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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Psalms 22

 

 

Verse 1

Psalms 22:1. My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? — In these words Christ, when hanging on the cross, complained, that he was deprived, for a time, of the loving presence and comforting influence of his heavenly Father: and St. Matthew and St. Mark give us the very expressions which he used, Eli, Eli; or, as St. Mark has it, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani. It is perhaps worthy of notice here, that sabachthani is not a Hebrew word; the Hebrew word being עזבתני, gnazabtani; and from hence it appears 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 may be further observed, that Eloi, Eloi, as St. Mark expresses our Saviour’s words, were more nearly Chaldee. Christ, it must be well observed, “was not ignorant of the reason why he was afflicted. He knew that all the rigours and pains which he endured on 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 then imply, that he had done nothing to merit the evils which he suffered. This is the meaning of the question here, Why hast thou forsaken me? as also of that in Psalms 2:1, Why do the heathen rage?” &c. The repetition of the words, my God, my God, denotes the depth of his distress, which made him cry so earnestly. From the words of my roaring — From regarding, pitying, or answering my fervent prayers and strong cries, forced from me by my miseries. This latter clause seems to refer to Christ’s prayer in the garden.


Verse 2

Psalms 22:2. I cry in the day-time, &c. — I continue praying night and day without intermission; but thou hearest not — St. Paul says, Hebrews 5:7, that Christ was heard in that he feared. Christ therefore here says that his Father heard him not, only to intimate that he did not exempt him from suffering the death of the cross, for which the Father, who heard him always, had wise reasons, taken from the end for which his Son became incarnate, John 12:27. And am not silent — Hebrew, I have no silence, no rest, or quietness, as the word דומיה, dumijah, here used, is sometimes rendered.


Verse 3

Psalms 22:3. But thou art holy — “But notwithstanding thou dost not answer me at present, I am persuaded that thou wilt do so, for thou art holy, good, and gracious;” O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel — That dwellest in the place where the praises of Israel have always been offered for mercies granted unto them: or, who receivest and rightly possessest the praises of Israel; whom thy people are perpetually praising for one mercy or another; and therefore, I trust I also shall have occasion to praise thee.


Verse 4-5

Psalms 22:4-5. Our fathers, &c. — That is, my fathers, according to the flesh, the Israelites; trusted in thee, and were delivered — Were not disappointed of that for which they prayed and hoped: but whenever they cried unto thee in their distress, thou didst send them deliverance, as by Gideon, Samson, Samuel, &c. To trust in God is the way to obtain deliverance, and “the former instances of the divine favour are so many arguments why we should hope for the same; but it may not always be vouchsafed when we expect it. The patriarchs, and Israelites of old, were often saved from their enemies: but the holy Jesus was left to languish and expire under the malice of his. God knows what is proper for him to do and for us to suffer; we know neither. This consideration is an anchor for the afflicted soul, sure and steadfast.” — Horne.


Verse 6

Psalms 22:6. But I am a worm, and no man — Neglected and despised, as a mean reptile; a reproach of men, and despised of the people — Not only of the great men, but also of the common people. This does not so truly agree to David (who, though he was hated and persecuted by Saul and his courtiers, was honoured and beloved by the body of the people) as to Christ: see Isaiah 53:2-3. “Christ may be said to have been a worm. with respect to the mean and poor condition in which he lived; but especially to that 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.” — Dodd. See Philippians 2:7; Matthew 27:39-43.


Verse 7

Psalms 22:7. All they that see me laugh me to scorn — Instead of pitying, or helping, they deride and insult over me: such is their inhumanity; they shoot out the lip — They gape with their mouths, and put forth their tongues in mockery; they shake the head — Another custom of scoffers. This and the next verse are applied to Christ, (Matthew 27:39; Matthew 27:43,) in whom they were literally fulfilled when he hung upon the cross; and the priests and elders used the very words that had been put into their mouths by the spirit of prophecy so long before. “O the wisdom and knowledge of God,” exclaims Dr. Horne, “and the infatuation and blindness of man! The same are too often the sentiments of those who live in times when the church and her righteous cause, with their advocates, are under the clouds of persecution, and seem to sink beneath the displeasure of the powers of the world. But such do not believe, or do not consider, that in the Christian economy death is followed by a resurrection, when it will appear that God forsaketh not them that are his, but they are preserved for ever.”


