Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Matthew 27:34

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

They gave him vinegar - mingled with gall - Perhaps χολη, commonly translated gall, signifies no more than bitters of any kind. It was a common custom to administer a stupefying potion compounded of sour wine, which is the same as vinegar, from the French vinaigre, frankincense, and myrrh, to condemned persons, to help to alleviate their sufferings, or so disturb their intellect that they might not be sensible of them. The rabbins say that they put a grain of frankincense into a cup of strong wine; and they ground this on Proverbs 31:6; : Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, i.e. who is condemned to death. Some person, out of kindness, appears to have administered this to our blessed Lord; but he, as in all other cases, determining to endure the fullness of pain, refused to take what was thus offered to him, choosing to tread the winepress alone. Instead of οξος, vinegar, several excellent MSS. and versions have οινον, wine; but as sour wine is said to have been a general drink of the common people and Roman soldiers, it being the same as vinegar, it is of little consequence which reading is here adopted. This custom of giving stupefying potions to condemned malefactors is alluded to in Proverbs 31:6; : Give strong drink, שקר shekar, inebriating drink, to him who is ready to Perish, and wine to him who is Bitter of soul - because he is just going to suffer the punishment of death. And thus the rabbins, as we have seen above, understand it. See Lightfoot and Schoettgen.

Michaelis offers an ingenious exposition of this place: "Immediately after Christ was fastened to the cross, they gave him, according to Matthew 27:34, vinegar mingled with gall; but, according to Mark, they offered him wine mingled with myrrh. That St. Mark's account is the right one is probable from this circumstance, that Christ refused to drink what was offered him, as appears from both evangelists. Wine mixed with myrrh was given to malefactors at the place of execution, to intoxicate them, and make them less sensible to pain. Christ, therefore, with great propriety, refused the aid of such remedies. But if vinegar was offered him, which was taken merely to assuage thirst, there could be no reason for his rejecting it. Besides, he tasted it before he rejected it; and therefore he must have found it different from that which, if offered to him, he was ready to receive. To solve this difficulty, we must suppose that the words used in the Hebrew Gospel of St. Matthew were such as agreed with the account given by St. Mark, and at the same time were capable of the construction which was put on them by St. Matthew's Greek translator. Suppose St. Matthew wrote במרירא חליא (chaleea bemireera ) which signifies, sweet wine with bitters, or sweet wine and myrrh, as we find it in Mark; and Matthew's translator overlooked the yod י in חליא (chaleea ) he took it for חלא (chala ) which signifies vinegar; and bitter, he translated by χολη, as it is often used in the Septuagint. Nay, St. Matthew may have written חלא , and have still meant to express sweet wine; if so, the difference only consisted in the points; for the same word which, when pronounced chale, signifies sweet, denotes vinegar, as soon as it is pronounced chala ."

With this conjecture Dr. Marsh (Michaelis's translator) is not satisfied; and therefore finds a Chaldee word for οινος wine, which may easily be mistaken for one that denotes οξος vinegar; and likewise a Chaldee word, which signifies σμυρνα, (myrrh), which may be easily mistaken for one that denotes χολη, (gall). "Now," says he, "חמר (chamar ) or חמרא (chamera ) really denotes οινος (wine), and חמץ (chamets ) or חמצא (charnetsa ) really denotes οξος (vinegar). Again, מורא (mura ) really signifies σμυρνα (myrrh), and מררא (murera ) really signifies χολη (gall). If, then, we suppose that the original Chaldee text was במורא הליט חמרא (chamera heleet bemura ) wine mingled with myrrh, which is not at all improbable, as it is the reading of the Syriac version, at Mark 15:23, it might easily have been mistaken for במררא הליט חמצא (chametsa haleet bemurera ) vinegar mingled with gall." This is a more ingenious conjecture than that of Michaelis. See Marsh's notes to Michaelis, vol. iii., part 2d. p. 127-28. But as that kind of sour wine, which was used by the Roman soldiers and common people, appears to have been termed οινος, and vin aigre is sour wine, it is not difficult to reconcile the two accounts, in what is most material to the facts here recorded.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

They gave him vinegar … - Mark says that, “they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh.” The two evangelists mean the same thing. Vinegar was made of light wine rendered acid, and was the common drink of the Roman soldiers, and this might be called either vinegar or wine in common language. “Myrrh” is a bitter substance produced in Arabia, but is used often to denote anything bitter. The meaning of the name is “bitterness.” See the notes at Matthew 2:11. “Gall” is properly a bitter secretion from the liver, but the word is also used to denote anything exceedingly “bitter,” as wormwood, etc. The drink, therefore, was vinegar or sour wine, rendered “bitter” by the infusion of wormwood or some other very bitter substance. The effect of this, it is said, was to stupefy the senses. It was often given to those who were crucified, to render them insensible to the pains of death. Our Lord, knowing this, when he bad tasted it refused to drink. He was unwilling to blunt the pains of dying. The “cup” which his “Father” gave him he rather chose to drink. He came to suffer. His sorrows were necessary for the work of the atonement, and he gave himself up to the unmitigated sufferings of the cross. This was presented to him in the early part of his sufferings, or when he was about to be suspended on the cross. “Afterward,” when he was on the cross and just before his death, vinegar was offered to him “without the myrrh” - the vinegar which the soldiers usually drank - and of this he drank. See Matthew 27:49, and John 19:28-30. When Matthew and Mark say that he “would not drink,” they refer to a different thing and a different time from John, and there is no contradiction.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Christ was led as a Lamb to the slaughter, as a Sacrifice to the altar. Even the mercies of the wicked are really cruel. Taking the cross from him, they compelled one Simon to bear it. Make us ready, O Lord, to bear the cross thou hast appointed us, and daily to take it up with cheerfulness, following thee. Was ever sorrow like unto his sorrow? And when we behold what manner of death he died, let us in that behold with what manner of love he loved us. As if death, so painful a death, were not enough, they added to its bitterness and terror in several ways.
Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6 (EGW), 1070

