Matthew 27 46 Meaning
Matthew 27:46 meaning Jesus’ Father had forsaken, abandoned, rejected His only-begotten Son – so it is commonly thought. If the Father could forsake even His own Son, wouldn’t that make us feel less secure about God’s attitude towards us? Could the Father have done that? This study will show otherwise. God DID NOT forsake His Son.
“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)
Matthew 27:46 Word Meanings
A key to understanding what Jesus really meant is that He spoke in Aramaic, a language similar to Hebrew. In Matthew, His words were transliterated from the Aramaic. The word “Eli” is Aramaic but of Hebrew origin:
G2241 ἠλί eli ay-lee’ or ἑλόι ay-lo’-ee
of Hebrew origin, H410 אֵלִי with pronominal suffix; n pr m;
AV-Eli 2; 2
(Word definitions from the On-line Bible – OnlineBible.net)
The word “el” that it is derived from is commonly translated as “God” in the Old Testament but can have a variety of meanings:
H410 אֵל ‘el ale
shortened from H352, Greek G2241 ηλι and G1664 ελιουδ; n pr m dei/n m/adj;
AV-God 213, god 16, power 4, mighty 5, goodly 1, great 1, idols 1, Immanuel + H6005 2, might 1, strong 1; 245
1) god, god-like one, mighty one
1a) mighty men, men of rank, mighty heroes
1c) god, false god, (demons, imaginations)
1d) God, the one true God, Jehovah
2) mighty things in nature
3) strength, power
From Mark’s gospel:
“And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi [G1682], Eloi [G1682], lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)
The On-line Bible gives the meaning of “Eloi” (G1682), as:
G1682 ἐλοΐ eloi el-o-ee’
of Aramaic origin H426 אֱלָהּ with pronominal stuff.; n m;
AV-Eloi 2; 2
Eloi = “my God”
1) Aramaic for the phrase “my God”
The word that it is derived from can refer to other than the true God:
H426 אַלָהּ ‘elahh (Aramaic) el-aw’
corresponding to H433, Greek G1682 ελωι; n pr m dei/n m;
AV-God 79, god 16; 95
1) god, God
1a) god, heathen deity
1b) God (of Israel)
H433 אֱלוֹהַּ ‘elowahh el-o’-ah rarely (shortened)
אלה ‘eloahh el-o’-ah
probably prolonged (emphat.) from H410; n pr m dei/n m;
AV-God 52, god 5; 57
2) false god
That is the singular form of this plural word commonly used for God:
H430 אֱלהִים ‘elohiym el-o-heem’
plural of H433; n m p;
AV-God 2346, god 244, judge 5, GOD 1, goddess 2, great 2, mighty 2, angels 1, exceeding 1, God-ward + H4136 1, godly 1; 2606
1a) rulers, judges
1b) divine ones
2) (plural intensive-singular meaning)
2a) god, goddess
2b) godlike one
2c) works or special possessions of God
2d) the (true) God
The point of showing the word definitions above is that the words can and are often used for other than the God of heaven. I highlighted some words to show that the meaning can often be other than God Himself. Note that the common Greek word for God (“theos” G2316) is also used for other gods, magistrates and judges etc.
Matthew 27:46 My God or My _____?
The Aramaic corresponds to the Hebrew “Elowahh” (singular) or “Elohiym” (plural) which the Bible uses for other gods, judges, rulers etc. Some examples:
“And the LORD said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god [H430]; to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet.” (Exo 7:1)
“Then his master shall bring him unto the judges [H430]; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.” (Exo 21:6)
“If the thief be not found, then the master of the house shall be brought unto the judges [H430], to see whether he have put his hand unto his neighbour’s goods. For all manner of trespass, whether it be for ox, for ass, for sheep, for raiment, or for any manner of lost thing, which another challengeth to be his, the cause of both parties shall come before the judges [H430] and whom the judges [H430] shall condemn, he shall pay double unto his neighbour.” (Exo 22:8-9)
“Thou shalt not revile the gods [H430], nor curse the ruler of thy people.” (Exo 22:28)
“And yet they would not hearken unto their judges [H430], but they went a whoring after other gods [H430], and bowed themselves unto them: they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the LORD; but they did not so.” (Jud 2:17)
“If one man sin against another, the judge [H430] shall judge him: but if a man sin against the LORD, who shall intreat for him? Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the LORD would slay them.” (1 Sam 2:25)
Understanding that the words can have a variety of meanings opens the possibility that Jesus was speaking to someone other than His Father. But before we make that claim contrary to everyone’s traditional understanding, let’s see if there is any more evidence this might be so.
Matthew 27:46 Misunderstood
When Jesus said “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He was actually quoting Psalm 22:1 but not in Hebrew; He purposely used Aramaic. The Talmud declares that:
“Four languages are of value: Greek for song, Latin for war, Aramaic for dirges, and Hebrew for speaking.”
A dirge is a lament for the dead … and Jesus could certainly have been lamenting those who would perish because of their rejection of God. Webster’s 1828 dictionary describes a dirge as:
“A song or tune intended to express grief, sorrow and mourning; as a funeral dirge.”
Aramaic is used in a number of places in the Bible, at times, in a similar fashion.
