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 Not a cry of despair, but a cry of loving faith, "My God, my God - Why hast thou for a time withdrawn thyself?"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.
O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.
Verse 2. - O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; rather, thou answerest not; i.e. thou dost not interpose to deliver me. And in the night season, and am not silent (see Matthew 26:36-44; Mark 14:34-39; Luke 22:41-44).
But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.
Verse 3. - But thou art holy. Still God is holy; the Sufferer casts no reproach upon him, but "commits himself to him that judgeth righteously" (1 Peter 2:23). O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. God is seen enthroned in his sanctuary, where the praises and prayers of Israel are ever being offered up to him. If he hears them, he will assuredly, in his own good time, hear the Sufferer.
Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.
Verse 4. - Our fathers trusted in thee. It sustains the Sufferer to think how many before him have cried to God, and trusted in him, and for a while been seemingly not heard, and yet at length manifestly heard and saved. They trusted in thee, and thou didst (ultimately) deliver them.
They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.
Verse 5. - They cried unto thee, and were delivered. If they were delivered because they cried, the Sufferer who cries "day and night" (vex. 2) can scarcely remain unheard for ever. They trusted in thee, and were not confounded; or, were not put to shame (οὐ κατησχύνθησαν, LXX.).
But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.
Verse 6. - But I am a worm, and no man (comp. Job 25:6; Isaiah 41:14). The worm is a symbol of extreme weakness and helplessness - it is naturally despised, derided, trodden upon. A reproach of men, and despised of the people (Comp. Isaiah 49:7; Isaiah 53:3; and for the fulfilment, see Matthew 27:39). How deeply Christ was "despised of the people" appeared most evidently when they expressed their desire that, instead of him, a murderer should be granted to them (Acts 3:14).
All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
Verse 7. - All they that see me laugh me to scorn; ἐξεμυκτήρισάν με, LXX. (comp. Luke 23:35, "The people stood beholding;and the rulers also with them derided him (ἐξεμυκτήριζον)"). They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying (see Matthew 27:39; Mark 15:29: "They that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads," where the expression of the Septuagint is again used).
He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.
Verse 8. - He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him. This is a translation of the Septuagint Version rather than of the Hebrew text, which runs, Trust in the Lord (literally, Roll [thy care] upon the Lord): let him deliver him. Let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him. St. Matthew has put it on record that this text was actually cited by the scribes and elders who witnessed the Crucifixion, and applied to our Lord in scorn (Matthew 27:43). They quoted apparently from the Septuagint, but with an inaccuracy common at the time, when books were scarce, and persons had to depend on their memory of what they had occasionally heard read.
But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts.
Verse 9. - But thou art he that took me out of the womb (comp. Job 10:8-11). God's creatures have always a claim upon him from the very fact that they are his creatures. Every sufferer may appeal to God as his Maker, and therefore bound to be his Helper and Preserver. Thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts. Thou gavest me the serene joy and trust of infancy - that happy time to which man looks back with such deep satisfaction. Every joy, every satisfaction, came from thee.
I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother's belly.
Verse 10. - I was cast upon thee from the womb. In a certain sense this is true of all; but of the Holy Child it was most true (Luke 2:40, 49, 52). He was "cast" on God the Father's care in an especial way. Thou art my God from my mother's belly. The Child Jesus was brought near to God from his birth (Luke 1:35; Luke 2:21, 22). From the first dawn of consciousness God was his God (Luke 2:40, 49).
Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.
Verse 11. - Be not far from me. The considerations dwelt upon in vers. 3-5, and again in veto. 9, 10, have removed the sense of desertion expressed in vex. 1; and the Sufferer can now confidently call on God to help him. "Be not far from me," he says, for trouble is near. The time is come when aid is most urgently required. For there is none to help; literally, not a helper. David himself had never been in such straits. He had always had friends and followers. Under Saul's persecution he had a friend in Jonathan; he was supported by his father and his brethren (1 Samuel 22:1); in a short time he found himself at the head of four hundred (1 Samuel 22:2), and then of six hundred men (1 Samuel 25:13). In Absalom's rebellion there remained faithful to him the priestly tribe (2 Samuel 15:24) and the Gibborim (2 Samuel 15:18), and others to the number of some thousands (2 Samuel 18:4). But he whom David prefigured, his Antitype, was desexed, was alone - "All the disciples forsook him and fled" (Matthew 26:56) - he was truly one that "had no helper."
Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.
Verse 12. - Many bulls have compassed me. The Sufferer represents the adversaries who crowd around him under the figure of "bulls" - fierce animals in all parts of the world, and in Palestine particularly' wild and ferocious. "Bulls,, and buffaloes are very numerous, says Canon Tristram, "in Southern Judaea; they are in the habit of gathering in a circle around any novel or unaccustomed object, and may be easily instigated into charging with their horns" ('Natural History of the Bible,' p. 71). Strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. Bashan, the richest pasture-g"round of Palestine, produces the largest and strongest animals (Ezekiel 39:18). Hence "the kine of Bashan" became an expression for powerful oppressors (Amos 4:1).
