Psalm 22:21
Save me from the lion's mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(21) Unicorns.—See Numbers 23:22; either “buffaloes” or “antelopes.” There is some uncertainty about the translation of the second clause of this verse. It may be (1) “And from the horns of buffaloes hear me,” i.e., hear me calling for help from the horns, &c; or (2) “Save me from the lion’s mouth, and from the horns of buffaloes Thou hast heard me”—a sudden transition from plaintive prayer to exultant faith; or (3), following the LXX. and Vulg., “And from the horns of buffaloes save me, poor and humble as I am.” The first is, on the whole, preferable, as preserving the parallelism better.

22:11-21 In these verses we have Christ suffering, and Christ praying; by which we are directed to look for crosses, and to look up to God under them. The very manner of Christ's death is described, though not in use among the Jews. They pierced his hands and his feet, which were nailed to the accursed tree, and his whole body was left so to hang as to suffer the most severe pain and torture. His natural force failed, being wasted by the fire of Divine wrath preying upon his spirits. Who then can stand before God's anger? or who knows the power of it? The life of the sinner was forfeited, and the life of the Sacrifice must be the ransom for it. Our Lord Jesus was stripped, when he was crucified, that he might clothe us with the robe of his righteousness. Thus it was written, therefore thus it behoved Christ to suffer. Let all this confirm our faith in him as the true Messiah, and excite our love to him as the best of friends, who loved us, and suffered all this for us. Christ in his agony prayed, prayed earnestly, prayed that the cup might pass from him. When we cannot rejoice in God as our song, yet let us stay ourselves upon him as our strength; and take the comfort of spiritual supports, when we cannot have spiritual delights. He prays to be delivered from the Divine wrath. He that has delivered, doth deliver, and will do so. We should think upon the sufferings and resurrection of Christ, till we feel in our souls the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings.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."

21. Deliverance pleaded in view of former help, when in the most imminent danger, from the most powerful enemy, represented by the unicorn or wild buffalo.

the lion's mouth—(Compare Ps 22:13). The lion often used as a figure representing violent enemies; the connecting of the mouth intimates their rapacity.

The lion; either the devil, that raging and roaring lion, who did many ways assault and annoy him; or his lionlike enemies.

Heard me, i.e. answered and delivered me.

Unicorn; a strong, and fierce, and untamable wild beast; though the learned are not agreed about the kind of it. See of it Deu 33:17 Job 39:9,10 Psa 92:10 Isaiah 34:7, and my Latin Synopsis on Numbers 23:22. For it is not worth while to trouble the unlearned reader with such disputes.

Save me from the lion's mouth,.... Either the devil, who is as a roaring lion, whom Christ overcame both in the garden and on the cross, and destroyed him and his works; or all his wicked enemies, especially the most powerful of them, who were in greatest authority, as the chief priests and elders; so rulers and civil magistrates, who are cruel and unmerciful, are compared to lions, Proverbs 28:15;

for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns; some read this as a prayer like the former, "hear thou me" (l), &c. that is, deliver me; but according to our version it expresses what God had done, that he had heard him and saved him; and is used as a reason or argument with him that he would regard also his other petitions: or it may have respect to what follows, that since God had heard him, and delivered him out of the hands of his most powerful enemies, therefore he would declare his name and praise him; for the unicorn being a very strong creature, and its strength lying much in its horn, with which it pushes and does mischief; see Numbers 23:22. Christ's strong and potent enemies are intended here; such as Satan and his principalities and powers, the sanhedrim of the Jews, Herod, Pontius Pilate, and others, from whose power he was freed when raised from the dead. According to Pliny (m), the monoceros, or unicorn, is the fiercest of wild beasts; in its body like a horse, it has the head of an hart and feet of an elephant, the tail of a bear, makes a great bellowing; has one black horn rising up in the middle of the forehead, of two cubits long; it is denied that it was ever taken alive, which agrees with Job 39:9; See Gill on Job 39:9 and See Gill on Job 39:10.

(l) "exaudi me", Muis, Gejerus, Michaelis. (m) Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 21.

{m} Save me from the lion's mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.

(m) Christ is delivered with a more mighty deliverance by overcoming death, than if he had not tasted death at all.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
21. for thou hast heard me &c.] Render, yea from the horns of the wild oxen—thou hast answered me. A singularly bold and forcible construction. We expect a second imperative, repeating the prayer for deliverance (rescue thou me: cp. Jer. exaudi). But the conviction that his prayer is heard, nay, answered, flashes upon the Psalmist’s soul; prayer is changed into assurance, joyous confidence takes the place of petition. Less forcible is the explanation which assumes a pregnant rather than a broken construction:—From the horns of the wild oxen thou hast answered and delivered me.

unicorns] The rendering of LXX, Vulg., Jer. But the re’çm was certainly a two-horned animal (Deuteronomy 33:17, R.V.). The Auerochs or wild ox (Bos primigenius), now everywhere extinct, is almost certainly the animal meant. Its strength and untamableness are described in Job 39:9 ff. See Tristram’s Nat. Hist. p. 146 ff.

