I. "The author of the psalm." This psalm is said to have been composed by David: "A Psalm of David;" compare the notes at the title of Psalm 3:1-8. It cannot be absolutely demonstrated that these titles to the psalms are all of them correct, as it cannot be supposed that they were affixed to them by the authors of the psalms themselves; and it is not absolutely known by whom they were prefixed. Of course there is no certain evidence that they were attached to the psalms by an inspired writer. Still they are to be presumed to be correct unless there is some clear evidence to the contrary. In this case there seems to be none. There is nothing in the psalm itself that is inconsistent with the supposition, and there are no historical evidences in the case which would make it necessary for us to set the title aside. The affixing of this title to the psalm undoubtedly implies that it wits the prevailing opinion, at the time when the collection of Psalms was made, that this was a psalm of David. Rosenmuller indeed doubts this; but he assigns no historical reasons for the doubt. Hitzig supposes that the author was Jeremiah, on the ground, as he says, that it is "in the broad and flowing style" of Jeremiah, but this is mere conjecture.
It is not necessary, however, to suppose that David, though he was the author of the psalm, refers to himself. If it be admitted that he was inspired, or even if "this" should be doubted, it would still be an open question to whom the psalm refers - whether to himself as an individual; - whether to an "imaginary" sufferer, designing to illustrate the feelings of piety in a time of sorrow; whether to the people of God, considered collectively; or whether to the Messiah. The mere fact of the "authorship" of the psalm determines none of these questions.
It is not known, and it cannot now be determined, on what occasion the psalm was written. It is expressive of the feelings of a pious sufferer, - of one who appears to be forsaken by God and by man. Perhaps there may have been occasions in the life of David to which the expressions in the psalm may have been applicable; but if so, it is impossible now to determine on which "one" of these trials of his life the psalm was composed. There is no one period in which, from the historical records of his life, we could be able to make out all the circumstances which are mentioned in the psalm. There are, however, expressions in it which in their intensity, as expressing wretchedness and woe, seem to go beyond anything that occurred in his experience, and which lead naturally to the question whether he did not refer to some other than himself.
II. "The contents of the psalm." Various divisions of the psalm have been proposed, but there are no "marked" and "prominent" divisions in the psalm itself. Hengstenberg, and after him Prof. Alexander, divide it into three parts, or strophes,
To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar, A Psalm of David. My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?According to this, each strophe, as Hengstenberg remarks, would consist of ten verses - with an intermediate verse between the 10th and the 12th Psalm 22:11 connecting the first and second parts. Prof. Alexander supposes that Psalm 22:21 is a connecting link also between the second and third parts.
This division, however, seems fanciful and arbitrary; and it will present a more simple and clear view of the psalm to regard it as embracing two main things: I. The condition of the sufferer; and II. His consolations or supports in his travels.
I. The condition of the sufferer. This consists of two parts:
(1) His sufferings as derived from God, or as they spring from God;
(2) as they are derived from men, or as they spring from the treatment which he receives from men.
(1) As they are derived from God, Psalm 22:1-2.
(a) He is forsaken of God, Psalm 22:1.
(b) He cries to him day and night (or continually), and receives no answer, Psalm 22:2.
His prayer seems not to be heard, and he is left to suffer apparently unpitied and alone.
(2) his sufferings as derived front men, as produced by the treatment which he received from men.
Here there are "five" specifications; "five" sources of his affliction and sorrow.
"First." He was despised, reproached, derided by them in the midst of his other sufferings, Psalm 22:6-8; especially his piety, or confidence in God was ridiculed, for it now seemed as if God had abandoned him.
"Second." His enemies were fierce and ravenous as strong bulls of Bashan, or as a ravening and roaring lion, Psalm 22:12-13.
"Third." His sufferings were intense, so that his whole frame was relaxed and prostrated and crushed; he seemed to be poured out like water, and all his bones were out of joint; his heart was melted like wax; his strength was dried up like a potsherd; his tongue clave to his jaws, and he was brought into the dust of death, Psalm 22:14-15.
"Fourth." His enemies pierced his hands and his feet, Psalm 22:16.
"Fifth." They stripped him of his raiment, and parted his garments among themselves, Psalm 22:18.
II. His consolations or supports in his trials. These are scattered through the psalm, and consist of the following things:
(l) His unshaken confidence in God as holy, Psalm 22:3.
(2) his faith in God as the hearer of prayer, and especially on the ground that he "had" heard prayer in times past, Psalm 22:4-5.
(3) The fact that he had been himself early devoted to God, and cast upon him as his Protector from very childhood, and trained up for him, Psalm 22:9-11.
(4) The anticipated cricket or result of what he was then suffering, or the things to be accomplished "by" his sufferings, Psalm 22:19-31. There are mainly "two" things implied here as to the anticipated result of his sufferings:
(a) The establishment of a great principle that would "encourage" the friends of God, or those whom the sufferer calls his "brethren," Psalm 22:22-26.
(b) The world would be converted as the result of his sufferings, and the kingdom of God would be set up everywhere among men, Psalm 22:27-31,
These views of the psalm are apparent on its time, or are such as are suggested by the analysis without reference to the inquiry who was the author, or to whom it refers. The analysis of the psalm, however, necessarily leads:
III. To the inquiry "to whom the psalm refers:"
(1) It refers to a sufferer, and it is designed to describe his condition and his feelings, when apparently forsaken by God and man. At the same time, he is a "pious" sufferer, or one who has real trust in God, though God "appears" to have forsaken him.
