Sunday, March 24, 2013






A Psalm of David

1. My God, my God. These are the very words uttered by the

Saviour when on the cross (Matt, xxvii. 46); and he evidently used

them as best adapted of all the words that could have been chosen

to express the extremity of his sorrow. The fact that he employed

them may be referred to as some evidence that the psalm was

designed to refer to him; though it must he admitted that this

circumstance is no conclusive proof of such a design, since he

might have used words having originally another reference, as

best fitted to express his own sufferings. The language is abrupt,

and is uttered. without any previous intimation of what would

produce or cause it. It comes from the midst of suffering—from

one enduring intense agony-—-as if a new form of sorrow

suddenly came upon him which he was unable to endure. That

new form of suffering was the feeling that now he was forsaken

by the last friend of the wretched,—God himself. We may

suppose that he had patiently borne all the other forms of trial, but

the moment the thought strikes him that he is forsaken of God, he

cries out in the bitterness of his soul, under the pressure of

anguish which is no longer to be borne. All other forms of

suffering he could bear. All others he had borne. But this crushes

him; overpowers him; is beyond all that the soul can sustain,—for

the soul may bear all else but this. It is to be observed, however,

that the sufferer himself still has confidence in God. He addresses

him as his God, though he seems to have forsaken him:—"My

God; MY God." Why hast thou forsaken me ? Why hast thou

abandoned me, or left me to myself, to suffer unaided and alone ?

s applicable to the Saviour, this refers to those dreadful  moments

on  the  cross when, forsaken by men,  he seemed also to be

forsaken of God himself. God did not interpose to rescue him, but

left him to bear those dreadful agonies alone. He bore the burden

of the world's atonement by himself. He was overwhelmed with

grief, and crushed with pain; for the sins of the world, as well as

the agonies of the cross, had come upon him. But there was

evidently more than this;—what more we are unable fully to

understand! There was a higher sense in which he was forsaken of

God; for no mere physical sufferings, no pains of dying even on

the cross, would have extorted this cry. If he had enjoyed the light

of his Father's countenance; if these had been merely physical

sufferings; if there was nothing else than what is apparent to our

view in the record of those sufferings, we cannot suppose that this

cry would have been heard even on the cross. There is evidently

some sense in which it was true that the dying Saviour was given

up to darkness—to mental trouble, to despair, as if He who is the

last hope of the suffering and the dying—the Father of mercies

—had withdrawn from him; as if he were personally a sinner; as if

he were himself guilty or blameworthy on account of the sins for

which he was making an expiation. In some sense he experienced

what the sinner will himself experience when, for his own sins, he

will be at last forsaken of God, and abandoned to despair. Every

word in this wonderful exclamation may he supposed to be

emphatic. "Why." What is the cause ? How is it to be accounted

for? What end is to be answered by it? "Hast thou." Thou, my

Father; thou, the comforter of those in trouble; thou, to whom the

suffering and the dying may look when all else fails. "Forsaken."

Left me to suffer alone withdrawn the light of thy countenance

---the comfort of thy presence--the joy of thy manifest favor. "Me"

Thy well-beloved Son; me, whom thou hast sent into

the world to accomplish thine own work in redeeming man; me,

against whom, no sin can be charged, whose life has been perfectly

pure and holy;—why, now, in the extremity of these sufferings,

hast thou forsaken me, and added to the agony of the cross the

deeper agony of being abandoned by the God whom I love, the

Father who loved me before the foundation of the world, John xvii.

24. There is a reason why God should forsake the wicked; but why

should he forsake his own pure and holy Son in the agonies of

death ?  Why art thou so far from helping me ? Marg., from my

salvation. So the Hebrew. The idea is that of one who stood so far

off that he could not hear the cry, or that he could not reach out the

hand to deliver. Comp. Ps. x. 1. And from the words of my roaring.

The word here used properly denotes the roaring of a lion, Job iv.