They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.
Verse 13. - They gaped upon me with their mouths. One metaphor is superseded by another. Fierce and threatening as bulls, the adversaries are ravenous as lions. They "gape with their mouths," eager to devour, ready to spring on the prey and crush it in their monstrous jaws. As a ravening and a roaring lion. The tumult and noise made by those who demanded our Lord's death are noted by the evangelist, περισσῶς ἔκραζον - θόρυβος γίνεται (Matthew 27:23, 24).
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.
Verse 14. - I am poured out like water (comp. Psalm 58:7; 2 Samuel 14:14). The exact meaning is uncertain; but extreme' weakness and exhaustion, something like utter prostration, seems to be indicated. And all my bones are out of joint. The strain of the body suspended on the cross would all but dislocate the joints of the arms, and would be felt in every bone of the body. My heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. The proximate cause of death in crucifixion is often failure of the heart's action, the supply of venous b]cod not being sufficient to stimulate it. Hence palpitation, faintness, and final syncope.
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.
Verse 15. - My strength is dried up like a potsherd. All strength dies out under the action of the many acute pains which rack the whole frame, and as little remains as there remains of moisture in a potsherd. And my tongue cleaveth to my jaws. An extreme and agonizing thirst sets in - the secretions generally fail - and the saliva especially is suppressed, so that the mouth feels parched and dry. Hence the cry of suffering which was at last wrung from our Lord, when, just before the end, he exclaimed, "I thirst" (John 19:28). And thou hast brought me into the dust of death. "The dust of death" is a periphrasis for death itself, which is so closely associated in our thoughts with the dust of the tomb (see below, ver. 29; and comp. Psalm 30:10; Psalm 104:29; and Job 10:9; Job 34:35; Ecclesiastes 3:20; Ecclesiastes 12:7, etc.).
For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.
Verse 16. - For dogs have compassed me. "Dogs" now encompass the Sufferer, perhaps the subordinate agents in the cruelties - the rude Roman soldiery, who laid rough hands on the adorable Person (Matthew 27:27-35). Oriental dogs are savage and of unclean habits, whence the term "dog" in the East has always been, and still is, a term of reproach. The assembly of the wicked have enclosed me; or, a band of wicked ones have shut me in. The "band" of Roman soldiers (Mark 15:16) seems foreshadowed. They pierced my hands and my feet. There are no sufficient critical grounds for relinquishing (with Hengstenberg) this interpretation. It has the support of the Septuagint, the Syriac, the Arabic, and the Vulgate Versions, and is maintained by Ewald, Reinke, Bohl, Moll, Kay, the writer in the 'Speaker's Commentary,' and our Revisers. Whether the true reading be kaaru (כָאְרַוּ) or kaari (כָאֲרִי), the sense will be the same, kaarl being the apocopated participle of the verb, whereof kaaru is the 3rd pers. plu. indic.
I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.
Verse 17. - I may tell all my bones. Our Lord's active life and simple habits would give him a spare frame, while the strain of crucifixion would accentuate and bring into relief every point of his anatomy. He might thus, if so minded, "tell all his bones." They look and stare upon me (comp. Luke 23:35, "And the people stood beholding").
They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.
Verse 18. - They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. It has been well observed that "the act here described is not applicable either to David or to any personage whose history is recorded in the Bible, save to Jesus" ('Speaker's Commentary,' vol. 4. p. 221). Two evangelists (Matthew 27:35; John 19:24) note the fulfilment of the prophecy in the conduct of the soldiers at the crucifixion of Christ. The circumstance is reserved for the final touch in the picture, since it marked that all was over; the Victim was on the point of expiring; he would never need his clothes again.
But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me.
Verse 19. - But be not thou far from me, O Lord (comp. ver. 11). The special trouble for which he had invoked God's aid having been minutely described, the Sufferer reverts to his prayer, which he first repeats, and then strengthens and enforces by requesting that the aid may be given speedily, O my strength, haste thee to help me. Eyaluth, the abstract term used for "strength," seems to mean "source, or substance, of all strength."
Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog.
Verse 20. - Deliver my soul from the sword. "The sword" symbolizes the authority of the Roman governor - that authority by which Christ was actually put to death. If he prayed, even on the cross, to be delivered from it, the prayer must have been offered with the reservations previously made in Gethsemane, "If it be possible" (Matthew 26:39); "If thou be willing" (Luke 22:42); "Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." The human will in Christ was in favour of the deliverance; the Divine will, the same in Christ as in his Father, was against it. My darling - literally, my only one - from the power of the dog. By "my darling" there is no doubt that the soul is intended, both here and in Psalm 35:17. It seems to be so called as the most precious thing that each man possesses (see Matthew 16:26). "The dog" is used, not of an individual, but of the class, and is best explained, like the "dogs" in ver. 16, of the executioners.
