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Psalm 22

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? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent. But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded. But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him. But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts. I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly. Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help. Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. 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. 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. For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me. Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog. Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns. I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee. Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel. 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. My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him. The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever. All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the LORD’S: and he is the governor among the nations. 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. A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.” (Psalm 22:title–31, AV)

Psalm 22

The subject of this Psalm is the deliverance of a righteous sufferer from his enemies, and the effect of this deliverance on others. It is so framed as to be applied without violence to any case belonging to the class described, yet so that it was fully verified only in Christ, the head and representative of the class in question. The immediate speaker in the psalm is an ideal person, the righteous servant of Jehovah, but his words may, to a certain extent, be appropriated by any suffering believer, and by the whole suffering church, as they have been in all ages.

The psalm may be divided into three nearly equal parts. The first pleads the necessity of God’s interposition, arising from his covenant relation to the sufferer, ver. 2–11 (1–10). The second argues the same thing from the imminence of the danger, ver. 12–22 (11–21). The third declares the glorious effects which must follow from an answer to the foregoing prayer, ver. 23–32 (22–31). Ver. 12 (11) and 22 (21) form connecting links between the first and second, second and third parts.

1. To the Chief Musician. On the hind of the morning. A Psalm by David. Designed for the permanent use of the church, and therefore not relating to mere individual or private interests. The second clause of the inscription is one of those enigmatical titles in which David seems to have delighted. See above, on Ps. 5:1, 7:1, 9:1, 16:1. The opinion that it refers to the melody or subject of some other poem, is less probable than that it describes the theme of this. The hind may then be a poetical figure for persecuted innocence, and the morning, or rather dawn, for deliverance after long distress. Compare 2 Sam. 1:19, Prov. 6:5, Isa. 13:14, with Isa. 8:20, 47:11, 58:8, 10, Hos. 6:3, 10:15. The use of such emblems here is less surprising, as this psalm abounds in figures drawn from the animal kingdom. See below, ver. 13 (12), 14 (13), 17 (16), 21 (20), 22 (21).

2 (1). My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me, far from my deliverance, the words of my roaring? In this verse and the next we have the sufferer’s complaint, the summary description of his danger and distress, the highest point of which is here described as the sense of desertion or abandonment on God’s part. “Why hast thou left me so to suffer, that I cannot but consider myself finally deserted?” The use of these words by our Savior on the cross, with a slight variation from the Hebrew (Mat. 27:46, Mark 15:34), shews how eminently true the whole description is of him, but does not make him the exclusive subject. The divine name here used is the one descriptive of God’s power (אֵל), and may therefore be considered as including the idea of my strength. “Why hast thou, whom I regarded as my strength, my support, and my protector, thus forsaken me in this extremity?” The last clause admits of several constructions. “Far from my deliverance (are) the words of my roaring,” i.e. they are far from having the effect of saving me. Or the question may be repeated: (Why art thou) far from my help and the words of my roaring?” Or the same idea may be expressed by a simple affirmation; “(Thou art) far from my help,” &c. But the simplest construction is to put these words into apposition with the object of address in the first clause, and throw the whole into one sentence. “Why hast thou forsaken me, (standing or remaining) far from my help, i.e. too far off to help and save me, or even to hear the words of my roaring?” This last combination shews that although the figure of roaring is borrowed from the habits of the lower animals, the subject to which it is applied must be a human one, and as such capable of articulate speech. The roaring of the psalmist was not the mere instinctive utterance of physical distress, but the complaint of an intelligent and moral agent. Compare Isaiah 38:14.

3 (2). My God, I call by day and thou wilt not answer, and by night and there is no silence to me. The divine name here used is the common Hebrew word for God, denoting an object of religious worship. I call, literally I shall call, implying a sorrowful conviction that his cries will still be vain. Thou wilt not hear or answer: the original expression is a verb specifically appropriated to the favorable reception of a prayer. See above, on Ps. 3:5 (4), Day and night, i.e. without intermission. See above, on Ps. 1:2. No silence implies no answer, and the parallelism is therefore an exact one.

4 (3). And thou (art) holy, inhabiting the praises of Israel. Here begins his statement of the grounds on which he might claim to be heard, and all which may be summed up in this, that Jehovah was the covenant God of Israel. The word translated holy, in its widest sense, includes all that distinguishes God from creatures, not excepting what are usually termed his natural perfections. Hence the epithet is often found connected with descriptions of his power, eternity, &c. See Isa. 6:3; 40:25, 26; 57:15; Hab. 3:3; Ps. 111:9. The primary meaning of the verb appears to be that of separation, which may here be alluded to, in reference to Jehovah’s peculiar relation to the chosen people. Or it may be taken in its wider and higher sense, leaving the other to be expressed in the last clause. “Thou art the glorious and perfect God who inhabitest the praises of Israel,” i.e. dwellest among those praises, and art constantly surrounded by them. Some prefer, however, to retain the primary meaning of the Hebrew verb, sitting (enthroned upon) the praises of Israel.

5 (4). In thee trusted our fathers; they trusted and thou savedst them. Not only was Jehovah the covenant God of Israel, and as such bound to help his people, but he had actually helped them in time past. This is urged as a reason why he should not refuse to help the sufferer in this case. The plural form, our fathers, makes the prayer appropriate to the whole church, without rendering it less so to the case of Christ, or to that of the individual believer.

6 (5.) To thee they cried and were delivered; in thee they trusted, and were not ashamed. This last word is continually used in Scripture for the disappointment and frustration of the hopes. The argument of this verse lies in the tacit contrast between the case referred to and that of the sufferer himself. As if he had said, “How is it then that I cry and am not delivered, I trust and am confounded or ashamed?”

7 (6). And I (am) a worm, and not a man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. The pronoun expressed at the beginning is emphatic. I, as contrasted with my fathers. Our idiom would here require an adversative particle, but I, the use of which is much less frequent in Hebrew. See above, on Ps. 2:6. The insignificance and meanness of mankind in general are elsewhere denoted by the figure of a worm (Job 25:6). But even in comparison with these, the sufferer is a worm, i.e. an object of contemptuous pity, because apparently forsaken of God, and reduced to a desperate extremity. (Compare Isa. 41:14, and 1 Sam. 24:15.) A reproach of mankind, despised by them, and disgraceful to them.—The people, not a single person or a few, but the community at large.

8 (7). All seeing me mock at me; they pout with the lip; they shake the head. This is an amplification of the last clause of the verse preceding. The verb in the second member of the sentence is of doubtful meaning. It may either mean to stretch the mouth, or to part the lips with a derisive grin. (See Ps. 35:21, Job 16:10.) The shaking of the head may be either a vague gesture of contempt, or the usual expression of negation, by a lateral or horizontal motion, equivalent to saying “No, no!” i.e. there is no hope for him. Either of these explanations is more probable than that which applies the words to a vertical movement of the head or nodding, in token of assent, and acquiescence in the sufferings of the sufferer, as just and right. The peculiar gesture here described is expressly attributed by the evangelists to the spectators of our Savior’s crucifixion (Mat. 27:39, Mark 15:29). It is one of those minor coincidences, which, although they do not constitute the main subject of the prophecy, draw attention to it, and help us to identify it.