10; Isa. v. 29; Zech. xi. 3; and then the outcry or the groaning of a

person in great pain, Job iii. 24; Ps. xxxii. 3. It refers here to a loud

cry for help or deliverance, and is descriptive of the intense

suffering of the Redeemer on the cross. Comp. Matt, xxvii. 50;

Luke xxiii. 46.

2. O my God, I cry in the daytime. This, in connexion with what is

said at the close of the verse, "and in the night-season," means

that his cry was incessant or constant. See Notes on Ps. i. 2. The

whole expression denotes that his prayer or cry was continuous

but that it was not heard. As applicable to the Redeemer it refers

not merely to the moment when he uttered the cry as stated in

verse. 1, but to the continuous  sufferings  which he endured as if

forsaken by God and men. His life in general was of that

description. The whole series of sorrows and trials through which

he passed was as if he were forsaken by God; as if he uttered a

long continuous cry, day and night, and was not heard. But thou

hearest not. Thou dost not answer me. It is as if my prayers were

not heard. God hears every cry; but the answer to a prayer is

sometimes withheld or delayed, as if he did not hear the voice of

the suppliant. So it was with the Redeemer. He was permitted to

suffer without being rescued by Divine power, as if his prayers

had not been heard. God seemed to disregard his supplications

And in the night-season. As explained above, this means

constantly. It was literally true, however, that the Redeemer's

most intense and earnest prayer was uttered in the night-season, in

the garden of Gethsemane. And am not silent. Marg., there is no

silence to me. Heb., "There is not silence to me." The idea is, that

he prayed or cried incessantly. He was never silent. All this

denotes intense and continuous supplication, supplication that

came from the deepest anguish of the soul, but which was unheard

and unanswered. If Christ experienced this, who may not ?

3. But thou art holy. Thou art righteous and blameless. This

indicates that the sufferer had still unwavering confidence in God

Though his prayer seemed not to be heard, and though he was not

delivered, he was not disposed to blame God. He believed that

God was righteous, though he received no answer; he doubted not

that there was some sufficient reason why he was not answered.

This is applicable,  not  only to  the  Redeemer,  in whom it was

most fully illustrated, but also to the people of God everywhere.

It expresses a state of mind such as all true believers in God have

—confidence in him, whatever may he their trials; confidence in

him, though the answer to their prayers may be long delayed;

confidence in him, though their prayers should seem to be

unanswered. O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. That

dwellest where praise is celebrated; that seemest to dwell in the

midst of praises. The language here refers to the praises offered in

the tabernacle or temple. God was supposed to dwell there, and he

was surrounded by those who praised him. The sufferer looks upon

him as worshipped by the multitude of his people; and the feeling

of his heart is, that though he was himself a sufferer—a great and

apparently unpitied sufferer—though he, by his afflictions, was not

permitted to unite in those lofty praises, yet he could own that God

was worthy of all those songs, and that it was proper that they

should be addressed to him.

4. Our fathers trusted in thee. This is a plea of the sufferer as

drawn from the character which God had manifested in former

times. The argument is, that he had interposed in those times

when his people in trouble had called upon him ; and he now

pleads with God that he would manifest himself to them in the

same way. The argument derives additional force also from the

idea that he who now pleads was descended from them, or was of

the same nation and people, and that he might call them his

ancestors. As applicable to the Redeemer, the argument is that he

was descended from those holy and suffering men who had trusted

in God, and in whose behalf God had so often interposed. He

identifies himself with that people; he regards himself as one of

their number; ands he makes mention of God's merciful

interposition in their behalf, and of the fact that he had not

forsaken them in their troubles, as a reason why he should now

interpose in his behalf and save him. 

As applicable to others, it is an argument which the people of God

may always use in their trials—that God has thus interposed in

behalf of his people of former times who trusted in him, and who

called upon him. God is always the same. We may strengthen our

faith in our trials by the assurance that he never changes; and, in

pleading with him, we may urge it as an argument that he has

often interposed when the tried and the afflicted of his people have

called upon him. They trusted, and thou didst deliver them. They

confided in thee; they called on thee; thou didst not spurn their

prayer; thou didst not forsake them.

