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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 22

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-31


THERE is no psalm which has raised so much controversy as this. Admitted to be Messianic by the early Hebrew commentators, it is by some understood wholly of David; by others, applied to the Israelite people, or to the pious part of it; by others again, regarded as an ideal representation of the sufferings of the righteous man, and the effects of them; and by one or two eccentric critics, explained as referring to Hezekiah or Jeremiah. Against the view that David means to describe in the psalm his own dangers, sufferings, and deliverance, it is reasonably urged that David was at no time in the circumstances here described—he was never without a helper (Psalms 22:11); never "despised of the people" (Psalms 22:6); never stripped of his clothes (Psalms 22:17); never in the state of exhaustion, weakness, and emaciation that are spoken of (Psalms 22:14-17); never pierced either in his hands or feet (Psalms 22:16); never made a gazing-stock (Psalms 22:17); never insulted by having his garments parted among his persecutors, or lots east upon his vesture (Psalms 22:18). The suppositions that the nation is meant, or the pious part of it, or an ideal righteous man, are negatived by the impossibility of applying to them the second portion of the psalm (Psalms 22:22-31), and the consideration that abstractions of the kind suggested belong to the later and not the earlier phases of a nation's poetry. The only explanation which remains is that traditional in the Christiau Church, that David, full of the Holy Ghost, was moved to speak in the Person of Christ, and to describe, not his own sufferings and perils and deliverance, but those of his great Antitype, the Messiah, which were revealed to him in vision or otherwise, and which he was directed to put on record. The close correspondence between the psalm and the incidents of the Passion is striking, and is admitted on all hands, even by Hupfeld, and it is a correspondence brought about by the enemies of the teaching of Christ, the Jews and the Romans. References indicative of the prophetic and Messianic character of the psalm are frequent in the New Testament. Note especially the following: Matthew 27:35, Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34; John 19:24; Hebrews 2:12.

The psalm is composed, manifestly, of two portions—the complaint and prayer of a sufferer (Psalms 22:1-21), and a song of rejoicing after deliverance (Psalms 22:22-31). According to some critics, the first of these two portions is also itself divided into two parts—each consisting of two strophes (Psalms 22:1-10 and Psalms 22:12-21), which are linked together by a single ejaculatory verse (Psalms 22:11). A further analysis divides each of the three strophes of ten verses into two strophes of five; but there is certainly no ,such division in the second strophe of ten, since Psalms 22:16-17 are most closely connected together.

The composition of the psalm by David, though not universally admitted, has in its favour a large majority of the critics. The imagery is Davidical; the sudden transition at Psalms 22:22 is Davidical; the whole psalm "abounds in expressions which occur frequently, or exclusively, in psalms generally admitted to have been composed by David" ('Speaker's Commentary'). David's authorship is moreover distinctly asserted in the title, and confirmed by the "enigmatic superscription," which is a Davidical fancy.

Psalms 22:1

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Not a cry of despair, but a cry of loving faith, "My God, my God—Why hast thou for a time withdrawn thyself?" It is remarkable that our Lord's quotation of this passage does not follow exactly either the Hebrew or the Chaldee paraphrase—the Hebrew having 'azabthani for sabacthani, and the Chaldee paraphrase metul ma for lama. May we not conclude that it is the thought, and not its verbal expression by the sacred writers, that is inspired? Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? It is very doubtful whether our translators have done right in supplying the words which they have added. The natural translation of the Hebrew would be, Far from my salvation are the words of my roaring. And this rendering yields a sufficiently good sense, viz. "Far from effecting my salvation (or deliverance) are the words of my roaring;" i.e. of my loud complaint. Our Lord's "strong crying and tears" in the garden (Hebrews 5:7) did not produce his deliverance.

Psalms 22:2

O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; rather, thou answerest not; i.e. thou dost not interpose to deliver me. And in the night season, and am not silent.

Psalms 22:3

But thou art holy. Still God is holy; the Sufferer casts no reproach upon him, but "commits himself to him that judgeth righteously" (1 Peter 2:23). O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. God is seen enthroned in his sanctuary, where the praises and prayers of Israel are ever being offered up to him. If he hears them, he will assuredly, in his own good time, hear the Sufferer.

Psalms 22:4

Our fathers trusted in thee. It sustains the Sufferer to think how many before him have cried to God, and trusted in him, and for a while been seemingly not heard, and yet at length manifestly heard and saved. They trusted in thee, and thou didst (ultimately) deliver them.

Psalms 22:5

They cried unto thee, and were delivered. If they were delivered because they cried, the Sufferer who cries "day and night" (vex. 2) can scarcely remain unheard for ever. They trusted in thee, and were not confounded; or, were not put to shame (οὐ κατησχύνθησαν, LXX.).

Psalms 22:6

But I am a worm, and no man (comp. Job 25:6; Isaiah 41:14). The worm is a symbol of extreme weakness and helplessness—it is naturally despised, derided, trodden upon. A reproach of men, and despised of the people (Comp. Isaiah 49:7; Isaiah 53:3; and for the fulfilment, see Matthew 27:39). How deeply Christ was "despised of the people" appeared most evidently when they expressed their desire that, instead of him, a murderer should be granted to them (Acts 3:14).

Psalms 22:7

All they that see me laugh me to scorn; ἐξεμυκτήρισάν με, LXX. (comp. Luke 23:35, "The people stood beholding;and the rulers also with them derided him (ἐξεμυκτήριζον)"). They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying.