9 (8). Trust in Jehovah! He will deliver him, he will save him, for he delights in him. The literal meaning of the first clause is, roll to (or on) Jehovah, which would be unintelligible but for the parallel expressions in Ps. 37:5, roll thy way upon Jehovah, and in Prov. 16:3, roll thy work upon Jehovah, where the idea is evidently that of a burden cast upon another by one who is unable to sustain it himself. This burden, in the first case, is his way, i.e. his course of life, his fortune, his destiny, and in the other case, his work, i.e. his business, his affairs, his interest. In evident allusion to these places, the apostle Peter says, casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you (1 Pet. 5:7). By these three parallels light is thrown on the elliptical expression now before us, roll, i.e. thy burden or thy care upon Jehovah.—A further difficulty is occasioned by the form of the original, which, according to usage, must be either the infinitive construct or the second person of the imperative. But as these seem out of place in such a context, some arbitrarily explain it as an absolute infinitive, or a third person imperative, or change the form to that of a preterite. This last is the construction in the Septuagint version retained in the New Testament (Mat. 27:43), and really included in the Hebrew, but by no means an exact representation of its form. Perhaps the best solution of the syntax is to make this clause a quotation, or derisive repetition of the sufferer’s own words, as if they had said, “This is he who was so fond of repeating the precept, Trust in Jehovah! Let him now try its virtue in his own case. He in whom he has trusted, and exhorted others to trust also, will no doubt deliver him.” The next two verbs are ironical futures, not imperatives, and should be so translated.—The last words of the verse (חָפֵץ בּוֹ) are always applied elsewhere to God’s complacency in man, and not to man’s reciprocal delight in God. The Septuagint version, retained in the New Testament, if he will (have) him, or if he will (deliver) him, although not incorrect, is much inferior in strength to the original.—By appropriating these words, the spectators of our Lord’s sufferings identified themselves with the wicked persecutors, by whom they are here supposed to be originally uttered.

10 (9). For thou didst draw me from the womb, making me trust upon the breasts of my mother. The argument from past time is here pushed still further. God had not only shewn himself to be the God of the sufferer’s forefathers, but of the sufferer himself in early life. The for connects this verse with the last clause of the one preceding. What his enemies ironically said was seriously true. God had indeed delighted in him once, for it was he that brought him into life, and through the perils of infancy. Thou didst draw me, literally, thou (art or wast) my breaking forth, i.e. the cause of it, as God is said to be the light, joy, strength of the believer, i.e. the source or the dispenser of these blessings.—Made me trust, does not refer to the literal exercise of confidence in God, which could not be asserted of a suckling, but means gave me cause to trust or feel secure, in other words, secured me, kept me safe. The original construction is, making me trust, but the Hebrew infinitive and participle used in these two clauses may be here represented by the past tense of the English verb.—As applied to the whole church or chosen people, this verse may be considered as descriptive of God’s dealings with them at the exodus from Egypt, which is elsewhere metaphorically represented as a birth. The direct and obvious reference, however, is to individual birth and infancy.

11 (10). Upon thee was I cast from the womb; from the bowels of my mother, my God (art) thou. Into thy arms I was at first received, as into those of an affectionate parent. See Ruth 4:16, and compare the opposite use of the same figure in Ezek. 16:5. In the last clause we are brought back to the point from which we set out, the sufferer having, in the mean time, as it were, established his right to say, my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

12 (11). Be not far from me, for distress is near, for there is no helper. Having shewn that he was justified in expecting that God would not forsake him in extremity, he now shews that the extremity exists. The first clause constitutes the link of connection between the first and second subdivisions of the psalm. “Since, then, thou art my God, and as such must be near in my distress, Oh be not far from me now, for my distress is near, and there is no one else to help me.”—Near is not put in opposition to proximity or actual contact, but to distance. The particular form of expression was suggested by the prayer in the first clause. It was no time for God to be afar off, when trouble was so near, so close upon the sufferer.—The second for may be subordinated to the first, and introduce a reason for declaring that distress was near. But it is much more natural to make the two co-relative, and understand the second as suggesting an additional reason for the prayer, be not far from me.

13 (12). Many bulls have compassed me, strong bulls of Bashan have surrounded me. He now proceeds to amplify the last clause of the foregoing verse, by shewing that trouble was indeed at hand. The strength and fierceness of his persecutors are expressed by comparing them to cattle fed in the rich and solitary pastures of Bashan, where the absence of men would of course increase their wildness. Corresponding to the noun in the first clause is an epithet frequently applied to it in Hebrew.

14 (13). They have opened upon me their mouth, a lion tearing and roaring. The tropical nature of the language is evinced by the entire change of figure in this verse. The same persons who before were bulls of Bashan now appear as a ravening and roaring lion. There is no need of supplying a particle of comparison, the absence of which in both these verses, by substituting metaphor for simile, adds greatly to the life of the description.

15 (14). Like water I am poured out, and all my bones are parted; my heart has become like wax, melted in the midst of my bowels. Similar terms are used in Josh. 7:5, Lam. 2:19, to describe dismay and fear; but in the case before us they seem rather descriptive of extreme weakness. See Ps. 58:8 (7), 2 Sam. 14:14, and compare the symbolical action in 1 Sam. 7:6. The comparison with water is applied to moral weakness also in Gen. 49:4. The parting of the bones may either denote dislocation or extreme emaciation, making the bones prominent. In either case the essential idea is still that of desperate exhaustion and debility.

16 (15). Dried like the potsherd (is) my strength, and my tongue fastened to my jaws, and to the dust of death thou wilt reduce me. The description of debility is still continued. He is as destitute of vigor as a broken piece of earthenware is of sap or moisture.—Fastened, literally, made to cleave or stick, through dryness.—The dust of death, i.e. the grave, the place of burial, or more generally, the debased, humiliated state of the dead.—Thou wilt place me in it, or reduce me to it. The translation of this future as a preterite is not only ungrammatical, but hurtful to the sense, as the idea evidently is, that this is something not experienced already, but the end to which his sufferings are tending. The direct address to God recognizes him as the sovereign disposer, and men only as his instruments.