5. They cried unto thee. They offered earnest prayer and

supplication.  And were delivered. From dangers and trials. If

They trusted in thee, and were not confounded. Were not

disappointed. Literally, "they were not ashamed." That is, they

had not the confusion which those have who are disappointed.

The idea in the word is, that when men put their trust in anything

and are disappointed, they are conscious of a species of shame as

if they had been foolish in relying on that which proved to be

insufficient to help them; as if they had manifested a want of

wisdom in not being more cautious, or in supposing that they

could derive help from that which has proved to be fallacious. So

in Jer. xiv. 3, "Their nobles have sent their little ones to the

waters; they came to the pits, and found no water; they returned

with their vessels empty; they were ashamed and confounded, and

covered their heads." That is, they felt as if they had acted

foolishly or unwisely  in  expecting  to  find  water  there. 

In the  expression:

"they trusted in thee, and were not confounded,"

It is meant that men who confide in God are never


6. But I am a worm, and no man. In contrast with the fathers who

trusted in thee. They prayed, and were heard; they confided in

God, and were treated as men. I am left and forsaken, as if I were

not worth regarding; as if I were a grovelling worm beneath the

notice of the great God. In other words, I am treated as if I were

the most insignificant, the most despicable, of all objects,—alike

unworthy of the attention of God or man. By the one my prayers

are unheard by the other I am cast out and despised.   

As applicable to the Redeemer, this means that he was forsaken

alike by God and men, as if he had no claims to the treatment due

to man. A reproach of men. Reproached by men.

Despised of the people. That is, of the people who witnessed his

sufferings. It is not necessary to say how completely this had a

fulfilment in the sufferings of the Saviour.

7. All they that see me laugh me to scorn. They deride or mock me.

On the word used here—laag—see Notes on Ps.ii. 4. The

meaning here is to mock, to deride, to treat with scorn.

 How completely this was  fulfilled......

in the case of the Saviour, it is not necessary to say

Comp. Matt, xxvii. 39, "And they that passed by, reviled him."

There is no evidence that this literally occurred in the life of

David,  They shoot out the lip. Marg., open. The Hebrew word

patar— means properly to split, to burst open; then, as in this

place, it means to open wide the mouth; to stretch the mouth in

derision and scorn. See Ps. xxxv. 21, "They opened their mouth

wide against me." Job xvi. 10, "They have gaped upon me with

their month." They shake the head. In contempt and derision. See

Matt, xxvii. 39, "Wagging their heads."

8. He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him. Marg., He

rolled himself on the Lord. The margin expresses the true sense

of the Hebrew word. The idea is that of being under the pressure

of a heavy burden, and of rolling it of, or casting it on another.

Hence the word is often used in the sense of committing to

another; entrusting anything to another; confiding in another. Ps

xxxvii. 5, "Commit thy way unto the Lord;" Marg., as in Heb.,

"Roll thy way upon the Lord." Prov. xvi. 3, "Commit thy works

unto the Lord," Marg., as in Heb., "Roll."  The language here is

the taunting language of his enemies, and the meaning is that he

had professed to commit himself to the Lord as if he were his

friend; he had expressed confidence in God, and he believed that

his cause was safe in His hand. This, too, was actually fulfilled in

the case of the Saviour. Matt, xxvii. 43: "He trusted in God; let

him deliver him now, if he will have him." It is one of the most

remarkable instances of blindness and infatuation that has ever

occurred in the world, that the Jews should have used this

language in taunting the dying Redeemer, without even

suspecting that they were fulfilling the prophecies, and

demonstrating at the very time when they were reviling him that

he was the true Messiah,  Let Him deliver him. Let him come and

save him. Since he professes to belong to God; since he claims

that God loves him and regards him as his friend, let him come

now and rescue one so dear to him. He is hopelessly abandoned

by men. If God chooses to have one so abject, so despised, so

forsaken, so helpless, let him come now and take him as his own.

