and I'm still left with many questions. How can the iniquity be of the father, Yishai, for wanting to lay with the maidservant, if he had no iniquity in him? In any case even if one made the case that his intent was iniquitous, he was not successful in his intent, and still ended up begetting David with his wife, which is not iniquity. Perhaps you could argue he was thinking of the wrong woman during the intercourse, and that this had an effect, but I would need to see it in midrash. Jun 3, 2022 at 6:09
  • @Menachem The most direct way to answer about iniquity of David's father is prob Shmuel 2 17:25, but my understanding was always that Yishai was so called because he rectified the sin of the nachash, not that he is like it himself. I mean he is an example of anti-nachash if anything based on midrashim I learned. But if there are different midrashim that say he did have great sin within him to warrant that name in a direct sense then it would answer this. It would just be so opposite of other midrashim that it seems unlikely, but maybe even disagreements that large are not unheard of/impossible Jun 3, 2022 at 6:16

1 Answer 1


I'm not aware of the source of the Targum quoted by Alhatorah. The official Targum quoted in the Hebrew does not mention his father. (Btw, Onkelos only translated the Pentateuch. Yonasan ben Uziel translated Prophets. The Targum to Writings is of uncertain authorship.) However, even if that is a valid Targum, your question is already answered from a different angle:

See the Maharsha there who is responding to a similar question from Tosafos:

ארבעה מתו בעטיו של נחש – והא דכתיב (קהלת ז) כי אדם אין צדיק בארץ וגו׳

that the verse in Ecclesiastes 7 says explicitly that there is no man without sin.

He answers that the everyone has some sin, but the Gemara means that the sin of Yishai and the others was not great enough to deserve death, so they only died as a result of the sin of Adam.

This also answers your question. The sin of Yishai in conceiving David was not enough for him to die. After all, laying with the maidservant was not technically forbidden, and thus while it may have been a failing (the literal translation of חטא means to be missing something) it was not a sin that deserved death.

  • Thanks @N.T! Just to be clear, you're referring to that Yishai thought he was lying with the maidservant, or is there a midrash that David ha Melech is actually the son of someone other than Avigail? Jun 19, 2022 at 23:32
  • The former. Even if Yishai had gone through with it, it would not have been technically forbidden. But he didn't, and fathered David with Avigail.
    – N.T.
    Jun 20, 2022 at 10:09
  • If you're satisfied with the answer, put a check to let people know.
    – N.T.
    Jun 20, 2022 at 10:09
  • 1
    As to what you actually wrote, it's admirable how much you want to learn. In your case, the better road could be to spend some time at a yeshiva like Ohr Sameiach or Aish HaTorah to get the skills to learn this on your own. A good temporary resource could be the Artscroll Tehillim (2 vol.) You could easily fill a large bookcase with the many commentaries written on Tehillim. Most of the commentaries in the classic Mikraos Gedolos understand "sin" in this context to refer to physical lust of Yishai. Technically though, lust is not a sin if it is not misused, similar to hunger.
    – N.T.
    Jun 24, 2022 at 16:55
  • 1
    By skills, I mean the ability to understand primary sources on your own. And I do mean actually going to Israel to study. Or to an American yeshiva or program geared to your level.
    – N.T.
    Jun 26, 2022 at 7:10

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