Verse 21. - Save me from the lion's mouth (comp. ver. 13). Either the chief persecutors, viewed as a class, or Satan, their instigator, would seem to be intended. For thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns; rather, even from the horns of the win oxen hast thou heard me. The conviction suddenly comes to the Sufferer that he is heard. Still, the adversaries are round about him - the "dogs," the "lions," and the "strong bulls of Bashan," now showing as ferocious wild cattle, menacing him with their horns. But all the Sufferer's feelings are changed. The despondent mood has passed away. He is not forsaken. He has One to help. In one way or another he knows himself - feels himself - delivered; and he passes from despair and agony into a condition of perfect peace, and even exultation. He passes, in fact, from death to life, from humiliation to glory; and at once he proceeds to show forth his thankfulness by a burst of praise. The last strophe of the psalm (vers. 22-31) is the jubilant song of the Redeemer, now that his mediatorial work is done, and his life of suffering "finished" (John 19:30). Psalm 22:21(Heb.: 22:20-22)In Psalm 22:19 the description of affliction has reached its climax, for the parting of, and casting lots for, the garments assumes the certain death of the sufferer in the mind of the enemies. In Psalm 22:20, with ואתּה the looks of the sufferer, in the face of his manifold torments, concentrate themselves all at once upon Jahve. He calls Him אילוּתי nom. abstr. from איל, Psalm 88:5 : the very essence of strength, as it were the idea, or the ideal of strength; lė‛ezrāthi has the accent on the penult., as in Psalm 71:12 (cf. on the other hand Psalm 38:23), in order that two tone syllables may not come together. In Psalm 22:21, חרב means the deadly weapon of the enemy and is used exemplificatively. In the expression מיּד כּלב, מיּד is not merely equivalent to מן, but יד is, according to the sense, equivalent to "paw" (cf. כּף, Leviticus 11:27), as פּי is equivalent to jaws; although elsewhere not only the expression "hand of the lion and of the bear," 1 Samuel 17:37, but also "hands of the sword," Psalm 63:11, and even "hand of the flame," Isaiah 47:14 are used, inasmuch as יד is the general designation of that which acts, seizes, and subjugates, as the instrument of the act. Just as in connection with the dog יד, and in connection with the lion פי (cf. however, Daniel 6:28) is mentioned as its weapon of attack, the horns, not the horn (also not in Deuteronomy 33:17), are mentioned in connection with antilopes, רמים (a shorter form, occurring only in this passage, for ראמים, Psalm 29:6; Psalm 34:7). Nevertheless, Luther following the lxx and Vulgate, renders it "rescue me from the unicorns" (vid., thereon on Psalm 29:6). יהידה, as the parallel member here and in Psalm 35:17 shows, is an epithet of נפשׁ. The lxx in both instances renders it correctly τὴν μονογενῆ μου, Vulg. unicam meam, according to Genesis 22:2; Judges 11:34, the one soul besides which man has no second, the one life besides which man has no second to lose, applied subjectively, that is, soul or life as the dearest and most precious thing, cf. Homer's fi'lon kee'r. It is also interpreted according to Psalm 25:16; Psalm 68:7 : my solitary one, solitarium, the soul as forsaken by God and man, or at least by man, and abandoned to its own self (Hupfeld, Kamphausen, and others). But the parallel נפשׁי, and the analogy of כּבודי ( equals נפשׁי), stamp it as an universal name for the soul: the single one, i.e., that which does not exist in duplicate, and consequently that which cannot be replaced, when lost. The praet. עניתני might be equivalent to ענני, provided it is a perf. consec. deprived of its Waw convers. in favour of the placing of מקּרני רמים first for the sake of emphasis; but considering the turn which the Psalm takes in Psalm 22:23, it must be regarded as perf. confidentiae, inasmuch as in the very midst of his supplication there springs up in the mind of the suppliant the assurance of being heard and answered. To answer from the horns of the antilope is equivalent to hearing and rescuing from them; cf. the equally pregnant expression ענה בּ Psalm 118:5, perhaps also Hebrews 5:7.

(Note: Thrupp in his Emendations on the Psalms (Journal of Classic and Sacred Philology, 1860) suggests עניּתי, my poverty (my poor soul), instead of עניתני.)

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