on Matthew 27 :46
My God! My God! why hast thou forsaken me! - These words are quoted by our Lord from Psalm 22:1; they are of very great importance, and should be carefully considered.
Some suppose "that the divinity had now departed from Christ, and that his human nature was left unsupported to bear the punishment due to men for their sins." But this is by no means to be admitted, as it would deprive his sacrifice of its infinite merit, and consequently leave the sin of the world without an atonement. Take deity away from any redeeming act of Christ, and redemption is ruined. Others imagine that our Lord spoke these words to the Jews only, to prove to them that he was the Messiah. "The Jews," say they, "believed this psalm to speak of the Messiah: they quoted the eighth verse of it against Christ - He trusted in God that he would deliver him; let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him. (See Matthew 27:43). To which our Lord immediately answers, My God! my God! etc , thus showing that he was the person of whom the psalmist prophesied." I have doubts concerning the propriety of this interpretation.
It has been asked, What language is it that our Lord spoke? Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani. Some say it is Hebrew - others Syriac. I say, as the evangelists quote it, it is neither. St. Matthew comes nearest the Hebrew, אלי אלי למה עזבתני Eli, Eli, lamah azabthani, in the words, Ηλι, Ηλι, λαμα σαβαχθανι, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani.
And St. Mark comes nearest the Syriac, Mark 15:34, Alohi, Alohi, l'mono shebachtheni, in the words Ελωΐ, Ελωΐ, λαμμα σαβαχθανι, Eloi, Eloi, lamma sabachthani. It is worthy of note, that a Hebrew MS. of the twelfth century, instead of עזבתני azabthani, forsaken me, reads שכחתני shechachthani, Forgotten me. This word makes a very good sense, and comes nearer to the sabachthani of the evangelists. It may be observed also, that the words, Why hast thou Forgotten me? are often used by David and others, in times of oppression and distress. See Psalm 42:9.
Some have taken occasion from these words to depreciate the character of our blessed Lord. "They are unworthy," say they, "of a man who suffers, conscious of his innocence, and argue imbecility, impatience, and despair." This is by no means fairly deducible from the passage. However, some think that the words, as they stand in the Hebrew and Syriac, are capable of a translation which destroys all objections, and obviates every difficulty. The particle למה lamah, may be translated, to what - to whom - to what kind or sort - to what purpose or profit: Genesis 25:32; Genesis 32:29; Genesis 33:15; Job 9:29; Jeremiah 6:20; Jeremiah 20:18; Amos 5:18; and the verb עזב azab signifies to leave - to deposit - to commit to the care of. See Genesis 39:6; Job 39:11; Psalm 10:14, and Jeremiah 49:11. The words, taken in this way, might be thus translated: My God! my God! to what sort of persons hast thou left me? The words thus understood are rather to be referred to the wicked Jews than to our Lord, and are an exclamation indicative of the obstinate wickedness of his crucifiers, who steeled their hearts against every operation of the Spirit and power of God. See Ling. Brit. Reform. by B. Martin, p. 36.
Through the whole of the Sacred Writings, God is represented as doing those things which, in the course of his providence, he only permits to be done; therefore, the words, to whom hast thou left or given me up, are only a form of expression for, "How astonishing is the wickedness of those persons into whose hands I am fallen!" If this interpretation be admitted, it will free this celebrated passage from much embarrassment, and make it speak a sense consistent with itself, and with the dignity of the Son of God.
The words of St. Mark, Mark 15:34, agree pretty nearly with this translation of the Hebrew: Εις τι με εγκατιλεπες; To what [sort of persons, understood] hast thou left me? A literal translation of the passage in the Syriac Testament gives a similar sense: Ad quid dereliquisti me? "To what hast thou abandoned me?" And an ancient copy of the old Itala version, a Latin translation before the time of St. Jerome, renders the words thus: Quare me in opprobrium dedisti? "Why hast thou abandoned me to reproach?"