Psalms 22:8

He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him. This is a translation of the Septuagint Version rather than of the Hebrew text, which runs, Trust in the Lord (literally, Roll [thy care] upon the Lord): let him deliver him. Let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him. St. Matthew has put it on record that this text was actually cited by the scribes and elders who witnessed the Crucifixion, and applied to our Lord in scorn (Matthew 27:43). They quoted apparently from the Septuagint, but with an inaccuracy common at the time, when books were scarce, and persons had to depend on their memory of what they had occasionally heard read.

Psalms 22:9

But thou art he that took me out of the womb (comp. Job 10:8-11). God's creatures have always a claim upon him from the very fact that they are his creatures. Every sufferer may appeal to God as his Maker, and therefore bound to be his Helper and Preserver. Thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts. Thou gavest me the serene joy and trust of infancy—that happy time to which man looks back with such deep satisfaction. Every joy, every satisfaction, came from thee.

Psalms 22:10

I was cast upon thee from the womb. In a certain sense this is true of all; but of the Holy Child it was most true (Luke 2:40, Luke 2:49, Luke 2:52). He was "cast" on God the Father's care in an especial way. Thou art my God from my mother's belly. The Child Jesus was brought near to God from his birth (Luke 1:35; Luke 2:21, Luke 2:22). From the first dawn of consciousness God was his God (Luke 2:40, Luke 2:49).

Psalms 22:11

Be not far from me. The considerations dwelt upon in Psalms 22:3-5, and again in veto. 9, 10, have removed the sense of desertion expressed in vex. 1; and the Sufferer can now confidently call on God to help him. "Be not far from me," he says, for trouble is near. The time is come when aid is most urgently required. For there is none to help; literally, not a helper. David himself had never been in such straits. He had always had friends and followers. Under Saul's persecution he had a friend in Jonathan; he was supported by his father and his.brethren (1 Samuel 22:1); in a short time he found himself at the head of four hundred (1 Samuel 22:2), and then of six hundred men (1 Samuel 25:13). In Absalom's rebellion there remained faithful to him the priestly tribe (2 Samuel 15:24) and the Gibborim (2 Samuel 15:18), and others to the number of some thousands (2 Samuel 18:4). But he whom David prefigured, his Antitype, was desexed, was alone—"All the disciples forsook him and fled" (Matthew 26:56)—he was truly one that "had no helper."

Psalms 22:12

Many bulls have compassed me. The Sufferer represents the adversaries who crowd around him under the figure of "bulls"—fierce animals in all parts of the world, and in Palestine particularly' wild and ferocious. "Bulls,, and buffaloes are very numerous, says Canon Tristram, "in Southern Judaea; they are in the habit of gathering in a circle around any novel or unaccustomed object, and may be easily instigated into charging with their horns". Strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. Bashan, the richest pasture-g"round of Palestine, produces the largest and strongest animals (Ezekiel 39:18). Hence "the kine of Bashan" became an expression for powerful oppressors (Amos 4:1).

Psalms 22:13

They gaped upon me with their mouths. One metaphor is superseded by another. Fierce and threatening as bulls, the adversaries are ravenous as lions. They "gape with their mouths," eager to devour, ready to spring on the prey and crush it in their monstrous jaws. As a ravening and a roaring lion. The tumult and noise made by those who demanded our Lord's death are noted by the evangelist, περισσῶς ἔκραζον—θόρυβος γίνεται (Matthew 27:23, Matthew 27:24).

Psalms 22:14

I am poured out like water (comp. Psalms 58:7; 2 Samuel 14:14). The exact meaning is uncertain; but extreme' weakness and exhaustion, something like utter prostration, seems to be indicated. And all my bones are out of joint. The strain of the body suspended on the cross would all but dislocate the joints of the arms, and would be felt in every bone of the body. My heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. The proximate cause of death in crucifixion is often failure of the heart's action, the supply of venous b]cod not being sufficient to stimulate it. Hence palpitation, faintness, and final syncope.

Psalms 22:15

My strength is dried up like a potsherd. All strength dies out under the action of the many acute pains which rack the whole frame, and as little remains as there remains of moisture in a potsherd. And my tongue cleaveth to my jaws. An extreme and agonizing thirst sets in—the secretions generally fail—and the saliva especially is suppressed, so that the mouth feels parched and dry. Hence the cry of suffering which was at last wrung from our Lord, when, just before the end, he exclaimed, "I thirst" (John 19:28). And thou hast brought me into the dust of death. "The dust of death" is a periphrasis for death itself, which is so closely associated in our thoughts with the dust of the tomb (see below, Psalms 22:29; and comp. Psalms 30:10; Psalms 104:29; and Job 10:9; Job 34:35; Ecclesiastes 3:20; Ecclesiastes 12:7, etc.).

Psalms 22:16

For dogs have compassed me. "Dogs" now encompass the Sufferer, perhaps the subordinate agents in the cruelties—the rude Roman soldiery, who laid rough hands on the adorable Person (Matthew 27:27-35). Oriental dogs are savage and of unclean habits, whence the term "dog" in the East has always been, and still is, a term of reproach. The assembly of the wicked have enclosed me; or, a band of wicked ones have shut me in. The "band" of Roman soldiers (Mark 15:16) seems foreshadowed. They pierced my hands and my feet. There are no sufficient critical grounds for relinquishing (with Hengstenberg) this interpretation. It has the support of the Septuagint, the Syriac, the Arabic, and the Vulgate Versions, and is maintained by Ewald, Reinke, Bohl, Moll, Kay, the writer in the 'Speaker's Commentary,' and our Revisers. Whether the true reading be kaaru (כָאְרַוּ) or kaari (כָאֲרִי), the sense will be the same, kaari being the apocopated participle of the verb, whereof kaaru is the 3rd pers. plu. indic.

