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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Psalms 22

 

 

Verse 1

1. My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me—The quotation of these words by Matthew (Matthew 27:46) and Mark (Mark 15:34) decides their application to Christ. The words mark the deepest soul suffering of Christ upon the cross, as “I thirst” expressed the point of his bodily agony. The “why” is not the cry of despair, impatience, or a rebellious heart, but of mystery. Into that mystery, as it applies to Christ, we may not curiously inquire. It was not, however, that the “Only Begotten of the Father” was enduring the wrath of God. He was still the “beloved Son, in whom the Father was well pleased,” and still he confidingly calls him “my God.” Yet he trod “the wine press alone,” (Isaiah 63:3,) and suffered “the just for the unjust.”

Forsaken—The word simply has the negative signification of to leave, to withdraw from, as Psalms 71:11; Isaiah 54:7, but describes the point of the Saviour’s mysterious complaint, and the depth of his vicarious sufferings. In Matthew 27:46 the Saviour uses the Aramaic form, σαβαχθανι, (sabachthani,) given in the Chaldee, שׁבקתני, (shebahktanee,) conformably to the dialect of the Palestine Jews, instead of the Hebrew עזבתני, (‘azabhtanee.)

Far from helping me—Hebrew, Far from my salvation. By the law of parallelism this is exegetical of forsaken, in the previous line.

Roaring—Better, outcry, or loud complaint.


Verse 2

2. O my God—Still he holds to the endearing title “my God.”

I cry in the daytime… and in the night—The long delay of hearing and of help intensifies the mystery expressed in the “why,” of Psalms 22:1.[image]


Verse 3

3. Thou art holy—Faith strengthens itself (Psalms 22:3-5) in the reflection, God is holy,and in the retrospect, Our fathers (the fathers of the nation) trusted; they cried, and were delivered. His must be a righteous cause which derives support from the holiness and covenant faithfulness of God.

Inhabitest the praises of Israel—Sittest enthroned over the praises of Israel.


Verse 6

6. But I am a worm, and no man—The contrast is with the “fathers.” They trusted and were helped, “but I, ah! a worm and not a man.” Nothing can exceed these verses in plaintive tenderness, in humility, and in childlike clinging to God. The word תולעת, (tholaath,) rendered “worm,” is here used proverbially for lowness, vileness, insignificance; and it is literally the name of the scarlet worm, (coccus ilicis,) an insignificant insect which fed on plants, chiefly the holm oak. It was extensively used for scarlet dye.

A reproach of men… despised—Comp. Isaiah 53:3; Matthew 27:21-31


Verse 7

7. Laugh me to scorn—Literally, mock at me; deride me by mimic imitations of my acts, words, or professions. See Matthew 27:29-31.

They shoot out the lip—The idea is, a protrusion of the lips as an expression of scorn. Mendelssohn says: “It does not signify an opening of the mouth, as if for laughter, but a slight motion of the lips according to the way of mockers. Our old English word pout pretty well gives the force of the word.”Phillips.

They shake the head—Swaying the head to and fro in scorn. Psalms 109:25. The idea is literally given in Matthew 27:39


Verse 8

8. He trusted on the Lord… let him deliver him—Rather, He rolled himself upon Jehovah. This passage was derisively applied to Christ while on the cross, as a test of his divine Sonship. Matthew 27:43. The whole verse is, in the Hebrew, intensely and cruelly sarcastic, and the refinement of blasphemy: “He rolled himself upon Jehovah; he will cause him to escape; he will rescue him, for he took pleasure in him!” Matthew follows almost verbatim the Septuagint.


Verse 9

9. But thou art he, etc.The strong adversative force of the Hebrew conjunction indicates the firm, withstanding faith of the Sufferer. God is still his Father; and he who gave being at first, and nourished the flickering life of infancy, will not now abandon the life he gave. He will not cast off his own child. The argument is given Matthew 6:25. The gift of life is the greater blessing, and will God withhold the lesser?


Verse 11

11. Contains two urgent reasons for immediate help.

None to help— Hebrew, Because there is not a helper. See Isaiah 63:3; Isaiah 63:5. Luther strikingly observes, “that the more despised and forsaken a man is, the nearer and more gracious God is to him.”