17 (16). For dogs have surrounded me, a crowd of evil-doers have beset me, piercing my hands and my feet. He now resumes the description of his persecutors, under figures borrowed from the animal kingdom. The comparison with dogs is much less forcible to us than to an oriental reader, because dogs in the east are less domesticated, more gregarious, wilder, and objects not of affection, but abhorrence, as peculiarly unclean. In the next clause the figurative dress is thrown aside, and the dogs described as an assembly of malefactors. The first noun seems intended to suggest the idea of a whole community or organized body as engaged in the persecution. See above, on people, in ver. 7 (6). This makes the passage specially appropriate to the sufferings of our Savior at the hands both of the mob and of the government. The Hebrew word is one of those applied in the Old Testament to the whole congregation of Israel. (See above, on Ps. 1:5, and compare Exod. 12:3, 16:1, 2, 9, Num. 27:17, Lev. 4:15.) The last clause, as above translated, contains a striking reference to our Savior’s crucifixion, which some have striven to expunge, by denying that the ancients nailed the feet as well as the hands to the cross. But although there is a singular absence of explicit declaration on the subject, both in the classical and sacred writers, the old opinion, that the feet were pierced, may be considered as completely verified by modern investigation and discussion. So far, therefore, as the question of usage is concerned, we can have no difficulty in referring this clause to our Savior’s crucifixion, and regarding it as one of those remarkable coincidences, some of which have been already noticed, all designed and actually tending to identify our Lord as the most prominent subject of the prophecy. It is very remarkable, however, that no citation or application of the clause occurs in any of the gospels. It is also worthy of remark that the clause, thus explained, although highly appropriate to one part of our Savior’s passion, is, unlike the rest of the description, hardly applicable, even in a figurative sense, to the case of any other sufferer. Even supposing the essential idea to be merely that of wounds inflicted on the body, it seems strange that it should be expressed in the specific and unusual form of piercing the hands and the feet. On further inspection it appears that, in order to obtain this meaning, we must either change the text (כָּֽאֵרוּ or כָּֽאֲרֵי for כָּֽאֲרִי) or assume a plural form so rare that some grammarians deny its existence altogether (כָּֽאֲרִי for כָּֽאֲרִים), and an equally rare form of the participle (כָּֽאֲרִים for כָּרִים), and a meaning of the verb itself which nowhere else occurs, but must be borrowed from a cognate root (כּוּר for כָּרָה); an accumulation of grammatical and lexicographical anomalies, which cannot be assumed without the strongest exegetical necessity, and this can exist only if the words admit of no other explanation more in accordance with analogy and usage. Now the very same form in Isa. 38:13, is unquestionably used to mean like the lion, and a slight modification of the same, in Num. 24:9, Ezek. 22:25, like a lion. This idea would be here the more appropriate, because the psalm abounds in such allusions, and because the lion is expressly mentioned both before and afterwards. See above, ver. 14 (13), and below, ver. 22 (21). The sense would then be: “they surround my hands and my feet, as they would a lion,” or, “as a lion would,” i.e. with the strength and fierceness of a lion. The hands and feet may be mentioned as the parts used in defense and flight. That the mention of these parts, after all, in connection with the lion is not altogether natural, cannot fairly be denied, and this objection should have all the weight to which it is entitled. But whether it can outweigh the grammatical difficulties that attend the other construction, is a serious question, which ought not to be embarrassed by any supposed conflict with New Testament authority, since no citation of the clause occurs there. It may even be possible to reconcile the two interpretations by supplying a verb and giving כָּֽאֲרִי its usual meaning. “Like the lion (they have wounded) my hands and my feet.” The point of comparison would then be the infliction of sharp wounds in those parts of the body, an idea common to the habits of the lion, and to the usages of crucifixion.

18 (17). I tell all my bones (while) they look and stare upon me. The pronoun of the last clause is expressed in Hebrew, which removes the ambiguity of the construction, by shewing that the subject of the following verbs is not the bones of the preceding clause, but something more remote, namely, the sufferer’s enemies and persecutors. The ambiguity of the English word tell corresponds to that of the Hebrew (אֲסַפֵּר), which means both to number and to relate, to count and to recount. Some suppose, not improbably, that this verse presents the sufferer as stripped by his enemies, and looking with grief and wonder at his own emaciation, while they gaze at it with delight, as the Hebrew phrase implies. See below, on Ps. 27:13.

19 (18). They (are about to) divide my garments for themselves, and on my clothing they (are ready to) cast lots. This is the last stroke necessary to complete the picture. Having stripped him, nothing more is left but to appropriate his garments, whether from cupidity or in derision. The futures intimate that things can go no further without actual loss of life, and that the case is therefore an extreme one. The providential realization of this ideal scene in our Lord’s history is expressly mentioned by all the four evangelists (Mat. 27:35, Mark 15:24, Luke 23:34, John 19:23, 24). This makes their silence as to ver. 17 (16) the more remarkable.

20 (19). And thou, Jehovah, be not far; my strength! to my assistance hasten. The pronoun in the first clause is emphatic. “Such is the conduct of my enemies; but as for thee, O Lord, be not far from me.” The word translated strength is used in this place only, and apparently in reference to the name of God with which the psalm begins (אֵלִי) and to the word hind (אַיֶּלֶת) in the title, both which are akin to it in etymology.

21 (20). Free from the sword my life (or soul), from the hand of the dog my lonely one (or only one). The sword is a general expression for life-destroying agents. See 2 Sam. 11:24, 25, where it is applied to archery.—My life, my soul, i.e. myself considered as a living person.—The apparent solecism, hand of the dog, shews that both terms are figurative, or as one has quaintly expressed it, that the dog meant is a dog with hands. See above, on ver. 17 (16), where the plural dogs is co-extensive in its meaning with the ideal or collective singular in this place.—My only (life), the only one I have to lose, is a good sense in itself, both here and in Ps. 35:17; but the analogy of Ps. 25:16, and 68:7 (6), recommends the sense of solitary, lonely, which is admissible in all the places.

22 (21). Save me from the mouth of the lion, and from the horns of the unicorns thou hast heard (or answered) me. The petition in the first clause is directly followed by an expression of confident assurance that his prayer will be answered, or rather that it is already heard, corresponding to the figurative expression in ver. 3 (2), thou wilt not hear (or answer), where the same Hebrew verb is used.—From the horns denotes of course the place from which the prayer proceded, not the answer. The figure is a strong one for the midst of danger. The name of any wild horned animal would be appropriate. The precise sense of the Hebrew word (רֵמִים) is therefore comparatively unimportant. The common version unicorns rests on the authority of the Septuagint; but although the unicorn, long regarded as a fabulous animal, has now been proved to be a real one, we have no reason to believe that it was ever known in Palestine, or to dissent from the common judgment of the learned, that the Hebrew word denotes the wild bull or a species of the antelope, most probably the former.

23 (22). I will declare thy name to my brethren, in the midst of the assembly I will praise thee. His certainty of audience and acceptance is further expressed by declaring his intention to give thanks for it.—To declare God’s name, in Scripture usage, is to celebrate the acts by which he has manifested his perfections. See above, on Ps. 5:12 (11).—The assembly, or congregation of Israel, to which the Hebrew word is constantly applied (Lev. 16:17, Deut. 31:30), whether present in person or by their representatives (2 Chron. 20:13–15). The same sense of the word occurs below, Ps. 35:18, 40:10 (9). The idea here is that his praise shall not be merely private or domestic, but public.

24 (23). Fearers of Jehovah, praise him! All the seed of Jacob, glorify him! And be afraid of him, all the seed of Israel! These words are uttered, as it were, in the midst of the ideal congregation mentioned in the verse preceding. That the call, though formally addressed to the whole race, was really intended for the spiritual Israel, excluding wicked Israelites and including the righteous of whatever name or nation, is indicated by the words of the first clause, while the last shews that the praise required is not familiar, but in the highest degree reverential.

25 (24). For he has not despised and not abhorred the suffering of the sufferer, and has not hid his face from him, and, in his crying to him, heard. This is the ground on which the fearers of the Lord are called upon to praise him, namely, the faithful execution of his promise to the sufferer in this case, and the pledge thereby afforded of like faithfulness in every other.