It may he objected, that this can never agree with the ἱνατι, why, of Matthew. To this it is answered, that ἱνατι must have here the same meaning as εις τι - as the translation of למה lama; and that, if the meaning be at all different, we must follow that evangelist who expresses most literally the meaning of the original: and let it be observed, that the Septuagint often translate למה by ἱνατι instead of εις τι, which evidently proves that it often had the same meaning. Of this criticism I say, Valet quod valet, Let it pass for no more than it is worth: the subject is difficult. But whatever may be thought of the above mode of interpretation, one thing is certain, viz. That the words could not be used by our Lord in the sense in which they are generally understood. This is sufficiently evident; for he well knew why he was come unto that hour; nor could he be forsaken of God, in whom dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. The Deity, however, might restrain so much of its consolatory support as to leave the human nature fully sensible of all its sufferings, so that the consolations might not take off any part of the keen edge of his passion; and this was necessary to make his sufferings meritorious. And it is probable that this is all that is intended by our Lord's quotation from the twenty-second Psalm. Taken in this view, the words convey an unexceptionable sense, even in the common translation.
on Matthew 27 :46
Eli, Eli ... - This language is not pure Hebrew nor Syriac, but a mixture of both, called commonly "Syro-Chaldaic." This was probably the language which the Saviour commonly spoke. The words are taken from Psalm 22:1.
My God, my God ... - This expression is one denoting intense suffering. It has been difficult to understand in what sense Jesus was "forsaken by God." It is certain that God approved his work. It is certain that he was innocent. He had done nothing to forfeit the favor of God. As his own Son - holy, harmless, undefiled, and obedient - God still loved him. In either of these senses God could not have forsaken him. But the expression was probably used in reference to the following circumstances, namely:
1. His great bodily sufferings on the cross, greatly aggravated by his previous scourging, and by the want of sympathy, and by the revilings of his enemies on the cross. A person suffering thus might address God as if he was forsaken, or given up to extreme anguish.
2. He himself said that this was "the power of darkness," Luke 22:53. It was the time when his enemies, including the Jews and Satan, were suffered to do their utmost. It was said of the serpent that he should bruise the heel of the seed of the woman, Genesis 3:15. By that has been commonly understood to be meant that, though the Messiah would finally crush and destroy the power of Satan, yet he should himself suffer "through the power of the devil." When he was tempted Luke 4, it was said that the tempter "departed from him for a season." There is no improbability in supposing that he might be permitted to return at the time of his death, and exercise his power in increasing the sufferings of the Lord Jesus. In what way this might be done can be only conjectured. It might be by horrid thoughts; by temptation to despair, or to distrust God, who thus permitted his innocent Son to suffer; or by an increased horror of the pains of dying.
3. There might have been withheld from the Saviour those strong religious consolations, those clear views of the justice and goodness of God, which would have blunted his pains and soothed his agonies. Martyrs, under the influence of strong religious feeling, have gone triumphantly to the stake, but it is possible that those views might have been withheld from the Redeemer when he came to die. His sufferings were accumulated sufferings, and the design of the atonement seemed to require that he should suffer all that human nature "could be made to endure" in so short a time.
4. Yet we have reason to think that there was still something more than all this that produced this exclamation. Had there been no deeper and more awful sufferings, it would be difficult to see why Jesus should have shrunk from these sorrows and used such a remarkable expression. Isaiah tells us Isaiah 53:4-5 that "he bore our griefs and carried our sorrows; that he was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities; that the chastisement of our peace was laid upon him; that by his stripes we are healed." He hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us Galatians 3:13; he was made a sin-offering 2 Corinthians 5:21; he died in our place, on our account, that he might bring us near to God. It was this, doubtless, which caused his intense sufferings. It was the manifestation of God's hatred of sin, in some way which he has not explained, that he experienced in that dread hour. It was suffering endured by Him that was due to us, and suffering by which, and by which alone, we can be saved from eternal death.
on Matthew 27 :46