Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Psalms 22

Verse 1

Psalms 22.

David complaineth in great discouragement: he prayeth in great distress: he praiseth God.

To the chief musician upon Aijeleth Shahar, A Psalm of David.

Title. השׁחר אילת Aiieleth hashachar Dr. Delaney supposes this and the 25th Psalm to have been written by David when he was at Mahanaim, the place where God appeared to Israel in his distress, Genesis 32. The 3rd, 4th, and 5th verses receive no small illustration and beauty, if supposed to be occasioned by the recollection of the former manifestation of divine Providence on this very spot; the ideas which arose successively in the Psalmist's mind being the following: God had made good his promises to Israel;—promises given in this very place:—at a time when Israel was in grievous distress; and the worship of Israel still continued to be holy:—Why, then, should not David hope that he would make good his promises likewise to him; even though to all appearance he was on the brink of destruction? The Jews themselves, in Midrash, apply this Psalm, as descriptive of the sufferings of the Messiah; and our Lord, in making use of the first words of it upon the cross, (when, as some think, he repeated the whole,) not only laid claim to the character of the Messiah, but likewise tacitly insinuated, that his sufferings, instead of shocking their faith, should convince them, that he only could be the Messiah predicted by the prophet, because the indignities that he had foretold, notwithstanding they were so extraordinary, and told with so much minuteness, were all accomplished in him. Certainly some passages in this psalm were more literally fulfilled in our Saviour than they were in David. We shall therefore consider it more particularly as referring to Christ. It is intitled השׁחר אילת Aiieleth hashachar; which is commonly rendered, The hind of the morning. "Many nice observations have been made on the titles of the psalms, but attended with the greatest uncertainty. Later eastern customs, respecting the titles of books and poems, may perhaps render these matters a little more determinate; but great precision and positiveness must not be expected. D'Herbelot, in his Bibliotheque Orientale, informs us, that a Persian metaphysical and mystical poem, was called the rose bush: a collection of moral essays, the garden of anemonies: another eastern book, the lion of the forest: That Scherfeddin ab Baussiri called a poem of his, written in praise of his Arabian prophet, (who, he affirmed, had cured him in his sleep of a paralytic disorder,) the habit of a dervise: and because he is there celebrated for having given sight to a blind person, the poem is also intitled by the author, the bright star. Other titles mentioned by him are as odd. The ancient Jewish taste may reasonably be supposed to have been of the same kind. Agreeable to which is the explanation which some learned men have given of David's commanding the Bow to be taught the children of Israel, 2 Samuel 1:18 which they apprehend did not relate to the use of that weapon in war, but to the hymn which he composed on occasion of the death of Saul and Jonathan; in which he mentioned the bow of Jonathan, and from whence he intitled that elegy, as they think, the bow. The present psalm might in like manner be called the hind of the morning; the 56th, the dove dumb in distant places; the 66th, the lily of the testimony; the 80th, the lilies of the testimony, in the plural; and the 45th simply the lilies. It is sufficiently evident, I should think, that these terms do not denote certain musical instruments: for if they did, why do the more common names of the timbrel, the harp, the psaltery, and the trumpet, with which psalms were sung, (Psalms 81:2-3.) never appear in those titles?—Do they signify certain tunes? It ought not, however, to be imagined that these tunes are so called from their bearing some resemblance to the noises made by the things mentioned in the titles; for lilies are silent, if this supposition should otherwise have been allowed with respect to the hind of the morning, Nor doth the 56th psalm speak of the mourning of the dove, but of its dumbness. If they signify tunes at all, they must signify, I should imagine, the tunes to which such songs or hymns were sung, as were distinguished by these names; and so the inquiry will terminate in this point: whether the psalms to which these titles were affixed were called by these names; or whether they were some other psalms or songs, to the tune of which these were to be sung. And as we do not find the bow referred to, nor the same name twice made use of, so far as our lights reach, it should seem most probable that these are the names of those very psalms to which they are prefixed. The 42nd psalm, it may be thought, might very well have been entitled the hind of the morning; because, as the hart panted after the water-brooks, so panted the soul of the Psalmist after God. But the present psalm, it is certain, might equally well be distinguished by this title; dogs have compassed me, the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me; words which allude to the eastern manner of hunting, namely, by assembling great numbers of people and inclosing the creatures that they hunt; and as the Psalmist did, in the 42nd psalm, rather choose to compare himself to a hart than a hind, the present much better answers this title, in which he speaks of his hunted soul in the feminine gender: Psalms 22:20. Deliver my soul from the sword, my darling (which in the original is feminine) from the power of the dog. No one who reflects on the circumstances of David at the time to which the 56th psalm refers, and considers the oriental taste, will wonder to see that psalm intitled the dove dumb in distant places; nor are lilies more improper to be made the title of other psalms, with suitable distinctions, than a garden of anemonies to be the name of a collection of moral discourses." See Observations, p. 318. Fenwick thinks that the title of this psalm should be rendered, the strength of the morning; and that it relates to Christ, as being the bright morning-star, or, day-spring from on high, as he is called, Luke 1:78. Him, the dew of whose birth is of the womb of the morning: The title therefore, says he, leads us to observe and contemplate in this psalm, the depth of that love and condescension which made the Son of God humble himself in the way here described, and even to the death of the cross, though he be the bright morning-star, and the day-spring from on high.