26 (25). From thee (shall be) my praise in (the) great congregation; my vows I will pay before his fearers, those who fear him. From thee is something more than of thee. It does not merely indicate the theme or subject, but the source or cause of his thanksgiving. “It is thou who givest me occasion thus to praise thee.” In the last clause there seems to be a reference to the sacrificial feasts connected with the fulfilment of vows made in distress or danger. (See Deut. 12:18, 16:11.) These were occasions of festivity, not only to the offerer and his nearest friends, but to a wide circle of invited guests, which makes the metaphor peculiarly appropriate in this place. The essential idea is the same as in ver. 23 (22).—His fearers, worshippers, the true Israel, as distinguished from the mere natural descendants of the patriarch.

27 (26). (Then) shall eat (thereof) the humble, and be satisfied; (then) shall praise Jehovah those who seek him. May your heart live for ever! The adverb then is here supplied in the translation, in order to retain the Hebrew order of the sentence. The word thereof is introduced to remove all ambiguity of syntax, and to connect the act of eating with the sacrificial feast of the foregoing verse.—To seek God, in the dialect of Scripture, is to seek to know him, and also to seek his favor, not only by specific acts of prayer, but by the whole course of the life. See above, on Ps. 14:2.—The concluding wish, your heart live for ever, comprehends an assurance that it shall live. The heart is said to die, in cases of extreme grief and distress. See 1 Sam. 25:37, and compare Ps. 109:22. The objects of address are those who seek and praise God. The sudden change of person is analogous to that in ver. 26 (25), which begins from thee, and ends with fearing him. That this is not an inadvertent irregularity, appears from its recurrence in the next verse.—The humble and the seekers of Jehovah are parallel descriptions of the same class, namely, true believers, those who are elsewhere called the righteous.

28 (27). Remember and return to Jehovah shall all the ends of the earth, and worship before thee all the kindreds of the nations. As the joyful effects of this deliverance were not to be restricted to himself or his domestic circle, but extended to the great congregation of God’s people, so too we now read that they shall not be confined to any one race, but made to embrace all. The ends of the earth, here put for the remotest nations. See above, on Ps. 2:8. These are named as the least likely to be comprehended in the promise, but of course without excluding those less distant. As if he had said, the ends of the earth and all that is between them. In the other clause, accordingly, we find as a parallel expression, not the furthest, but all nations. They shall remember this deliverance, this exhibition of God’s faithfulness and might, and shall turn unto Jehovah, be converted to his worship and his service. Some suppose an allusion to the great original apostasy, or to the temporary casting off of the Gentiles: they shall remember their original condition, and return unto the Lord, from whom they have revolted. But this, though true and really implied, is not the strict sense of the words, which would then have no perceptible connection with the general subject of the psalm, and the immediate occasion of the praise which it contains.—Worship, literally prostrate themselves, the accustomed oriental indication both of civil and religious worship.—The form of expression in the last clause is evidently borrowed from the patriarchal promise. Compare Gen. 12:3, 28:14.

29 (28). For unto Jehovah is the kingdom, and (he is) governor among the nations. This will not be a gratuitous extension to the Gentiles of what properly belongs to Israel alone, but a restoration of God’s mercies, after ages of restriction, to their original and proper scope. For Jehovah is not the king of Israel only, but of all mankind. See Rom. 3:29.—The kingdom, i.e. general ecumenical dominion.—Governor, properly a participle, ruling, the use of which may be intended to suggest that as he has always been their governor de jure, so now he begins to govern them de facto, not with a providential sway, which is invariable as well as universal, but with a spiritual sway, which is hereafter to be co-extensive with the earth itself. Compare the similar expressions, Obad. 21, Zech. 14:9, and the still closer parallels, Ps. 96:10, 97:1, 99:1.

30 (29). They have eaten and worshipped—all the fat (ones) of the earth—before him shall bend all going down (to) the dust, and (he who) his own soul did not save alive. The distinction of ranks shall be as little regarded at this feast as that of nations.—Eaten and worshipped, partaken of the sacrificial feast in honor of this great salvation. Fat, a common oriental figure for the prosperous, and especially the rich. These are particularly mentioned to exhibit a peculiar feature of the feast in question, which was not, like the sacrificial feasts of the Mosaic law, designed expressly for the poor, though these are not excluded, as appears from the parallel clause.—Going down to the dust, i.e. the dust of death, as in ver. 16 (15) above. Compare the analogous expressions used in Ps. 28:1, 4, 9 (3, 9), 88:5 (4), 115:17, 143:7. The idea is, that this enjoyment shall be common to the rich and those who are ready to perish, or as it is expressed in the last clause, he who cannot keep his soul (or himself) alive, a strong expression for the extreme of destitution. He who before, or a little while ago, no longer kept himself alive, but was just about to perish, is now seen kneeling at the sacrificial feast in honor of this great salvation.

31 (30). Posterity shall serve him; it shall be related of the Lord to the (next) generation. The last restriction to be done away is that of time. The effects of this salvation shall no more be confined to the present generation than to the higher classes of society, or the natural descendants of the patriarchs.—A seed, i.e. posterity, the seed of those who witness or first hear of the event.—Shall serve him, i.e. worship and obey Jehovah, the same thing that is expressed by eating and bowing down in ver. 30 (29) above. The means of this conversion shall be the perpetuated knowledge of what God has done.—Generation is used absolutely, as in Ps. 71:18, where it means not this generation, but the next. The complete phrase (דור אחרון) occurs below, Ps. 48:14 (13), 78:4. The Lord. The original is not Jehovah, but Adhonai, the divine name properly denoting sovereignty. See above, on Ps. 2:4, 21:2. The exposition above given of the verse before us is equally agreeable to usage, and much better suited to the context, than the one which makes it mean that a seed shall be reckoned by the Lord (as belonging) to the generation, i.e. to the generation of his people. (See below, on Ps. 24:6.) It is highly improbable that the passive verb (יְסֻפַּר) has a meaning wholly different from that of the corresponding active form (אֲסַפְּרָה) in ver. 23 (22) above.

32 (31). They shall come and shall declare his righteousness to a people born, that he hath done (it). The subjects of the first verbs are the seed and generation of the preceding verse. They shall come into existence, shall appear upon the scene. But even they shall not monopolize the knowledge thus imparted, but communicate it to a people now unborn, but then born, i.e. to their own successors. The construction of the participle as a future is unnecessary, although not unauthorized by usage. See above, on Ps. 18:4 (3). Compare with this verse the beautiful figures of Ps. 19:3 (2).—His righteousness, including the faithful execution of his gracious promise. The last clause gives the substance of the declaration to be made, to wit, that he has done what forms the subject of the whole psalm. A similar ellipsis of the object, where the context readily supplies it, may be found above in ver. 27, 28, 30 (26, 27, 29). To these words it is supposed by some that our Lord alluded in his dying exclamation, It is finished! (John 19:30). The allusion, though not obvious, is interesting, as it brings the beginning and the end of this remarkable psalm into connection with each other and with that affecting scene to which there are so many clear and pointed references in the whole composition; thus completing, as it were, the proof, already strong enough, that Christ is the great subject of the psalm, as being the great type and representative of that whole class to whom it ostensibly relates, but of whom some parts, and especially the last five verses, are true only in a modified and lower sense.[1]

 

 

[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 98–107). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

Psalm 22

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? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent. But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded. But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him. But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts. I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly. Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help. Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. 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. 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. For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me. Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog. Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns. I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee. Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel. 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. My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him. The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever. All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the LORD’S: and he is the governor among the nations. 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. A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.” (Psalm 22:title–31, AV)

Psalm 22

The subject of this Psalm is the deliverance of a righteous sufferer from his enemies, and the effect of this deliverance on others. It is so framed as to be applied without violence to any case belonging to the class described, yet so that it was fully verified only in Christ, the head and representative of the class in question. The immediate speaker in the psalm is an ideal person, the righteous servant of Jehovah, but his words may, to a certain extent, be appropriated by any suffering believer, and by the whole suffering church, as they have been in all ages.