Psalms 22:17

I may tell all my bones. Our Lord's active life and simple habits would give him a spare frame, while the strain of crucifixion would accentuate and bring into relief every point of his anatomy. He might thus, if so minded, "tell all his bones." They look and stare upon me (comp. Luke 23:35, "And the people stood beholding").

Psalms 22:18

They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. It has been well observed that "the act here described is not applicable either to David or to any personage whose history is recorded in the Bible, save to Jesus". Two evangelists (Matthew 27:35; John 19:24) note the fulfilment of the prophecy in the conduct of the soldiers at the crucifixion of Christ. The circumstance is reserved for the final touch in the picture, since it marked that all was over; the Victim was on the point of expiring; he would never need his clothes again.

Psalms 22:19

But be not thou far from me, O Lord (comp. Psalms 22:11). The special trouble for which he had invoked God's aid having been minutely described, the Sufferer reverts to his prayer, which he first repeats, and then strengthens and enforces by requesting that the aid may be given speedily, O my strength, haste thee to help me. Eyaluth, the abstract term used for "strength," seems to mean "source, or substance, of all strength."

Psalms 22:20

Deliver my soul from the sword. "The sword" symbolizes the authority of the Roman governor—that authority by which Christ was actually put to death. If he prayed, even on the cross, to be delivered from it, the prayer must have been offered with the reservations previously made in Gethsemane, "If it be possible" (Matthew 26:39); "If thou be willing" (Luke 22:42); "Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." The human will in Christ was in favour of the deliverance; the Divine will, the same in Christ as in his Father, was against it. My darling—literally, my only one—from the power of the dog. By "my darling" there is no doubt that the soul is intended, both here and in Psalms 35:17. It seems to be so called as the most precious thing that each man possesses (see Matthew 16:26). "The dog" is used, not of an individual, but of the class, and is best explained, like the "dogs" in Psalms 35:16, of the executioners.

Psalms 22:21

Save me from the lion's mouth (comp. Psalms 22:13). Either the chief persecutors, viewed as a class, or Satan, their instigator, would seem to be intended. For thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns; rather, even from the horns of the win oxen hast thou heard me. The conviction suddenly comes to the Sufferer that he is heard. Still, the adversaries are round about him—the "dogs," the "lions," and the "strong bulls of Bashan," now showing as ferocious wild cattle, menacing him with their horns. But all the Sufferer's feelings are changed. The despondent mood has passed away. He is not forsaken. He has One to help. In one way or another he knows himself—feels himself—delivered; and he passes from despair and agony into a condition of perfect peace, and even exultation. He passes, in fact, from death to life, from humiliation to glory; and at once he proceeds to show forth his thankfulness by a burst of praise. The last strophe of the psalm (Psalms 22:22-31) is the jubilant song of the Redeemer, now that his mediatorial work is done, and his life of suffering "finished" (John 19:30).

Psalms 22:22

I will declare thy Name unto my brethren. The thought of the brethren is uppermost. As, when the body was removed, loving messages were at once sent to the disciples (Matthew 28:10; John 20:17), so, with the soul of the Redeemer in the intermediate state, the "brethren" are the first care. God's Name, and all that he has done—the acceptance of the sacrifice, the effectuation of man's salvation—shall be made known to them (see Hebrews 2:9-12). In the midst of the congregation will I praise thee. He will join with them in praising and adoring his Father, so soon as circumstances allow (compare the Eucharist at Emmaus, Luke 24:30).

Psalms 22:23

Ye that fear the Lord, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel. "All Israel:" all the people of God are called upon to join in the praise which the Sea will henceforth offer to the Father through eternity. The praise of God is to be joined with the fear of God, according to the universal teaching of Scripture.

Psalms 22:24

For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted. The Father might seem by his passivity to disregard his Son's affliction; but it was not really so. Every pang was marked, every suffering sympathized with. And the reward received from the Father was proportionate (see Isaiah 53:12, "Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death;" and Philippians 2:8-11, "He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross; wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a Name which is above every name: that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father"). Neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard. There was no real turning away, no real forsaking. Every cry was heard, and the cries were answered at the fitting moment.

Psalms 22:25

My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation. The phraseology is that of the Mosaic dispensation, with which alone David was acquainted. But the fulfilment is in those services of praise where, whenever Christ's disciples are gathered together, there is he in the midst of them. I will pay my vows before them that fear him. "Vows," in the strict sense of the word, are scarcely meant; rather "devotions" generally.

Psalms 22:26

The meek shall eat and be satisfied. In the Eucharistic feasts of Christ's kingdom it is "the meek" especially who shall eat, and be satisfied, feeling that they have all their souls long for—a full banquet, of the very crumbs of which they are not worthy. They shall praise the Lord that seek him. The service shall be emphatically one of praise. Your heart shall live for ever. The result shall be life for evermore; for the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, worthily received, preserve men's bodies and souls to everlasting life.

Psalms 22:27

All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord. The Gentiles from every quarter shall come into the new kingdom, remembering him whom they had so long forgotten, Jehovah, the true God. And all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. Pleonastic. A repetition of the idea contained in the preceding clause. (For the fulfilment, the history of missions must be consulted.)

Psalms 22:28

For the kingdom is the Lord's (comp. Psalms 96:10; Psalms 97:1). Christ has taken the kingdom, and even now rules on the earth—not yet wholly over willing subjects, but over a Church that is ever expanding more and more, and tending to become universal. And he is the Governor among the nations. Not the Governor of one nation only, but of all.