Psalms 22:1. My God, my God, &c.— It is observable, that Sabachthani, produced by the Evangelists, is not a Hebrew word; and hence it is most likely that our Saviour used that dialect which was most commonly understood by the Jews in his time; and which, it is probable, was a mixed dialect, composed of Hebrew, Chaldee, and Syriac. Agreeably to this supposition, it is further observed, that eloi, eloi, as St. Mark expresses our Saviour's words, were more nearly Chaldee. The Hebrew, as it now stands, according to our manner of reading, is עזבתני למה אלי אלי aeli, aeli, lamah aezabtani. Our Saviour was not ignorant of the reason why he was afflicted; Why hast thou forsaken me? He knew that all the rigours and pains which he endured upon the cross were only because the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and God laid on him the iniquity of us all; Isaiah 53:5-6. The words imply then that he himself had done nothing to merit the evils which he suffered. This is the meaning of the question here, as also of that in Psalms 2:1. The latter part of the verse refers to Christ's prayer in the garden. See Luke 22:44.

Verse 2

Psalms 22:2. Thou hearest not St. Paul says, Hebrews 5:7. That Christ was heard in that he feared; but Christ here says, that his father heard him not, only to intimate that he did not dispense him from suffering the death of the cross; for which the father, who heard him always, (John 11:42.) had wise reasons, taken from the end for which his son was incarnate. See John 12:27. The last words may be rendered, And have no rest.

Verse 3

Psalms 22:3. But thou art holy, &c.— But notwithstanding thou dost not hear me at present, I am persuaded that thou wilt do so; for thou art holy, &c. good and gracious; the divinity that dwellest where the praises and homages of Israel have been always offered for mercies granted unto them.

Verse 4-5

Psalms 22:4-5. Our fathers, &c.— i.e. My fathers, according to the flesh: the Israelites, to whom, whenever they cried unto thee in their distress, thou sentest a deliverer; such as Gideon, Samson, Samuel, &c.

Verse 6

Psalms 22:6. But I am a worm, &c.— As if he had said, "Thou hearest others; but, as for me, thou sufferest me to pray, to groan, and to weep, but thou wilt not seem to hear me." Christ may be said to have been a worm, with respect to the mean and poor condition in which he lived; but especially to the kind of death which he suffered; for he was stripped of his clothes, and fixed upon the cross, naked as a worm of the earth: See Philippians 2:7. Matthew 27:39-43. Indeed, the best way to understand the sense of this psalm is to read the history of our Saviour's passion.

Verse 9-10

Psalms 22:9-10. But thou art he, &c.— It was by the particular order of his Father that Christ came into the world; and therefore he said at his entrance into it, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: Hebrews 10:5. When I was upon my mother's breasts, evidently relates to the miraculous order which God gave to Joseph and Mary to carry into Egypt the young child Jesus, who as yet hanged upon his mother's breasts, Matthew 2:20-21. I was cast upon thee from the womb, means that God took him at his birth, and in a particular manner charged himself with the care of him. It was anciently the custom, when a child was born, to lay it upon the ground; and then he who lifted it from thence thereby declared himself to be its father, and took upon himself the care of its maintenance. See Genesis 30:3; Genesis 50:23. Therefore when the poets would exaggerate the happiness of a man to whom all things succeeded according to his desire, they said, that he was taken up by some god or goddess.

Verse 11

Psalms 22:11. For there is none to help See Isaiah 53:3; Isaiah 63:3. John 16:32.

Verse 12

Psalms 22:12. Many bulls—of Bashan By the strong and fierce bulls of Bashan, which was the richest soil in Palestine, are represented the haughty senators, the chief-priests, the Scribes, the Pharisees, and the other great men of Judea; who, after having resolved upon the death of Christ, Psalms 2:2 were so insolent as to make their appearance round his cross, and to insult him with their mockeries.

