The Treasury of David

Psalm 22

Title. “To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar. A Psalm of David.” This ode of singular excellence was committed to the most excellent of the temple songsters; the chief among ten thousand is worthy to be extolled by the chief Musician; no meaner singer must have charge of such a strain; we must see to it that we call up our best abilities when Jesus is the theme of praise. The words Aijeleth Shahar are enigmatical, and their meaning is uncertain; some refer them to a musical instrument used upon mournful occasions, but the majority adhere to the translation of our margin, “Concerning the kind of the morning.” This last interpretation is the subject of much enquiry and conjecture. Calmet believed that the psalm was addressed to the music master who presided over the band called the “Morning Hind, “and Adam Clarke thinks this to be the most likely of all the conjectural interpretations, although he himself inclines to the belief that no interpretation should be attempted, and believes that it is a merely arbitrary and unmeaning title, such as Orientals have always been in the habit of appending to their songs. Our Lord Jesus is so often compared to a hind, and his cruel huntings are so pathetically described in this most affecting psalm, that we cannot but believe that the title indicates the Lord Jesus under a well known poetical metaphor; at any rate, Jesus is the Hind of the morning concerning whom David here sings.

Subject. This is beyond all others The Psalm Of The Cross. It may have been actually repeated word by word by our Lord when hanging on the tree; it would be too bold to say that it was so, but even a casual reader may see that it might have been. It begins with, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” and ends, according to some, in the original with “It is finished.” For plaintive expressions uprising from unutterable depths of woe we may say of this psalm, “there is none like it.” It is the photograph of our Lord’s saddest hours, the record of his dying words, the lachrymatory of his last tears, the memorial of his expiring joys. David and his afflictions may be here in a very modified sense, but, as the star is concealed by the light of the sun, he who sees Jesus will probably neither see nor care to see David. Before us we have a description both of the darkness and of the glory of the cross, the sufferings of Christ and the glory which shall follow. Oh for grace to draw near and see this great sight! We should read reverently, putting off our shoes from off our feet, as Moses did at the burning bush, for if there be holy ground anywhere in Scripture it is in this psalm.

Division. From Psalms 22:1-21 is a most pitiful cry for help, and from Psalms 22:21-31 is a most precious foretaste of deliverance. The first division may be subdivided at the Psalms 22:10, from Psalms 22:1-10 being an appeal based upon covenant relationship; and from Psalms
The Treasury of David.

Psalm 22:1


My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? This was the startling cry of Golgotha: Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani. The Jews mocked, but the angels adored when Jesus cried this exceeding bitter cry. Nailed to the tree we behold our great Redeemer in extremities, and what see we? Having ears to hear let us hear, and having eyes to see let us see! Let us gaze with holy wonder, and mark the flashes of light amid the awful darkness of that midday midnight. First, our Lord’s faith beams forth and deserves our reverent imitation; he keeps his hold upon his God with both hands and cries twice,

My God, my God! The spirit of adoption was strong within the suffering Son of Man, and he felt no doubt about his interest in his God. Oh that we could imitate this cleaving to an afflicting God! Nor does the sufferer distrust the power of God to sustain him, for the title used—“El”—signifies strength, and is the name of the Mighty God. He knows the Lord to be the all sufficient support and succour of his spirit, and therefore appeals to him in the agony of grief, but not in the misery of doubt. He would fain know why he is left, he raises that question and repeats it, but neither the power nor the faithfulness of God does he mistrust. What an enquiry is this before us!

Why hast thou forsaken me? We must lay the emphasis on every word of this saddest of all utterances. “Why?” what is the great cause of such a strange fact as for God to leave his own Son at such a time and in such a plight? There was no cause in him, why then was he deserted? “Hast:” it is done, and the Saviour is feeling its dread effect as he asks the question; it is surely true, but how mysterious! It was no threatening of forsaking which made the great Surety cry aloud, he endured that forsaking in very deed. “Thou:” I can understand why traitorous Judas and timid Peter should be gone, but thou, my God, my faithful friend, how canst thou leave me? This is worst of all, yea, worse than all put together. Hell itself has for its fiercest flame the separation of the soul from God. “Forsaken:” if thou hadst chastened I might bear it, for thy face would shine; but to forsake me utterly, ah! why is this? “Me:” thine innocent, obedient, suffering Son, why leavest thou me to perish? A sight of self seen by penitence, and of Jesus on the cross seen by faith will best expound this question. Jesus is forsaken because our sins had separated between us and our God.

Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? The Man of Sorrows had prayed until his speech failed him, and he could only utter moanings and groanings as men do in severe sicknesses, like the roarings of a wounded animal. To what extremity of grief was our Master driven? What strong crying and tears were those which made him too hoarse for speech! What must have been his anguish to find his own beloved and trusted Father standing afar off, and neither granting help nor apparently hearing prayer! This was good cause to make him “roar.” Yet there was reason for all this which those who rest in Jesus as their Substitute well know.

Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings

Title.—Aijeleth Shahar. The title of the twenty-second Psalm is Aijeleth Shaharthe morning hart. The whole Psalm refers to Christ, containing much that cannot be applied to another: parting his garments, casting lots for his vesture, etc. He is described as a kindly, meek and beautiful hart, started by the huntsman at the dawn of the day. Herod began hunting him down as soon as he appeared. Poverty, the hatred of men, and the temptation of Satan, joined in the pursuit. There always was some “dog, “or “bull, “or “unicorn, “ready to attack him. After his first sermon the huntsmen gathered about him, but he was too fleet of foot, and escaped. The church had long seen the Messiah “like a roe, or a young hart, upon the mountains,” had “heard the voice of her Beloved, “and had cried out, “Behold, he cometh, leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills;” sometimes he was even seen, with the dawn of the day, in the neighbourhood of the temple, and beside the enclosures of the vineyards. The church requested to see him “on the mountains of Bether”, and upon “the mountains of spices.” The former probably signifying the place of his sufferings, and the latter the sublime acclivities of light, glory, and honour, where the “hart” shall be hunted no more. But in the afternoon, the huntsmen who had been following the “young roe” from early daybreak, had succeeded in driving him to the mountains of Bether. Christ found Calvary a craggy, jagged, and fearful hill—”a mountain of division.” Here he was driven by the huntsmen to the edges of the awful precipices yawning destruction from below, while he was surrounded and held at bay by all the beasts of prey and monsters of the infernal forest. The “unicorn, “and the “bulls of Bashan, “gored him with their horns; the great “lion” roared at him; and the “dog” fastened himself upon him. But he foiled them all. In his own time he bowed his head and gave up the ghost. He was buried in a new grave; and his assailants reckoned upon complete victory. They had not considered that he was a “morning hart.” Surely enough, at the appointed time, did he escape from the hunter’s net, and stand forth on the mountains of Israel Alive, and never, Never to die again. Now he is with Mary in the garden, giving evidence of his own resurrection; in a moment he is at Emmaus, encouraging the too timid and bewildered disciples. Nor does it cost him any trouble to go thence to Galilee to his friends, and again to the Mount of Olives, “on the mountains of spices, “carrying with him the day dawn, “robed in life and beauty for ever more.” Christmas Evans, 1766-1838.

Title. It will be very readily admitted that the hind is a very appropriate emblem of the suffering and persecuted righteous man who meets us in this Psalm… That the hind may be a figurative expression significant of suffering innocence, is put beyond a doubt by the fact, that the wicked and the persecutors in this Psalm, whose peculiar physiognomy is marked by emblems drawn from the brute creation, are designed by the terms dogs, lions, bulls, etc. E. W. Hengstenberg.

Title. The hind. Much extraordinary symbolism has by old authors been conjured up and clustered around the hind. According to their curious natural history, there exists a deadly enmity between the deer and the serpent, and the deer by its warm breath draws serpents out of their holes in order to devour them. The old grammarians derived Elaphas, or hart, from elaunein tous opheis, that is, of driving away serpents. Even the burning a portion of the deer’s horns was said to drive away all snakes. If a snake had escaped the hart after being drawn out by the hart by its breath, it was said to be more vehemently poisonous than before. The timidity of the deer was ascribed to the great size of its heart, in which they thought was a bone shaped like a cross. Condensed from Wood’s “Bible Animals”, by C.H.S.