The psalm may be divided into three nearly equal parts. The first pleads the necessity of God’s interposition, arising from his covenant relation to the sufferer, ver. 2–11 (1–10). The second argues the same thing from the imminence of the danger, ver. 12–22 (11–21). The third declares the glorious effects which must follow from an answer to the foregoing prayer, ver. 23–32 (22–31). Ver. 12 (11) and 22 (21) form connecting links between the first and second, second and third parts.

1. To the Chief Musician. On the hind of the morning. A Psalm by David. Designed for the permanent use of the church, and therefore not relating to mere individual or private interests. The second clause of the inscription is one of those enigmatical titles in which David seems to have delighted. See above, on Ps. 5:1, 7:1, 9:1, 16:1. The opinion that it refers to the melody or subject of some other poem, is less probable than that it describes the theme of this. The hind may then be a poetical figure for persecuted innocence, and the morning, or rather dawn, for deliverance after long distress. Compare 2 Sam. 1:19, Prov. 6:5, Isa. 13:14, with Isa. 8:20, 47:11, 58:8, 10, Hos. 6:3, 10:15. The use of such emblems here is less surprising, as this psalm abounds in figures drawn from the animal kingdom. See below, ver. 13 (12), 14 (13), 17 (16), 21 (20), 22 (21).

2 (1). My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me, far from my deliverance, the words of my roaring? In this verse and the next we have the sufferer’s complaint, the summary description of his danger and distress, the highest point of which is here described as the sense of desertion or abandonment on God’s part. “Why hast thou left me so to suffer, that I cannot but consider myself finally deserted?” The use of these words by our Savior on the cross, with a slight variation from the Hebrew (Mat. 27:46, Mark 15:34), shews how eminently true the whole description is of him, but does not make him the exclusive subject. The divine name here used is the one descriptive of God’s power (אֵל), and may therefore be considered as including the idea of my strength. “Why hast thou, whom I regarded as my strength, my support, and my protector, thus forsaken me in this extremity?” The last clause admits of several constructions. “Far from my deliverance (are) the words of my roaring,” i.e. they are far from having the effect of saving me. Or the question may be repeated: (Why art thou) far from my help and the words of my roaring?” Or the same idea may be expressed by a simple affirmation; “(Thou art) far from my help,” &c. But the simplest construction is to put these words into apposition with the object of address in the first clause, and throw the whole into one sentence. “Why hast thou forsaken me, (standing or remaining) far from my help, i.e. too far off to help and save me, or even to hear the words of my roaring?” This last combination shews that although the figure of roaring is borrowed from the habits of the lower animals, the subject to which it is applied must be a human one, and as such capable of articulate speech. The roaring of the psalmist was not the mere instinctive utterance of physical distress, but the complaint of an intelligent and moral agent. Compare Isaiah 38:14.

3 (2). My God, I call by day and thou wilt not answer, and by night and there is no silence to me. The divine name here used is the common Hebrew word for God, denoting an object of religious worship. I call, literally I shall call, implying a sorrowful conviction that his cries will still be vain. Thou wilt not hear or answer: the original expression is a verb specifically appropriated to the favorable reception of a prayer. See above, on Ps. 3:5 (4), Day and night, i.e. without intermission. See above, on Ps. 1:2. No silence implies no answer, and the parallelism is therefore an exact one.

4 (3). And thou (art) holy, inhabiting the praises of Israel. Here begins his statement of the grounds on which he might claim to be heard, and all which may be summed up in this, that Jehovah was the covenant God of Israel. The word translated holy, in its widest sense, includes all that distinguishes God from creatures, not excepting what are usually termed his natural perfections. Hence the epithet is often found connected with descriptions of his power, eternity, &c. See Isa. 6:3; 40:25, 26; 57:15; Hab. 3:3; Ps. 111:9. The primary meaning of the verb appears to be that of separation, which may here be alluded to, in reference to Jehovah’s peculiar relation to the chosen people. Or it may be taken in its wider and higher sense, leaving the other to be expressed in the last clause. “Thou art the glorious and perfect God who inhabitest the praises of Israel,” i.e. dwellest among those praises, and art constantly surrounded by them. Some prefer, however, to retain the primary meaning of the Hebrew verb, sitting (enthroned upon) the praises of Israel.

5 (4). In thee trusted our fathers; they trusted and thou savedst them. Not only was Jehovah the covenant God of Israel, and as such bound to help his people, but he had actually helped them in time past. This is urged as a reason why he should not refuse to help the sufferer in this case. The plural form, our fathers, makes the prayer appropriate to the whole church, without rendering it less so to the case of Christ, or to that of the individual believer.

6 (5.) To thee they cried and were delivered; in thee they trusted, and were not ashamed. This last word is continually used in Scripture for the disappointment and frustration of the hopes. The argument of this verse lies in the tacit contrast between the case referred to and that of the sufferer himself. As if he had said, “How is it then that I cry and am not delivered, I trust and am confounded or ashamed?”

7 (6). And I (am) a worm, and not a man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. The pronoun expressed at the beginning is emphatic. I, as contrasted with my fathers. Our idiom would here require an adversative particle, but I, the use of which is much less frequent in Hebrew. See above, on Ps. 2:6. The insignificance and meanness of mankind in general are elsewhere denoted by the figure of a worm (Job 25:6). But even in comparison with these, the sufferer is a worm, i.e. an object of contemptuous pity, because apparently forsaken of God, and reduced to a desperate extremity. (Compare Isa. 41:14, and 1 Sam. 24:15.) A reproach of mankind, despised by them, and disgraceful to them.—The people, not a single person or a few, but the community at large.

8 (7). All seeing me mock at me; they pout with the lip; they shake the head. This is an amplification of the last clause of the verse preceding. The verb in the second member of the sentence is of doubtful meaning. It may either mean to stretch the mouth, or to part the lips with a derisive grin. (See Ps. 35:21, Job 16:10.) The shaking of the head may be either a vague gesture of contempt, or the usual expression of negation, by a lateral or horizontal motion, equivalent to saying “No, no!” i.e. there is no hope for him. Either of these explanations is more probable than that which applies the words to a vertical movement of the head or nodding, in token of assent, and acquiescence in the sufferings of the sufferer, as just and right. The peculiar gesture here described is expressly attributed by the evangelists to the spectators of our Savior’s crucifixion (Mat. 27:39, Mark 15:29). It is one of those minor coincidences, which, although they do not constitute the main subject of the prophecy, draw attention to it, and help us to identify it.