Psalms 22:29

All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship. The Christian feast is not for the poor and needy only, like Jewish sacrificial feasts, but for the "fat ones" of the earth as well—the rich and prosperous. As Hengstenberg observes, "This great spiritual feast is not unworthy of the presence even of those who live in the greatest abundance: it contains a costly viand, which all their plenty cannot give—a viand for which even the satisfied are hungry; and, on the other hand, the most needy and most miserable are not excluded". All they that go down to the dust shall bow before him; i.e. all mortal men what-soever—all that are on their way to the tomb—shall bow before Christ, either willingly as his worshippers, or unwillingly as his conquered enemies, made to lick the dust at his feet. And none can keep alive his own soul. Life is Christ's gift; the soul cannot be kept alive except through him, by his quickening Spirit (John 6:53, John 6:63).

Psalms 22:30

A seed shall serve him. The Church is founded on a rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. So long as the world endures, Christ shall always have worshippers—a "seed" which will "serve" him. It shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. If we accept this rendering, we must understand that the seed of the first set of worshippers shall be the Lord's people for one generation, the seed of the next for another, and so on. But it is suggested that the true meaning is, "This shall be told of the Lord to generation after generation" (so Hengstenberg, Kay, Alexander, and our Revisers).

Psalms 22:31

They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this. One generation after another shall come, and shall report God's righteousness, as shown forth in Christ, each to its successor—a people yet to be born—telling them that God "has done this;" i.e. effected all that is here sketched out, and so accomplished the work of redemption.


Psalms 22:4

A pedigree of faith and piety.

"Our fathers trusted," etc. The Bible takes great account of pedigree. Yet not on those grounds in which men commonly glory—rank, title, wealth, fame; but in the line of faith and piety. These words contain—

I. A THANKFUL REMEMBRANCE. It is no small honour and blessing to spring from a godly stock. Those who have not this happiness in family lineage may yet claim it by adoption. A true Christian has all past generations of God's people as spiritual ancestors (Galatians 3:29; Romans 4:16, Romans 4:17).

II. A HOLY EXAMPLE, powerfully moving to faith, prayer, and holiness (Hebrews 6:12; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 1:3-5). Noblesse oblige.


1. The trust and prayers of God's people in past generations were not for themselves only, but for their children (Genesis 17:18, Genesis 17:20). Ancestral prayers are a rich inheritance.

2. God's promises have regard to the children of his people (Psalms 103:17, Psalms 103:18; Acts 2:39; Acts 3:25).

IV. AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO FAITH. The experience of those who have gone before us, the consenting testimony of so many generations, and so innumerable a multitude of believers, to the truth of the Bible, the power of prayer, the reality of God's grace, the fulfilment of his promises, is no small or feeble aid to our faith (Psalms 34:4-8; Hebrews 11:32-40).


1. We inherit the past. The wise thoughts, immortal words, noble deeds, holy lives, fervent prayers, toils, and sufferings of those who have gone before us, are a great treasure and trust, of which we shall have to give account.

2. We are making the future. What pattern, work, prayer, memory, that they will "not willingly lot die," are we handing down to our successors?

Psalms 22:28

God's supreme dominion over all nations.

"The kingdom is the Lord's," etc. The second clause of this verse defines the meaning of the first. God's supreme dominion, in right and in fact, is over all nations. He reigns and he rules. There is a wide view of God's kingdom, as embracing the universe (Psalms 103:19; Psalms 93:1; Psalms 97:1). There is also a spiritual view, in which the kingdom consists of individuals, ruled not by force, but by truth, love, and the Spirit of God (Luke 17:21; John 18:36). Nations have no place here. None the less, God's government of nations is a sublime fact and undoubted truth, holding a prominent place in Scripture. "All authority in heaven and earth" (Matthew 28:18) must include this. The nations are promised as Christ's inheritance (Psalms 2:8), and are to be blessed in him (Galatians 3:8).

I. GOD GOVERNS THE NATIONS BY HIS ALL-CONTROLLING, WISE, JUST, AND MERCIFUL PROVIDENCE. This is one main lesson of the whole of Old Testament history—specially enforced in Jeremiah 18:7-10; Jeremiah 1:1-19.!0; Genesis 15:16, etc.; Deuteronomy 9:4. The ordered succession of empires, in Nebuchadnezzar's and Daniel's visions, emphatically enforces the same truth (Acts 17:26). The history of our own nation is a marvellous example, only second to that of Israel.

II. THE AUTHORITY OF NATIONAL GOVERNMENT RESTS ON DIVINE AUTHORITY. (Romans 8:1-6.) No human being can claim authority over another human being; no majority, any more than a single despot, over a minority or a single citizen, but by Divine ordinance. This is not merely revealed in Scripture, but imprinted and inwoven in human nature.

III. NATIONS, AS MUCH AS INDIVIDUALS, ARE SOUND BY GOD'S LAW. Human laws lack sanction when they contradict justice; they may he enforced, but cannot be reverenced. Government which outrages mercy, virtue, truth, purity, equity, denies the very end of its existence, and forfeits allegiance. On this ground of natural right, the American colonies revolted. "Natural right" is but another name for God's justice.

IV. NATIONAL LIFE AND CHARACTER, which are very far wider than government or state action, are within the province of Divine government; either conform to or disobey God's Law and revealed will. Private, family, social, morality; religion, trade and industry in every branch; amusement and society; education; literature; art,—are all favouring or hindering the formation of a "righteous nation" (Isaiah 26:2; Psalms 144:15). (This touches the great question of state religion. Are the aims and means of the Church and of the state the same? It is possible to have an established Church, yet an irreligious nation; or many Churches, all free, yet a religious nation.)

V. THESE WORDS ARE PROPHETIC OF WHAT SHALL YET BE. (Psalms 72:8, Psalms 72:11, Psalms 72:17; Revelation 11:15.) Christ holds the sceptre of providence as well as of grace (Ephesians 1:22); and "he must reign" (1 Corinthians 15:25).

CONCLUSION. Practical lessons.

