Matthew 27:34
They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(34) Vinegar to drink mingled with gall.—In Mark 15:23, “wine mingled with myrrh.” The animal secretion known as “gall” is clearly out of the question, and the meaning of the word is determined by its use in the Greek version of the Old Testament, where it stands for the “wormwood” of Proverbs 5:4, for the poisonous herb joined with “wormwood” in Deuteronomy 29:18. It was clearly something at once nauseous and narcotic, given by the merciful to dull the pain of execution, and mixed with the sour wine of the country and with myrrh to make it drinkable. It may have been hemlock, or even poppy-juice, but there are no materials for deciding. It is probable that the offer came from the more pitiful of the women mentioned by St. Luke (Luke 23:27) as following our Lord and lamenting. Such acts were among the received “works of mercy” of the time and place. The “tasting” implied a recognition of the kindly purpose of the act, but a recognition only. In the refusal to do more than taste we trace the resolute purpose to drink the cup which His Father had given Him to the last drop, and not to dull either the sense of suffering nor the clearness of His communion with His Father with the slumberous potion. The same draught was, we may believe, offered to the two criminals who were crucified with Him.

27:31-34 Christ was led as a Lamb to the slaughter, as a Sacrifice to the altar. Even the mercies of the wicked are really cruel. Taking the cross from him, they compelled one Simon to bear it. Make us ready, O Lord, to bear the cross thou hast appointed us, and daily to take it up with cheerfulness, following thee. Was ever sorrow like unto his sorrow? And when we behold what manner of death he died, let us in that behold with what manner of love he loved us. As if death, so painful a death, were not enough, they added to its bitterness and terror in several ways.They gave him vinegar ... - Mark says that, "they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh." The two evangelists mean the same thing. Vinegar was made of light wine rendered acid, and was the common drink of the Roman soldiers, and this might be called either vinegar or wine in common language. "Myrrh" is a bitter substance produced in Arabia, but is used often to denote anything bitter. The meaning of the name is "bitterness." See the notes at Matthew 2:11. "Gall" is properly a bitter secretion from the liver, but the word is also used to denote anything exceedingly "bitter," as wormwood, etc. The drink, therefore, was vinegar or sour wine, rendered "bitter" by the infusion of wormwood or some other very bitter substance. The effect of this, it is said, was to stupefy the senses. It was often given to those who were crucified, to render them insensible to the pains of death. Our Lord, knowing this, when he bad tasted it refused to drink. He was unwilling to blunt the pains of dying. The "cup" which his "Father" gave him he rather chose to drink. He came to suffer. His sorrows were necessary for the work of the atonement, and he gave himself up to the unmitigated sufferings of the cross. This was presented to him in the early part of his sufferings, or when he was about to be suspended on the cross. "Afterward," when he was on the cross and just before his death, vinegar was offered to him "without the myrrh" - the vinegar which the soldiers usually drank - and of this he drank. See Matthew 27:49, and John 19:28-30. When Matthew and Mark say that he "would not drink," they refer to a different thing and a different time from John, and there is no contradiction. Mt 27:34-50. Crucifixion and Death of the Lord Jesus. ( = Mr 15:25-37; Lu 23:33-46; Joh 19:18-30).

For the exposition, see on [1375]Joh 19:18-30.

Ver. 32-34. Mark saith, Mark 15:21-23, And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross. And they bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull. And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not.

Luke is larger in his account of the passages between his condemnation and crucifixion, Luke 23:26-32. And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus. And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us. For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry? And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death.

John 19:17, saith no more than, And he bearing his cross went forth unto a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha. Matthew, and Mark, and Luke say, that a countryman, one Simon a Cyrenian, (compelled to it by the soldiers), carried the cross after Christ. John saith, that he himself bare it. Both were doubtless true. Some say that Christ himself did carry it through the city, and when he was out of the city this Simon carried it. Others think, that Christ being wearied, Simon took it. But reason will tell us, that the cross was too heavy a piece of timber for one to bear, and therefore Simon was compelled to bear the hinder part; therefore Luke saith, he bare it after Jesus. The dispute whether this Simon was a native Jew, though an inhabitant of Cyrene, or a proselyted Cyrenian, or as yet a pagan, and whether this Cyrene was one of the ten cities comprehended in the name Decapolis, is not worth spending any words about. All the evangelists agree, that he was crucified at

Golgotha; Luke calls it Calvary; they are both names of the same signification,

the place of a skull; the one is the Hebrew term, the other Latin.

