John 19:29
Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it on hyssop, and put it to his mouth.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(29) Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar.—This vessel of the ordinary sour wine drunk by the Roman soldiers, was placed near in order to be given to those who were crucified. Thirst was always an accompaniment of death by crucifixion, and that the vessel of wine was prepared for this purpose is made probable by the mention of the sponge and hyssop (Comp. Note on Matthew 27:48.)

And put it upon hyssop.—This detail is peculiar to St. John. Bochart (Hierozoicon, i. 2, 50) thinks that the plant was marjoram, or some plant like it, and he is borne out by ancient tradition. The stalks, from a foot to a foot and a half high, would be sufficient to reach to the cross. The plant is named in one other passage in the New Testament (Hebrews 9:19), and is frequent in the Greek of the Old Testament. The Hebrew word is ēzōv, and the identification must always be uncertain, because we cannot know whether the Greek translation is based upon an identification of the plant, or upon a similarity in the sound of the names.

19:19-30 Here are some remarkable circumstances of Jesus' death, more fully related than before. Pilate would not gratify the chief priests by allowing the writing to be altered; which was doubtless owing to a secret power of God upon his heart, that this statement of our Lord's character and authority might continue. Many things done by the Roman soldiers were fulfilments of the prophecies of the Old Testament. All things therein written shall be fulfilled. Christ tenderly provided for his mother at his death. Sometimes, when God removes one comfort from us, he raises up another for us, where we looked not for it. Christ's example teaches all men to honour their parents in life and death; to provide for their wants, and to promote their comfort by every means in their power. Especially observe the dying word wherewith Jesus breathed out his soul. It is finished; that is, the counsels of the Father concerning his sufferings were now fulfilled. It is finished; all the types and prophecies of the Old Testament, which pointed at the sufferings of the Messiah, were accomplished. It is finished; the ceremonial law is abolished; the substance is now come, and all the shadows are done away. It is finished; an end is made of transgression by bringing in an everlasting righteousness. His sufferings were now finished, both those of his soul, and those of his body. It is finished; the work of man's redemption and salvation is now completed. His life was not taken from him by force, but freely given up.See the notes at Matthew 27:46-50.

That the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst - See Psalm 69:21. Thirst was one of the most distressing circumstances attending the crucifixion. The wounds were highly inflamed, and a raging fever was caused, usually, by the sufferings on the cross, and this was accompanied by insupportable thirst. See the notes at Matthew 27:35. A Mameluke, or Turkish officer, was crucified, it is said in an Arabic manuscript recently translated, on the banks of the Barada River, under the castle of Damascus. He was nailed to the cross on Friday, and remained until Sunday noon, when he died. After giving an account of the crucifixion, the narrator proceeds: "I have heard this from one who witnessed it; and he thus remained until he died, patient and silent, without wailing, but looking around him to the right and the left, upon the people. But he begged for water, and none was given him; and the hearts of the people were melted with compassion for him, and with pity on one of God's creatures, who, yet a boy, was suffering under so grievous a trial. In the meantime the water was flowing around him, and he gazed upon it, and longed for one drop of it; and he complained of thirst all the first day, after which he was silent, for God gave him strength" - Wiseman's Lectures, pp. 164, 165, ed.

29. filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon—a stalk of

hyssop, and put it to his mouth—Though a stalk of this plant does not exceed eighteen inches in length, it would suffice, as the feet of crucified persons were not raised high. "The rest said, Let be"—[that is, as would seem, 'Stop that officious service'] "let us see whether Elias will come to save Him" (Mt 27:49). This was the last cruelty He was to suffer, but it was one of the most unfeeling. "And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice" (Lu 23:46). This "loud voice," noticed by three of the Evangelists, does not imply, as some able interpreters contend, that our Lord's strength was so far from being exhausted that He needed not to die then, and surrendered up His life sooner than Nature required, merely because it was the appointed time. It was indeed the appointed time, but time that He should be "crucified through weakness" (1Co 13:4), and Nature was now reaching its utmost exhaustion. But just as even His own dying saints, particularly the martyrs of Jesus, have sometimes had such gleams of coming glory immediately before breathing their last, as to impart to them a strength to utter their feelings which has amazed the by-standers, so this mighty voice of the expiring Redeemer was nothing else but the exultant spirit of the Dying Victor, receiving the fruit of His travail just about to be embraced, and nerving the organs of utterance to an ecstatic expression of its sublime feelings (not so much in the immediately following words of tranquil surrender, in Luke, as in the final shout, recorded only by John): "Father, into Thy hands I COMMEND My spirit!" (Lu 23:46). Yes, the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. His soul has emerged from its mysterious horrors; "My God" is heard no more, but in unclouded light He yields sublime into His Father's hands the infinitely precious spirit—using here also the words of those matchless Psalms (Ps 31:5) which were ever on His lips. "As the Father receives the spirit of Jesus, so Jesus receives those of the faithful" (Ac 7:59) [Bengel]. And now comes the expiring mighty shout.