1. The character of a nation depends on the character of its individual citizens. A truly Christian nation would be one the bulk of whose citizens are personally real Christians. Its laws, institutions, and policy would then be moulded by principles learned from God's Word.

2. Public duty, political, municipal, etc; far from being inconsistent with the Christian calling (as some teach), is, when rightly performed, religious—part of the service we owe to God.


Psalms 22:1-31

From darkness to light; or, the song of the early dawn.

This is one of the most wonderful of all the psalms. It has gathered round it the study of expositors of most diverse types—from those who see in it scarcely aught but a description beforehand of the Messiah's suffering and glory, to those who see in it scarcely any Messianic reference at all, and who acknowledge only one sense in which even the term "Messianic" is to be tolerated, even in the fact that light gleams forth after the darkness. Both these extreme views should be avoided, and we venture to ask for the careful and candid attention of the reader, as we move along a specific path in the elucidation of this psalm. The title of the psalm is significant; literally, it reads, "To the chief musician [or, 'precentor'] upon Aijeleth Shahar [or, 'the hind of the morning,' margin]. A Psalm of David" We accent the heading, here and elsewhere "a Psalm of David," unless adequate reason to the contrary can be shown. But what can be the meaning of the expression," the hind of the morning"? A reference to Furst's Lexicon will be found helpful. £ The phrase is a figurative one, and signifies, "the first light of the morning." In this psalm we see the light of early morn breaking forth after the deepest darkness of the blackest night. Hence the title given above to this homily. But then the question comes—Whose is the darkness, and whose is the light? We reply—Primarily, the writer's, whoever he may have been, whether David or any other Old Testament saint. For the psalm is not written in the third person, as is the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah. There is no room here for the question, "Of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?" In Isaiah 53:1-12. the reference is to another; in this psalm the wail is declared to be the writer's own. Yet we have to take note of the fact that in the New Testament there are some seven or eight references to this psalm in which its words and phrases are applied to the Lord Jesus Christ. There are other phrases in the psalm which were literally true of our Lord, but yet are not quoted in the New Testament. £ We do not wonder at Bishop Perowne's remark. £ "Unnatural as I cannot help thinking that interpretation is which assumes that the psalmist himself never felt the sorrows which he describes … I hold that to be a far worse error which sees here no foreshadowing of Christ at all. Indeed, the coincidence between the sufferings of the psalmist and the sufferings of Christ is so remarkable, that it is very surprising that any one should deny or question the relation between the type and the antitype." To a like effect are the devout and thoughtful words of Orelli, £ "What the psalmist complains of in mere figurative, though highly coloured terms, befell the Son of God in veritable fact. Herein we see the objective connection, established of set purpose by God's providence, which so framed even the phrasing of the pious prayer, that without knowledge of the suppliant it became prophecy, and again so controlled even what was outward and seemingly accidental in the history of Jesus, that the old prophetic oracles appear incorporated in it." There is no reason to think, on the one hand, that the writer was a mere machine, nor yet, on the other, that he fully knew the far-reaching significance of the words he used. £ And this leads us to a remark which we make once for all, that there are two senses in which psalms may be Messianic—direct and indirect.

1. Direct. In these the reference is exclusively to the Messiah; every phrase is true of him, and of him alone, and cannot be so translated as not to apply to him, nor so that it can, as a whole, apply to any one else. The fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, and also the second and hundred and tenth psalms are illustrations of this.

2. Indirect. In these the first meaning is historical, and applies to the writer himself; hut many phrases therein have a second and far-reaching intent; of these the fullest application is to him who was David's Son and yet David's Lord. The psalm before us is an illustration of this indirect Messianic structure; and this not only, perhaps not so much, because in the first writing of the words the Spirit of God pointed forward to Christ, as because our Lord himself, having taken a human nature, and shared human experiences, found himself the partaker of like sorrows with the Old Testament saints, plunged into like horrible darkness, which found expression in the very same words, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" £ Mr. Spurgeon, indeed, admits some possible application to David himself, but says that believers will scarcely care to think of his sufferings; they will rather fasten their gaze on those of their Lord. That is true, in a very touching sense. At the same time, we shall lose much of the comfort the psalm is adapted to afford, if we do not look very distinctly at the sufferings of David, in order to see, with equal distinctness, how completely our Lord shared his "brethren's" sorrows, darkness, and groans, when he took up their burdens and made them his own. £ Let us therefore deal with this psalm in a twofold outline—first, as it applies to the writer; and then as it it taken up by the Lord Jesus, and made his own (with such exceptions as that named in the first footnote below).

I. ISRAEL'S KING PASSES THROUGH DEEPEST DARKNESS TO THE LIGHT. Here let us answer by anticipation a remark with which we have frequently met, to the effect that we cannot fasten on any incident in the career of David which would lead to such extreme anguish as that indicated here. Who that has any knowledge of the horrors to which sensitive souls are liable, could raise any difficulty over this? Far more depends on subjective condition than on outward incident. Why, the saints of God now do pass through times of indescribable anguish, of which no outward incident affords even a glimmer of explanation. "The heart knoweth its own bitterness." Let the outer occasion have been whatsoever it may, here at any rate is:

1. A saint in terrible darkness. In the midst of his woe, he remembers his transgressions, £ and it may have been, as is so often the case, that the writer attributes his anguish to his numberless transgressions (verse 1, LXX.). The details of his intensity of sorrow are manifold.

(1) Prayer rises from his heart day and night without relief (verse 2).

(2) He is despised (verses 6-8). His enemies laugh and mock.

(3) His foes, wild, fierce, ravenous, plot his ruin (verses 12, 13).

(4) His strength is spent with sorrow (verse 15).

