Psalm 69:21
They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(21) Gall.—Heb., rôsh, i.e., head. (Comp. poppy heads. See Deuteronomy 32:32.) In Hosea 10:4 it is translated hemlock, but is most probably the poppy (papaver arenarium), which grows everywhere in Palestine, and answers all the conditions. The rendering, gall, comes from the LXX.

Vinegar.—Sour wine would not be rejected as unpalatable (see Note Ruth 2:14). It was forbidden to Nazarites as a luxury (Numbers 6:3). Was the author of the psalm possibly a Nazarite? or are the expressions in the psalm merely figurative. Comp.

“The banquet where the meats became

As wormwood.”

—TENNYSON: Elaine.

Psalm 69:21. They gave me gall for my meat — Instead of affording me that pity and comfort which my condition required, they barbarously added to my affliction. These words were only metaphorically fulfilled in David, but were properly and literally accomplished in Christ; the description of whose sufferings, it seems, was principally intended here by the Holy Ghost, who therefore directed David’s pen to these words. And hence what follows may as truly, and perhaps more properly, be considered as predictions of the punishment which should be inflicted on the persecutors of our Lord, than as imprecations of David against his enemies. 69:13-21 Whatever deep waters of affliction or temptation we sink into, whatever floods of trouble or ungodly men seem ready to overwhelm us, let us persevere in prayer to our Lord to save us. The tokens of God's favour to us are enough to keep our spirits from sinking in the deepest outward troubles. If we think well of God, and continue to do so under the greatest hardships, we need not fear but he will do well for us. And if at any time we are called on to suffer reproach and shame, for Christ's sake, this may be our comfort, that he knows it. It bears hard on one that knows the worth of a good name, to be oppressed with a bad one; but when we consider what a favour it is to be accounted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus, we shall see that there is no reason why it should be heart-breaking to us. The sufferings of Christ were here particularly foretold, which proves the Scripture to be the word of God; and how exactly these predictions were fulfilled in Jesus Christ, which proves him to be the true Messiah. The vinegar and the gall given to him, were a faint emblem of that bitter cup which he drank up, that we might drink the cup of salvation. We cannot expect too little from men, miserable comforters are they all; nor can we expect too much from the God of all comfort and consolation.They gave me also - My enemies; all persons around me. No one would show me even so much kindness as to give me food when I was hungry, or drink when I was thirsty. They utterly forsook me; they left me to die unpitied. Nay, they did more than this. When I was perishing with hunger, they not only refused to give me wholesome food, but they mocked my sufferings by giving me a bitter and poisonous herb for food, and vinegar for my drink.

Gall for my meat - For my food. Or, they gave me this "instead" of wholesome food. The word here rendered "gall" - ראשׁ rô'sh - is the same "in form" which is commonly rendered "head," and occurs in this sense very often in the Scriptures. It is also used to denote a "poisonous plant," perhaps from the idea that the plant referred to was distinguished for, or remarkable for its "head" - as the poppy; and "then" the name may have been given also to some other similar plants. The word then comes to denote poison; venom; anything poisonous; and then, anything very bad-tasted; "bitter." It is rendered "gall," as here, in Deuteronomy 29:18; Jeremiah 8:14; Jeremiah 9:15; Jeremiah 23:15; Lamentations 3:5, Lamentations 3:19; Amos 6:12; "venom" in Deuteronomy 32:33; "poison," in Job 20:16; and "hemlock," in Hosea 10:4. In Deuteronomy 29:18, it is rendered, in the margin, "rosh," or "a poisonful herb." It does not occur elsewhere with any such signification. It may not be possible to determine precisely what is denoted here by the word, but it undoubtedly refers to some poisonous, bitter, deadly, stupefying substance given to a sufferer, "instead" of that which would be wholesome food, or suited to sustain life.

And in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink - Instead of giving me pure water, they gave me sour wine - vinegar - that which would not slake my thirst, or which would not answer the purpose of drink. The form of trial here referred to is that where one is dying of thirst, and where, instead of giving water to assuage the thirst, one should give, in mockery, that which could not be drunk, or which would answer none of the purposes required. The word translated "vinegar" - חמץ chômets - is rendered in the ancient versions "sour grapes," but the proper signification here seems to be vinegar - the usual meaning of the word. What is here stated to have been done to David was also done to the dying Saviour, though without any intimation that the passage here had an original reference to him - or that what was done to him was intended to be a fulfillment of what is here said. See Matthew 27:34, Matthew 27:48; Mark 15:23; John 19:29. In the case of the Saviour, they first gave him vinegar mingled with myrrh - a usual custom in reference to those who were crucified - for the purpose of deadening the pain, or stupefying the sufferer. Matthew 27:34. At a subsequent part of the crucifixion they gave him vinegar, extended to him in a sponge affixed to a reed. Matthew 27:48; John 19:29. This was for a different purpose. It was to allay his thirst, and it seems (as the former may have been) to have been an act of kindness or compassion on the part of those who were appointed to crucify him. The former he refused to take, because he came to suffer; the latter he just tasted as he died. John 19:30. The "coincidence" in the cases of David and the Saviour was remarkable; but in the case of the Saviour no further use is made of what occurred to David than to employ the "language" which he employed to describe his own sufferings. The one was not, in any proper sense, a "type" of the other; nor does the language in the psalm refer to the Saviour.