Whole Psalm. This is a kind of gem among the Psalms, and is peculiarly excellent and remarkable. It contains those deep, sublime, and heavy sufferings of Christ, when agonizing in the midst of the terrors and pangs of divine wrath and death, which surpass all human thought and comprehension. I know not whether any Psalm throughout the whole book contains matter more weighty, or from which the hearts of the godly can so truly perceive those sighs and groans, inexpressible by man, which their Lord and Head, Jesus Christ, uttered when conflicting for us in the midst of death, and in the midst of the pains and terrors of hell. Wherefore this Psalm ought to be most highly prized by all who have any acquaintance with temptations of faith and spiritual conflicts. Martin Luther.

Whole Psalm. This Psalm, as it sets out the sufferings of Christ to the full, so also his three great offices. His sufferings are copiously described from Psalms 22:1-22. The prophetical office of Christ, from Psalms 22:22-25. That which is foretold about his vows (Psalms 22:25), hath respect to his priestly function. In the rest of the Psalm the kingly office of Christ is set forth. William Gouge, D.D. (1575-1653), in “A Commentary on the whole Epistle to the Hebrews.”—Reprinted in Nichol’s Series of Commentaries.

Whole Psalm. This Psalm seems to be less a prophecy than a history. Cassiodorus.

Whole Psalm. This Psalm must be expounded, word for word, entire and in every respect, of Christ only; without any allegory, trope, or anagoge. Bakius, quoted by F. Delitzsch, D.D., on Hebrews, ii. 12.

Whole Psalm. A prophecy of the passion of Christ, and of the vocation of the Gentiles. Eusebius of Caesarea.

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? We contrast this with John 16:32, “I am not alone, because the Father is with me.” That these words in David were notwithstanding the words of Christ, there is no true believer ignorant; yet how cross our Lord’s words in John! Answer:—It is one thing to speak out of present sense of misery, another thing to be confident of a never separated Deity. The condition of Christ in respect of his human state (not the divine), is in all outward appearances, like ours; we conceive the saints’ condition very lamentable at times, as if God were for ever gone. And Christ (to teach us to cry after God the Father, like children after the mother, whose very stepping but at the door, ofttimes makes the babe believe, and so saith that his father is gone for ever), presents in his own sufferings how much he is sensible of ours in that case. As for his divine nature, he and his Father can never sunder in that, and so at no time is he alone, but the Father is always with him. William Streat, in “The Dividing of the Hoof,” 1654.

My God, my God, etc. There is a tradition that our Lord, hanging on the cross, began, as we know from the gospel, this Psalm; and repeating it and those that follow, gave up his most blessed spirit when he came to the sixth verse of the thirty-first Psalm. However that may be, by taking these first words on his lips, he stamped the Psalm as belonging to himself. Ludolph, the Carthusian (circa 1350), in J. M. Neale’s Commentary.

My God, my God, etc. It was so sharp, so heavy an affliction to Christ’s soul, that it caused him who was meek under all other sufferings as a lamb, to roar under this like a lion. For so much those words of Christ signify, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?” It comes from a root that signifies to howl or roar as a lion, and rather signifies the noise made by a wild beast than the voice of a man. And it is as much as if Christ had said, O my God, no words can express my anguish, I will not speak, but roar, howl out my complaints. Pour it out in volleys of groans. I roar as a lion. It’s no small matter will make that majestic creature to roar. And sure so great a spirit as Christ’s would not have roared under a slight burden.

Did God really forsake Jesus Christ upon the cross? then from the desertion of Christ singular consolation springs up to the people of God; yea, manifold consolation. Principally it’s a support in these two respects, as it is preventive of your final desertion, and a comfortable pattern to you in your present sad desertions.