(2) There seems to be no reason to suppose that the psalm refers to David himself, or that he means to describe his own feelings and condition. He was indeed a sufferer; and he often refers to his own sufferings in the Psalms. It is true, also, that there are expressions in this psalm which would be applicable to him, or which might refer to his condition. But there are none which can be regarded as "exclusively" applicable to him, and there are some which could "not" be applied to him. Of the latter class are the expressions, "They pierced my hands and my feet," Psalm 22:16; "They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture," Psalm 22:18. We know of no circumstances in the life of David to which these expressions would be applicable; we have no reason to suppose that there were any in which what is here said would have been literally true of him. On the other hand, this language cannot with propriety be regarded as "figurative," for we cannot conceive of any circumstances which would be described by such figures of speech. The whole east of the psalm, moreover, is different from those in which David refers to his own sufferings.
(3) The psalm refers to a case not then actually before the psalmist, but to some case that might or would occur, as an individual or as a representative case. So far as the mere "language" of the psalm is concerned, this might have been a case purely imaginary, and the design might have been to describe a pious sufferer who seemed to be forsaken both by God and man, or to illustrate the nature of true submission to God "in" such trials. In other words, it might have been a "supposed" case intended to show the nature of real religion under the severest forms of suffering; and, as a poet, the author of the psalm may have pictured to himself such an instance in order to show what the feelings of true piety would suggest in such circumstances, or what would be the effect of true religion then. It is true that this interpretation would not be quite obvious and natural, for we usually find such descriptions connected with real cases; but I am merely saying that "so far as the language of the psalm is concerned," if we had no other way to ascertain its meaning, this interpretation would be allowable - and if we could not attach the psalm properly to any real person, this explanation would be admissible. But in this case such an interpretation is unnecessary, for there "is" a real person to whom the language is applicable, and one to whom we may properly suppose an inspired writer would refer in the language which is used here.
(4) The psalm refers, therefore, I apprehend, originally and exclusively, to the Messiah. The proof of this is to be found in such circumstances as the following:
(a) Portions of it are expressly applied to him in the New Testament. The cry in Psalm 22:1, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" is the very one used by the Redeemer when on the cross, Matthew 27:46. The language Psalm 22:8, "He trusted in the Lord that he would deliver him; let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him," is the taunt which his enemies used as they passed by the cross, Matthew 27:43. The language Psalm 22:18, "They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture," is more than once expressly applied to him; and, in one instance, with the unequivocal statement that it was done "that the Scripture might be fulfilled," John 19:24. Compare Luke 23:34.
(b) We have evidence derived from the early Jewish interpreters. The modern Jews, indeed, affirm that it has no reference to the Messiah, for they reject the idea of a suffering Messiah altogether. Some of them suppose that it refers to David, and endeavor to find a fulfillment of it in his persecutions and trials. Others, as Kimchi and Jarchi, suppose that the psalm is applicable to the suffering Jewish people, and apply it to them in their trials and dispersions, as if "they" were forsaken of God. Some have supposed that it refers to the condition of the Jews in Babylon. But this was not the prevailing interpretation among the ancient Jewish interpreters. See Jo. H. Michaelis, Com. in Ps., p. 138; and Schottgen de Messia, pp. 232ff. It is true that the opinion of the ancient Jews does not "demonstrate" that the psalm refers to the Messiah; but the fact that they "held" that opinion is an important circumstance in showing what is its fair and obvious interpretation, for there was everything to induce "them" to reject this explanation. In general, the Jews who lived in the times referred to here were opposed to the idea of a suffering Messiah; and the fact that they admitted the applicability of the psalm to the Messiah must have embarrassed them not a little in their early controversies with Christians, for the carly Christians with one voice maintained that it referred to the Messiah, and that it was fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth. The correspondence between the psalm and his sufferings was one of the arguments on which they relied in proving that he was the Christ; and if the Jews admitted that the psalm had reference to the Messiah, they would find it hard to meet the force of this argument. Their admission, therefore, under these circumstances, that it referred to the Messiah, could have arisen only from the fair and obvious interpretation of the psalm which it was not easy to set aside.
(c) The internal character of the psalm shows that it refers to the Messiah. This will appear more conclusively in the course of the exposition, in the entire correspondence as will be seen there between the psalm and the sufferings of the Redeemer. It will be found that really of the expressions in the psalm are as applicable to him as they would be if they were "history" instead of "prophecy;" if they had been penned "after," instead of having been penned "before" his sufferings occurred. It is sufficient here to refer to the expressions in Psalm 22:1, note; Psalm 22:7-8, note; Psalm 22:16, note; and Psalm 22:18, note.