We will not rescue him; we will do nothing to save him, for we

do not need him. If God wants him, let him come and save him

What blasphemy! What an exhibition of the dreadful depravity of

the human heart was manifested in the crucifixion of the

Redeemer. Seeing he delighted, in Him. Marg., if he delight in

him. The correct rendering is,"for he delighted in him." That is, it

was claimed by the sufferer that God delighted in him. If this is

so, say they, let him come and rescue one so dear to himself. Let

him show his friendship for this vagrant, this impostor, this

despised and worthless man!

9. But thou art he that took me out of the womb

I owe my life to thee. This is urged by the sufferer:

as a reason why God should now interpose and protect him. God

had brought him into the world, guarding him in the perils of the

earliest moments of his being, and he now pleads that in the day

of trouble God will interpose and save him. There is nothing

improper in applying this to the Messiah.  He was a man, with all

the innocent propensities and feelings of man; and no one can say

but that when on the cross,—and perhaps with peculiar fitness we

may say when he saw his mother standing near him (John xix. 25),

—these thoughts may have passed through his mind. In the

remembrance of the care bestowed on his early years, he may now

have looked with an eye of earnest pleading to God, that, if it were

possible, he might deliver him. Thou didst make me hope. Marg.

 Keptest me in safety. The phrase in the Hebrew means, Thou didst

cause me to trust or to hope. It may mean here either that he was

made to cherish a hope of the Divine favour in very early life, as it

were when an infant at the breast; or it may mean that he had

cause then to hope, or to trust in God. The former, it seems to me,

is probably the meaning; and the idea, that from his earliest years

he had been led to trust in God; and he now pleads this fact as a

reason why he should interpose to save him. Applied to the

Redeemer as a man, means that in his earliest childhood he had

trusted in God. His first breathings were those of piety. His first

aspirations were for the Divine favour. His first love was the love

of God. This he now calls to remembrance; this he now urges as

reason why God should not withraw the light of his countenance,

and leave him to suffer alone. No one can prove that these

thoughts did not pass through the mind of the Redeemer when he

was enduring the agonies of desertion on the cross; no one can

show that they would have been improper. Upon my mother's

beast. In my earliest infancy. This does not mean that he literally

cherished hope then, but that he had done it in the earliest period

of his life, as the first act of his conscious being.

10. I was cast upon thee from the womb. Upon thy protection and

care. This, too, is an argument for the Divine interposition. He

had been, as it were, thrown early in life upon the protecting care

of God. In some peculiar sense he had been more unprotected and

defenceless than is common at that period of life, and he owed his

preservation then entirely to God. This, too, may have passed

through the mind of the Redeemer on the cross. In those sad and

desolate moments he may have recalled the scenes of his early

life—the events which had occurred in regard to him in his early

years; the poverty of his mother, the manger, the persecution by

Herod, the flight into Egypt, the return, the safety which he then

enjoyed from persecution in a distant part of the land of Palestine,

in the obscure and unknown village of Nazareth. This too may

have occurred to his mind as a reason why God should interpose

and deliver him from the dreadful darkness which had come over

him now. Thou art my God from my mother's belly. Thou hast

been my God from my very childhood. He had loved God as such;

he had obeyed him as such; he had trusted him as such; and he

now pleads this as a reason why God should interpose for him.

11. Be not far from me. Do not withdraw from me; do not leave or

forsake me. For trouble is near. Near, in the sense that deep

sorrow has come upon me; near, in the sense that I am

approaching a dreadful death,  For there is none to help. Marg., as

in Heb., not a helper. There were those who would have helped

 but they could not; there were those who could have helped,  but

 they would not.

His friends that stood around the cross were unable to aid him; his

foes were unwilling to do it; and he was left to suffer unhelped.