  1. Christ’s desertion is preventive of your final desertion. Because he was forsaken for a time you shall not be forsaken for ever. For he was forsaken for you. It is every way as much for the dear Son of God, the darling delight of his soul, to be forsaken of God for a time, as if such a poor inconsiderable thing as thou art shouldest be cast off to eternity. Now, this being equivalent and borne in thy room, must needs give thee the highest security in the world that God will never finally withdraw from thee.
  2. Moreover, this sad desertion of Christ becomes a comfortable pattern to poor deserted souls in divers respects; and the proper business of such souls, at such times, is to eye it believingly. Though God deserted Christ, yet at the same time he powerfully supported him. His omnipotent arms were under him, though his pleased face was hid from him. He had not indeed his smiles, but he had his supports. So, Christian, just so shall it be with thee. Thy God may turn away his face, he will not pluck away his arm. When one asked of holy Mr. Baines how the case stood with his soul, he answered, “Supports I have, though suavities I want.” Our Father in this deals with us as we ourselves sometimes do with a child that is stubborn and rebellious. We turn him out of doors and bid him begone out of our sight, and there he sighs and weeps; but however for the humbling of him, we will not presently take him into house and favour; yet we order, at least permit the servants to carry him meat and drink: here is fatherly care and support, though no former smiles or manifested delights… Though God forsook Christ, yet at that time he could justify God. So you read, “O my God (saith he), I cry in the day time; but thou hearest not, and in the night season, and am not silent; but thou art holy.” Is not thy spirit according to thy measure, framed like Christ’s in this; canst thou not, say even when he writes bitter things against thee, he is a holy, faithful and good God for all this! I an deserted but not wronged. There is not one drop of injustice in all the sea of my sorrows. Though he condemned me I must and will justify him: this also is Christ like. John Flavel.

My God, my God. The repetition is expressive of fervent desire—“My God”, in an especial sense, as in his words after the resurrection to Mary Magdalene, “I ascend unto my God, and your God;” “My God”, not as the Son of God only, but in that nature which he hath assumed, as the beloved Son in whom the Father is well pleased; who is loved of the Father and who loveth the Father more than the whole universe. It is observed that this expression, “My God, “is three times repeated. Dionysius, quoted by Isaac Williams.

My God. It was possible for Christ by faith to know that he was beloved of God, and he did know that he was beloved of God, when yet as to sense and feeling he tasted of God’s wrath. Faith and the want of sense are not inconsistent; there may be no present sense of God’s love, nay, there may be a present sense of his wrath, and yet there may be faith at the same time. John Row’s “Emmanuel,” 1680.

This word, My God, takes in more than all the philosophers in the world could draw out of it. Alexander Wedderburn, 1701.

That there is something of a singular force, meaning, and feeling in these words is manifest from this—the evangelists have studiously given us this verse in the very words of the Hebrew, in order to show their emphatic force. And moreover I do not remember any one other place in the Scriptures where we have this repetition, Eli, Eli. Martin Luther.

Why? Not the “why” of impatience or despair, not the sinful questioning of one whose heart rebels against his chastening, but rather the cry of a lost child who cannot understand why his father has left him, and who longs to see his father’s face again. J. J. Stewart Perowne.

My roaring. (‏שָׁאַג‎), seems primarily to denote the roaring of a lion; but, as applied to intelligent beings, it is generally expressive of profound mental anguish poured forth in audible and even vehement strains. Psalms 38:9, 33:3, Job 3:24. Thus did the suffering Messiah pour forth strong crying and tears, to him that was able to save him from death. Hebrews 5:7. John Morison.

When Christ complains of having been forsaken by God, we are not to understand that he was forsaken by the First Person, or that there was a dissolution of the hypostatic union, or that he lost the favour and friendship of the Father; but he signifies to us that God permitted his human nature to undergo those dreadful torments, and to suffer an ignominious death, from which he could, if he chose, most easily deliver him. Nor did such complaints proceed either from impatience or ignorance, as if Christ were ignorant of the cause of his suffering, or was not most willing to bear such abandonment in his suffering; such complaints were only a declaration of his most bitter sufferings. And whereas, through the whole course of his passion, with such patience did our Lord suffer, as not to let a single groan or sigh escape from him, so now, lest the bystanders may readily believe that he was rendered impassable by some superior power; therefore, when his last moments were nigh he protests that he is true man, truly passible; forsaken by his Father in his sufferings, the bitterness and acuteness of which he then intimately felt. Robert Bellarmine (Cardinal), 1542-1621.

Divines are wont commonly to say, that Christ, from the moment of his conception, had the sight of God, his human soul being immediately united to the Deity, Christ from the very moment of his conception had the sight of God. Now for our Saviour, who had known experimentally how sweet the comfort of his Father’s face had been, and had lived all his days under the warm beams and influences of the Divinity, and had had his soul all along refreshed with the sense of the Divine presence, for him to be left in that horror and darkness, as to have no taste of comfort, no glimpse of the Divinity breaking in upon his human soul, how great an affliction must that needs be unto him! John Row.