Verse 12

12. Many bulls have compassed me— “Under the names of ferocious beasts, mentioned here and in Psalms 22:13; Psalms 22:16; Psalms 22:20-21, are signified powerful and deadly enemies.”French and Skinner. The word denotes young bulls, in their full strength and vigour. Rosenmuller says, of the third year.

Of Bashan—A rich district in northern Gilead noted for its fat cattle. The bulls of Hermon and Bashan were often too wild for the yoke and exceedingly fierce. See Job 39:9-12, where another word is used to signify the same animal. See note on Psalms 22:21


Verse 13

13. They gaped upon—This was not in scorn, like the shooting “out the lip” of Psalms 22:7; but an act simply of brutal ferocity, the parallel to which is the rending and roaring lion of the next line.


Verse 14

14. I am poured out like water—A figure denoting a profuse waste of the vital forces. But in 2 Samuel 14:14, the figure implies that the loss is irrecoverable, “as water spill which cannot be gathered up again,” which gave to the ceremony of pouring out water “before the Lord” the significance of a confirmation of a covenant whose engagements could not be recalled. 1 Samuel 7:6. The life of Christ was freely given. “He poured out his soul unto death,” (Isaiah 53:12,) in his soul agony and bloody sweat. Matthew 26:38; Luke 22:44.

Bones… out of joint—As if the ligaments were dissolved and the muscles weakened, so that the limbs were uncontrollable. This would be the natural effect of crucifixion. But of Christ, not a bone was broken. John 19:36.

My heart is like wax—The loss of courage and resolution through fear is often signified by the melting of wax. Psalms 68:2; Micah 1:4; Joshua 2:11. Jesus was “sore amazed” and “very heavy,” (Mark 14:33,) and fear was a leading feature of his sufferings. Hebrews 5:7. See Psalms 22:19-21 of this psalm.


Verse 15

15. Dried up like a potsherd—The humidity of my body is burned out like a piece of pottery in a furnace. The metaphor is twofoldthe shrinking or drying by heat, and worthlessness, as a sherd or fragment of pottery. Isaiah 45:9; Lamentations 4:2.

My tongue cleaveth to my jaws— מלקוהי, (malkohah,) my jaws, from לקח, (lakahh,) he received, applies to the jaws because they receive the food. The word is always elsewhere, except once, rendered prey. The Septuagint, “My tongue is glued to my throat,” and Vulgate, “faucibus,” are incorrect, as also the version of the liturgy, “gums.” This condition of the tongue, naturally so humid, involves great exhaustion and thirst, and prophetically points to the closing part of the sufferings on the cross when the Saviour cried, “I thirst.” John 19:28 ; Psalms 69:21. His soul agony reached its highest expression in the complaint, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me,” and when this had passed, and he returned to a consciousness of his physical suffering, the sensation which arose above all others was signified in the words, “I thirst.”

Thou hast brought me into the dust of death— The word rendered “thou hast brought me,” means to arrange, dispose, place, as 2 Kings 4:38; Isaiah 26:2; Ezekiel 24:3; and the idea is, Thou hast laid me out for the grave. On “dust of death,” a poetical phrase for the decomposition of death, see Psalms 30:9


Verse 16

16. Dogs—Called “assembly of the wicked” in next line, the only bitter comparison in the psalm. The wild dogs of the East are meant, a figure at once of impurity, baseness, and cruelty. In Egypt, and the East generally, dogs usually go at large. Having no master to care for them, hunger

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makes them ferocious. Their physiognomy is ignoble, and their appearance haggard and disgusting. They were always the synonyme of vileness, contention, and uncleanness. 1 Samuel 24:14; 2 Samuel 9:8; Philippians 3:2; Revelation 22:15.

They pierced my hands and my feet—Few passages of Scripture have been more sharply contested. Standing as it does in our English version, it is a wonderful prediction of the manner of Christ’s death. The difficulty lies in the word rendered pierced. On the one hand, כארי, (kaaree,) which is the form of the word in the common Hebrew text, has been taken as two words, כ, the particle of comparison, (as, like, or taking Quamets as indicating the article, as the,) and ארי, (a lion,) which would read: “The congregation of the wicked have enclosed me; as a lion, (or, as the lion,) my hands and my feet;” or, as Hengstenberg: “They beset me, lionlike, on my hands and my feet.” But, though this would seem a natural and easy way to dispose of the grammatical difficulty, and has four examples where the same form occurs, (namely: Numbers 23:24 ; Numbers 24:9; Isaiah 38:13; Ezekiel 22:25,) yet it involves grave difficulty as to the sense. In the four other cases mentioned the allusion to the lion is perfectly clear, and the sense easy and natural, but in this it completely destroys the sense, leaving the metaphor unexplained, or, rather, contradicted. Dr. Alexander, who adheres to the Messianic application of the passage, suggests an ellipsis, and the reading: “Like a lion [they have wounded] my hands and my feet.”