Verse 9-10

Psalms 22:9-10. Thou art he, &c. — This seems to refer to the miraculous conception of Christ, who was the Son of God, in a sense in which no other man ever was, being formed, as to his human nature, by the power of God, in the womb of a pure virgin. Therefore he said, at his entrance into the world, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me. Thou didst make me hope — Or, trust, that is, Thou didst give me sufficient ground for hope and trust, if I had been capable of it, because of thy wonderful and watchful care over me in that weak and helpless state; when I was upon my mother’s breasts — When I was a sucking child. This was eminently true of Christ, whom God so miraculously preserved and provided for in his infancy, giving, in a supernatural way, an order to Joseph and Mary to carry him into Egypt, as we read Matthew 2:20-21. I was cast upon thee from the womb — Thou didst take me at my birth, and in a particular manner didst charge thyself with the care of me.


Verses 11-13

Psalms 22:11-13. Be not far from me — As to affection and succour; for trouble is near — At hand, and ready to swallow me up; for there is none to help — Thy help therefore will be the more seasonable, because it is most necessary, and thou wilt have the more glory by it, because it will appear that it is thy work alone. Many bulls have compassed me — Wicked, violent, and potent enemies, for such are so called, Ezekiel 39:18; Amos 4:1. Strong bulls of Bashan — Fat and lusty, as the cattle there bred were, and therefore fierce and furious. “By these,” says Dr. Dodd, “are represented the haughty senators, the chief priests, the scribes, the Pharisees, and the other great men of Judea; who, after having resolved upon his death, Psalms 2:2, were so insolent as to make their appearance about his cross, and to insult him with their mockeries.” They gaped upon me with their mouths — To tear and devour me, as the following metaphor explains it.


Verse 14-15

Psalms 22:14-15. I am poured out like water — My spirits are spent and gone like water, which, once spilt, can never be recovered; my very flesh is melted within me, and I am become as weak as water. My bones are out of joint — I am as unable to help myself, and as full of pain, as if all my bones were disjointed. My heart is like wax — Melted through fear and overwhelming grief. My strength is dried — I have, in a manner, no more moisture left in me, than is in a dry potsherd. My tongue cleaveth, &c. — Through excessive thirst and drought. Thou hast brought me to death —

By thy providence delivering me into the power of mine enemies, and by thy terrors in my soul.


Verse 16

Psalms 22:16. Dogs have compassed me — So he calls his enemies, or rather the enemies of Christ, for their insatiable greediness, and implacable fierceness against him. The idea seems to be taken from a number of dogs encompassing a distressed deer, which they have hunted down, as is intimated in the remarks on the title. Hereby, Dr. Dodd thinks, are represented the Roman soldiers and the other Gentiles who were with the Jews around the cross. But without such a particular application, it may be interpreted generally of Christ’s enemies, either consulting and conspiring against him, or assaulting him with violence. They pierced my hands and my feet — These words cannot, with any probability, be applied to David, nor to the attempts of his enemies upon him; for their design was, not to torment his hands or feet, but to take away his life. And if it be pretended that it is to be understood of him in a metaphorical sense, it must be considered that it is so uncouth and unusual a metaphor that those who are of this opinion cannot produce any example of such a one, either in the Scriptures or in other authors; nor are they able to make any tolerable sense of the words thus understood. But what need is there of such forced interpretations, when this clause was most properly and literally verified in Christ, whose hands and feet were really pierced, and nailed to the cross, according to the manner of the Roman crucifixions? to whom therefore it is applied in the New Testament.