9 (8). Trust in Jehovah! He will deliver him, he will save him, for he delights in him. The literal meaning of the first clause is, roll to (or on) Jehovah, which would be unintelligible but for the parallel expressions in Ps. 37:5, roll thy way upon Jehovah, and in Prov. 16:3, roll thy work upon Jehovah, where the idea is evidently that of a burden cast upon another by one who is unable to sustain it himself. This burden, in the first case, is his way, i.e. his course of life, his fortune, his destiny, and in the other case, his work, i.e. his business, his affairs, his interest. In evident allusion to these places, the apostle Peter says, casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you (1 Pet. 5:7). By these three parallels light is thrown on the elliptical expression now before us, roll, i.e. thy burden or thy care upon Jehovah.—A further difficulty is occasioned by the form of the original, which, according to usage, must be either the infinitive construct or the second person of the imperative. But as these seem out of place in such a context, some arbitrarily explain it as an absolute infinitive, or a third person imperative, or change the form to that of a preterite. This last is the construction in the Septuagint version retained in the New Testament (Mat. 27:43), and really included in the Hebrew, but by no means an exact representation of its form. Perhaps the best solution of the syntax is to make this clause a quotation, or derisive repetition of the sufferer’s own words, as if they had said, “This is he who was so fond of repeating the precept, Trust in Jehovah! Let him now try its virtue in his own case. He in whom he has trusted, and exhorted others to trust also, will no doubt deliver him.” The next two verbs are ironical futures, not imperatives, and should be so translated.—The last words of the verse (חָפֵץ בּוֹ) are always applied elsewhere to God’s complacency in man, and not to man’s reciprocal delight in God. The Septuagint version, retained in the New Testament, if he will (have) him, or if he will (deliver) him, although not incorrect, is much inferior in strength to the original.—By appropriating these words, the spectators of our Lord’s sufferings identified themselves with the wicked persecutors, by whom they are here supposed to be originally uttered.

10 (9). For thou didst draw me from the womb, making me trust upon the breasts of my mother. The argument from past time is here pushed still further. God had not only shewn himself to be the God of the sufferer’s forefathers, but of the sufferer himself in early life. The for connects this verse with the last clause of the one preceding. What his enemies ironically said was seriously true. God had indeed delighted in him once, for it was he that brought him into life, and through the perils of infancy. Thou didst draw me, literally, thou (art or wast) my breaking forth, i.e. the cause of it, as God is said to be the light, joy, strength of the believer, i.e. the source or the dispenser of these blessings.—Made me trust, does not refer to the literal exercise of confidence in God, which could not be asserted of a suckling, but means gave me cause to trust or feel secure, in other words, secured me, kept me safe. The original construction is, making me trust, but the Hebrew infinitive and participle used in these two clauses may be here represented by the past tense of the English verb.—As applied to the whole church or chosen people, this verse may be considered as descriptive of God’s dealings with them at the exodus from Egypt, which is elsewhere metaphorically represented as a birth. The direct and obvious reference, however, is to individual birth and infancy.

11 (10). Upon thee was I cast from the womb; from the bowels of my mother, my God (art) thou. Into thy arms I was at first received, as into those of an affectionate parent. See Ruth 4:16, and compare the opposite use of the same figure in Ezek. 16:5. In the last clause we are brought back to the point from which we set out, the sufferer having, in the mean time, as it were, established his right to say, my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

12 (11). Be not far from me, for distress is near, for there is no helper. Having shewn that he was justified in expecting that God would not forsake him in extremity, he now shews that the extremity exists. The first clause constitutes the link of connection between the first and second subdivisions of the psalm. “Since, then, thou art my God, and as such must be near in my distress, Oh be not far from me now, for my distress is near, and there is no one else to help me.”—Near is not put in opposition to proximity or actual contact, but to distance. The particular form of expression was suggested by the prayer in the first clause. It was no time for God to be afar off, when trouble was so near, so close upon the sufferer.—The second for may be subordinated to the first, and introduce a reason for declaring that distress was near. But it is much more natural to make the two co-relative, and understand the second as suggesting an additional reason for the prayer, be not far from me.

13 (12). Many bulls have compassed me, strong bulls of Bashan have surrounded me. He now proceeds to amplify the last clause of the foregoing verse, by shewing that trouble was indeed at hand. The strength and fierceness of his persecutors are expressed by comparing them to cattle fed in the rich and solitary pastures of Bashan, where the absence of men would of course increase their wildness. Corresponding to the noun in the first clause is an epithet frequently applied to it in Hebrew.

14 (13). They have opened upon me their mouth, a lion tearing and roaring. The tropical nature of the language is evinced by the entire change of figure in this verse. The same persons who before were bulls of Bashan now appear as a ravening and roaring lion. There is no need of supplying a particle of comparison, the absence of which in both these verses, by substituting metaphor for simile, adds greatly to the life of the description.

15 (14). Like water I am poured out, and all my bones are parted; my heart has become like wax, melted in the midst of my bowels. Similar terms are used in Josh. 7:5, Lam. 2:19, to describe dismay and fear; but in the case before us they seem rather descriptive of extreme weakness. See Ps. 58:8 (7), 2 Sam. 14:14, and compare the symbolical action in 1 Sam. 7:6. The comparison with water is applied to moral weakness also in Gen. 49:4. The parting of the bones may either denote dislocation or extreme emaciation, making the bones prominent. In either case the essential idea is still that of desperate exhaustion and debility.

16 (15). Dried like the potsherd (is) my strength, and my tongue fastened to my jaws, and to the dust of death thou wilt reduce me. The description of debility is still continued. He is as destitute of vigor as a broken piece of earthenware is of sap or moisture.—Fastened, literally, made to cleave or stick, through dryness.—The dust of death, i.e. the grave, the place of burial, or more generally, the debased, humiliated state of the dead.—Thou wilt place me in it, or reduce me to it. The translation of this future as a preterite is not only ungrammatical, but hurtful to the sense, as the idea evidently is, that this is something not experienced already, but the end to which his sufferings are tending. The direct address to God recognizes him as the sovereign disposer, and men only as his instruments.