(5) There are eager anticipations of his speedily being removed out of the way (verse 18).

(6) And, worst of all, it seems as if God, his own God, whom he had trusted from childhood (verses 9,10), had now forsaken him, and given him up to his foes. How many suffering saints may find solace in this psalm, as they see how God's people have suffered before them? Surely few could have a heavier weight of woe than the writer of this plaintive wail.

2. The woe is freely told to God There may be the stinging memory of bygone sin piercing the soul, still the psalmist cleaves to his God.

(1) The heart still craves for God; even in the dark; yea, the more because of the darkness.

(2) Hence the abandonment is not actual. However dense the gloom may be, when the soul can cry, "My God," we may be sure the cry is not unreciprocated.

(3) Such a cry will surely be heard. Past deliverances assure us of this. Yea, even ere the wail in the dark is over, the light begins to dawn. "One Sunday morning," said Mr. Spurgeon, in an address at Mildmay Hall, June 26, 1890, reported in the Christian of July 4, "I preached from the text, 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?' I could not tell why I should be made to preach it. I felt while preaching as if I were myself forsaken. On the sabbath evening, there came into the vestry a man of about sixty, whose eyes were bright with a strange lustre. He took my hand, and held it, and cried. He said to me, 'Nobody ever preached my experience before. I have now been for years left, deserted, in a horrible gloom of great darkness; but this morning I learned that I was not the only man in the darkness, and I believe I shall get out!' I said, ' Yes; I have got out; but now I know why I was put in.' That man was brought back from the depths of despair, and restored to joy and peace. There was a child of God, dying in darkness. He said to the minister who spoke with him, 'Oh, sir, though I have trusted Christ for years, I have lost him now. What can become of. a man who dies feeling that God has deserted him?' The minister replied, ' What did become of that Man who died saying," My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Is he not on the highest throne of glory even now? 'The man's mind changed in a moment, and he began to say, ' Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit;' and he died in peace."

3. The light dawns at last. The "everlasting covenant" does not fail; it has been "ordered in all things," and remains sure and steadfast; and oftentimes, even while the saint is on his knees, he will scarce have ended his groaning 'ere his sigh is turned to a song (cf. Psalms 27:12-14). Hence the last ten verses of the psalm are as joyous as the others are sad. "The darkest hour is before the dawn," and the brightness of morning shall chase away the gloom of night. So it is here.

(1) The saint who takes his groans to God alone, shall yet sing his praises in the assemblies of the saints. Having told the rest to his God, he will "give others the sunshine."

(2) The rehearsal of this story shall be the joy of other hearts in day to come (verses 25-27).

(3) The outcome of all will be that God will vindicate his own honour, and that the generation yet unborn will praise him and declare his righteousness.

II. WORDS OF A SUFFERING SAINT ARE APPROPRIATED BY A SUFFERING SAVIOUR. The Lord Jesus Christ, in all things "made like unto his brethren," takes up words from this psalm into his own lips. If we were dealing only with the Messianic aspect of the psalm, we should open it up in the following order:

(1) The Saviour's suffering.

(2) The Saviour's inquiry: "Why?"

(3) The Saviour's joy.

Since, however, we are seeking to expound the psalm in both its aspects, we rather indicate four lines of thought, the pursuing of which will throw light on the wonder of the appropriation of the words of a suffering saint by a suffering Saviour; while some look at the fierce cry with which this psalm beans as intended to set forth the woes of the coming Messiah, that cry seems to us far more touching when we find that our dear Redeemer uses the words of an ancient sufferer as his own! £ Observe:

1. There is no depth of sorrow through which the saint can pass, but Jesus understands it all. How many causes of woe are enumerated here! But in all points Jesus felt the same. The writer endured

(1) the cutting remarks of many;

(2) weakness;

(3) reproach and scorn;

(4) the plotting of foes;

(5) the treachery of friends; and, worst of all,

(6) the sense of separation form God.

Every one of these forms of hardship and ill pressed sorely on Jesus; and though we may meditate continuously and with ever-deepening wonder £ on each of them, yet all the rest fade away into insignificance compared with the anguish that arose from the hiding of the Father's face. Every trouble can be borne when the Father is seen to smile; but when his face is hidden in a total eclipse, what darkness can be so dreadful as that? There was, as it were, a hiding of the face from him (Isaiah 53:3). £ Let those saints of God who have to pass through seasons of prolonged mental anguish remember that, however severe the conflict may be, the Saviour has passed through one still more terrible than theirs.

2. If even the saint asks "why?" even so did the Saviour. The "why?" however, applies only to the opening words—to the hiding of God's face. There may be mystery therein, even when (as in the case of every saint) there are transgressions to be bemoaned. But our Saviour has an unfathomable woe, "yet without sin." The "why?" then, imperatively requires an answer. In the tire, at the faggot, and at the stake, martyrs have sung for joy. Why is it that at the moment of direst need the sinless Sufferer should have felt aught so dreadful as abandonment by God? Not that the abandonment was real. The Father never loved the Son more than when he hung bleeding on the cross. But our Saviour endured the sense of it. Why was this? He did not deserve it. But he had laden himself with our burden. "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquities of us all." Nor do we know that we can put the pith and essence of the atonement in fewer words than these:

(1) sin separates from God;

(2) Jesus bore our sin; therefore

(3) Jesus endured the sense of separation.

We can understand that, coming as Man into the midst of a sinful race, all the suffering which a holy nature must endure in conflict with sinful men would be his. But the sense of desertion by God while doing his Father's will can only be accounted for by the amazing fact that "he sent his Son to be the Propitiation for our sins."

