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 22:15

Exposition

My strength is dried up like a potsherd. Most complete debility is here portrayed; Jesus likens himself to a broken piece of earthenware, or an earthen pot, baked in the fire till the last particle of moisture is driven out of the clay. No doubt a high degree of feverish burning afflicted the body of our Lord. All his strength was dried up in the tremendous flames of avenging justice, even as the paschal lamb was roasted in the fire.

My tongue cleaveth to my jaws; thirst and fever fastened his tongue to his jaws. Dryness and a horrible clamminess tormented his mouth, so that he could scarcely speak.

Thou hast brought me into the dust of death; so tormented in every single part as to feel dissolved into separate atoms, and each atom full of misery; the full price of our redemption was paid, and no part of the Surety’s body or soul escaped its share of agony. The words may set forth Jesus as having wrestled with Death until he rolled into the dust with his antagonist. Behold the humiliation of the Son of God! The Lord of Glory stoops to the dust of death. Amid the mouldering relics of mortality Jesus condescends to lodge! Bishop Mant’s version of the two preceding verses is forcible and accurate:

“Poured forth like water is my frame;

My bones asunder start; As wax that feels the searching flame,

Within me melts my heart.”

“My withered sinews shrink unstrung

Like potsherd dried and dead: Cleaves to my jaws my burning tongue

The dust of death my bed.”

Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings

My strength is dried up, etc. Inflammation must have commenced early and violently in the wounded parts—then been quickly imparted to those that were strained, and have terminated in a high degree of feverish burning over the whole body. The animal juices would be thus dried up, and the watery particles of the blood absorbed. The skin parched by the scorching sun till midday would be unable to supply or to imbibe any moisture. The loss of blood at the hands and feet would hasten the desiccation. Hence our Lord says, “My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws.” The fever would devour his small remaining strength. And Thirst, that most intolerable of all bodily privations, must have been overpowering. His body appeared to his feeling like a potsherd that had been charred in the potter’s kiln. It seemed to have neither strength nor substance left in it. So feeble had he become, so parched and dried up that Clamminess Of The Mouth, one of the forerunners of immediate dissolution, had already seized him; “My tongue cleaveth to my jaws, and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.” John Stevenson.

My strength is dried up; not as in the trial of gold and silver, but like a potsherd, as the earthen vessel dried up by the heat, spoken in humiliation. Isaac Williams, in loc.

A potsherd. (‏חֶרֶשׂ‎) rendered potsherd, is a word which denotes a piece of earthenware, frequently in a broken state. As employed in the verse under consideration, it seems to derive considerable illustration from the corresponding word in Arabic, which expresses roughness of skin, and might well convey to the mind the idea of the bodily appearance of one in whom the moisture of the fluids had been dried up by the excess of grief. John Morison.

That hour what his feelings were is dangerous to define: we know them not; we may be too bold to determine of them. To very good purpose it was that the ancient Fathers of the Greek church in their liturgy, after they had recounted all the particular pains, as they are set down in his passion, and by all and by everyone of them called for mercy, do, after all, shut up with this Δι αγνωστων κοπων κὶ βασάνων ελέησον κὶ σῶσον ἡμας. By thine unknown sorrows and sufferings, felt by thee, but not distinctly known by us, have mercy upon us and save us. Lancelot Andrewes.

Hints to the Village Preacher

Ver. 6-18. Full of striking sentences upon our Lord’s suffering.
The Treasury of David.

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