Some people think that God forsook Jesus during his final hour as he was dying on the cross. This idea may cause people to believe that God would also forsake them during their own hardships and difficult times. This belief often stems from the reasoning that since God made Jesus to become sin (II Corinthians 5:21), God forsook Jesus because He does not tolerate sin, leaving him alone to suffer on the cross. But is this true? Did God forsake His only begotten Son during his most difficult time? And would He also forsake us in our hour of need? What does the Word say?
By applying a fundamental key to the interpretation of God’s Word, we can know with certainty whether God did or did not forsake Jesus during his most difficult time on the cross. This key can help us accurately understand the following verse, which has caused much confusion regarding this topic.
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?
Here is the key that is so vital to understanding this verse: The words in the verse must be in harmony with the verse as well as with all the scriptures relating to the subject. God’s Word is perfect and pure (Psalms 12:6; 19:7). Because of this inherent purity and perfection, all of its parts will be in harmony with each other. When we understand God’s Word as it was originally given, there are no contradictions.
It appears from Matthew 27:46 (and Mark 15:34) that God had forsaken Jesus while he was on the cross, but this idea is not in harmony with other verses relating to the same subject. To obtain a broader scope, let’s read some other verses relating to this subject.
Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?
And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.
I and my Father are one.
Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.
II Corinthians 5:19:
To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself….
For in him [Christ] dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
These verses paint a clear and harmonious picture. God was present to hear and answer Jesus’ prayers; the Father had not left him alone. Jesus and his Father were one in purpose. When the time came for Jesus to give his life, he knew his disciples would be scattered and leave him alone (Matthew 26:31). But in sharp contrast, God would be with him, for God was dwelling in him. All of these verses are in harmony with each other and show clearly that God was with Jesus throughout his earthly life and ministry. In light of this evidence, does it make sense that God would forsake Jesus and leave him alone to die?
Let’s take a closer look at the words in Matthew 27:46, which as translated are out of harmony with the other clear verses on the same topic. The unusual words in Matthew 27:46, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani,” are in Aramaic. This was the language that Jesus spoke.
We can note other places where translators kept Aramaic words in the text of the King James Version.
But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise.
I Corinthians 16:22:
If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.
We see that the translators, by leaving the Aramaic words in the verses, wanted to preserve the accuracy of these scriptures. Following the Aramaic words in Matthew 27:46, they gave what appeared to be their translation, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” However, remember our key to the Word’s interpretation; we can see that the translation given for these Aramaic words is not in harmony with the many clear verses that show God did not forsake Jesus. We need to look further.
The Aramaic words under consideration are “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani.” According to all Aramaic sources, the word “lama” in the King James Version is actually the word lmna. Lmna is used as a declaration, such as “for this purpose” or “for this reason.” In Matthew 27:46, Jesus was not asking a question—he was making a declaration. “My God, my God, for this purpose, for this reason….”
The root of sabachthani is shbq, meaning “to spare, to leave, to reserve, or to keep.” According to Jesus Christ Our Passover, pages 257 and 258, shbq is translated “remaining” in the following verses:
II Kings 10:11:
So Jehu slew all that remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, and all his great men, and his kinsfolks, and his priests, until he left him none remaining [shbq].
So the Lord our God delivered into our hands Og also, the king of Bashan, and all his people: and we smote him until none was left to him remaining [shbq].
Then Horam king of Gezer came up to help Lachish; and Joshua smote him and his people, until he had left him none remaining [shbq].
These scriptures, along with others showing that God did not forsake Jesus, show that shbq in Matthew 27:46 does not mean “to forsake,” but “to reserve,” “to spare,” or “to leave remaining.”
Dr. George M. Lamsa, in his work The Holy Bible from Ancient Eastern Manuscripts, translated the latter part of Matthew 27:46 directly from Aramaic to English as follows, “My God, my God, for this I was spared.” Jesus was making a declaration, “My God, my God, for this purpose was I spared,” or “My God, my God, for this purpose was I reserved.” This was not a cry of doubt and despair, but rather a cry of victory and triumph to his ever-present heavenly Father—for he had finished the work that God had called him to do. Now we have an accurate translation that is in harmony with the other scriptures relating to the same subject!…
This is an excerpt from the January/February 2016 issue of The Way Magazine.
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