Save me from the lion's mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.
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).
I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.
Verse 22. - I will declare thy Name unto my brethren. The thought of the brethren is uppermost. As, when the body was removed, loving messages were at once sent to the disciples (Matthew 28:10; John 20:17), so, with the soul of the Redeemer in the intermediate state, the "brethren" are the first care. God's Name, and all that he has done - the acceptance of the sacrifice, the effectuation of man's salvation - shall be made known to them (see Hebrews 2:9-12). In the midst of the congregation will I praise thee. He will join with them in praising and adoring his Father, so soon as circumstances allow (compare the Eucharist at Emmaus, Luke 24:30).
Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel.
Verse 23. - Ye that fear the Lord, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel. "All Israel:" all the people of God are called upon to join in the praise which the Sea will henceforth offer to the Father through eternity. The praise of God is to be joined with the fear of God, according to the universal teaching of Scripture.
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.
Verse 24. - For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted. The Father might seem by his passivity to disregard his Son's affliction; but it was not really so. Every pang was marked, every suffering sympathized with. And the reward received from the Father was proportionate (see Isaiah 53:12, "Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death;" and Philippians 2:8-11, "He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross; wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a Name which is above every name: that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father"). Neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard. There was no real turning away, no real forsaking. Every cry was heard, and the cries were answered at the fitting moment.
My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him.
Verse 25. - My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation. The phraseology is that of the Mosaic dispensation, with which alone David was acquainted. But the fulfilment is in those services of praise where, whenever Christ's disciples are gathered together, there is he in the midst of them. I will pay my vows before them that fear him. "Vows," in the strict sense of the word, are scarcely meant; rather "devotions" generally.
The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever.
Verse 26. - The meek shall eat and be satisfied. In the Eucharistic feasts of Christ's kingdom it is "the meek" especially who shall eat, and be satisfied, feeling that they have all their souls long for - a full banquet, of the very crumbs of which they are not worthy. They shall praise the Lord that seek him. The service shall be emphatically one of praise. Your heart shall live for ever. The result shall be life for evermore; for the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, worthily received, preserve men's bodies and souls to everlasting life.
All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.
Verse 27. - All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord. The Gentiles from every quarter shall come into the new kingdom, remembering him whom they had so long forgotten, Jehovah, the true God. And all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. Pleonastic. A repetition of the idea contained in the preceding clause. (For the fulfilment, the history of missions must be consulted.)
For the kingdom is the LORD'S: and he is the governor among the nations.
Verse 28. - For the kingdom is the Lord's (comp. Psalm 96:10; Psalm 97:1). Christ has taken the kingdom, and even now rules on the earth - not yet wholly over willing subjects, but over a Church that is ever expanding more and more, and tending to become universal. And he is the Governor among the nations. Not the Governor of one nation only, but of all.
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.
Verse 29. - All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship. The Christian feast is not for the poor and needy only, like Jewish sacrificial feasts, but for the "fat ones" of the earth as well - the rich and prosperous. As Hengstenberg observes, "This great spiritual feast is not unworthy of the presence even of those who live in the greatest abundance: it contains a costly viand, which all their plenty cannot give - a viand for which even the satisfied are hungry; and, on the other hand, the most needy and most miserable are not excluded" ('Commentary on the Psalms,' vol. 1. p. 396). All they that go down to the dust shall bow before him; i.e. all mortal men what-soever - all that are on their way to the tomb - shall bow before Christ, either willingly as his worshippers, or unwillingly as his conquered enemies, made to lick the dust at his feet. And none can keep alive his own soul. Life is Christ's gift; the soul cannot be kept alive except through him, by his quickening Spirit (John 6:53, 63).
A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.
Verse 30. - A seed shall serve him. The Church is founded on a rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. So long as the world endures, Christ shall always have worshippers - a "seed" which will "serve" him. It shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. If we accept this rendering, we must understand that the seed of the first set of worshippers shall be the Lord's people for one generation, the seed of the next for another, and so on. But it is suggested that the true meaning is, "This shall be told of the Lord to generation after generation" (so Hengstenberg, Kay, Alexander, and our Revisers).
They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.
Verse 31. - They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this. One generation after another shall come, and shall report God's righteousness, as shown forth in Christ, each to its successor - a people yet to be born - telling them that God "has done this;" i.e. effected all that is here sketched out, and so accomplished the work of redemption.