“And they bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull.” (Mark 15:22)
Golgotha comes from the Aramaic meaning “skull.” The verse includes “which is being interpreted” as in Mark 15:34 and similar to Matthew 27:46 “that is to say.”
Some have claimed that Jesus spoke using Aramaic because He was despondent at His situation and supposed abandonment. But was Jesus despondent or abandoned? Psalm 22, the Psalm of the cross, describes the crucifixion scene:
“I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee. Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel. For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he [the afflicted, the Son] cried unto him, [God] he heard [the Father was paying attention].” (Psa 22:22-24)
The afflicted One was Jesus and the Father did not hide His face from His Son; He did not forsake Him.
Matthew 27:46 The Source of Jesus’ Words
Let’s consider the source of the words Jesus spoke in general while on Earth.
“For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.” (John 3:34)
“Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” (John 5:19)
“Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.” (John 14:10)
Did the Father dictate to Jesus every word He should say? That seems doubtful and unnecessary. The meaning would be that Jesus spoke (and always acted) in a way that reflected the image and the thoughts of His Father.
Also, there is strong evidence that Jesus fully trusted in His Father:
“And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.” (Luke 23:46)
He wouldn’t likely have said that if He felt His Father had forsaken Him.
Matthew 27:46 Who Forsook Who?
“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Heb 13:5)
Who forsook who? Did God forsake man or did man forsake God? This is the question. Let’s have a look. There are many “forsaken me” passages of scripture; the majority of which are God’s people forsaking Him. There is a verse that speaks of God forsaking His people, however, this was only the people’s understanding:
“Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the LORD hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted. But Zion said, The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me.” (Isa 49:13-14)
That was Zion’s thinking to which God responded:
“Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.” (Isa 49:15-16)
He was saying, essentially, that for Him to forsake His people was an impossibility. So how could Jesus’ words have been so misunderstood?
Here are some of many verses showing that God’s people had rejected Him:
“The LORD shall send upon thee cursing, vexation, and rebuke, in all that thou settest thine hand unto for to do, until thou be destroyed, and until thou perish quickly; because of the wickedness of thy doings, whereby thou hast forsaken me.” (Deut 28:20)
“And the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, saying, We have sinned against thee, both because we have forsaken our God, and also served Baalim. (Judg 10:10)
“According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee.” (1 Sam 8:8)
“Then came Shemaiah the prophet to Rehoboam, and to the princes of Judah, that were gathered together to Jerusalem because of Shishak, and said unto them, Thus saith the LORD, Ye have forsaken me, and therefore have I also left you in the hand of Shishak.” (2 Chron 12:5)
“And the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the LORD, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the LORD, he hath also forsaken you.” (2 Chron 24:20)
See the glossary study on what it means for God to forsake.
Hard of Hearing or Not Willing to Comprehend?
It is interesting that there was confusion among those that heard Him:
“Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias. And straightway one of them ran, and took a spunge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him.” (Matt 27:47-49)
“The rest” (verse 49) seems to be referring to the rest “of them,” part of a group who had some authority to say “let be” to the one offering Jesus a drink. This is likely the Jewish authorities in attendance. They either truly misheard (even though the words were spoken “with a loud voice,” verse 46) or, more likely, they refused to understand; to regard the words applying to themselves.
They took it to mean that Jesus was saying to His Father “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” as that was their understanding; their view of His situation. But is it possible that when Jesus said: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” that He (and on behalf of His Father) was actually speaking to the leaders of Israel?
“My leaders, My judges, why have you forsaken me? “
He Always said “Father”
Jesus is never recorded as addressing His Father as “my God.” Rather, He used the more endearing term “Father.”
Here is the one time He said “my God”:
“Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” (John 20:17)
But in that case, He was addressing Mary; He was not speaking to His Father.
The Repetition of “My God, my God”
What does the repetition “Eli, Eli” (Matt 27:46) and “Eloi, Eloi” (Mark 15:34) indicate?
The repetition is similar to when God said “Abraham, Abraham” (Gen 22:11) and when He addressed, in a similar manner, six other people in scripture (Jacob, Moses, Samuel, Martha, Simon Peter, and Saul, the apostle) as well as the city of Jerusalem. It was always to get attention, to make a plea or to strongly emphasize a point.
We Thought God Forsook Him
“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isa 53:3-5)
“But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2)
Sin hides God’s face from the sinner in the sense that the sinner cannot perceive the loving presence of God. This is because they feel the guilt and shame of their sins and cannot conceive of the possibility that God still loves them and looks on them with favor. It is our sins that make us believe that God has forsaken us because that is how we would often treat others – by forsaking them.
God does not hide His face from us in any sense of forsaking. It is our defective vision that does the hiding. See the glossary definition of “hiding the face.” (https://characterofgod.org/hiding-the-face-isaiah-59-2/)
While they thought Jesus was being smitten of God it was obvious through the trial and crucifixion events that they struck (and otherwise mistreated) Him.
We project onto God a rejection of us when, in reality, it is us rejecting God.
“Psychological projection is a defense mechanism in which the human ego defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities both positive and negative by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_projection)
So, there is considerable evidence that the Father never did forsake His Son as many understand Matthew 27:46. The meaning, rather, is that we forsook Him.