3. In passing through his manifold experience of sorrow, the Saviour learned to suffer with the saint, and was being made perfect as the Captain of salvation. (Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 5:2, Hebrews 5:7, Hebrews 5:8, Hebrews 5:9.) Our Saviour was

(1) to lead many sons unto glory;

(2) to be One who could sympathize, soothe, and succour in every case of woe (Hebrews 2:18);

(3) to be One who by his sympathetic power could inspire his hosts; and

(4) to teach them that, as they were destined to follow him in his heavenly glory, they must not be surprised if they have first to follow him in the pathway of woe. "The disciple is not above his Master, nor the servant above his Lord." Objection: "But how can the sympathy of Jesus with me be perfect? He was without sin, and I am not. So the parallel fails." Good people who urge this objection forget that it is the presence of sin in each of us which makes our sympathy with each other so imperfect. Because Jesus was without sin, he can draw the line exactly between defects that are due to infirmity and such as are traceable to sin. The second he forgives; the first be pities. Is not this the very perfection of sympathy?

III. THE WORDS OF THE SAINT EMERGING FROM HIS GLOOM ARE APPROPRIATE TO THE SAVIOUR IN HIS EXALTATION AND TRIUMPH. With the Saviour, as with the psalmist, the darkest night was the prelude to the brightness of day. The brightness which marks the last ten verses of the psalm is a declaration that the kingdom of David shall be established for ever and ever, and that, though David may have to pass through fire and flood, his kingdom shall abide through age after age; and thus we find the phraseology of these verses applied to the after-career of David's Son and David's Lord in Hebrews 2:11,Hebrews 2:12. Whence five points invite attention. The Holy Ghost, inditing the psalmist's words so that they forecast the issue of Messiah's sufferings as well as his own, shows us our Saviour

(1) emerging from the conflict;

(2) joining with his people in songs of rejoicing;

(3) declaring the Father's Name to his "brethren;"

(4) gathering home the severed tribes of mankind;

(5) bringing in the victorious kingdom (verses 21-31).

It is not, it is not for nought that the Messiah endured all his woe (Isaiah 53:11; Hebrews 12:1, Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 2:11). It behoved him to suffer, and then "to enter into his glory." And as with the Master, so with the servant. "If we suffer, we shall also reign with him." He hath said, "Where I am, there shall also my servant be." Following him in sharing his cross, we shall follow him in sharing his crown.—C.


Psalms 22:1-31

A struggle from the gloom of adversity to peace and joy.

It was said among the heathen that a just man struggling with adversity was a sight worthy of the gods. Such a sight we have here. We see a truly just man struggling from the gloomiest depths of adversity upwards to the serene heights of peace and joy in God. Three stages may be marked.

I. THE WAIL OF DESERTION. (Psalms 22:1-10.) Suffering is no "strange thing." It comes sooner or later to all. Always, and especially in its severer forms, it is a mystery. We cry, "Why?" "Why am I thus?" "Why all this from God to me?" God's servants who have been most afflicted have most felt this mystery. So it was with Abraham, when" the horror of great darkness fell upon him" (Genesis 15:12). So it was with Jacob, in that night of long and awful wrestling with the angel (Genesis 32:24). So it was with Moses and the prophets (Isaiah 40:27). So it was with the psalmist here. His sufferings were intensified by the sense of desertion (Psalms 22:1, Psalms 22:2). He cried to God, but there was no answer. He continued day and night in prayer, and yet there was no response. And yet he will not give up his trust in God. He tries to calm himself by remembrance of God's holiness and love, and by the thought of God's gracious dealings with his people. But, alas! this only aggravated his pare. The contrast was sharp and terrible. "Our fathers trusted in thee, and thou didst deliver them. But 1 am a worm, and no man." It seemed to him that the desertion, which he felt so keenly, was equally apparent to others. But instead of pity, there was scorn; instead of sympathy, there was reproach. Lowered in the estimation of others, he was lowered also in his own. All this seemed irreconcilable with a right relation to God. He cannot understand, but no more can he reproach. The bond of love is strained, but it is not ruptured. Like Job, he is ready to say, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." How thankful should we be for such revelations! They not only teach us patience, but they help us in the time of our trial to draw nearer in loving concord with Jesus and his saints.

II. THE PRAYER OF TRUST. There is a time to speak. Speech helps to unburden the heart. But the psalmist does not cry for help till he has reached a calmer mood, and so far encouraged himself by recollection of God's love and kindness in his life from the first (verses 9, 10). He looks to the past, that he may be braced to look at the present. Then, in sight of all the distresses and perils that surrounded him, he cries mightily to God (verses 11-18). His faith is sorely tried, but it does not fail. Even with things waxing worse and worse, with enemies many and fierce, with strength well-nigh worn out, with death staring him in the face (verse 18), he renews his pathetic cry, "Be not far from me, O Lord: O my strength, haste thee to help me' (verses 19-21).

III. THE SONG OF VICTORY. The capacity of the soul is wonderful. It can sink very low, and it can rise very high. It has been said of prayer—

"What changes one short hour
Spent in thy presence has availed to make!"

And we see this here. Fear is turned to praise (verses 22-24). Loneliness gives place to the joys of "the great congregation" (verses 25, 26). Individual sufferings are forgotten in the glad vision of the triumphs of Messiah, and the glory and blessedness of his kingdom (verses 27-31). Who is there who loves the Lord, whose heart does not rejoice in foretaste and foresight of these good times, and with renewed ardour pray, "Thy kingdom come "?—W.F.


Psalms 22:1-10

The cry of despair struggling with the cry of faith.

The writer was' apparently an exile, still in the hands of his heathen captors. His extreme peril, the obloquy and scorn to which he was exposed as a professed worshipper of Jehovah, his imminent death, are touched on with a tenderness and a power which have made the language familiar to us in another application—as used by Christ in the agonies of the cross. It is the cry of despair struggling with the cry of faith.

