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 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.
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, עזבתני למה אלי אלי 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.
Stand before the cross of Calvary, and learn from it the cost of redemption. With breaking heart the holy Sufferer upon the cross of Calvary looks up to God, and cries, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). The angels of heaven sympathized with their loved Commander. Gladly would they have broken their ranks and gone to His assistance. But this was not God's plan. Our Saviour trod the wine press alone, and of the people there was none with Him. UL 223.4Read in context »
Christ bore the sins of the whole world. He endured our punishment—the wrath of God against transgression. His trial involved the fierce temptation of thinking that He was forsaken by God. His soul was tortured by the pressure of a horror of great darkness.... He could not have been tempted in all points like as man is tempted had there been no possibility of His failing. He was a free agent, placed on probation, as was Adam and as is man. Unless there is a possibility of yielding, temptation is no temptation. Temptation comes and is resisted when man is powerfully influenced to do a wrong action, and knowing that he can do it, resists by faith, with a firm hold upon divine power.—Manuscript 29, March 17, 1899, “Sacrificed for Us.” UL 90.5Read in context »
These persons, I saw, are deceiving themselves. They have no part nor lot in the matter. They have hold of the truth; but the truth has not hold of them. When the truth, the solemn, important truth, gets hold of them, self will die; then the language will not be, “I will go there, I will not stay here;” but the earnest inquiry will be, “Where does God want me to be? Where can I best glorify Him, and where can our united labors do the most good?” Their will should be swallowed up in the will of God. The willfulness and lack of consecration that some of the ministers’ wives manifest will stand in the way of sinners; the blood of souls will be upon their garments. Some of the ministers have borne a strong testimony in regard to the duty and the wrongs of the church; but it has not had its designed effect, for their own companions needed all the straight testimony that had been borne, and the reproof came back upon themselves with great weight. They let their companions affect them and drag them down, prejudicing their minds, and their usefulness and influence are lost; they feel desponding and disheartened, and realize not the true source of the injury. It is close at home. 1T 138.1
These sisters are closely connected with the work of God if He has called their husbands to preach the present truth. These servants, if truly called of God, will feel the importance of the truth. They are standing between the living and the dead, and must watch for souls as they that must give an account. Solemn is their calling, and their companions can be a great blessing or a great curse to them. They can cheer them when desponding, comfort them when cast down, and encourage them to look up and trust fully in God when their faith fails. Or they can take an opposite course, look upon the dark side, think they have a hard time, exercise no faith in God, talk their trials and unbelief to their companions, indulge a complaining, murmuring spirit, and be a dead weight and even a curse to them. 1T 138.2Read in context »
It was to redeem us that Jesus lived and suffered and died. He became “a Man of Sorrows,” that we might be made partakers of everlasting joy. God permitted His beloved Son, full of grace and truth, to come from a world of indescribable glory, to a world marred and blighted with sin, darkened with the shadow of death and the curse. He permitted Him to leave the bosom of His love, the adoration of the angels, to suffer shame, insult, humiliation, hatred, and death. “The chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5. Behold Him in the wilderness, in Gethsemane, upon the cross! The spotless Son of God took upon Himself the burden of sin. He who had been one with God, felt in His soul the awful separation that sin makes between God and man. This wrung from His lips the anguished cry, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Matthew 27:46. It was the burden of sin, the sense of its terrible enormity, of its separation of the soul from God—it was this that broke the heart of the Son of God. SC 13.1
But this great sacrifice was not made in order to create in the Father's heart a love for man, not to make Him willing to save. No, no! “God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son.” John 3:16. The Father loves us, not because of the great propitiation, but He provided the propitiation because He loves us. Christ was the medium through which He could pour out His infinite love upon a fallen world. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.” 2 Corinthians 5:19. God suffered with His Son. In the agony of Gethsemane, the death of Calvary, the heart of Infinite Love paid the price of our redemption. SC 13.2
Jesus said, “Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again.” John 10:17. That is, “My Father has so loved you that He even loves Me more for giving My life to redeem you. In becoming your Substitute and Surety, by surrendering My life, by taking your liabilities, your transgressions, I am endeared to My Father; for by My sacrifice, God can be just, and yet the Justifier of him who believeth in Jesus.” SC 14.1Read in context »