What a scene that will be! No pen can describe it! The accumulated guilt of the world will be laid bare, and the voice of the Judge will be heard saying to the wicked, “Depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” 6BC 1070.1

Then those who pierced Christ will remember how they slighted His love and abused His compassion; how they chose in His stead Barabbas, a robber and murderer; how they crowned the Saviour with thorns, and caused Him to be scourged and crucified; how, in the agony of His death on the cross, they taunted Him, saying, “Let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.” “He saved others; himself he cannot save.” They will seem to hear again His voice of entreaty. Every tone of solicitude will vibrate as distinctly in their ears as when the Saviour spoke to them. Every act of insult and mockery done to Christ will be as fresh in their memory as when the satanic deeds were done. 6BC 1070.2

They will call on the rocks and mountains to fall on them and hide them from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. “The wrath of the Lamb”—One who ever showed Himself full of tenderness, patience, and long-suffering, who, having given Himself up as the sacrificial offering, was led as a lamb to the slaughter, to save sinners from the doom now falling upon them because they would not allow Him to take away their guilt (The Review and Herald, June 18, 1901). 6BC 1070.3

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Ellen G. White
The Great Controversy, 643

There are those who mocked Christ in His humiliation. With thrilling power come to their minds the Sufferer's words, when, adjured by the high priest, He solemnly declared: “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” Matthew 26:64. Now they behold Him in His glory, and they are yet to see Him sitting on the right hand of power. GC 643.1

Those who derided His claim to be the Son of God are speechless now. There is the haughty Herod who jeered at His royal title and bade the mocking soldiers crown Him king. There are the very men who with impious hands placed upon His form the purple robe, upon His sacred brow the thorny crown, and in His unresisting hand the mimic scepter, and bowed before Him in blasphemous mockery. The men who smote and spit upon the Prince of life now turn from His piercing gaze and seek to flee from the overpowering glory of His presence. Those who drove the nails through His hands and feet, the soldier who pierced His side, behold these marks with terror and remorse. GC 643.2

With awful distinctness do priests and rulers recall the events of Calvary. With shuddering horror they remember how, wagging their heads in satanic exultation, they exclaimed: “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He be the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now, if He will have Him.” Matthew 27:42, 43. GC 643.3

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Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5 (EGW), 1107-8

21. See EGW on Romans 3:19. 5BC 1107.1

21, 22, 29 (Philippians 2:9; Hebrews 2:9; Revelation 6:16; 14:10). Two Kinds of Crowns—On whose side are we? The world cast Christ out, the heavens received Him. Man, finite man, rejected the Prince of life; God, our sovereign Ruler, received Him into the heavens. God has exalted Him. Man crowned Him with a crown of thorns, God has crowned Him with a crown of royal majesty. We must all think candidly. Will you have this man Christ Jesus to rule over you, or will you have Barabbas? The death of Christ brings to the rejecter of His mercy the wrath and judgments of God, unmixed with mercy. This is the wrath of the Lamb. But the death of Christ is hope and eternal life to all who receive Him and believe in Him (Letter 31, 1898). 5BC 1107.2

Under Satan's Black Banner—Each son and daughter of Adam chooses either Christ or Barabbas as his general. And all who place themselves on the side of the disloyal are standing under Satan's black banner, and are charged with rejecting and despitefully using Christ. They are charged with deliberately crucifying the Lord of life and glory (The Review and Herald, January 30, 1900). 5BC 1107.3

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Ellen G. White
Early Writings, 175-80

Satan's rage was great as he saw that all the cruelty which he had led the Jews to inflict on Jesus had not called forth from Him the slightest murmur. Although He had taken upon Himself man's nature, He was sustained by a Godlike fortitude, and departed not in the least from the will of His Father. EW 175.1

The Son of God was delivered to the people to be crucified; with shouts of triumph they led the dear Saviour away. He was weak and faint from weariness, pain, and loss of blood by the scourging and blows which He had received; yet the heavy cross upon which He was soon to be nailed was laid upon Him. Jesus fainted beneath the burden. Three times the cross was placed upon His shoulders, and three times He fainted. One of His followers, a man who had not openly professed faith in Christ, yet believed on Him, was next seized. Upon him the cross was laid, and he bore it to the fatal spot. Companies of angels were marshaled in the air above the place. A number of Christ's disciples followed Him to Calvary, in sorrow, and with bitter weeping. They called to mind His triumphal ride into Jerusalem but a few days before, when they had followed Him, crying, “Hosanna in the highest!” and strewing their garments and the beautiful palm branches in the way. They had thought that He was then to take the kingdom and reign a temporal prince over Israel. How changed the scene! How blighted their prospects! Not with rejoicing, not with cheerful hopes, but with hearts stricken with fear and despair they now slowly, sadly followed Him who had been disgraced and humbled, and who was about to die. EW 175.2

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