(d) There is no improbability in supposing that David here refers to the Messiah. It cannot be denied that there is, in the Old Testament, from some cause, a frequent reference to a personage who was expected to appear in future time, and who was called "the Messiah." And it cannot be denied that he is often represented as a sufferer, and that his humiliation and sufferings are often described. "Somehow," beyond all question, the Jewish writers had formed the conception of such a personage, and they exhaust the powers of their native tongue in their description of his person and his work. He was, in fact, their "hero;" he to whom they always looked, and on whom their descriptions usually terminated, wherever they began. Compare Isaiah 53:1-12, notes; and Daniel 9, notes. Now, if it be admitted that the Jewish writers were "inspired," and that this view of the Messiah had been furnished by the Spirit of inspiration, nothing is more natural than to expect to find such descriptions of the Messiah as occur in this psalm; and if it should be said that they were "not" inspired, and that this anticipation was wholly a poetic fiction - a matter of national vanity, - a mere favorite "idea" of the nation - nothing would even then be more natural than that there should be a frequent reference to this imaginary person in their writings; and nothing would be more probable than that we should find frequent reference to him in the writings of one who was so deeply imbued with the national spirit, and who occupied so high a position among the poets of the nation, as David. Inspired or uninspired, then, there is the strongest probability that there would be in their poetic writings such allusions to the Messiah as we have in this psalm.
An examination of the objections to the interpretation which refers the psalm to the Messiah, may be found in Hengstenberg's Christology, vol. i, pp. 145-147.
The title of the psalm is, "To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar." On the meaning of the expression "chief Musician," see the notes at the title to Psalm 4:1-8. The expression "Aijeleth Shahar" is rendered in the margin, "the hind of the morning." The word "Aijeleth" - אילת 'ayĕlĕth - means a "hind," and is used as a term of endearment toward a female, Proverbs 5:19. It is found in Genesis 49:21, "Naphtali is a "hind" let loose." Also in 2 Samuel 22:34; Job 39:1; Psalm 18:33; Sol 2:7; Sol 3:5; Habakkuk 3:19; in each of which places it is rendered in the singular "hind," and in the plural "hinds." The word "Shahar" - שׁחר shachar - means "the aurora, the dawn, the morning." "The phrase 'hind of the dawn' probably stands for the morning sun scattering his first rays upon the earth, as the Arabian poets call the rising sun "the gazelle," comparing his rays with the horns of that animal."
Gesenius, Lexicon - The image is one of gladness, "as if" the rays of the sun leaped and bounded over the hills with joyousness as the hart or hind does. But why such a title is given to this psalm can be only a matter of conjecture. It would seem most probable that these words were the beginning of some other psalm or hymn that was sung to a set piece of music, and that the design was, as indicated by this title, that this psalm was to be sung to the same tune. A tune might not improbably be known then, as it is in fact sometimes now, by the first or opening words of the piece which was commonly sung in that measure. Thus we have hynms so constantly sung to certain tunes that the mention of the first line would be a sufficient suggestion of the strain of music in which it was to be sung. It would be, for example, sufficient to say that it was to be sung to the same tune as "From Greenland's icy mountains;" or, "All hail the power of Jesus' name;" or, "I would not live alway." Other views of the meaning of the phrase may be seen in Rosenmuller, "Com. in loc." Rosenmuller himself adopts the views here expressed, and sustains his opinion by the authority of Bochart.
My God, my God - These are the very words uttered by the Saviour when on the cross Matthew 27:46; 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 be 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? As applicable to the Saviour, this refers to those dreadful moments on the cross when, forsaken by people, he seemed also to be forsaken by 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 be 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 manifested 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 17:24. 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? - Margin, 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. Compare Psalm 10:1.
And from the words of my roaring - The word used here properly denotes the roaring of a lion, Job 4:10; Isaiah 5:29; Zechariah 11:3; and then the outcry or the groaning of a person in great pain, Job 3:24; Psalm 32:3. It refers here to a loud cry for help or deliverance, and is descriptive of the intense suffering of the Redeemer on the cross. Compare Matthew 27:50; Luke 23:46.
O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.O my God, I cry in the daytime - This, in connection with what is said at the close of the verse, "and in the night-season," means that his cry was incessant or constant. See the notes at Psalm 1:2. 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 Psalm 22:1, 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. Compare the notes at Daniel 10:12-13. 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 - Margin, "there is no silence to me." Hebrew: "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?
But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.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 be 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. Compare the notes at Job 13:15.
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.
Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.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 him 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; and 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.
They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.They cried unto thee - They offered earnest prayer and supplication.
And were delivered - From dangers and trials.
They trusted in thee, and were not confounded - They 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 Jeremiah 14:3, "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. Compare the notes at Job 6:20. In the expression here, "they trusted in thee, and were not confounded," it is meant that men who confide in God are never disappointed, or never have occasion for shame as if herein they had acted foolishly. They are never left to feel that they had put their trust where no help was to be found; that they had confided in one who had deceived them, or that they had reason to be ashamed of their act as an act of foolishness.
But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.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 the attention of God or man. By the one my prayers are unheard; by the other I am cast out and despised. Compare Job 25:6. 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 a "man."
A reproach of men - Reproached by men. Compare Isaiah 53:3, and the notes at that verse.
Despised of the people - That is, of the people who witnessed his sufferings. It is not necessary to say how completely this had a fulfillment in the sufferings of the Saviour.