Professor Stuart, also, by bringing forward from the preceding line the verb הקיפוני, (translated “enclosed me,”) and giving its radical sense to strike, stab, pierce, cut, proposes the rendering: “As a lion [they pierce] my hands and my feet.” But this is not satisfactory. If the reference be to the habit of the lion in attacking his prey, it is not according to fact; if to cutting and tearing his prey, why specify hands and feet, and not rather, as Psalms 7:2 : “Lest he tear my soul (that is, tear me) like a lion, rending it in pieces;” or, Isaiah 38:13 : “As a lion, so will he break all my bones.” This is lionlike; but, on the hypothesis now under consideration, the allusion to the lion is simply unnatural and absurd. The lion does not seize the hands and feet, but springs upon the victim. It must be further considered that ידי ורגלי, (my hands and my feet,) are in the accusative, and hence the limbs are not mentioned incidentally, but as the objective point of attack, which still more forcibly shows the unnaturalness of the metaphor as an allusion to the habits of the lion. The language is clearly unique, and the difficulty of explaining it according to the well known habits of the lion is so formidable that the Jews themselves, according to the little Masora, held that כארי (kaaree) in the two passages (Psalms 22:16, and Isaiah 38:13) is in two different meanings. Evidently, here the prophet outsteps the limit of type and history, and, as in the case of the “Priest-King,” (Psalms 110:4,) ascends to the height of absolute revelation concerning Messiah.

Two other interpretations of the passage in question have obtained. First, כארי has been taken as an irregular form of the plural participle of the root כור, in the sense of כרה, to dig, pierce through, bore, by dropping ם, the regular plural termination, and inserting א . The anomaly, though of extreme rarity, is admissible by the best authority. They then read, “Piercing my hands and my feet:” or, considering the participle as a noun in regimen, “Piercers of my hands and my feet.”

But, secondly, instead of a participle the ancient versions read it as a verb, כארו, (kaaroo,) which simply changes the yod ( י ) into vauv, ( ו,) with corresponding vowel points. Thus the Septuagint, they pierced; Vulgate, they pierced, stabbed; Jerome, they fastened; Syriac, they penetrated, perforated. Manuscripts, also, of unquestioned authority have the same. Kennicott mentions four Hebrew manuscripts having כארו in the text and כאריin the margin. It is evident that the Septuagint followed manuscripts which read “they pierced,” the same as our English version. The lexical and grammatical difficulties which beset the present reading of the text would seem to dictate the necessity of correcting, and taking the word as a verb. But, whether as an irregular participle, or by correcting the text as a verb, the sense will be the same though, as Tregelles remarks, “the latter is preferable.” It is notable that the most natural evidences of crucifixion were laid in the wounded “hands and feet” by the Saviour himself, (Luke 24:39;) “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.”

The passage in question is not directly quoted in the New Testament, but allusions which belong to the crucifixion occur both in the Old and New Testaments. Isaiah 53:5 : “He was pierced [ מהולל from חלל, bore through, perforate, pierce] for our transgressions.” Zechariah 12:10 : “They shall look on me whom they have pierced,” ( דקרו,) quoted John 19:37 ; Revelation 1:7


Verse 17

17. I may tell all my bones—In Psalms 22:14 : “All my bones are out of joint.” The protrusion of the bones, so that one could count them, is not merely the effect of a wasting suffering. but of violent and unnatural treatment, as the crucifixion.

They look and stare upon me—They closely watch me. Compare the watching of Jesus, Matthew 27:36-54. The idea of satisfaction is also suggested. They feast their eyes upon me. They behold me not only with indifference, but are regaled at the sight of my misery.


Verse 18

18. They part my garments—The finishing touch in the description of cold brutality. Under the eye of Jesus the soldiers fulfilled this prediction, John 19:23-24, where see the note.