12. Many bulls have compassed me. Men with the fierceness and

fury of bulls. Comp. Isa. li. 20; Ps. lxviii. 30. Strong bulls of

Bashan. The country of Bashan embraced the territory which was

on the east of the Jordan, north of Gilead, which was given to the

half tribe of Manasseh: comp. Gen. xiv. 5 with Joshua xii. 4-6. It

was distinguished as pasture land for its richness. Its trees and its

breed of cattle are frequently referred to in the Scriptures. Thus in

Deut. xxxii. 14, "rams of the breed of Bashan" are mentioned; in

Isa. ii. 13, Zech. xi. 2, "oaks of Bashan" are mentioned in

connexion with the cedars of Lebanon; in Amos iv. 1, "the kine of

Bashan " are mentioned. The bulls of Bashan are here alluded to

as remarkable for their size, their strength, and their fierceness;

and are designed to represent men that were fierce, savage, and

violent. As applied to the Redeemer, the allusion is to the fierce

and cruel men that persecuted, him and sought his life. No one

can doubt that the allusion is applicable to his persecutors and

murderers; and no one can show that the thought indicated by this

phrase also may not have passed through the mind of the

Redeemer when on the cross.

13. They gaped upon me with their mouths. Marg., as in Heb.

opened their mouths against me. That is, they opened their mouths

wide as if they would devour me, as a lion does when he seizes

upon his prey. In ver. 7 they are represented as "opening" the

mouth for another purpose— that of derision or scorn; here they

are described as if they were fierce and wild beasts ready to fall

upon their prey. As a ravening and roaring lion. The word

ravening means voraciously devouring, and the allusion in the

Hebrew word is to the lion as he tears his prey—toreph —-rending

it in pieces to devour it. All this is designed to denote the

greediness with which the enemies of the Redeemer sought his


14. I am poured out like water. The sufferer now turns from his

enemies, and describes the effect of all these outward

persecutions and trials on himself. The meaning in this expression

is, that all his strength was gone. It is remarkable that we have a

similar expression, which is not easily accounted for, when we say

of ourselves that "we are as weak as water." An expression similar

to this occurs in Joshua vii. 5 "The hearts of the people melted,

and became as water." Comp. Lam. ii. 19; Ps. Iviii. 7.  My bones

are out of joint. Marg., sundered. The Hebrew word—parad

means to break off, to break in pieces, to separate by breaking;

and then, to be separated, or divided. It is not necessary to

suppose here that his bones were literally dislocated or "put out of

joint" any more than it is necessary to suppose that he was

literally "poured out like water," or that his heart was literally

"melted like wax" within him. The meaning is that he was utterly

prostrated and powerless; he was as if his bones had been

dislocated, and he was unable to use his limbs, My heart is like

wax. The idea here also is that of debility. His strength seemed all

to be gone. His heart was no longer firm; his vigour was

exhausted.  It  is melted  in the midst of my bowels, Or, within me.

The word bowels in the Scriptures is not 


and consequently would:

include that part in which the heart is situated. See Notes on Isa.

xvi. 11. The meaning here is that his heart was no longer firm and

strong. As applied to the Redeemer, this would refer to the

prostration of his strength in his last struggle; and no one can prove

that these thoughts did not pass through his mind when on the


15. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, A potsherd is a

fragment of a broken pot, or a piece of earthenware. See Notes on

Isa. xlv. 9; Job ii. 8. The meaning here is, that his strength was not

vigorous like a green tree that was growing, and that was full of

sap, but it was like a brittle piece of earthenware, so dry and

fragile that it could be easily crumbled to pieces. And my tongue

cleaveih to my jaws. See Notes on Job xxix. 10. The meaning here

is, that his mouth was dry, and he could not speak. His tongue

adhered to the roof of his mouth so that he could not use it

—another description of the effects of intense thirst. Comp. John

xix. 28. And thou hast brought me into the dust of death. Or, as we

should say, to dustto the grave—to the dust where death reigns.