I. THE CRY OF DESPAIR. That God had forsaken him.

1. Had forsaken him for a long time. (Psalms 22:1, Psalms 22:2.) It was not a temporary eclipse, but seemed a permanent desertion.

2. That this abandonment was somehow consistent with God's faithfulness. (Psalms 22:3.) There was no doubt it did not arise from caprice, but from holiness. That made the darkness very dark.

3. It arose from his personal unworthiness. (Psalms 22:4-6.) God had rescued his fathers; but he was a worm, and not a man, unworthy of deliverance, despised of men. "Fear not, thou worm Jacob."

4. A contrast to God's former care of him. (Psalms 22:9, Psalms 22:10.) Not easy to analyze the contents of such a consciousness. But in general, "It is the sense of the Divine mercy, care, and support gone!"

II. But there is in the background, FAITH STRUGGLING AGAINST THIS DESPAIR.

1. He still can say, "My God." Repeatedly (Psalms 22:1, Psalms 22:2). No unbelief could dissolve that tie.

2. Faith will not let go its hold upon his "holiness," however dark its aspect towards him now. (Psalms 22:3.) God cannot be far from a man who retains the sense of his holy faithfulness.

3. He is suffering in the righteous causefor God's sake. (Psalms 22:6-8.) As Christ was. There is more than a gleam of hope for him here.

4. God had brought him into the world, and cared for him in helpless infancy. (Psalms 22:9, Psalms 22:10.) These are the grounds of persistent faith battling against the sense of desertion and despair; and they are all-sufficient for us in our darkest hours. "We can but trust; we cannot know."—S.

Psalms 22:11-21

Prayer in suffering.

The persecuted exile continues to speak of his sufferings, but seems to rise up out of the despair of the first verse into the faith implied in prayer. Much of the suffering here described, if not productive, was at least typical, of the suffering of Christ. An argument is still going on in the sufferer's mind as to whether God had finally forsaken him or not. He has been trying in the first ten verses to argue down the feeling, but has not yet succeeded; and now he breaks out into prayer, driven by the urgency of the crisis into which he has come.

I. THE ARGUMENT OF THE PRAYER. The general argument is stated in the eleventh verse. Trouble was near, and there was none to help; it had come to the last extremity with him, and not to help now would be completely and finally to forsake. The particulars of the argument are:

1. The strength and fury of his persecutors. (Psalms 22:12, Psalms 22:13, Psalms 22:16.) They are compared to hulls and lions, the most formidable beasts a man can encounter. Further on his enemies are compared to wild dogs, that have enclosed and surrounded him. So that there is no escape except by the hand of God.

2. He has lost all strength of body and courage of heart. (Psalms 22:14-17.) He sees no human means of escaping death. Severe trials from man and the Divine desertion (Psalms 22:15) have "laid him in the dust of death."

3. The last act of indignity, previous to his death, has been accomplished. (Psalms 22:18.) They strip him, and cast lots for his garments. So that this is a cry for deliverance, uttered in the very jaws of death itself. Of course, the psalm was written after the experiences it describes.

II. THE PRAYER ITSELF. It Was begun at the eleventh verse, and now again breaks forth with full power (Psalms 22:19-21).

1. He cries to the Infinite Strength to make haste to help him. This looks back to the second verse, where he complains, "Thou answerest me not;" and, if help is to come, it must come at once, for he is in the very article of death.

2. He is alone and unfriended among ruthless enemies. "My darling," equivalent to "my lovely person" (Psalms 22:20). Utterly and solely dependent on God, as we shall be in dying.

3. The cry ends with an expression of assured confidence (Psalms 22:21, "Thou hast answered me.") "Thou hast heard me." At last he sees deliverance at hand, and knows that his prayer has been heard, and he has been delivered from death.—S.

Psalms 22:22-31

Consequences of deliverance.

In this last part the sufferer depicts the happy consequences of his deliverance, which he anticipates in faith, and, lifted up in spirit above the present, beholds, as if it were already present.


1. He will inspire the whole congregation with the tidings. We cannot and ought not to keep to ourselves the great fact of our salvation. "Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee," etc.

2. The good tidings were that God had answered the cry of one who was in the very jaws of death. (Psalms 22:24.) And if he had heard one, the unavoidable conclusion was that he would hear all who cried to him. The psalmist's experience showed that God's mercy was universal; that was the suppressed premiss of this argument.

II. THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD'S REDEEMING GRACE SHALL EXTEND TO HEATHEN NATIONS. (Psalms 22:27, Psalms 22:28.) This is to be rejoiced in.

1. Because the he then have greater need of it than the Church. The Church (Israel) have already some knowledge of it; but the heathen are sunk in deeper sins and sorrows, and have no knowledge of God's redeeming grace.

2. It is God's will that the heathen should know and receive his grace. He saves one man or one nation, in order that they should make his work known to other men and other nations. He is to be made known as "the Governor among the nations."


1. The great spiritual feast will be enjoyed by those who live in outward abundance. Because here is food for which even the satisfied are still hungry, which their plenty cannot supply. All guests are poor here, and God is rich for all.

2. It is a fountain of life to those ready to sink in death. They shall bow before and worship him.

IV. THE PRESENT AGE SENDS FORWARD THE GLAD TIDINGS TO POSTERITY. (Psalms 22:30, Psalms 22:31.) See how God's work, beginning with a single individual, propagates itself by its effects upon the mind, spreading, first among those nearest to him; then, through them, to those remote, among the rich and poor, the living and the dying; and on through the ages with ever-increasing power and influence.—S.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 22". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/psalms-22.html. 1897.
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