Vesture—The oriental robe, or mantle, worn loosely upon the person, which served as a covering by night.

Exodus 22:26-27. The word is not decisive of the particular part of the raiment, but the casting lots for it determines, as it could not be divided without destroying it.


Verse 19

19. But be not thou far from me—From his persecutors the afflicted petitioner turns his eye to his Deliverer. The appeal is exceedingly plaintive, as in Psalms 22:11, and is the echo of Psalms 22:1.

O my strength—He appropriates to God the title which best befits his helplessness.


Verse 20

20. My darling—Hebrew, My only one. The word is an adjective, and signifies alone, only; and, as it corresponds to soul in the previous hemistich, it may be only a poetical variation of the same here, as signifying his dearest and only possession. Psalms 35:17. Or, we may read my forsaken one, as being deserted, left alone; and this accords better with the general tone of the psalm. So in Psalms 25:16; Psalms 68:6, where it is rendered desolate and solitary.

Dog—See on Psalms 22:16


Verse 21

21. Lion’s mouth… horns of the unicorns—Two descriptions of imminent death. The lion’s mouth is already open to devour its prey. The unicorn was either a fabulous animal, as is most probable, or belonged to some extinct species of the bovine genus. The word “unicorn” is not in

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the Hebrew. The Vulgate, unicornium, is the representative of the Septuagint, μονοκερωτων, both signifying an animal with one horn. The Hebrew ראם, (reem) denotes no such animal. The word occurs nine times, and best suits the Asiatic buffalo. In Deuteronomy 33:17 two horns are given. In Psalms 29:6, a “young unicorn” and a calf are synonymous. In Isaiah 34:7 unicorns are classed with “bullocks and bulls,” as animals to be offered in sacrifice. In Psalms 92:10 “horn” is not in the Hebrew. A wild buffalo, refusing the yoke, (Job 39:9-12,) is undoubtedly intended. See note on Psalms 22:12. If the extinct urus, or wild bull, is meant, it is yet to be verified by discovery. The wild buffalo sufficiently answers the description of the reem of the Scriptures. It must have been an animal with which the Hebrews were familiar. Livingstone says of the African buffalo:

“A herd of buffaloes kept a number of lions from their young by the males turning their heads to the enemy, the cows and their young being in the rear. One toss from a bull would kill the stoutest lion that ever breathed.” Van Lennep says of the Hindu buffalo, that it is “of such power and vigor as by his charge to prostrate a well-sized elephant.”


Verse 22

22. I will declare thy name unto my brethren—A sudden break in the connexion, and an abrupt opening of the final division of the psalm are apparent. From the deepest dejection and peril the tone and theme are changed to thanksgiving, hope, and triumph. Prophetically, the former part describes the passion; that which follows, the triumphs of the Redeemer after the resurrection. The transition point is found in the words, (Psalms 22:21,) “Thou hast heard me.” Certainly the answer to his prayer intervenes between Psalms 22:21-22. Bishop Horsley and others read it thus:

21. Save me from the mouth of the lion, And from the horns of the unicorns.

22. ——Thou hast heard me. I will declare thy name, etc.

The same sudden answers to prayer, marked by abrupt transitions, elsewhere occur. Psalms 6:8; Psalms 20:5; Psalms 28:6; Psalms 60:6.

Unto my brethren— Historically applied, these words are remarkable. David, though cut off from his people and exiled, still counts himself in the brotherhood of the saints, to whom his first thought is to divulge the glad tidings. But, prophetically, these are the words of Christ to his disciples, thus quoted in Hebrews 2:11. Christ calls his disciples “brethren,” (John 20:17,) and “friends,” (John 15:15,) and he alone reveals the Father to us.

Luke 10:22; John 1:18.

Congregation—The word commonly used to denote the general assembly, or collective whole, of the covenant people. In Psalms 22:25 called the “great congregation,” and defined as “them that fear God.” The quotation of this, in Hebrews 2:12, is made verbally from the Septuagint, where εκκλησια is the common Greek word for קהל, (congregation,) as it is in the New Testament for Church. See on Psalms 35:10 ; Psalms 35:18


Verse 23

23. Ye that fear the Lord—The call is to spiritual Israel. Psalms 22:23-24, as Bishop Lowth suggests, contain the praise song of the preceding verse, which the psalmist now puts into the mouth of the Church.