Verses 17-21

Psalms 22:17-21. I may tell all my bones — Theodoret observes, that when Christ was extended, and his limbs distorted, on the cross, it might be easy for a spectator literally to tell all his bones. They — Namely, my enemies; look and stare at me — With delight and complacency, at my calamities, and I am a spectacle to earth and heaven. They part my garments among them — This also cannot be applied to David, without a strained and unprecedented metaphor, but was literally fulfilled in Christ, Matthew 27:35; John 19:24. Deliver my soul from the sword — That is, from the rage and violence of mine enemies, as the next clause explains it, and, as the sword is often to be taken in Scripture. My darling — Hebrew, my one, or only one, namely, his soul, as he now said, which he so terms, because it was very dear to him, or because it was left alone, and destitute of friends and helpers. From the power of the dog — “The ravening fury of the dog,” says Dr. Horne, “the lion, and the unicorn, or oryx, (a fierce and untameable creature of the stag kind,) is made use of to describe the rage of the devil, and his instruments, whether spiritual or corporeal. From all these Christ supplicates the Father for deliverance. How great need have we to supplicate for the same through him!”


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 death to the comfortable prospect of his resurrection. He intimates that, after God shall 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.” — Dodd.


Verses 23-25

Psalms 22:23-25. Ye that fear the Lord, praise him — Not only for my sake, (they are the words of the risen and exalted Saviour,) but chiefly for your own benefit, received through my deliverance from death, and exaltation to God’s right hand, by which I am made head over all things, for the good of my church and people. All ye seed of Jacob, &c. — He first addresses himself to his ancient people, to whom the gospel was first to be preached. How long, O Lord, holy and true, shall thy once highly favoured nation continue deaf to this gracious call of thine? For he hath not despised thee, &c. — He hath not rejected, but graciously accepted, my humiliation and sufferings, as a propitiation and sacrifice for the sins of the world, which acceptance is testified by my resurrection from the dead: inasmuch as the discharge of the surety proves the payment of the debt. This is the great subject of praise and thanksgiving in the church of Christ. My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation — In the universal church, made up of Jews and Gentiles, as the following verses explain it. I will pay my vows before them that fear him — Those praises and services which, in my distress, I vowed to return unto thee when thou didst deliver me. “The vow of Christ was to build and consecrate to Jehovah a spiritual temple, in which the spiritual sacrifices of prayer and praise should be continually offered. This vow he performed, after his resurrection, by the hands of his apostles, and still continues to perform, by those of his ministers, carrying on the work of edification in the great congregation of the Gentile Christian Church. The vows of Christ cannot fail of being performed. Happy are they whom he vouchsafeth to use as his instruments in the performance of them.” — Horne.


Verse 26

Psalms 22:26. The meek — That is, the poor or humble, gentle and teachable, namely, believing and godly persons whose hearts the grace of God hath softened and sweetened, subduing their pride and passion, and their rebellion against God, and fierceness toward men; shall eat and be satisfied — Shall partake of those spiritual blessings which God hath provided for them in his gospel, that grace, and peace, and comfort, which all believing souls enjoy, in a sense of God’s love, in the pardon of their sins, and in the influences of God’s Spirit. Of these and not of any temporal blessings, this clause is doubtless to be understood. They shall praise the Lord that seek him — That seek his favour, and the true spiritual knowledge of, and communion with, him. Your heart shall live — He speaks of the same persons still, though there be a change from the third to the second person, as is usual in these poetical books. For ever — Your comfort shall not be short and transitory, as worldly comforts are, but everlasting.


Verse 27

Psalms 22:27. All the ends of the world — All nations, from one end of the world to the other. So this is an evident prophecy of the calling of the Gentiles to the knowledge of God and Christ by the gospel, and a clear proof that this Psalm immediately speaks of Christ; to whom alone this and divers other passages of it belong. Shall remember — They shall remember their former wickedness with grief, and shame, and fear; particularly in worshipping dead and impotent idols. They shall remember their great and manifold obligations to God, which they had quite forgotten, his patience in sparing them so long, in the midst of all their impieties, and in revealing his gospel to them, and in giving his Son for them: they shall remember the gracious words and glorious works of Christ, what he did and suffered for them; which possibly divers of them had been eye and ear witnesses of. And turn unto the Lord — Unto the only true God, and unto Jesus Christ, to whom this name of Jehovah is often ascribed in Scripture. All the kindreds of the nations — Hebrew, כל משׁפחות, cal mishpechoth, all the families. Which is not to be understood strictly of every particular person and family, but of all sorts, and of great numbers of them; as such universal phrases are often to be understood in Scripture.