Verse 14

Psalms 22:14. I am poured out like water, &c.—

As water spilt, and poured out, I seem As all my bones were out of joint. FENWICK.

By this comparison, and by that of wax, which melts before the fire, the speaker represents how much his strength was exhausted, and his spirits as it were dissolved. Nothing can be more pathetic and affecting than the description in this and the following verse; where the melancholy expression my tongue cleaveth to my jaws, was verified by our Saviour in the last agonies of his passion; when he cried out I thirst. John 19:28. The dust of death signifies the brink of the grave.

Verse 16

Psalms 22:16. For dogs have compassed me The idea here is, of a pack of hounds encompassing a distressed deer, which they have hunted down. See the remarks on the title. Hereby are represented the Roman soldiers and the other Gentiles who were with the Jews around the cross. Schultens renders the next clause, the assembly of the wicked, as a lion, have broken my hands and my feet. But Houbigant defends our present version. See his note. This and the following verses were literally fulfilled in our Saviour; and Theodoret observes, that when he was extended, and his limbs distorted on the cross, it might be easy for a spectator literally to tell all his bones. See Bishop Pearson on the Creed, p. 88.

Verse 20-21

Psalms 22:20-21. Deliver my soul, &c.— Bishop Hare observes, that in these two verses the Psalmist recapitulates the four things that he had before mentioned, and to which he had compared his enemies; the sword, the lion, the dogs, the unicorns, [the oryx or buffalo] substituted instead of bulls; and he intreats the Lord to deliver him from them all. Instead of, my darling from the power of the dog, the Arabic reads, and from the hand or power of the dog, which has seized me. Houbigant and Mudge, for darling read my solitary, or, only one; meaning his soul, or life; which was now left destitute, and exposed to all the outrages of his enemies. See Psalms 25:16; Psalms 35:17.

Verse 22

Psalms 22:22. I will declare thy name Nothing is more common in the psalms, than these sudden transitions, and nothing more beautiful. Our Saviour here passes from the mournful view of his death to the comfortable prospect of his resurrection. He intimates, that after God should have delivered him from the power of death by a glorious resurrection, he would more fully publish his gospel, by which the adorable perfections of God, and especially his wisdom and mercy, would be more eminently displayed among his apostles, and among the rest of his disciples and followers, whom He is not ashamed to call his brethren, Hebrews 2:11. The following verses can certainly be applied to David only in a very restrained sense, but are literally true of Christ, and his triumphant reign; when in the latter days all the people upon earth, even in the most remote corners of the world, shall worship and adore him. The congregation here, and the great congregation, Psalms 22:25 must refer to the whole body of the Christian church.

Verse 26

Psalms 22:26. The meek shall eat, &c.— The humble: See Matthew 11:29. "They shall eat of the true christian sacrifice; in consequence of which, they shall praise the Lord, and live for ever; i.e. shall be always full of comfort and joy, which nothing shall be able to take from them." The next verse so clearly represents the calling of the Gentiles, that we cannot reasonably interpret it in any other sense. See Psalms 2:8.

Verse 29

Psalms 22:29. All they that be fat upon earth, &c.— The fat upon earth, means the rich, the great, and princes themselves. Houbigant renders it, the rich of the earth. They shall eat and worship; devoutly partake of the eucharistical sacrifice of Christ, as the Jews did of the legal sacrifices. See 1 Corinthians 10:17-18. The latter part of the verse is understood differently. All that descend into the dust, some suppose to mean all the poor, who, as well as the rich, shall worship him. For none can keep alive his own soul: i.e. The greatest, as well as the meanest, must acknowledge that their salvation proceeds from him alone. Houbigant renders this and the following verses thus: All the rich of the earth shall come and worship; all those who go down into the dust shall prostrate themselves before him; Psalms 22:30. But my soul shall live to him: my seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation: Psalms 22:31. They shall come and declare his righteousness unto a people who shall be born, when he hath done this: i.e. when he hath fulfilled that which is here predicted.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have here,

1. A bitter complaint under a sense of God's absence from his soul. My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me, and art so far from helping me, when under the bitterest agonies of soul, as well as tormenting pains in my body, and from the words of my roaring, when with an exceeding loud and bitter cry I bemoan my sufferings? In the day on the cross, and in the night in the garden, incessantly he cried; and yet the bitter cup might not pass from him; and herein God appeared as if he heard him not.