All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,All they that see me laugh me to scorn - They deride or mock me. On the word used here - לעג lâ‛ag - see the notes at Psalm 2:4. The meaning here is to mock, to deride, to treat with scorn. The idea of laughing is not properly in the word, nor would that necessarily occur in the treatment here referred to. How completely this was fulfilled in the case of the Saviour, it is not necessary to say. Compare Matthew 27:39, "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 - Margin, "open." The Hebrew word - פטר pâṭar - 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 Psalm 35:21, "They opened their mouth wide against me." Job 16:10, "they have gaped upon me with their mouth."
They shake the head - In contempt and derision. See Matthew 27:39, "Wagging their heads."
He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him - Margin, "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 off, 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. Psalm 37:5, "commit thy way unto the Lord;" Margin, as in Hebrew: "Roll thy way upon the Lord." Proverbs 16:3, "commit thy works unto the Lord," Margin, as in Hebrew: "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 sate in His hand. This, too, was actually fulfilled in the ease of the Saviour. Matthew 27:43, "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 - Margin, "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
But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts.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 a man; and no one can say but that when on the cross - and perhaps with special fitness we may say when he saw his mother standing near him John 19:25 - 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 - Margin, "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 favor "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 is, that frown his earliest years he had been lea 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, it 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 favor. His first love was the love of God. This he now calls to remembrance; this he now urges as a reason why God should not with. draw 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 breast - 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.
I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother's belly.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 special sense he had been more unprotected and defenseless 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; be 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.
Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.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 - Margin, as in Hebrew, "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.
Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.Many bulls have compassed me - Men with the fierceness and fury of bulls. Compare Isaiah 51:20; Psalm 68:30.
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: compare Genesis 14:5 with Joshua 12:4-6. 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 Deuteronomy 32:14, "rams of the breed of Bashan" are mentioned; in Isaiah 2:13, Zechariah 11:2, "oaks of Bashan" are mentioned in connection with the cedars of Lebanon; in Amos 4:1, "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.
They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.They gaped upon me with their mouths - Margin, as in Hebrew, "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 Psalm 22:7 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 - טרף ṭâraph - rending it in pieces to devour it. All this is designed to denote the greediness with which the enemies of the Redeemer sought his life.
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.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 7:5 : "The hearts of the people melted, and became as water." Compare Lamentations 2:19; Psalm 58:7. "My bones are out of joint." Margin, "sundered." The Hebrew word - פרד pârad - 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," anymore 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 restricted in its signification as it is with us. It embraces the upper parts of the viscera as well as the lower, and consequently would include that part in which the heart is situated. See the notes at Isaiah 16:11. 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 cross.
My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.My strength is dried up like a potsherd, - A "potsherd" is a fragment of a broken pot, or a piece of earthenware. See Isaiah 45:9, note; and Job 2:8, note. 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 cleaveth to my jaws - See the notes at Job 29:10. 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. Compare John 19:28.
And thou hast brought me into the dust of death - Or, as we should say, "to dust" - "to the grave" - to the dust where death reigns. See the notes at Daniel 12:2. 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?
For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.For dogs have compassed me - Men who resemble dogs; harsh, snarling, fierce, ferocious. See Philippians 3:2, note; and Revelation 22:15, note. No one can doubt that this is applicable to the Redeemer.
The assembly of the wicked have enclosed me - That is, they have surrounded me; they 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 Sanhedrin 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 bound 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 at Matthew 27:31-32. Thus, Tertullian, speaking of the sufferings of Christ, and applying this passage to his death, says that "this was the special 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 pierced" - כארי kâ'ăriy. It occurs only in one other place, Isaiah 38:13, 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 endeavored 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." Gesenius, Lexicon. 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 "enclosed," 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" - "enclosed 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 Masorah Parva it is said that the word here is to be taken in a different sense from what it has in Isaiah 38:13, 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 Aramaic manner (from כוּר kûr), and in the plural number for כארים kâ'ăriym, 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." From such high authority, and from the uniform mode of interpreting 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 Isaiah 38:13, "as a lion." The material question is, What does the verb mean? The verb - כוּר kûr - properly means "to dig, to bore through, to pierce."
Thus used, according to Gesenius, it would mean "piercing;" and if the word used here is a verb, he supposes that it would refer to the enemies of David as wounding him, or piercing him, "with darts and weapons." He maintains that it is applicable to David literally, and he sees no reason to refer it to the Messiah. But, if so, it is natural to ask why "the hands" and "the feet" are mentioned. Certainly it is not usual for darts and spears thrown by an enemy to injure the hands or the feet particularly; nor is it customary to refer to the hands or the feet when describing the effects produced by the use of those weapons. If the reference were to the enemies of David as wounding him with darts and spears, it would be much more natural to refer to the body in general, without specifying any of the particular members of the body. DeWette renders it "fesseln" - "they bind my hands and my feet."
He remarks, however, in a note, that according to the ancient versions, and the codices of Kennicott and DeRossi, it means durchbohren - bore through. Aquila, Symmachus, and Jerome in five codices, says he, render it bind. The Septuagint renders it ὥρυξαν ōruxan - "they pierced." The Latin Vulgate the same, "foderunt." See the Syriac. For these reasons it seems to me that the common rendering is the true one, and that the meaning is, that, in some proper sense, the enemies here referred to "pierced or bored through" the hands and the feet of the sufferer. Evidently this could not be literally applied to David, for there is not the least authority for supposing that this ever happened to him; nor, as has been shown, was such a thing probable. A casual dart, or the stroke of a spear, might indeed strike the hand or the foot; but it would be unusual and remarkable if they should strike those members of the body and leave the other parts uninjured, so as to make this a matter for special notice; and even if they did strike those parts, it would be every way unlikely that they would "pierce them, or bore them through."