Ver. 29. See Poole on "Jn 19:28". Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar,.... In a place near at hand, as Nonnus observes; not on purpose, for the sake of them that were crucified, either to refresh their spirits, or stop a too great effusion of blood, that they might continue the longer in their misery; but for the use of the soldiers who crucified Christ, vinegar being part of the allowance of Roman soldiers (m), and what they used to drink: sometimes it was mixed with water; which mixed liquor they called "Posca" (n), and was what even their generals sometimes used; as Scipio, Metellus, Trajan, Adrian, and others: vinegar was also used by the Jews for drink, as appears from Ruth 2:14 and "dip thy morsel in the vinegar", which Boaz's reapers had with them in the field; "because of heat", as the commentators say (o); that being good to cool, and to extinguish thirst; for which reason the soldiers here offer it to Christ; though the Chaldee paraphrase of the above place makes it to be a kind of sauce or pap boiled in vinegar; and such an "Embamma" made of vinegar the Romans had, in which they dipped their food (p); but this here seems to be pure vinegar, and to be different from that which the other evangelists speak of, which was mingled with gall, or was sour wine with myrrh, Matthew 27:34. Vinegar indeed is good to revive the spirits, and hyssop, which is after mentioned, is an herb of a sweet smell; and if the reed, which the other evangelists make mention of, was the sweet calamus, as some have thought, they were all of them things of a refreshing nature: vinegar was also used for stopping blood (q), when it flowed from wounds in a large quantity; and of the same use were sponges; hence Tertullian (r) mentions "spongias retiariorum", the sponges of the fencers, which they had with them to stop any effusion of blood that should be made in their exercises; but then it can hardly be thought that these things should be in common prepared at crucifixions for such ends, on purpose to linger out a miserable life a little longer, which would be shocking barbarity; and especially such a provision would never be, made at this time, on such an account, since the Jews sabbath drew nigh, and they were in haste to have the executions over before that came on, that the bodies might not remain on the cross on that day; for which reason they would do nothing, at this time, however, to prolong the lives of the malefactors; wherefore it is most reasonable, that this vessel of vinegar was not set for any such purpose, but was for the use of the soldiers; and therefore this being at hand when Christ signified his thirst, they offered some of it in the following manner:

and they filled a sponge with vinegar; it being the nature of a sponge (which Nonnus here calls , "a branch of the sea", because it grows there) to swallow up anything that is liquid, and which may be again squeezed and sucked out of it; hence the Jews say (s) of it, , "the sponge which swallows up liquids"; and used it for such a purpose; "and put it upon hyssop"; meaning not the juice of hyssop, into which some have thought the sponge with vinegar was put, but the herb, and a stalk of it: the other evangelists say, it was put "upon a reed"; meaning either that the sponge with the hyssop were put about a reed, and so given him; or rather it was a stalk of hyssop, which was like a reed or cane; and in this country of Judea grew very large, sufficient for such a purpose. The hyssop with the Jews was not reckoned among herbs, but trees; see 1 Kings 4:33 and they speak (t) of hyssop which they gather "for wood"; the stalks of which therefore must be of some size; yea, they call (u) a stalk which has a top to it, "a reed", or cane; which observation seems to reconcile the other evangelists with this: and they distinguish their hyssop which was right for use from that which had an epithet joined to it; as, Roman hyssop, Grecian hyssop, wild and bastard hyssop (w): and some writers (x) observe even of our common hyssop, that it has sometimes stalks of nine inches long, or longer, and hard and woody, nay, even a foot and a half; with one of which a man with his arms stretched out might possibly reach the mouth of a person on a cross: how high crosses usually were is not certain, nor was there any fixed measure for them; sometimes they were higher, and sometimes lower; the cross or gallows made by Haman for Mordecai was very high indeed, and the mouth of a person could not have been reached with an hyssop stalk; but such an one might, as was erected for Saul's sons, whose bodies on it could be reached by the beasts of the field, 2 Samuel 21:10 and so low was the cross on which Blandina the martyr suffered, as the church at Lyons relates (y), when on the cross she was exposed to beasts of prey, and became food for them: so that there is no need to suppose any fault in the text, and that instead of "hyssop" it should be read "hyssos"; which was a kind of javelin the Romans call "Pilum", about five or six foot long, which, it is supposed, one of the soldiers might have, and on it put the hyssop with the sponge and vinegar; but this conjecture is not supported by any copy, or ancient version; the Syriac version, which is a very ancient one, reads "hyssop". The Arabic and Persic versions render it, "a reed", as in the other evangelists; and the Ethiopic version has both, "they filled a sponge with vinegar, and it was set round with hyssop, and they bound it upon a reed"; and so some have thought that a bunch of hyssop was stuck round about the sponge of vinegar, which was fastened to the top of a reed; and the words will bear to be rendered; "setting it about with hyssop": this they might have out of the gardens, which were near this place, or it might grow upon the mountain itself; for we are told (z), it grew in great plenty upon the mountains about Jerusalem, and that its branches were almost a cubit long. Josephus (a) makes mention of a village beyond Jordan called Bethezob, which, as he says, signifies the house of hyssop; perhaps so called from the large quantity of hyssop that grew near it:

and put it to his mouth; whether Christ drank of it or no is not certain; it seems by what follows as if he did; at least he took it, being offered to him: the Jews themselves say (b), that Jesus said, give me a little water to drink, and they gave him , "sharp vinegar"; which so far confirms the evangelic history.

(m) Julian. Imperator. Epist. 27. p. 161. Vid. Lydium de re militari, l. 6. c. 7. p. 245. (n) Salmuth. in Panciroll. rerum memorab. par. 1. Tit. 53. p. 274. (o) Jarchi & Aben Ezra in loc. (p) Salmuth. ib. par. 2. Tit. 2. p. 83. (q) Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 31. c. 11. (r) De Spectaculis, c. 25. (s) Maimon. in Misn. Sabbat, c. 21. sect. 3. Misn. Celim, c. 9. sect. 4. (t) Misn. Parah, c. 11. sect. 8. Maimon. Hilch. Parah Adumah, c. 11. sect. 7. (u) Gloss. in T. Bab. Succa, fol. 13. 1.((w) Misn. Parah, c. 11. sect. 7. Negaim, c. 14. 6. T. Bab. Succa, fol. 13. 1. & Cholin, fol. 62. 2.((x) Dodonaeus, l. 4. c. 19. (y) Apud Euseb. Eccl. Hist. l. 5. c. 1. p. 161. Vid. Lipsium de Cruce, l. 3. c. 11. (z) Arabes Lexicograph. apud de Dieu in loc. (a) De Bello Jud. l. 6. c. 3. sect. 4. (b) Toklos Jesu, p. 17.

Now there was set a {c} vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.

(c) Galatinus witnesses out of the book called Sanhedrin that the Jews often gave those who were executed vinegar mixed with frankincense to drink, to make them somewhat delirious: so the Jews provided charitably for the poor men's conscience who were executed.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
John 19:29-30. Ἔκειτο] as in John 2:6. The vessel was in readiness for the purpose of quenching the thirst of those crucified (who had always to suffer much therefrom), with sponge and stalk of hyssop, which were to serve for handing it up.

ὄξους] vinegar, i.e. small sour wine (from the skins of grapes already pressed), which served as a drink for labourers and soldiers; Wetstein on Matthew 27:34; Hermann, Privatalterth. § 26. 10. Of the bitter stupifying drink, which Jesus had disdained to receive (Matthew 27:34-35; Mark 15:23-24), John says nothing. On the drink tendered to him, Luke 23:36, see in loc.

The subject of σπόγγον, κ.τ.λ. is not named; yet there can be no doubt about who are meant, the soldiers.

ὑσσώπῷ] More exactly than in Matthew 27:48, and since the hyssop grows stalks from 1 to 1½ feet high (Bochart, Hieroz. I. 2. 50; Celsius, Hierobot I. p. 407 f.), such an one was fully sufficient to reach to the mouth of Jesus on the not lofty (Salmasius, de cruce, p. 284) cross.[249]

αὐτοῦ τῷ στόματι] to His mouth. That the stalk was precisely of hyssop, is accidental; as hyssop of scorning, in opposition to the hyssop of reconciliation, Psalms 51. (Hengstenberg), it is not to be thought of, since the tender of the drink in the present passage is certainly not an act of scorn. Moreover, it is precisely such non-essential special statements as these which have flowed from the most vivid recollection of an eye-witness.

τετέλεσται] Quite as in John 19:28, to be referred to the work of Jesus. Comp. John 17:4. It is by Him brought to completion with this Acts of the last death-suffering. Further, Bengel aptly remarks: “hoc verbum in corde Jesu erat, John 19:28, nunc ore profertur.”

παρέδ. τὸ πν.] He gave over (to God) His spirit, characteristic designation of dying, in conformity with that which dying was in Jesus’ case. It is the actual surrender of His self-conscious Ego on the decease of the body; the verbal surrender, Luke 23:46,[250] appears, since John has, instead of it, the simply grand concluding word τετέλεσται, to belong to the enlarging representations of tradition, but, after the bowing of the head, would be no longer suitable, and hence must be assumed as taking place after τετέλεσται.