Verse 24

24. For he hath not despised—Because “he hath not despised.” The answer of prayer, even of the afflicted poor, is the theme and occasion of this public praise.


Verse 25

25. The great congregation—The full assembly of the faithful, as at the great national feasts; prophetically, the Church universal or “holy catholic Church.”

I will pay my vows—I will pay the sacrifice which I vowed my ( זבח נדר ) votive offering. This was one species of the שׁלמים, (shelameem,) peace offerings, consisting of a sacrifice accompanied by a social meal in the cloisters of the tabernacle or temple, as an acknowledgment of answer to prayer, and of peace and friendship with God. The allusion is to Leviticus 7:16-18


Verse 26

26. The meek shall eat—The poor and humble shall eat the sacrificial meal (Psalms 22:25) with him in accordance with Deuteronomy 16:11


Verse 27

27. All the ends of the world—The language of this verse cannot apply to David’s kingdom, but is a prophecy of the calling of the Gentiles by the preaching of the gospel. Matthew 28:19; Romans 16:26; Zechariah 14:9. David could not, in sobriety of language, suppose that his personal sufferings and deliverance could have the worldwide effect to turn the heathen nations to God. It is one of those numerous passages foretelling Messiah’s universal reign, which lie along through the entire course of Old Testament revelation.

Shall remember—They shall call to mind the wonderful death, resurrection, and ascension of Messiah, his triumph over all his foes, and the resultant effect of the preaching of the gospel.


Verse 29

29. Shall eat and worship—The idea of the sacrificial feast (see on Psalms 22:25) is resumed; but it is now a spiritual feast, differing from the shelameem in this, that of this gospel feast all classes, without distinction, may partake, not the poor only. See Psalms 22:26.

All… fat upon earth—All rich, worldly prosperous, mighty. Deuteronomy 31:20; Psalms 92:14.

All… that go down to the dust—A description here of sorrow and poverty. Job 30:19; Psalms 113:7; Isaiah 3:26; Isaiah 47:1.

None can keep alive his own soul—Literally, whosoever cannot keep his soul alive, or respite his life from the grave. “A strong expression for extreme destitution. He who was just about to perish is now seen kneeling at the sacrificial feast, in honour of this great salvation.”Alexander.


Verse 30

30. A seed shall serve him—Posterity shall serve himthe descendants of the first generation of worshippers and their converts who succeed them. No limitation of time shall be fixed to Messiah’s honour and dominion.

It shall be accounted—Numbered and registered, as the word denotes.

To the Lord—Unto Adonah, not Jehovah; a title of dominion, and applies to Christ here, as in Psalms 110:1; Psalms 110:5, where see notes.

For a generation— For the generation. The definite article belongs here, but is syncopated by the preposition. The “generation” is equal to “a peculiar people,” or purchased people. 1 Peter 2:9. “Generation,” here, is not used of time, but of kind, quality, species, (as Psalms 14:5; Psalms 24:6; Psalms 73:15;) running through all generations of time. Psalms 48:13; Psalms 78:4


Verse 31

31. They shall come—The “seed,” or “generation” of the previous verse, shall come; that is, be born, appear upon the scene.

Declare… unto a people that shall be born—Tell to the succeeding generation the wonderful works of God, as Psalms 48:13; Psalms 71:18; Psalms 102:28, and as the law of Moses required. Deuteronomy 11:19; Deuteronomy 32:46. Thus shall Messiah’s kingdom be perpetual. Daniel 7:14.

Righteousness, includes both the rectitude and the faithfulness of God in respect to the matters treated in the psalm, to wit: the sufferings and triumphs of Messiah, or the great work of redemption.

That he hath doneBecause he has finished it, namely, the work of redemption. The broad, significant term עשׂה, (‘asah,) here rendered “he hath done,” often takes the sense of accomplish, fulfil, execute, finish. It is the word which expresses the completion of the six days’ work of the Creator, (Genesis 2:2-3,) the accomplishment of special, providential deliverances, as Psalms 37:5 ; Psalm 52:11; the redemption of the Church, as Isaiah 44:23. In this sense it should be here understood, answering to the last utterance of Christ, except one, upon the cross “It is finished.” Thus the beginning and the final words of this wonderful psalm are the most solemn echoes of Calvary.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 22:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/psalms-22.html. 1874-1909.

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