Verse 28

Psalms 22:28. For the kingdom is the Lord’s — This is added as a reason why the Gentiles should be converted, because God is not only the God and Lord of the Jews, but also of the Gentiles, and of all nations. And, therefore, though for a time he thought fit to confine his kingdom or visible church to Israel, yet he had resolved, in due time, to enlarge it, and to set up his throne and government in the Gentile world, which were no less created and redeemed by him than the Jews, Romans 3:29-30; Zechariah 14:9.


Verse 29

Psalms 22:29. All they that be fat upon the earth — It was said, Psalms 22:26, that the meek, the lowly, and poor should eat and be satisfied: it is here foretold, that the fat ones of the earth; the rich and great, the nobles, princes, and kings, should be called in to partake of the feast. And worship This word is added to show what kind of eating he spoke of, that it is a spiritual eating, a feeding upon the bread of life, a partaking of Christ and his benefits. High and low, rich and poor; all mankind are invited to partake of the gospel-feast. All they that go down to the dust — That is, the whole human race; for none can escape death; shall bow before him — “As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” And none can keep alive his own soul — Can secure or preserve his natural life longer than God is pleased to continue it to him, or can be the author to himself of spiritual and eternal life. It is, therefore, the great interest as well as duty of all to bow before the Lord Jesus; to give themselves up to him to be his subjects and worshippers; for this is the only way, and it is a sure way, to secure happiness when they go down to the dust. Seeing we cannot keep alive our own souls, it is our wisdom, by an obedient faith, to commit our souls to Jesus Christ, who is able to save them, and keep them alive for ever. Observe, reader, all who would partake of the benefits of Christ’s passion, here or hereafter, must worship, confide in, love and obey him as a Saviour and a king, before they are called to bow before and adore him as a judge. But the latter part of this verse is understood differently by some. All that descend into the dust, they suppose to mean all the poor, who, as well as the rich, are called upon, and shall have the privilege to worship him. For none can keep alive his own soul — That is, the greatest, as well as the meanest, must acknowledge that their salvation proceeds from him alone.


Verse 30

Psalms 22:30. A seed shall serve him — Christ shall not want a seed or posterity, for though the Jewish nation will generally reject him, the Gentiles shall come in their stead. It shall be accounted for a generation — That believing seed shall be reputed, both by God and men, the generation, or people of the Lord, as the Jews formerly were.


Verse 31

Psalms 22:31. They shall come — The seed last mentioned, or, some shall come, (for this may be indefinitely spoken,) and do the work here mentioned, namely, the apostles and ministers of the gospel shall come from Judea and Jerusalem, from whence the gospel was to go forth, to the Gentile world, to the several parts whereof the apostles went upon this errand. And shall declare his righteousness: either, 1st, His wonderful grace and mercy to mankind. in giving them Christ and the gospel: for righteousness is often put for mercy or kindness. Or, 2d, That righteousness which God hath appointed for the justification of sinners, called the righteousness of faith, Romans 3:21-22; Philippians 3:9, which the Jews were ignorant of, and would not submit to, Romans 10:3, but which the Gentiles joyfully embraced. Or, 3d, His truth or faithfulness, (which is very frequently and properly called righteousness,) in the performance of those exceeding great and precious promises made and recorded in the Old Testament, and especially those two concerning the sending of Messias, and concerning the calling of the Gentiles; Unto a people that shall be born — Either, 1st, Spiritually, that is, born again: for conversion to God is sometimes called a birth, and creation, even in the Old Testament. Or rather, 2d, Naturally, that is, unto succeeding generations. Whereby David gives us a key to understand this Psalm, and teacheth us that he speaks not here of himself, or of the occurrences of his times, but of things which were to be done in after ages, even in the spreading of the gospel among the Gentiles, in the time of the New Testament. That he hath done this — They shall declare that this is the work of God, and not of man, and is carried on by his power alone in the world, against all the policy and power of men.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 22:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/psalms-22.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, August 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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