They gave him vinegar to drink, mingled with gall. Mark saith, wine mingled with myrrh. There is so great a cognation between wine and vinegar, that it is no wonder if one evangelist calls it vinegar, another wine, which, if it be acid, is vinegar. The word translated gall signifies all bitterness, whether it be caused from gall or myrrh. Some think that some good people gave him wine, and the soldiers added myrrh to it. But this is a great uncertainty. Certain it is, that it was an ordinary favour they showed to dying persons, to give them some intoxicating potion, to make them less sensible of their pain. It is probable it was something of this nature; but our Saviour was not afraid to die, and so had no need of such an antidote against the pain of it; he refused it. We shall find they afterward gave him something to drink also.

Luke tells us that great multitudes followed him to the place of execution, (which is still very ordinary), lamenting him, to whom our Saviour saith, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children; and then prophesieth the miseries that should follow his death, to that degree, that the barren should bless themselves; and they all should say to the mountains, Fall on us, and to the hills, Cover us. He bids the women weep only for themselves and for their children; for how much better is it for persons of any tenderness to have no children, than to have children, and to see them dashed against the stones, as was threatened to Babylon, Psalm 137:9; or to kill them for the parents’ sustenance, as it happened in Ahab’s time; or to see them slain before the parents’ faces, as it happened to Zedekiah, when the enemy took Jerusalem! Jeremiah 52:10. The people also, he saith, should (as it was of old prophesied of those of Samaria, Hosea 10:8) cry to the mountains to cover them, and to the hills to fall on them: a proverbial expression, to signify their wishing themselves dead and under ground; or expounded by Isaiah 2:19, And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth. See the like expressions, Revelation 6:16 9:6. In those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them. For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry? It is another proverbial expression, which may be understood impersonally: If they do, that is, if it be thus done to. If God suffers them thus to do to me, who am his Son, what shall be done to you, who are but as dry sticks, and so fitter for the fire? If judgment begin at the house of God, where shall the wicked and ungodly appear? 1 Peter 4:17,18. They gave him vinegar to drink,.... It was a custom with the Jews (o) when

"a man went out to be executed, to give him to drink a grain of frankincense in a cup of wine, that his understanding might be disturbed, as it is said, Proverbs 31:6. "Give strong drink to him that is ready to perish, and wine to those that be of heavy hearts"; and the tradition is, that the honourable women in Jerusalem gave this freely; but if they did not, it was provided at the charge of the congregation.

The design of it was to cheer their spirits, and intoxicate their heads, that they might not be sensible of their pain and misery. But such a cup was not allowed Christ at the public expense, nor were the honourable women so compassionate to him; or if it was sent him, the soldiers did not give it him, but another potion in the room of it; indeed Mark says, they gave him "wine mingled with myrrh",

Mark 15:23; which was either a cordial provided by his friends, and given him, and is different from what the soldiers gave him here; or the sense is, that they gave him the cup, that was so called, but not the thing; but instead of it,

vinegar mingled with gall. The Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions, instead of "vinegar", read "wine"; and so does Munster's Hebrew Gospel, and so it is read in Beza's most ancient copy, and in another exemplar, and in one of Stephens's; and which may be easily reconciled with the common reading, and that with Mark; for the wine they gave him was flat and sour, and no other or better than vinegar; and real vinegar may be so called, as this seems to be; and the rather, because vinegar was a part of the Roman soldiers' allowance, and so they had it ready at hand; See Gill on John 19:29. As also, because it was thought that vinegar was useful to prolong the life of a man ready to die; and therefore they might choose to give it to Christ, that he might live the longer in misery: so the Jews (p) write, that "if a man swallows a wasp or hornet alive, he cannot live; but they must give him to drink a quarter, , "of vinegar of Shamgaz", (which the gloss says is strong vinegar,) and it is possible he may live a little while, until he hath given orders to his house.