21. Instead of such, his enemies increase his pain by giving him most distasteful food and drink. The Psalmist may have thus described by figure what Christ found in reality (compare Joh 19:29, 30). Gall, or poison, or bitter herbs, Hosea 10:4. See Deu 29:18 Jeremiah 9:15 Lamentations 3:19. Instead of giving me that pity and comfort which my condition required, they barbarously added to my afflictions. These things were metaphorically fulfilled in David, but properly and literally h Christ, the description of whose sufferings was principally intended here by the Holy Ghost, who therefore directed David’s pen to these words, and possibly informed him that this should be accomplished in Christ; which may not seem improbable to him that considers the following imprecations, which are so many and so severe, that they may seem to exceed the bounds of justice and charity, if they be applied to David’s enemies, as a recompence for their injuries done to him; whereas they most deservedly and fitly belong to the enemies and murderers of Christ. They gave me also gall for my meat,.... Either some bitter herb mentioned with wormwood and hemlock, Deuteronomy 29:18; or the gall of some animal The Targum renders it,

"the gall of the heads of serpents:''

the poison of some serpents is in their heads, and the word that is here used signifies the head; see Deuteronomy 32:33. This was literally fulfilled in Christ, Matthew 27:34; and showed that he bore the curse of the law; that being given to him for food, which was not fit to be eaten; thereby intimating, that he deserved not to have the common food and necessaries of life; which is the case of those in whose place and stead he suffered: and this may be a rebuke to such who, through fulness and affluence, are apt to slight and contemn some of the good creatures of God, which ought to be received with thanksgiving; let them remember the gall that was given Christ for meat. And this may serve to reconcile poor Christians to that mean fare and low way of living they are obliged to; though they, have but a dinner of herbs, or bread and water, it is better fare than their Lord's; it is not gall;

and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink; Christ, when on the cross, was athirst, which was occasioned by a fever that usually attended persons in his circumstances; see Psalm 22:15; and, that this Scripture might be fulfilled, he signified it, saying, "I thirst"; upon which vinegar was given to him, as all the evangelists relate; Matthew 27:48. This shows the truth of Christ's human nature; that it was a true and real body that he assumed, which was subject to hunger and thirst, and was supported by food and drink, as our bodies are; also the truth of divine revelation; since such a minute circumstance as this, predicted so many hundred years ago, should, after so long a time, be exactly fulfilled; and likewise the truth of the Messiahship of Jesus, in whom this, and every thing else said Messiah, in the Law, the Prophets, and the book of Psalms, were fully accomplished; and therefore it may be strongly concluded that this is he of whom they spoke. Moreover, this expresses the inhumanity of the enemies of Christ, to use him in this manner, when he was suffering and dying; see Proverbs 31:6.

They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
21. This verse is connected with the preceding one. Not content with merely refusing sympathy, they aggravated and embittered his sufferings, as though one were to mock a hungry man by offering him bitter and poisonous food, or a thirsty man by giving him sour and undrinkable wine. The language is plainly metaphorical: cp. Jeremiah 8:14; Jeremiah 9:15; Jeremiah 23:15. The Heb. word rôsh, rendered gall (LXX χολή, Vulg. and Jer. fel), denotes some bitter and poisonous plant, which cannot however be identified with certainty. Tristram (Nat. Hist. of Bible, p. 447) thinks that the Poppy is the plant intended. “Papaver arenarium grows everywhere in Palestine; it springs up very quickly in cornfields, and its juice is most bitter and poisonous.”

Vinegar cannot here mean the thin sour wine which was used as a refreshing beverage (Numbers 6:3; Ruth 2:14), but such as had gone bad and become nauseous and unfit to drink.

Allusion seems to be made to this passage in St Matthew’s account of the Crucifixion (Matthew 27:34), though it is not actually quoted; and St John expressly says that the cry “I thirst” was uttered “that the scripture might be accomplished[34].”

