The Prophetic Image of the Prince of Sufferers
Psalm 22:1-31
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? why are you so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?…

Who is the sufferer whose wail is the very voice of desolation and despair, and who yet dares to believe that the tale of his sorrow will be a gospel for the world? The usual answers are given. The title ascribes the authorship to David, and is accepted by Delitzsch and others. Hengstenberg and his followers see in the picture the ideal righteous man. Others think of Hezekiah or Jeremiah, with whose prophecies and history there are many points of connection. The most recent critics find here the personalised genius of Israel, or more precisely, the followers of Nehemiah, including the large-hearted Psalmist. (Cheyne, Orig. of Psalt., 264.) On any theory of authorship the startling correspondence of the details of the Psalmist's sufferings with those of the Crucifixion has to be accounted for. How startling that correspondence is, both in the number and minuteness of its points, need not be insisted on. The recognition of these points in the Psalm as prophecies is one thing, the determination of their relation to the Psalmist's own experience is quite another. It is taken for granted in many quarters that every such detail in prophecy must describe the writer's own circumstances, and the supposition that they may transcend these is said to be "psychologically impossible." But it is somewhat hazardous for those who have not been subjects of prophetic inspiration to lay down canons of what is possible and impossible in it, and there are examples enough to prove that the relation of the prophets' speech to their consciousness and circumstances was singularly complex, and not to be unravelled by any such obiter dicta as to psychological possibilities. They were recipients of messages, and did not always understand what the "spirit of Christ which was in them did signify." Theories which neglect that aspect of the case do not front all the facts. Certainty as to the authorship of this Psalm is probably unattainable. How far its words fitted the condition of the singer must therefore remain unsettled. But that these minute and numerous correspondences are more than coincidences it seems perverse to deny. The present writer, for one, sees shining through the shadowy personality of the Psalmist the figure of the Prince of sufferers, and believes that whether the former's plaints applied in all their particulars to him, or whether there is in them a certain "element of hyperbole" which becomes simple fact in Jesus's sufferings, the Psalm is a prophecy of Him and them. In the former case the Psalmist's experience, in the latter case his utterances, were divinely shaped so as to prefigure the sacred sorrows of the Man of Sorrows. To a reader who shares in this understanding of the Psalm it must be holy ground, to be trodden reverently and with thoughts adoringly fixed on Jesus. Cold analysis is out of place.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: {To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar, A Psalm of David.} My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?

WEB: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, and from the words of my groaning?

The Great Sufferer and His Relief
Top of Page
Top of Page