Desertion is in itself no sin; for Christ endured its bitterness, aye, he was so deep in it, that when he died, he said, Why hast thou forsaken me? A total, a final desertion ours is not; partial the best have had and have. God turns away his face, David himself is troubled: “The just shall live by faith,” and not by feeling. Richard Capel.

Oh! how will our very hearts melt with love, when we remember that as we have been distressed for our sins against him; so he was in greater agonies for us? We have had gall and wormwood, but he tasted a more bitter cup. The anger of God has dried up our spirits, but he was scorched with a more flaming wrath. He was under violent pain in the garden, and on the cross; ineffable was the sorrow that he felt, being forsaken of his Father, deserted by his disciples, affronted and reproached by his enemies, and under a curse for us. This Sun was under a doleful eclipse, this living Lord was pleased to die, and in his death was under the frowns of an angry God. That face was then hid from him that had always smiled before; and his soul felt that horror and that darkness which it had never felt before. So that there was no separation between the divine and human nature, yet he suffered pains equal to those which we had deserved to suffer in hell for ever. God so suspended the efficacies of his grace that it displayed in that hour none of its force and virtue on him. He had no comfort from heaven, none from his angels, none from his friends, even in that sorrowful hour when he needed comfort most. Like a lion that is hurt in the forest, so he roared and cried out, though there was no despair in him; and when he was forsaken, yet there was trust and hope in these words, My God, my God. Timothy Rogers.

Here is comfort to deserted souls; Christ himself was deserted; therefore, if thou be deserted, God dealeth no otherwise with thee than he did with Christ. Thou mayest be beloved of God and not feel it; Christ was so, he was beloved of the Father, and yet he had no present sense and feeling of his love. This may be a great comfort to holy souls under the suspension of those comforts and manifestations which sometimes they have felt; Christ himself underwent such a suspension, therefore such a suspension of divine comfort may consist with God’s love. Thou mayest conclude possibly, “I am a hypocrite, and therefore God hath forsaken me; “this is the complaint of some doubting Christians, “I am a hypocrite, and therefore God hath forsaken me; “but thou hast no reason so to conclude: there was no failure in Christ’s obedience, and yet Christ was forsaken in point of comfort; therefore desertion, in point of comfort, may consist with truth of grace, yea, with the highest measure of grace; so it did in our Saviour. John Row.

Lord, you know what it is for a soul to be forsaken, it was sometime thine own case when you complained, My God, why hast thou forsaken me? not, O my Lord! but that thou hadst a divine support, but thou hadst not (it seemeth) that inward joy which at other times did fill thee; now thou art in thy glory, pity a worm in misery, that mourns and desires more after thee than all things: Lord, you paid dear for my good, let good come unto me. Joseph Symonds, 1658.

The first verse expresses a species of suffering that never at any other time was felt in this world, and never will be again—the vengeance of the Almighty upon his child—”My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” R. H. Ryland.

Hints to the Village Preacher

Whole Psalm. The volume entitled “Christ on the Cross, “by Rev. J. Stevenson, has a sermon upon every verse. We give the headings, they are suggestive. The Cry. 2. The Complaint. 3. The Acknowledgment. 4-6. The Contrast. 6. The Reproach. 7. The Mockery. 8. The Taunt. 9, 10. The Appeal. 11. The Entreaty. 12, 13. The Assault. 14. The Faintness. 15. The Exhaustion. 16. The Piercing. 17. The Emaciation. 17. The Insulting Gaze. 18. The Partition of the Garments and Casting Lots. 19-21. The Importunity. 21. The Deliverance. 22. The Gratitude. 23. The Invitation. 24. The Testimony. 25. The Vow. 26. The Satisfaction of the Meek; the Seekers of the Lord Praising Him; the Eternal Life. 27. The Conversion of the World. 28. The Enthronement. 29. The Author of the Faith. 30. The Seed. 31. The Everlasting Theme and Occupation. The Finish of the Faith.

The Saviour’s dying cry.

Works Upon The Twenty-Second Psalm

Christ on the Cross: An Exposition of the Twenty-second Psalm. By the Rev. John Stevenson, Perpetual Curate of Curry and Gunwalloe, Cornwall. 1842.
The Treasury of David.

Singing Psalms

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