Such an event would be so improbable that we may assume that it did not occur, unless there was the most decisive evidence of the fact. Nor is there the least probability that the enemies of David would pierce his hands and feet deliberately and of design. I say nothing in regard to the fact that they never had him in their possession so that they could do it; it is sufficient to say that this was not a mode of punishing one who was taken captive in war. Conquerors killed their captives; they made them pass under yokes; they put them under saws and harrows of iron (compare 2 Samuel 12:31; 1 Chronicles 20:3); but there is not the slightest evidence that they ever tortured captives in war by piercing the hands and the feet. But, as has been remarked above, there is every reason to believe that this was the ordinary mode of crucifixion. I conclude, therefore, that this must have had original reference to the Messiah. It is no objection to the interpretation that this passage is not expressly referred to as having been fulfilled in the Redeemer, for there are undoubtedly many passages in the prophets which refer to the Messiah, which are not formally applied to him in the New Testament. To make it certain that the prophecy referred to him, and was fulfilled in him, it is not necessary that we should find on record an actual application of the passage to him. All that is necessary in the case is, that it should be a prophecy; that it should have been spoken before the event; and that to him it should be fairly applicable.
I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.I may tell all my bones - That is, I may count them. They are so prominent, so bare, that I can see them and count their number. The idea here is that of emaciation from continued suffering or from some other cause. As applied to the Redeemer, it would denote the effect of long protracted suffering and anxiety on his frame, as rendering it crushed, weakened, emaciated. Compare the notes at Isaiah 52:14; Isaiah 53:2-3. No one can prove that an effect such as is here referred to may not have been produced by the sufferings of the Redeemer.
They look and stare upon me - That is, either my bones - or, my enemies that stand around me. The most obvious construction would refer it to the former - to his bones - as if they stood out prominently and stared him in the face. Rosenmuller understands it in the latter sense, as meaning that his enemies gazed with wonder on such an object. Perhaps this, on the whole, furnishes the best interpretation, as there is something unnatural in speaking of a man's own bones staring or gazing upon him, and as the image of his enemies standing and looking with wonder on one so wretched, so crushed, so broken, is a very striking one. This, too, will better agree with the statement in Isaiah 52:14, "Many were astonished at thee;" and Isaiah 53:2-3, "He hath no form nor comeliness, and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him;" "we hid, as it were, our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not." It accords also better with the statement in the following verse; "they," that is, the same persons referred to, "part my garments amoung them."
They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.They part my garments among them - They divide; they apportion. This refers merely to the fact that they made such a division or distribution of his garments; the manner in which it was done, is specified in the other part of the verse. The word "garments" is a general term, and would be applicable to any part of the raiment.
And cast lots upon my vesture - That is, upon the part here represented by the word "vesture," "they cast lots." There was a general division of his garments by agreement, or in some other mode not involving the use of the lot; on some particular portion, here indicated by the word vesture, the lot was cast to determine whose it should be. The word thus rendered vesture - לבושׁ lebûsh - does not necessarily denote any particular article of raiment, as distinguished from what is meant by the word rendered "garments." Both are general terms denoting clothing, raiment, vestment; and either of the terms might be applied to any article of apparel. The original words used here would not necessarily designate one article of raiment as disposed of without the lot and another specified portion by the lot. But although it could not be argued beforehand from the mere use of the language that such would be the case, yet if that should occur, it would be natural and not improper to apply the language in that sense, and as therein completely fulfilled.
As a matter of fact this was literally fulfilled in the crucifixion of the Saviour. By remarkable circumstances which no human sagacity could have foreseen or anticipated, there occurred a general division of a portion of his raiment, without an appeal to the lot, among the soldiers who were engaged in crucifying him, and a specific disposal of one article of his raiment by the lot, Matthew 27:35; Luke 23:34; John 19:23-24. It never occurred in the life of David, as far as we know, or have reason to believe, that his enemies stripped him, and divided his garments among themselves; and the description here, therefore, could be applicable only to some one else. It was completely fulfilled in the Saviour; and this verse, therefore, furnishes the fullest proof that the psalm refers to him. At the same time it should be observed that these circumstances are such that an impostor could not have secured the correspondence of the events with the prediction. The events referred to were not under the control of him whose garments were thus divided. They depended wholly on others; and by no art or plan could an impostor have so arranged matters that all these things should have appeared to be fulfilled in himself.
But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me.But be not thou far from me, O Lord - "O Yahweh." Others - all others - have forsaken me, and left me to perish. Now, in the day of my desertion and my peril, be thou near to me. See Psalm 22:11. This is the burden of the prayer in the whole psalm, that God would not leave him, but sustain and deliver him. Compare Psalm 22:1.
O my strength - Source of my strength; thou on whom I rely for support and deliverance.