17 (16). For dogs have surrounded me, a crowd of evil-doers have beset me, piercing my hands and my feet. He now resumes the description of his persecutors, under figures borrowed from the animal kingdom. The comparison with dogs is much less forcible to us than to an oriental reader, because dogs in the east are less domesticated, more gregarious, wilder, and objects not of affection, but abhorrence, as peculiarly unclean. In the next clause the figurative dress is thrown aside, and the dogs described as an assembly of malefactors. The first noun seems intended to suggest the idea of a whole community or organized body as engaged in the persecution. See above, on people, in ver. 7 (6). This makes the passage specially appropriate to the sufferings of our Savior at the hands both of the mob and of the government. The Hebrew word is one of those applied in the Old Testament to the whole congregation of Israel. (See above, on Ps. 1:5, and compare Exod. 12:3, 16:1, 2, 9, Num. 27:17, Lev. 4:15.) The last clause, as above translated, contains a striking reference to our Savior’s crucifixion, which some have striven to expunge, by denying that the ancients nailed the feet as well as the hands to the cross. But although there is a singular absence of explicit declaration on the subject, both in the classical and sacred writers, the old opinion, that the feet were pierced, may be considered as completely verified by modern investigation and discussion. So far, therefore, as the question of usage is concerned, we can have no difficulty in referring this clause to our Savior’s crucifixion, and regarding it as one of those remarkable coincidences, some of which have been already noticed, all designed and actually tending to identify our Lord as the most prominent subject of the prophecy. It is very remarkable, however, that no citation or application of the clause occurs in any of the gospels. It is also worthy of remark that the clause, thus explained, although highly appropriate to one part of our Savior’s passion, is, unlike the rest of the description, hardly applicable, even in a figurative sense, to the case of any other sufferer. Even supposing the essential idea to be merely that of wounds inflicted on the body, it seems strange that it should be expressed in the specific and unusual form of piercing the hands and the feet. On further inspection it appears that, in order to obtain this meaning, we must either change the text (כָּֽאֵרוּ or כָּֽאֲרֵי for כָּֽאֲרִי) or assume a plural form so rare that some grammarians deny its existence altogether (כָּֽאֲרִי for כָּֽאֲרִים), and an equally rare form of the participle (כָּֽאֲרִים for כָּרִים), and a meaning of the verb itself which nowhere else occurs, but must be borrowed from a cognate root (כּוּר for כָּרָה); an accumulation of grammatical and lexicographical anomalies, which cannot be assumed without the strongest exegetical necessity, and this can exist only if the words admit of no other explanation more in accordance with analogy and usage. Now the very same form in Isa. 38:13, is unquestionably used to mean like the lion, and a slight modification of the same, in Num. 24:9, Ezek. 22:25, like a lion. This idea would be here the more appropriate, because the psalm abounds in such allusions, and because the lion is expressly mentioned both before and afterwards. See above, ver. 14 (13), and below, ver. 22 (21). The sense would then be: “they surround my hands and my feet, as they would a lion,” or, “as a lion would,” i.e. with the strength and fierceness of a lion. The hands and feet may be mentioned as the parts used in defense and flight. That the mention of these parts, after all, in connection with the lion is not altogether natural, cannot fairly be denied, and this objection should have all the weight to which it is entitled. But whether it can outweigh the grammatical difficulties that attend the other construction, is a serious question, which ought not to be embarrassed by any supposed conflict with New Testament authority, since no citation of the clause occurs there. It may even be possible to reconcile the two interpretations by supplying a verb and giving כָּֽאֲרִי its usual meaning. “Like the lion (they have wounded) my hands and my feet.” The point of comparison would then be the infliction of sharp wounds in those parts of the body, an idea common to the habits of the lion, and to the usages of crucifixion.

18 (17). I tell all my bones (while) they look and stare upon me. The pronoun of the last clause is expressed in Hebrew, which removes the ambiguity of the construction, by shewing that the subject of the following verbs is not the bones of the preceding clause, but something more remote, namely, the sufferer’s enemies and persecutors. The ambiguity of the English word tell corresponds to that of the Hebrew (אֲסַפֵּר), which means both to number and to relate, to count and to recount. Some suppose, not improbably, that this verse presents the sufferer as stripped by his enemies, and looking with grief and wonder at his own emaciation, while they gaze at it with delight, as the Hebrew phrase implies. See below, on Ps. 27:13.

19 (18). They (are about to) divide my garments for themselves, and on my clothing they (are ready to) cast lots. This is the last stroke necessary to complete the picture. Having stripped him, nothing more is left but to appropriate his garments, whether from cupidity or in derision. The futures intimate that things can go no further without actual loss of life, and that the case is therefore an extreme one. The providential realization of this ideal scene in our Lord’s history is expressly mentioned by all the four evangelists (Mat. 27:35, Mark 15:24, Luke 23:34, John 19:23, 24). This makes their silence as to ver. 17 (16) the more remarkable.

20 (19). And thou, Jehovah, be not far; my strength! to my assistance hasten. The pronoun in the first clause is emphatic. “Such is the conduct of my enemies; but as for thee, O Lord, be not far from me.” The word translated strength is used in this place only, and apparently in reference to the name of God with which the psalm begins (אֵלִי) and to the word hind (אַיֶּלֶת) in the title, both which are akin to it in etymology.

21 (20). Free from the sword my life (or soul), from the hand of the dog my lonely one (or only one). The sword is a general expression for life-destroying agents. See 2 Sam. 11:24, 25, where it is applied to archery.—My life, my soul, i.e. myself considered as a living person.—The apparent solecism, hand of the dog, shews that both terms are figurative, or as one has quaintly expressed it, that the dog meant is a dog with hands. See above, on ver. 17 (16), where the plural dogs is co-extensive in its meaning with the ideal or collective singular in this place.—My only (life), the only one I have to lose, is a good sense in itself, both here and in Ps. 35:17; but the analogy of Ps. 25:16, and 68:7 (6), recommends the sense of solitary, lonely, which is admissible in all the places.

22 (21). Save me from the mouth of the lion, and from the horns of the unicorns thou hast heard (or answered) me. The petition in the first clause is directly followed by an expression of confident assurance that his prayer will be answered, or rather that it is already heard, corresponding to the figurative expression in ver. 3 (2), thou wilt not hear (or answer), where the same Hebrew verb is used.—From the horns denotes of course the place from which the prayer proceded, not the answer. The figure is a strong one for the midst of danger. The name of any wild horned animal would be appropriate. The precise sense of the Hebrew word (רֵמִים) is therefore comparatively unimportant. The common version unicorns rests on the authority of the Septuagint; but although the unicorn, long regarded as a fabulous animal, has now been proved to be a real one, we have no reason to believe that it was ever known in Palestine, or to dissent from the common judgment of the learned, that the Hebrew word denotes the wild bull or a species of the antelope, most probably the former.

23 (22). I will declare thy name to my brethren, in the midst of the assembly I will praise thee. His certainty of audience and acceptance is further expressed by declaring his intention to give thanks for it.—To declare God’s name, in Scripture usage, is to celebrate the acts by which he has manifested his perfections. See above, on Ps. 5:12 (11).—The assembly, or congregation of Israel, to which the Hebrew word is constantly applied (Lev. 16:17, Deut. 31:30), whether present in person or by their representatives (2 Chron. 20:13–15). The same sense of the word occurs below, Ps. 35:18, 40:10 (9). The idea here is that his praise shall not be merely private or domestic, but public.

24 (23). Fearers of Jehovah, praise him! All the seed of Jacob, glorify him! And be afraid of him, all the seed of Israel! These words are uttered, as it were, in the midst of the ideal congregation mentioned in the verse preceding. That the call, though formally addressed to the whole race, was really intended for the spiritual Israel, excluding wicked Israelites and including the righteous of whatever name or nation, is indicated by the words of the first clause, while the last shews that the praise required is not familiar, but in the highest degree reverential.

25 (24). For he has not despised and not abhorred the suffering of the sufferer, and has not hid his face from him, and, in his crying to him, heard. This is the ground on which the fearers of the Lord are called upon to praise him, namely, the faithful execution of his promise to the sufferer in this case, and the pledge thereby afforded of like faithfulness in every other.