2. He encourages his trust in God, notwithstanding his most painful situation, [1.] From a sense of the holiness of God; Thou art holy, who, in all the sufferings that the Redeemer endured, designed to display his righteousness in the punishment of sin; O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel, art the object of continual praise for the wondrous mercies manifested in redeeming grace. [2.] From the former experience of the saints of God: Our fathers trusted in thee, &c. As God, it may be said, Who is his father? As man he was the seed of Abraham, David, &c. whose troubles were as great as their deliverances were glorious, and who never sought God's face in vain.

3. He laments the contempt and reproach cast upon him: as a worm trodden down by every foot; so despicable, as if he was no man; below the meanest; derided and scorned; treated as an impostor; executed as a villain and murderer; and, even on the accursed tree, mockery added to his shame and torture; while they who went by literally fulfilled his prophecy, wagging the head and saying, He trusted on the Lord, that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.

Note; (1.) The most honourable character in the sight of God is usually that which man despiseth. (2.) They who will be followers of Christ must be content to bear his reproach.

4. Notwithstanding, he trusted in God, whose care from tenderest infancy he had experienced; by wonderous providences, though in a stable born, thou didst make me hope, or keep me in safety; and, by a miraculous vision, secured him, when a babe at the breast in Egypt, from Herod's cruelty. I was cast upon thee from the days of my nativity, and I trust that I shall find the same protection to the end of my life. Note; The mercies of our days of helpless infancy should never be forgotten; and he who brought us safely from the womb, we are bound to trust, will carry us comfortably to our grave.

2nd, Whither shall the afflicted sufferer fly, but unto the God of his help and his salvation? We have now the sufferings of Christ described; and with such precision, that we cannot but be convinced that Jesus is the Christ. Troubles like rolling waves, from perfidious friends and open enemies, approached him; none to help him; forsaken of all, and left alone to grapple with the united force of earth and hell. Fierce and strong as bulls of Bashan, his enemies rushed upon him; eager as the blood-hound on his prey, they seized him; and, cruel as a ravening and roaring lion, sought to terrify his mind, while they broke him in pieces with their savage jaws. He seems as weak as water; his joints as if unloosed; his heart melted as wax, and his strength quite failing him. He is compassed about by the assembly of the wicked, urgent to hasten his miserable end; nailed to the accursed tree, hung up in ignominy and torture; his bones ready to start through his skin; his enemies feasting their eyes with the inhuman spectacle; his tongue dry with thirst, which is insulted with vinegar mingled with gall; his blood gushing out as water upon the earth; his soul melted as wax with a sense of the divine wrath, and death coming to put at last a period to his miseries. Such things he endured for us men, and for our salvation. Had he not borne these torturing pains, we must have been eternally tormented: if his soul had not felt the wrath of God, ours must have been exposed to it: but for his thirst we must have wanted a drop of water to cool a flaming tongue; or at least, if his body had not for a while been laid in the dust, our bodies and souls must have for ever lain in the belly of hell. O, blessed then, for ever blessed, be God for Jesus Christ!

3rdly, When Jesus, by the sufferings of death, for a moment seemed to sink beneath his foes, in silent anguish his people sat disconsolate; but lo! he comes to awaken up their praises, and from the dust to proclaim his great redemption.

1. He opens the triumphant song himself: I will declare thy name, thy glory, grace, and faithfulness, unto my brethren, the church of the faithful redeemed, whom Christ is not ashamed to call brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee; in the hearts of his militant members on earth, or at the head of his glorified saints in heaven.

2. He calls upon his people to join the thanksgiving. The spiritual seed of Jacob, and the true Israel of God, must praise and glorify him for his mercy in the Redeemer, whose afflictions, far from despising or abhorring, he was well-pleased with, and accepted as the full satisfaction for our sins; looked upon him with most delightful complacence, even in his agony, and heard and answered his cry in the salvation vouchsafed to him in the resurrection-day, and to all his faithful people for his sake: and herein the Saviour leads the way, My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows of praise to God, or his engagements to his faithful people, whose character is given as those who fear God.

3. In Christ are found rich supplies for the soul's nourishment and comfort. The meek, those who are lowly in their own eyes, and have learned of the meek and humble Jesus, shall eat, feed upon the flesh of Christ, and all the saving benefits thence derived, and be satisfied, in the perfection of his sacrifice and redemption, and the consequent enjoyment of God to all eternity.

4. The extent of Christ's kingdom shall be universal. By the power of Divine grace, the ends of the earth shall be called and converted to him, and come and worship before him. The kingdoms of the world shall become the kingdoms of the Lord, and he shall be the governor, to reign in his people's hearts by love, and over his enemies with a rod of iron.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 22". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.