[34] The ‘Gospel of Peter’ (ch. 5) represents the potion of “gall with vinegar” as poison administered to hasten death.Verse 21. - They gave me also gall for my meat. Here, at any rate, the psalmist is inspired to be Messianic, i.e. to use words which, while they can only be applied to himself metaphorically and loosely, are in the strictest and most literal sense applicable to Christ. Gall was actually mingled with the drink which was given to Christ just before he was crucified, and which he tasted, but would not swallow (Matthew 27:34). And in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. Similarly, when upon the cress Christ uttered the words, "I thirst," those who stood by "filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his month. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished; and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost" (John 19:29, 30); comp. Psalm 22:16-18, where little facts, not true of David, but true of Christ, are recorded of an afflicted one, who partly represents David, partly his great Descendant. In this second part the petition by which the first is as it were encircled, is continued; the peril grows greater the longer it lasts, and with it the importunity of the cry for help. The figure of sinking in the mire or mud and in the depths of the pit (בּאר, Psalm 55:24, cf. בור, Psalm 40:3) is again taken up, and so studiously wrought out, that the impression forces itself upon one that the poet is here describing something that has really taken place. The combination "from those who hate me and from the depths of the waters" shows that "the depths of the waters" is not a merely rhetorical figure; and the form of the prayer: let not the pit (the well-pit or covered tank) close (תּאטּר with Dagesh in the Teth, in order to guard against its being read תּאטר; cf. on the signification of אטּר, clausus equals claudus, scil. manu) its mouth (i.e., its upper opening) upon me, exceeds the limits of anything that can be allowed to mere rhetoric. "Let not the water-flood overflow me" is intended to say, since it has, according to Psalm 69:3, already happened, let it not go further to my entire destruction. The "answer me" in Psalm 69:17 is based upon the plea that God's loving-kindness is טּוב, i.e., good, absolutely good (as in the kindred passion-Psalm, Psalm 109:21), better than all besides (Psalm 63:4), the means of healing or salvation from all evil. On Psalm 69:17 cf. Psalm 51:3, Lamentations 3:32. In Psalm 69:18 the prayer is based upon the painful situation of the poet, which urgently calls for speedy help (מהר beside the imperative, Psalm 102:3; Psalm 143:7; Genesis 19:22; Esther 6:10, is certainly itself not an imperative like הרב, Psalm 51:4, but an adverbial infinitive as in Psalm 79:8). קרבה, or, in order to ensure the pronunciation ḳorbah in distinction from ḳārbah, Deuteronomy 15:9, קרבה (in Baer,

(Note: Originally - was the sign for every kind of o6, hence the Masora includes the חטוף also under the name קמץ חטף; vid., Luther. Zeitschrift, 1863, S. 412,f., cf. Wright, Genesis, p. xxix.))

is imperat. Kal; cf. the fulfilment in Lamentations 3:57. The reason assigned, "because of mine enemies," as in Psalm 5:9; Psalm 27:11, and frequently, is to be understood according to Psalm 13:5 : the honour of the all-holy One cannot suffer the enemies of the righteous to triumph over him.

(Note: Both נפשׁי and איבי, contrary to logical interpunction, are marked with Munach; the former ought properly to have Dech, and the latter Mugrash. But since neither the Athnach-word nor the Silluk-word has two syllables preceding the tone syllable, the accents are transformed according to Accentuationssystem, xviii. 2, 4.)

The accumulation of synonyms in Psalm 69:20 is Jeremiah's custom, Jeremiah 13:14; Jeremiah 21:5, Jeremiah 21:7; Jeremiah 32:37, and is found also in Psalm 31 (Psalm 31:10) and Psalm 44 (Psalm 44:4, Psalm 44:17, Psalm 44:25). On הרפּה שׁברה לבּי, cf. Psalm 51:19, Jeremiah 23:9. The ἅπαξ γεγραμ, ואנוּשׁה (historical tense), from נוּשׁ, is explained by ענוּשׁ from אנשׁ, sickly, dangerously ill, evil-disposed, which is a favourite word in Jeremiah. Moreover נוּד in the signification of manifesting pity, not found elsewhere in the Psalter, is common in Jeremiah, e.g., Psalm 15:5; it signifies originally to nod to any one as a sign of a pity that sympathizes with him and recognises the magnitude of the evil. "To give wormwood for meat and מי־ראשׁ to drink" is a Jeremianic (Jeremiah 8:14; Jeremiah 9:14; Jeremiah 23:15) designation for inflicting the extreme of pain and anguish upon one. ראשׁ (רושׁ) signifies first of all a poisonous plant with an umbellated head of flower or a capitate fruit; but then, since bitter and poisonous are interchangeable notions in the Semitic languages, it signifies gall as the bitterest of the bitter. The lxx renders: καὶ ἔδωκαν εἰς τὸ βρῶμά μου χολήν, καὶ εἰς τὴν δίψαν μου ἐπότισάν με ὄξος. Certainly נתן בּ can mean to put something into something, to mix something with it, but the parallel word לצמאי (for my thirst, i.e., for the quenching of it, Nehemiah 9:15, Nehemiah 9:20) favours the supposition that the בּ of בּברוּתי is Beth essentiae, after which Luther renders: "they give me gall to eat." The ἅπαξ γεγραμ. בּרוּת (Lamentations 4:10 בּרות) signifies βρῶσις, from בּרה, βιβρώσκειν (root βορ, Sanscrit gar, Latin vor-are).

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