26 (25). From thee (shall be) my praise in (the) great congregation; my vows I will pay before his fearers, those who fear him. From thee is something more than of thee. It does not merely indicate the theme or subject, but the source or cause of his thanksgiving. “It is thou who givest me occasion thus to praise thee.” In the last clause there seems to be a reference to the sacrificial feasts connected with the fulfilment of vows made in distress or danger. (See Deut. 12:18, 16:11.) These were occasions of festivity, not only to the offerer and his nearest friends, but to a wide circle of invited guests, which makes the metaphor peculiarly appropriate in this place. The essential idea is the same as in ver. 23 (22).—His fearers, worshippers, the true Israel, as distinguished from the mere natural descendants of the patriarch.

27 (26). (Then) shall eat (thereof) the humble, and be satisfied; (then) shall praise Jehovah those who seek him. May your heart live for ever! The adverb then is here supplied in the translation, in order to retain the Hebrew order of the sentence. The word thereof is introduced to remove all ambiguity of syntax, and to connect the act of eating with the sacrificial feast of the foregoing verse.—To seek God, in the dialect of Scripture, is to seek to know him, and also to seek his favor, not only by specific acts of prayer, but by the whole course of the life. See above, on Ps. 14:2.—The concluding wish, your heart live for ever, comprehends an assurance that it shall live. The heart is said to die, in cases of extreme grief and distress. See 1 Sam. 25:37, and compare Ps. 109:22. The objects of address are those who seek and praise God. The sudden change of person is analogous to that in ver. 26 (25), which begins from thee, and ends with fearing him. That this is not an inadvertent irregularity, appears from its recurrence in the next verse.—The humble and the seekers of Jehovah are parallel descriptions of the same class, namely, true believers, those who are elsewhere called the righteous.

28 (27). Remember and return to Jehovah shall all the ends of the earth, and worship before thee all the kindreds of the nations. As the joyful effects of this deliverance were not to be restricted to himself or his domestic circle, but extended to the great congregation of God’s people, so too we now read that they shall not be confined to any one race, but made to embrace all. The ends of the earth, here put for the remotest nations. See above, on Ps. 2:8. These are named as the least likely to be comprehended in the promise, but of course without excluding those less distant. As if he had said, the ends of the earth and all that is between them. In the other clause, accordingly, we find as a parallel expression, not the furthest, but all nations. They shall remember this deliverance, this exhibition of God’s faithfulness and might, and shall turn unto Jehovah, be converted to his worship and his service. Some suppose an allusion to the great original apostasy, or to the temporary casting off of the Gentiles: they shall remember their original condition, and return unto the Lord, from whom they have revolted. But this, though true and really implied, is not the strict sense of the words, which would then have no perceptible connection with the general subject of the psalm, and the immediate occasion of the praise which it contains.—Worship, literally prostrate themselves, the accustomed oriental indication both of civil and religious worship.—The form of expression in the last clause is evidently borrowed from the patriarchal promise. Compare Gen. 12:3, 28:14.

29 (28). For unto Jehovah is the kingdom, and (he is) governor among the nations. This will not be a gratuitous extension to the Gentiles of what properly belongs to Israel alone, but a restoration of God’s mercies, after ages of restriction, to their original and proper scope. For Jehovah is not the king of Israel only, but of all mankind. See Rom. 3:29.—The kingdom, i.e. general ecumenical dominion.—Governor, properly a participle, ruling, the use of which may be intended to suggest that as he has always been their governor de jure, so now he begins to govern them de facto, not with a providential sway, which is invariable as well as universal, but with a spiritual sway, which is hereafter to be co-extensive with the earth itself. Compare the similar expressions, Obad. 21, Zech. 14:9, and the still closer parallels, Ps. 96:10, 97:1, 99:1.

30 (29). They have eaten and worshipped—all the fat (ones) of the earth—before him shall bend all going down (to) the dust, and (he who) his own soul did not save alive. The distinction of ranks shall be as little regarded at this feast as that of nations.—Eaten and worshipped, partaken of the sacrificial feast in honor of this great salvation. Fat, a common oriental figure for the prosperous, and especially the rich. These are particularly mentioned to exhibit a peculiar feature of the feast in question, which was not, like the sacrificial feasts of the Mosaic law, designed expressly for the poor, though these are not excluded, as appears from the parallel clause.—Going down to the dust, i.e. the dust of death, as in ver. 16 (15) above. Compare the analogous expressions used in Ps. 28:1, 4, 9 (3, 9), 88:5 (4), 115:17, 143:7. The idea is, that this enjoyment shall be common to the rich and those who are ready to perish, or as it is expressed in the last clause, he who cannot keep his soul (or himself) alive, a strong expression for the extreme of destitution. He who before, or a little while ago, no longer kept himself alive, but was just about to perish, is now seen kneeling at the sacrificial feast in honor of this great salvation.

31 (30). Posterity shall serve him; it shall be related of the Lord to the (next) generation. The last restriction to be done away is that of time. The effects of this salvation shall no more be confined to the present generation than to the higher classes of society, or the natural descendants of the patriarchs.—A seed, i.e. posterity, the seed of those who witness or first hear of the event.—Shall serve him, i.e. worship and obey Jehovah, the same thing that is expressed by eating and bowing down in ver. 30 (29) above. The means of this conversion shall be the perpetuated knowledge of what God has done.—Generation is used absolutely, as in Ps. 71:18, where it means not this generation, but the next. The complete phrase (דור אחרון) occurs below, Ps. 48:14 (13), 78:4. The Lord. The original is not Jehovah, but Adhonai, the divine name properly denoting sovereignty. See above, on Ps. 2:4, 21:2. The exposition above given of the verse before us is equally agreeable to usage, and much better suited to the context, than the one which makes it mean that a seed shall be reckoned by the Lord (as belonging) to the generation, i.e. to the generation of his people. (See below, on Ps. 24:6.) It is highly improbable that the passive verb (יְסֻפַּר) has a meaning wholly different from that of the corresponding active form (אֲסַפְּרָה) in ver. 23 (22) above.

32 (31). They shall come and shall declare his righteousness to a people born, that he hath done (it). The subjects of the first verbs are the seed and generation of the preceding verse. They shall come into existence, shall appear upon the scene. But even they shall not monopolize the knowledge thus imparted, but communicate it to a people now unborn, but then born, i.e. to their own successors. The construction of the participle as a future is unnecessary, although not unauthorized by usage. See above, on Ps. 18:4 (3). Compare with this verse the beautiful figures of Ps. 19:3 (2).—His righteousness, including the faithful execution of his gracious promise. The last clause gives the substance of the declaration to be made, to wit, that he has done what forms the subject of the whole psalm. A similar ellipsis of the object, where the context readily supplies it, may be found above in ver. 27, 28, 30 (26, 27, 29). To these words it is supposed by some that our Lord alluded in his dying exclamation, It is finished! (John 19:30). The allusion, though not obvious, is interesting, as it brings the beginning and the end of this remarkable psalm into connection with each other and with that affecting scene to which there are so many clear and pointed references in the whole composition; thus completing, as it were, the proof, already strong enough, that Christ is the great subject of the psalm, as being the great type and representative of that whole class to whom it ostensibly relates, but of whom some parts, and especially the last five verses, are true only in a modified and lower sense.[1]

 

 

[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 98–107). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)



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