Note further, that the εἶναι εἰς τ. κόλπον τοῦ πατρός meant in John 1:18 did not now take place, but first by means of the ascension (John 20:17).

[249] Least of all with a dogmatic background, although Steinmeyer assumes that διψῶ is a request to His enemies, and thereby illustrates the love, which completed the act of atonement. This request, he thinks, only the dying Mediator could have made.

[250] Of the seven words on the cross, only Matthew 27:46, according to Schenkel’s too rash conclusion, is to be considered as altogether beyond doubt. Mark also has only this one (Mark 15:34), Luke has three (Luke 23:34; Luke 23:43; Luke 23:46), and John likewise three (John 19:26-28; John 19:30).John 19:29. Σκεῦοςμεστόν—“There was set a vessel full of vinegar”; the mention of the vessel betrays the eye-witness. “The Synoptists do not mention the σκεῦος, but John had stood beside it.” Plummer. ὄξος, the vinegar used by soldiers. [Ulpian says: “vinum atque acetum milites nostri solent percipere, uno die vinum, alio die acetum”. Keim, vi. 162.] Here it seems to have been provided for the crucified, for as Weiss and Plummer observe, there were a sponge and a hyssop-reed also at hand. οἱ δὲ, i.e., the soldiers, but cf. Mark 15:36; πλήσαντες … They filled a sponge, because a cup was impracticable, and put it round a stalk of hyssop, and thus applied the restorative to His mouth. The plant called “hyssop” has not been identified. All that was requisite was a reed (cf. περιθεὶς καλάμῳ, Matthew 27:48, Mark 15:36) of two or three feet long, as the crucified was only slightly elevated.29. Now … vinegar] Omit ‘now.’ S. John’s precise knowledge appears once more: the other three do not mention the vessel, but he had stood close to it. The ‘vinegar’ was probably the sour wine or posca in a large jar ‘set’ by the soldiers for their own use while on guard. Criminals sometimes lived for many hours, even a day or two, on the cross.

and they filled, &c.] The true text gives, having placed therefore a sponge full of the vinegar upon hyssop they put it to his mouth. The difference between the two verbs rendered ‘put’ is very graphic; the one expresses the placing of the sponge round the stalk (comp. Matthew 21:33; Matthew 27:28; Matthew 27:48), the other the offering (John 16:2) and applying (Mark 10:13) it to his lips.

hyssop] The plant cannot be identified with certainty. The caper-plant, which is as likely as any, has stalks which run to two or three feet, and this would suffice. It is not probable that Christ’s feet were on a level with the spectators’ heads, as pictures represent: this would have involved needless trouble and expense. Moreover the mockery of the soldiers recorded by S. Luke (see on Luke 23:36) is more intelligible if we suppose that they could almost put a vessel to His lips. S. John alone mentions the hyssop; another mark of exact knowledge.

put it to his mouth] The actors and their motive are left doubtful. Probably soldiers, but possibly Jews, and probably in compassion rather than mockery; or perhaps in compassion under cover of mockery (comp. Mark 15:36).John 19:29. Ὑσσώπῳ) The hyssop in those regions being larger than that of our country, suitably held with its small branches a sponge full of vinegar.—περιθέντες, putting upon the hyssop) viz. the sponge.Verse 29. - There was set there a vessel full of vinegar, probably for the use of the soldiers, and occasionally offered to the sufferers to soothe a part of their torment. John clearly associates this fact with the unconscious fulfillment of prophecy. Matthew gives it, with strange lack of connection, as following the cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" So they (Matthew, "one") having placed a sponge full of the vinegar upon hyssop. This hyssop plant, if identical with the caper plant, does produce stems three or four feet long, and may therefore be identical with the "reed" mentioned in Matthew and Mark, while Luke (Luke 23:36) refers the act to the soldiers offering him vinegar to drink, saying, "Let us see whether Elias will come and save him." They put it, brought it, presented it to his mouth. This was not the stupefying draught which he refused, but an exhilarating one. Vinegar

See on Matthew 27:48.

Hyssop

Matthew and Mark have καλάμῳ, a reed. Luke says merely that they offered Him vinegar. The vinegar mingled with gall (Matthew 27:34), or the wine mingled with myrrh (Mark 15:23) was offered to Jesus before his crucifixion as a stupefying draught. The hyssop gives a hint of the height of the cross, as the greatest length of the hyssop reed was not more than three or four feet. The vinegar in this case was offered in order to revive Christ. John does not mention the stupefying draught.

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