My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? why are you so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)My God, my God.—Heb., Eli, Eli, lama azavtanî, where the Targum paraphrases sabbacthani, the form used by our Saviour on the cross. (See Notes, N. T. Comm., Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34.) The LXX. and Vulgate insert “look upon me.” (Comp. English Prayer Book version.) For the despairing tone comp. Psalm 80:14. It suits the whole of pious Israel in her times of trouble even better than any individual.
The second part of the verse is obscure from its lyric conciseness, but the Authorised Version has given the meaning, though sacrificing the rhythm—
“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me,
Far from my aid, from the words of my groaning?”
i.e., far from listening to the words that escape me only in groans.
Roaring.—A word used generally of a lion (Isaiah 5:29; comp. Judges 14:5); but also of a man (Psalm 38:9). Hitzig’s conjecture, “from my cry,” instead of “from my help,” is very plausible, since it makes the parallelism complete and involves a very slight change. The LXX. and Vulg. have “the words of my offences.”Psalm 22:1. My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? — In these words Christ, when hanging on the cross, complained, that he was deprived, for a time, of the loving presence and comforting influence of his heavenly Father: and St. Matthew and St. Mark give us the very expressions which he used, Eli, Eli; or, as St. Mark has it, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani. It is perhaps worthy of notice here, that sabachthani is not a Hebrew word; the Hebrew word being עזבתני, gnazabtani; and from hence it appears most likely that our Saviour used that dialect which was most commonly understood by the Jews in his time; and which, it is probable, was a mixed dialect, composed of Hebrew, Chaldee, and Syriac. Agreeably to this supposition, it may be further observed, that Eloi, Eloi, as St. Mark expresses our Saviour’s words, were more nearly Chaldee. Christ, it must be well observed, “was not ignorant of the reason why he was afflicted. He knew that all the rigours and pains which he endured on the cross were only because the chastisement of our peace was upon him: and God laid on him the iniquity of us all, Isaiah 53:5-6. The words then imply, that he had done nothing to merit the evils which he suffered. This is the meaning of the question here, Why hast thou forsaken me? as also of that in Psalm 2:1, Why do the heathen rage?” &c. The repetition of the words, my God, my God, denotes the depth of his distress, which made him cry so earnestly. From the words of my roaring — From regarding, pitying, or answering my fervent prayers and strong cries, forced from me by my miseries. This latter clause seems to refer to Christ’s prayer in the garden. 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.
Ps 22:1-31. The obscure words Aijeleth Shahar in this title have various explanations. Most interpreters agree in translating them by "hind of the morning." But great difference exists as to the meaning of these words. By some they are supposed (compare Ps 9:1) to be the name of the tune to which the words of the Psalm were set; by others, the name of a musical instrument. Perhaps the best view is to regard the phrase as enigmatically expressive of the subject—the sufferer being likened to a hind pursued by hunters in the early morning (literally, "the dawn of day")—or that, while hind suggests the idea of a meek, innocent sufferer, the addition of morning denotes relief obtained. The feelings of a pious sufferer in sorrow and deliverance are vividly portrayed. He earnestly pleads for divine aid on the ground of his relation to God, whose past goodness to His people encourages hope, and then on account of the imminent danger by which he is threatened. The language of complaint is turned to that of rejoicing in the assured prospect of relief from suffering and triumph over his enemies. The use of the words of the first clause of Ps 22:1 by our Saviour on the cross, and the quotation of Ps 22:18 by John (Joh 19:24), and of Ps 22:22 by Paul (Heb 2:12), as fulfilled in His history, clearly intimate the prophetical and Messianic purport of the Psalm. The intensity of the grief, and the completeness and glory of the deliverance and triumph, alike appear to be unsuitable representations of the fortunes of any less personage. In a general and modified sense (see on Ps 16:1), the experience here detailed may be adapted to the case of all Christians suffering from spiritual foes, and delivered by divine aid, inasmuch as Christ in His human nature was their head and representative.
1. A summary of the complaint. Desertion by God, when overwhelmed by distress, is the climax of the sufferer's misery.
2 O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.
3 But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.
4 Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.
5 They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.
6 But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.
7 All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying.
8 He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.
9 But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts.
10 I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother's belly.
"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? This was the startling cry of Golgotha: Eloî Eloî lama sabacthani. The Jews mocked, but the angels adored when Jesus cried this exceeding bitter cry. Nailed to the tree we behold our great Redeemer in extremities, and what see we? Having ears to hear let us hear, and having eyes to see let us see! Let us gaze with holy wonder, and mark the flashes of light amid the awful darkness of that midday-midnight. First, our Lord's faith beams forth and deserves our reverent imitation; he keeps his hold upon his God with both hands and cries twice, "My God, my God!" The spirit of adoption was strong within the suffering Son of Man, and he felt no doubt about his interest in his God. Oh that we could imitate this cleaving to an afflicting God! Nor does the sufferer distrust the power of God to sustain him, for the title used - "El" - signifies strength, and is the name of the Mighty God. He knows the Lord to be the all-sufficient support and succour of his spirit, and therefore appeals to him in the agony of grief, but not in the misery of doubt. He would fain know why he is left, he raises that question and repeats it, but neither the power nor the faithfulness of God does he mistrust. What an enquiry is this before us! "Why hast thou forsaken me?" We must lay the emphasis on every word of this saddest of all utterances. "Why?" what is the great cause of such a strange fact as for God to leave his own Son at such a time and in such a plight? There was no cause in him, why then was he deserted? "Hast:" it is done, and the Saviour is feeling its dread effect as he asks the question; it is surely true, but how mysterious! It was no threatening of forsaking which made the great Surety cry aloud, he endured that forsaking in very deed. "Thou:" I can understand why traitorous Judas and timid Peter should be gone, but thou, my God, my faithful friend, how canst thou leave me? This is worst of all, yea worse than all put together. Hell itself has for its fiercest flame the separation of the soul from God. "Forsaken:" if thou hadst chastened I might bear it, for they face would shine; but to forsake me utterly, ah! why is this? "Me:" thine innocent, obedient, suffering Son, why leavest thou me to perish? A sight of self seen by penitence, and of Jesus on the cross seen by faith will best expound this question. Jesus is forsaken because our sins had separated between us and our God.
"Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?" The Man of Sorrows had prayed until his speech failed him, and he could only utter moanings and groanings as men do in severe sicknesses, like the roarings of a wounded animal. To what extremity of grief was our Master driven! What strong crying and tears were those which made him too hoarse for speech! What must have been his anguish to find his own beloved and trusted Father standing afar off, and neither granting help nor apparently hearing prayer. This was good cause to make him "roar." Yet there was a reason for all this which those who rest in Jesus as their Substitute well know.
why art thou so far from helping me? or from my salvation; from saving and delivering him out of his sorrows and sufferings? not that he despaired of help; he firmly believed he should have it, and accordingly had it: but he expostulates about the deferring of it. He adds,
and from the words of my roaring? which expresses the vehemency of his spirit in crying to God, the exceeding greatness of his sorrows, and his excruciating pains and sufferings: this is what the apostle means by his "strong crying and tears", Hebrews 5:7; or "the words of my roaring are far from my salvation"; there is a great space or interval between the one and the other, as Gussetius (u) observes.<
(a) Here appears that horrible conflict, which he sustained between faith and desperation.
(b) Being tormented with extreme anguish.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)1. The expostulation of astonishment and perplexity, not a demand for explanation. Faith and despair are wrestling in the Psalmist’s mind. Faith can still claim God as ‘my God,’ and does not cease its prayers; despair thinks itself forsaken. So Zion in her exile said, “Jehovah hath forsaken me, and the Lord hath forgotten me” (Isaiah 49:14). Cp. Psalm 13:1, Psalm 88:14. God is El, and so in Psalm 22:10. Cp. Psalm 63:1, and note on Psalm 5:4.
Christ upon the Cross used the Aramaic version of these words, for Aramaic was His mother tongue. Eli (Matthew 27:46) is the Hebrew word, retained in the present text of the Targum: Eloi (Mark 15:34) the Aramaic. The best MSS. have Eloi in Matt. also.
Why art thou so far &c.] The alternative rendering in R.V. marg., far from my help are the words of my roaring, follows the construction adopted by the LXX, Vulg., and Jer. But it is harsh, even if my help (or my salvation) is taken to mean God Himself (Psalm 35:3); and the rendering in the text appears to give the sense correctly. Cp. Psalm 10:1; and Psalm 22:11; Psalm 22:19.
my roaring] The groaning of the sufferer in his distress is compared to the lion’s roar. Cp. Psalm 32:3; Psalm 38:8.
1–10. The pleading cry of the forsaken and persecuted servant of God.Verse 1. - My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Not a cry of despair, but a cry of loving faith, "My God, my God - Why hast thou for a time withdrawn thyself?" It is remarkable that our Lord's quotation of this passage does not follow exactly either the Hebrew or the Chaldee paraphrase - the Hebrew having 'azab-thani for sabacthani, and the Chaldee paraphrase metul ma for lama. May we not conclude that it is the thought, and not its verbal expression by the sacred writers, that is inspired? Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? It is very doubtful whether our translators have done right in supplying the words which they have added. The natural translation of the Hebrew would be, Far from my salvation are the words of my roaring. And this rendering yields a sufficiently good sense, viz. "Far from effecting my salvation (or deliverance) are the words of my roaring;" i.e. of my loud complaint. Our Lord's "strong crying and tears" in the garden (Hebrews 5:7) did not produce his deliverance. Psalm 21:8 as the transition to the second half; for by its objective utterance concerning the king and God, it separates the language hitherto addressed to God, from the address to the king, which follows. We do not render Psalm 21:8: and trusting in the favour of the Most High - he shall not be moved; the mercy is the response of the trust, which (trust) does not suffer him to be moved; on the expression, cf. Proverbs 10:30. This inference is now expanded in respect to the enemies who desire to cause him to totter and fall. So far from any tottering, he, on the contrary, makes a victorious assault upon his foes. If the words had been addressed to Jahve, it ought, in order to keep up the connection between Psalm 21:9 and Psalm 21:8, at least to have been איביו and שׁנאיו (his, i.e., the king's, enemies). What the people now hope on behalf of their king, they here express beforehand in the form of a prophecy. מצא ל (as in Isaiah 10:10) and מצא seq. acc. (as in 1 Samuel 23:17) are distinguished as: to reach towards, or up to anything, and to reach anything, attain it. Supposing ל to represent the accusative, as e.g., in Psalm 69:6, Psalm 21:9 would be a useless repetition.
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