The Arabic version, instead of "gall", reads "myrrh"; nor are we to suppose that this drink was mixed with the gall of a beast itself, but with something that was as bitter as "gall"; as wormwood, or myrrh, or any other bitter, to make it distasteful. This potion of vinegar with gall, was an aggravating circumstance in our Lord's sufferings, being given to him when he had a violent thirst upon him; and was an emblem of the bitter cup of God's wrath, he had already tasted of in the garden, and was about to drink up: the Jews had a notion of vinegar's being expressive of the chastisements of the Messiah; the words in Ruth 2:14, they say (q),

"speak of the king Messiah; "come thou hither", draw nigh to the kingdom; "and eat of the bread", this is the bread of the kingdom, "and dip thy morsel in the vinegar",

, "these are the chastisements", as it is said in Isaiah 53:5, "he was wounded for our transgressions".

By this offer was fulfilled the prophecy in Psalm 69:21, and which he did not altogether refuse; for it follows,

and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink: not because it was the vinegar of Gentiles, which was forbidden by the Jewish canons (q), lest it should have been offered to idols; but because he would make use of no means either to prolong his life, or discompose his mind; and that it might appear he knew what he did, and that he was not afraid nor unwilling to die; though he thought fit to taste of it in a superficial way, to show he did not despise nor resent their offer; and that he was really athirst, and ready to drink a more disagreeable potion than that,

(o) T. Bab. Avoda Zara, fol. 12. 2.((p) Midrash Ruth, fol. 33. 2.((q) T. Bab. Avoda Zara, fol. 29. 2.

{7} They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.

(7) Christ found no comfort anywhere, that in him we might be filled with comfort.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 27:34 The Jews were in the habit of giving the criminal a stupefying drink before nailing him to the cross. Sanhedr. vi. See Wetstein, ad Marc. xv. 23; Doughtaeus, Anal. II. p. 42. This drink consisted of wine (see the critical remarks) mixed with gall, according to Matthew; with myrrh, according to Mark. χολή admits of no other meaning than that of gall, and on no account must it be made to bear the sense of myrrh or wormwood[36] (Beza, Grotius, Paulus, Langen, Steinmeyer, Keim). The tradition about the gall, which unquestionably belongs to a later period, originated in the LXX. rendering of Psalm 68:23; people wished to make out that there was maltreatment in the very drink that was offered.

ΓΕΥΣΆΜΕΝΟς] According to Matthew, then, Jesus rejected the potion because the taste of gall made it undrinkable. A later view than that embodied in Mark 15:23, from which passage it would appear that Jesus does not even taste the drink, but declines it altogether, because He has no desire to be stupefied before death.

[36] No doubt the LXX. translate לַעֲנָה, wormwood, by χολή (Proverbs 5:4; Lamentations 3:15); but in those passages they took it as meaning literal “gall,” just as in the case of Psalm 69:22, which regulates the sense of our present passage, they also understood gall to be meant, although the word in the original is רֹאשׁ (poison). Comp. Jeremiah 8:14; Deuteronomy 29:17. A usage so entirely foreign to the Greek tongue certainly cannot be justified on the ground of one or two passages, like these from the Septuagint. Had “bitter spiced wine” (Steinmeyer) been what Matthew intended, he would have had no more difficulty in expressing this than Mark himself. But the idea he wished to convey was that of wine along with gall, in fact mixed with it, and this idea he expresses as plain as words can speak it. Comp. Barnab. 7 : σταυρωθεὶς ἐποτίζετο ὂξει καὶ χκολῇ.Matthew 27:34. οἶνον μετὰ χολῆς μ., wine mingled with gall. Mk. has ἐσμυρνισμένον οἶν., wine drugged with myrrh, a drink given by a merciful custom before execution to deaden the sense of pain. The wine would be the sour wine or posca used by Roman soldiers. In Mk. Jesus declines the drink, apparently without tasting, desiring to suffer with clear mind. In Mt. He tastes (γευσάμενος) and then declines, apparently because unpalatable, suggesting a different motive in the offerers, not mercy but cruelty; maltreatment in the very drink offered. To this view of the proceeding is ascribed the μετὰ χολῆς of Mt.’s text, not without the joint influence of Psalm 69:22 (Meyer and Weiss). Harmonists strive to reconcile the two accounts by taking χολή as signifying in Hellenistic usage any bitter liquid (quamvis amaritiem, Elsner), and therefore among other things myrrh. Proverbs 5:4, Lament. Matthew 3:15 (Sept[152]), in which χολή stands for wormwood, לַעֲנָה, are eited in proof of this. Against the idea that Mt’s text has been altered from Mk.’s under the influence of Psalm 69:22, is the retention of οἶνος (ὄξος in Ps. and in T. R.) and the absence of any reference to the passage in the usual style—“that it might be fulfilled,” etc.