See Notes on Dan. xii. 2. The meaning is, that he was near death;

or, was just ready to die. Who can show that the Redeemer when

on the cross may not in his own meditations have gone over these

very expressions in the psalm as applicable to himself?

16. For dogs have compassed me,  Men  who   resemble   dogs;

—harsh, snarling, fierce, ferocious.

See Notes on Phil. iii. 2; Rev. xxii. 15. No one can doubt that this

is applicable to the Redeemer. The assembly of the wicked have

inclosed me. That is, they have surrounded me; they I have come

around me on all sides so that I might not escape. So they

surrounded the Redeemer in the garden of Gethsemane when they

arrested him and bound him; so they surrounded him when on his

trial before the Sanhedrim and before Pilate; and so they

surrounded him on the cross. They pierced my hands and my feet

This passage is attended with more difficulty than perhaps any

other part of the psalm. It is remarkable that it is nowhere quoted

or referred to in the New Testament as applicable to the Saviour;

and it is no less remarkable that there is no express statement in

the actual history of the crucifixion that either the hands or the feet

of the Saviour were pierced, or that he was nailed to the cross at

all. This was not necessarily implied in the idea of crucifixion, for

the hands and the feet were sometimes merely hound to the cross

by cords, and the sufferer was allowed to linger on the cross thus

suspended until he died from mere exhaustion. There can be no

doubt, however, that the common mode of crucifixion was to nail

the hands to the transverse beam of the cross, and the feet to the

upright part of it. See the description of the crucifixion in the

Notes on Matt, xxvii. 31,32. Thus Tertullian, speaking of the

sufferings of Christ, and applying this passage to his death, says

that "this was the peculiar or proper—-propria —severity of the

cross."— Adv.  Marcionem, iii.  19,  ed.   Wurtz,  I.  p.  403.   See

Hengstenberg's Christology, 1,139. The great difficulty in this

passage is in the word rendered in our version, they

piercedkaari. It occurs only in one other place, Isa. xxxviii. 13,

where it means as a lion.

This would undoubtedly be the most natural interpretation of the

word here, unless there were good reasons for setting it aside; and

not a few have endeavoured to show that this is the true rendering.

According to this interpretation, the passage would mean, "As

lions, they [that is, my enemies] surround (gape upon) my hands

and my feet; that is, they threaten to tear my limbs to pieces.

"Qesenius, Lex." This interpretation is also that of Aben Ezra,

Ewald, Paulus, and others. But, whatever may be the true

explanation, there are very serious objections to this one. (a) It is

difficult to make sense of the passage if this is adopted. The

preceding word, rendered in our version "inclosed," can mean only

surrounded or encompassed, and it is difficult to see how it could

be said that a lion could "surround" or "encompass" the hands and

the feet. At all events, such an interpretation would be harsh and

unusual. (b) According to this interpretation the word

"me"—"inclosed me"—-would be superfluous; since the idea

would be, "they enclose or surround my hands and my feet." (c) All

the ancient interpreters have taken the word here to be a verb, and

in all the ancient versions it is rendered as if it were a verb. Even

in the Masora parva (Jewish) it is said that the word here is to be

taken in a different sense from what it has in Isa. xxxviii. 13

where it plainly means a lion. Gesenius admits that all the ancient

interpreters have taken this as a verb, and says that it is "certainly

possible" that it may be so. He says that it may be regarded as a

participle formed in the Chaldee manner (from kur), and in the

plural number for kaarim, and says that in this way it would be

properly rendered, piercing my hands and my feet; that is, as he

says, "my enemies, who are understood in the dogs."   Form such

high authority, and from the uniform mode of interpretation the

word among the ancients, it may be regarded as morally certain

that the word is a verb, and that it is not to be rendered, as in Isa.

xxxviii. 13, "as a lion,"  The verb--kur--properly means to dig, to

bore through, to pierce.








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