Haste thee to help me - Help me speedily. Come to support me; come to deliver me from these dreadful sorrows. This is not necessarily a prayer to be rescued from death, but it would be applicable to deliverance from those deep mental sorrows that had come upon him - from this abandonment to unutterable woes.
Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog.Deliver my soul from the sword - The word soul here means life, and denotes a living person. It is equivalent to "deliver me." "The sword" is used to denote an instrument of death, or anything that pierces like a sword. Compare 2 Samuel 11:24-25. As applied to the Saviour here, it may mean those extreme mental sufferings that were like the piercing of a sword.
My darling - Margin, "my only one." Prof. Alexander, "my lonely one." DeWette, my life. The Hebrew word - יחיד yâchı̂yd - means "one alone, only," as of an only child; then one alone, as forsaken, solitary, wretched, Psalm 25:16; Psalm 68:6; then it means one only, the only one, in the sense of "most dear, darling." Here, according to Gesenius (Lexicon), it is used poetically for life, as being something most dear, or as denoting all that we have, and, therefore, most precious. Compare Job 2:4. This is the most probable interpretation here, as it would thus correspond with the expression in the first part of the verse, "deliver my soul."
From the power of the dog - Margin, as in Hebrew, from the hand. The enemy is represented, as in Psalm 22:16, as a "dog" (see the notes on that verse); and then that enemy is spoken of as inflicting death by his hand. There is a little incongruity in speaking of a "dog" as having hands, but the image before the mind is that of the enemy with the character of a dog, and thus there is no impropriety in using in reference to him the language which is commonly applied to a man.
Save me from the lion's mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.Save me from the lion's mouth - His enemies represented as fierce and ravening lions, compare Psalm 22:13,
For thou hast heard me - The word "heard" in this place is equivalent to "saved" - or saved in answer to prayer. The fact of "hearing" the prayer, and answering it, is regarded as so identical, or the one as so certainly following from the other, that they may be spoken of as the same thing.
From the horns of the unicorns - The idea here is, that he cried to God when exposed to what is here called "the horns of the unicorns." That is, when surrounded by enemies as fierce and violent as wild beasts - as if he were among "unicorns" seeking his life - he had called upon God, and God had heard him. This would refer to some former period of his life, when surrounded by dangers, or exposed to the attacks of wicked men, and when he had called upon God, and had been heard. There were not a few occasions alike in the life of David and in the life of the Saviour, to which this would be applicable. The fact that he had thus been delivered from danger, is now urged as an argument why God was to be regarded as able to deliver him again, and why the prayer might be offered that he would do it; compare Psalm 22:9-11. To see the force of this it is not necessary to be able to determine with accuracy what is meant here by the word rendered unicorn, or whether the psalmist referred to the animal now denoted by that term. The existence of such an animal was long regarded as fabulous; but though it has been proved that there is such an animal, it is not necessary to suppose that the psalmist referred to it. Gesenius renders the word - ראם re'êm - "buffalo" (Lexicon) So also DeWette. See the notes at Job 39:9-10, where the meaning of the word is fully considered. The word occurs elsewhere only in Numbers 23:22; Numbers 24:8; Deuteronomy 33:17; Psalm 29:6; Psalm 92:10; Isaiah 34:7, in all which places it is rendered "unicorn," or "unicorns."
I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.I will declare thy name - I will make thee known; that is, thine existence; thy perfections; thy law; thy method of salvation. As the result or effect of the interposition which he desired, and for which he prayed, he says that he would diffuse a knowledge of God. This is an expression of true piety, and is a statement of what in a pure mind will always be consequent on a gracious divine interposition - a purpose to make the character of the benefactor known. Compare Psalm 51:12-13; Psalm 18:48-49. As applicable to the Redeemer, it means that he would make the name of God known to people, or that "through him" that name would be made known.
Unto my brethren - Compare John 20:17; Romans 8:29. The word "brethren" would embrace literally brothers; kinsfolk; countrymen; then, those of the same opinion, profession, or religion; then, in a still larger sense, the human race as descended from a common parent. As having reference to the Redeemer, it would embrace here not only those who were his immediate followers and whom he called brethren - not only those of his own nation, - but the human family in general, toward whom he consented to sustain this relation. Compare the notes at Hebrews 2:10-12, where this passage is quoted and expressly applied to our Saviour.
In the midst of the congregation - Among the people assembled to worship there. See the notes at Hebrews 2:12. This is the place where praise is commonly celebrated, and he says that there he would make known the goodness of God. Compare Isaiah 38:19-20. It is not necessary to show that this was literally done by the Redeemer. It is enough to observe that this is the usual language of piety, and that the effect of his work has been to cause the praises of God to be celebrated in tens of thousands of the congregations of his saints.
Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel.Ye that fear the Lord - A phrase denoting those who are pious.
Praise him - This is language which may be supposed to be addressed by the speaker in the great congregation. In the previous verse he had said that he would praise God "in the midst of the congregation;" he here speaks as if he were in that congregation, and addressing them. He, therefore, calls on them to praise and honor God.
All ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him - The descendants of Jacob; that is, all who are true worshippers of God.
And fear him - Honour him, worship him. See the notes at Psalm 5:7.
All ye the seed of Israel - Another name for Jacob Genesis 32:28, and designed to denote also all who are true worshippers of Yahweh.