[152] Septuagint.34. vinegar … mingled with gall] “Wine mingled with myrrh” (Mark). Vinegar = “sour wine” (vinaigre), or posca, such as was ordinarily drunk by the Roman soldiers. The potion was a stupefying draught given to criminals to deaden the sense of pain. “Some of the wealthy ladies of Jerusalem charged themselves with this office of mercy.” (Lightfoot, ad loc.) Jesus refuses this alleviation of His sufferings.Matthew 27:34. Ὄξος, vinegar) St Mark (Mark 15:23) calls it, ἐσμυρνισμένον οἶνον, myrrhed wine: the liquor was of a taste between sweet wine and vinegar (cf. the Gnomon on Matthew 27:48), seasoned with myrrh from custom, adulterated with gall from malice.—οὐκ ἤθελε πιεῖν, He would not drink) for that behoved to be deferred to the end of His sufferings; see John 19:30. And Jesus wished to retain His senses fully undisturbed, even up to His death.[1194]

[1194] Matthew 27:35. σταυρώσαντες, having crucified) Christ, in order to be a blessing to us, was made a curse. Who is there would have dared to assert this, had not the Apostle declared it? Galatians 3:13. Let the passages also. Genesis 3:6, John 3:14, 1 Peter 2:24, be well weighed.—Harm., p. 563.—διεμερισαντο τὰ ἱμάτια αὐτοῦ, they parted His garments) When the very poorest man dies, he has at least some covering on his body: Jesus had none. Not even are His garments given up to His friends and relatives, but to the soldiers.—Harm., p. 564.Verses 34-44. - The Crucifixion and the mockery. (Mark 15:23-32; Luke 23:32-43; John 19:18-24.) Verse 34. - Vinegar...mingled with gall (χολῆς). Instead of "vinegar" (ὄξος) very many manuscripts, followed by Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort, and others, read here, as in Mark, "wine" (οϊνον). Dederunt ei viaum bibere (Vulgate). Doubtless the two words represent the same fluid, a wine of a sharp and acrid taste. The received reading in our text is supposed to be derived from Psalm 69:21, "They gave me gall for my meats, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink." "Gall" here signifies some bitter ingredient (St. Mark calls it "myrrh"), which was infused in the wine to impart a narcotic quality. It was the custom to offer this draught to criminals about to undergo crucifixion, either as an anodyne or to give them adventitious strength to bear their sufferings. The beverage is said to have been prepared by some benevolent ladies in Jerusalem, and to have been owed to a gloss on Proverbs 31:6, 7, "Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto the bitter in soul; let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more." This was not an additional insult offered to Jesus, as some have opined, but a usual act of kindliness. When he had tasted thereof, he would not (οὐκ ἤθελε) drink. He accepted the kindly offer so far as to put his lips to the cup, but, recognizing its stupefying qualities, he refused to drink it. He willed to endure all the coming pains without mitigation; he would meet all with the powers of mind and body undarkened; he would have his senses and his self-consciousness unimpaired to the end. Wine (οἶνον)

The older texts read ὄξος, vinegar. The compound of wine and gall was intended as a stupefying draught.

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