For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted - This expresses the belief that his prayer had been heard. The fact that he had been thus heard is here assigned to be the ground or reason for the exhortation in the previous verse, addressed to all the pious. The Lord had heard his prayer, and this was a reason why others should also confide in the Lord, and feel assured that he would likewise hear their prayers.
Neither hath he hid his face from him - That is, "permanently, constantly, finally, completely." He has not wholly abandoned me, but though he seemed to forsake me, it was for a time only; and his friendship has not been ultimately and forever withdrawn. It was indeed the foundation of all the petitions in this psalm that the Lord had hid his face from the sufferer Psalm 22:1; but, from this verse, it seems that it was only for a time. That which he passed through was a temporary darkness, succeeded by the clear manifestations of the divine favor. The Lord heard his prayer; the Lord showed that he had not utterly forsaken him.
But when he cried unto him, he heard - Showing that now he had the evidence and the assurance that his prayer had been heard. As applicable to the Redeemer on the cross, this means that though the darkness seemed to continue until death, yet it was not an utter forsaking. His prayer was heard; his work was accepted; the great object for which he came into the world would be accomplished; he himself would rise triumphantly from his sufferings; and the cause which he came to establish, and for which he died, would finally prevail in the world. Compare Hebrews 5:7-8; John 11:42; Isaiah 53:11-12.
My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him.My praise shall be of thee - That is, I will praise thee. I will call to remembrance thy goodness, and will unite with others in celebrating thy faithfulness and lovingkindness.
In the great congregation - See the notes at Psalm 22:27.
I will pay my vows before them that fear him - In the presence of his worshippers. That is, he would keep the vows which in his afflictions he had made, that he would praise and serve God. These vows or promises were of the nature of a "debt" which he says he would remember to pay. Of the Redeemer, this need not be understood personally, but it means that as the result of his prayer having been heard, the worship of God would be celebrated by those who feared him. The solemn worship of the people of God - the praises which they offer to the Most High - may be regarded as worship paid by the Redeemer himself, for he does it in the persons and services of those whom he redeemed. All the praises which proceed from their hearts and lips are the fruit of his "vows," of his fidelity, and his prayers.
The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever.The meek shall eat and be satisfied - The word "meek" - ענוים ‛ănâviym - means here rather "afflicted, distressed, miserable." This is its usual meaning. It is employed sometimes in the sense of mild or meek (compare Numbers 12:3); but it here manifestly denotes the afflicted; the poor; the distressed. When it is said that they would "eat and be satisfied," the idea is that of prosperity or abundance; and the statement is, that, as the result of the Redeemer's work, blessings in abundance would be imparted to the poor and the distressed - those who had been destitute, forsaken, and friendless.
They shall praise the Lord that seek him - Those that worship God, or the pious, shall see abundant cause to praise God. They will not merely call upon him by earnest prayer, but they will render him thanks for his mercies.
Your heart shall live for ever - The hearts of those that worship God. Their hearts would not faint or be discouraged. They would exult and rejoice continually. In other words, their joy and their praise would never die away.
All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.All the ends of the world - All parts of the earth; all nations. The earth is frequently represented in the Scriptures as having limits or boundaries; as spread out; as having corners, etc. Compare Isaiah 11:12; Jeremiah 9:26; Jeremiah 25:23; Jeremiah 49:32; Revelation 7:1. This language is in accordance with the prevailing modes of thinking, in the same way as we say, "the sun rises;" "the sun sets," etc.
Shall remember - The nations are often represented as "forgetting" God; that is, they act as if they had once known him, and had then forgotten him. See Job 8:13; Psalm 9:17; Psalm 50:22; Romans 1:21. Here it is said that they would again call God to remembrance; that is, they would worship him as the true God.
And turn unto the Lord - Turn away from their idols to worship the living God.
And all the kindreds of the nations - All the families. The numerous families upon the earth that constitute the one great family of mankind.
Shall worship before thee - Shall worship in thy presence; that is, shall worship thee. The language is derived from the act of worshipping God in the tabernacle or the temple, before the visible symbol of his presence there. As applicable to the Redeemer, this language is in accordance with what is uniformly said of him and his work, that the world would be converted to the living and true God. Compare the notes at Psalm 2:8.
For the kingdom is the LORD'S: and he is the governor among the nations.For the kingdom is the Lord's - The dominion belongs of right to Yahweh, the true God. See Matthew 6:13; Psalm 47:7-8.
And he is the governor among the nations - He is the rightful governor or ruler among the nations. This is an assertion of the absolute right of Yahweh to reign over the nations of the earth, and the expression of an assurance on the part of the Messiah that, as the consequence of his work, this empire of Yahweh over the nations would be actually established. Compare Daniel 7:13-14, note; Daniel 7:27, note; and 1 Corinthians 15:24-28, notes.
All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul.All they that be fat upon the earth - The general meaning of this verse is, that "all classes of persons" will come and worship the true God; not the poor and needy only, the afflicted, and the oppressed, but the rich and the prosperous. There are three classes mentioned as representing all:
(1) the rich and prosperous;
(2) they who bow down to the dust, or the crushed and the oppressed;
(3) those who are approaching the grave, and have no power to keep themselves alive.
The first class comprises those who are mentioned here as being fat. This image is often used to denote prosperity: Judges 3:29; Job 15:27; Psalm 17:10; Psalm 73:4 (Hebrew); Deuteronomy 31:20; Deuteronomy 32:15. The meaning is, that the rich, the great, the prosperous would be among the multitudes who would be converted to the living God.
Shall eat and worship - This expression is derived from the custom of offering sacrifices, and of feasting upon portions of the animal that was slain. In accordance with this, the blessings of salvation are often represented as a "feast" to which all are invited. See the notes at Isaiah 25:6. Compare Luke 14:16.
All they that go down to the dust - All those descending to the dust. Those who are bowed down to the dust; who are crushed, broken, and oppressed; the poor, the sad, the sorrowful. Salvation is for them, as well as for the rich and the great.
Shall bow before him - Shall worship before the true God.
And none can keep alive his own soul - Or rather, and he who cannot keep his soul (that is, himself) alive. So the Hebrew properly means, and this accords better with the connection. The class here represented is composed of those who are ready to perish, who are about to die - the aged - the infirm - the sick - the dying. These, thus helpless, feeble, and sad, shall also become interested in the great plan of salvation, and shall turn unto the Lord. These classes would represent all the dwellers on the earth; and the affirmation is equivalent to a statement that men of all classes would be converted, and would partake of the blessings of salvation.
A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.A seed shall serve him - A people; a race. The word used here, and rendered "seed" - זרע zera‛ - means properly "a sowing;" then, a planting, a plantation; then. seed sown - of plants, trees, or grain; and then, a generation of men - children, offspring, posterity: Genesis 3:15; Genesis 13:16; Genesis 15:5, Genesis 15:13; et al. Hence, it means a race, stock, or family. It is used here as denoting those who belong to the family of God; his children. Compare Isaiah 6:13; Isaiah 65:9, Isaiah 65:23. The meaning here is, that, as the result of the work performed by the sufferer, many would be brought to serve God.
It - To wit, the seed mentioned; the people referred to.
Shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation - The word here rendered "Lord" is not יהוה Yahweh, but אדני 'Âdônay, a word which is often used as a name of God - and should not be printed here in small capitals. Prof. Alexander renders this, it seems to me improperly, "It shall be related of the Lord to the next generation." So DeWette and Hengstenberg. But the common rendering appears to me to furnish a better signification, and to be more in accordance with the meaning of the original. According to this the idea is, that the seed - the people referred to - would be reckoned to the Lord as a generation of his own people, a race, a tribe, a family pertaining to him. They would be regarded as such by him; they would be so estimated by mankind. They would not be a generation of aliens and strangers, but a generation of his people and friends. Compare Psalm 87:6.
They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.They shall come - That is, there were those who would thus come. Who these would be is not specified. The obvious sense is, that some would rise up to do this; that the succession of such men would be kept up from age to age, making known these great facts and truths to succeeding generations. The language would be applicable to a class of men called, from age to age, to proclaim these truths, and set apart to this work. It is a fair application of the verse to refer it to those who have been actually designated for such an office - the ministers of religion appointed to keep up the memory of the great work of redemption in the world. Thus understood, the passage is a proper carrying out of the great truths stated in the psalm - that, in virtue of the sufferings of the Redeemer, God would be made known to men; that his worship would be kept up in the earth; that distant generations would serve him.
And shall declare his righteousness - No language could better describe the actual office of the ministers of the Gospel as appointed to set forth the "righteousness" of God, to vindicate his government and laws, and to state the way in which men may be made righteous, or may be justified. Compare Romans 1:17; Romans 3:26.
Unto a people that shall be born - To future generations.
That he hath done this - That God has done or accomplished what is stated in this psalm; that is, on the supposition that it refers to the Messiah, that he has caused an atonement to be made for mankind, or that redemption has been provided through the sufferings of the Messiah.
I have given what seems to me to be a fair exposition of this psalm, referring it wholly to the Messiah. No part of the interpretation, on this view of the psalm, seems to me to be forced or unnatural, and as thus interpreted it seems to me to have as fair and obvious an applicability to him as even Isaiah 53:1-12, or any other portion of the prophecies. The scene in the psalm is the cross, the Redeemer suffering for the sins of man. The main features of the psalm relate to the course of thoughts which then passed through the mind of the Redeemer; his sorrow at the idea of being abandoned by God; his confidence in God; the remembrance of his early hopes; his emotions at the taunts and revilings of his enemies; his consciousness of prostrated strength; his feelings as the soldiers pierced his hands and his feet, and as they proceeded to divide his raiment; his prayer that his enemies might not be suffered to accomplish their design, or to defeat the work of redemption; his purpose to make God known to men; his assurance that the effect of his sufferings would be to bring the dwellers on the earth to serve God, and to make his name and his righteousness known to far distant times. I regard the whole psalm, therefore, as applicable to the Messiah alone; and believing it to be inspired, I cannot but feel that we have here a most interesting and affecting account, given long before it occurred, of what actually passed through the mind of the Redeemer when on the cross - an account more full than we have anywhere else in the Bible. Other statements pertain more particularly to the external events of the crucifixion; here we have a record in anticipation of what actually passed through his own mind in those hours of unspeakable anguish when he made an atonement for the sins of the world.