Vinegar Mingled With Gall
This is another of the many Bible passages where my understanding differs from that of the ministry. It is also one of the many passages they generally consider to be of such little importance that in their opinion we should not waste valuable study time on it. However, in my belief that a better understanding of all scripture is profitable, I would like to share with you my understanding of the vinegar mingled with gall.
Matthew 27:34 “They gave [Jesus] vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.”
Throughout my childhood I endured many bouts of sickness, sometimes vomiting until there was nothing left but greenish/yellowish bile which my mother explained came from something called the gall-bladder. At some time I must have checked with a dictionary because I came to believe the words bile and gall were synonymous.
I was twelve years old and a patient in the I.O.D.E. Hospital in Toronto, Canada, when this scripture first came to my attention. Once each week some well meaning people brought individual booklets of the New Testament for me and the other children to read and to study. The Book of Matthew was the first of these booklets and I distinctly remember my revulsion when I read that Jesus had been given something with gall, or as I thought of it, “bile,” to drink. Drinking vinegar seemed bad enough; even without being fouled with gall!
Later in life, when reading a book on herbal or natural remedies, I discovered that vinegar, or sour wine, had been widely used in olden times to raise energy levels in humans; even so, the thought of it being mixed with gall or bile seemed revolting.
It was not until the early 1990’s that this verse once again became a subject for my scriptural questioning. I was preparing for the time of the Passover and as is my habit I was reviewing all I had come to believe concerning the Passover and the following days of Unleavened Bread. It is seldom that my attention is not drawn to something I had previously overlooked and this time my attention was drawn to the vinegar mingled with gall.
Note: In my opinion, one of the most valuable tools anyone can wield in his or her search for biblical knowledge and understanding is “the question”! Without there first being something to wonder about, little else can happen! I shall repeat what I have stated many times before: “There is no question I will not ask again and again in my search for the knowledge and understanding of God and His mysteries. There is no scripture, no belief, and no doctrine I will not search and search again. There is nothing I will not tear apart and rebuild in my quest for understanding and truth. Every miniscule truth newly discovered becomes a building block to my faith. When an error has been found and corrected, it brings joy to the workman who need never be ashamed -- and joy that Our Father has seen fit to correct a child that He loves.”
Q...Why does the Bible record something as seemingly insignificant as this vinegar mingled with gall?
Q...How did the gall find its way into the vinegar? Did it get there by accident; or did the Roman soldiers put it there on purpose?
Q...What was this “gall” anyway? Was it nothing more than bile as I and others have always suspected it to be; or was it something else entirely?
A very prominent minister and evangelist of one of the latter day Churches of God is of the opinion that the soldiers offered Jesus the tainted wine or vinegar on purpose. He can be heard in one of his recorded sermons stating that they only did it to further humiliate our Saviour. He even used the passage found at Luke 23:36 to support his belief.
Luke 23:36 “And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar.”
Note: This verse could be used to bear out such a belief -- however it is questionable whether their mocking was the offering of vinegar; or whether the mocking and the offering of vinegar were not two separate and distinct acts.
I believe the question, “Was the mingling of the gall with the vinegar an accident or not” is answered in the Book of Psalms 69:21 “They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” It seems to me that this use of the word “gall” with reference to someone being given vinegar to drink too closely parallels Matthew 27:34 to be coincidence. Is it possible that this verse from the Psalms was a prophecy which found its fulfillment in the vinegar mingled with gall at the crucifixion of Jesus?
Some people have suggested that Jesus refused to drink the vinegar because it had been rendered unclean by the addition of gall. The idea being that at a time as important as his crucifixion, Jesus could not allow himself to be “polluted” by imbibing something that was unclean. To those who may profess such a belief I must answer: “By the time he knew the vinegar was tainted it was too late -- he had already tasted thereof.”
Perhaps this would be as good a place as any to find out just what the word gall means within the context of these passages of scripture. The word used in Psalm 69 “gall” is found in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance under -7219- “a poisonous plant, probably the poppy (from its conspicuous head.)” This same word is also found several times in the Book of Jeremiah and I have copied those verses below for you to consider.
Jeremiah 8:14 “Why do we sit still? Assemble yourselves, and let us enter into the defended cities, and let us be silent there: for the LORD our God has put us to silence, and given us water of gall to drink, because we have sinned against the LORD.”
Jeremiah 9:15-16 “Therefore thus says the LORD of Hosts, the God of Israel; ‘Behold, I will feed them, even this people, with wormwood, and give them water of gall to drink. I will scatter them also among the heathen, whom neither they nor their fathers have known…’”
Jeremiah 23:15 “Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets; ‘Behold, I will feed them wormwood, and make them drink water of gall: for from the prophets of Jerusalem has gone forth profaneness into the land.’”
Place each of these scriptures properly in context. Try to understand what each verse means with regard to other scriptures. Do they, or do they not, give the impression that this water of gall has qualities which may dull the mind and/or put people to sleep?
The word “gall” as it is used in Matthew 27:34 comes from the Greek word listed in Strong’s as -5521- “gall or bile, i.e. (by analogy) poison or an anodyne (wormwood, poppy, etc.).”
In Mark 15:23 the account is recorded as: “And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not.” The word “myrrh” as it is used in this verse is listed in Strong’s as -4669- “to tincture with myrrh, i.e. embitter (as a narcotic).
And finally; in the Webster’s Dictionary you will find the word “anodyne” explained as follows: “1. (as an adjective) painkilling, soothing. 2. (as a noun) something which kills pain.”
“…and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink!”
How I wish I could share with you some of the emotion that passed through me when I first began to realize what I was beginning to understand. The more I searched and studied; the more I came to believe that Our Saviour was being given the opportunity to ingest something which would reduce the torment and the suffering he was being forced to endure.
Having accepted the fact that God had chosen him to be the sacrifice spoken of by the prophets, Jesus acknowledged that he must bear all of the pain and the suffering without the use of any pain killing drug. It was also vital that Jesus retain full use of his faculties. If he should at any time succumb to the pain and condemn either God, or the part he had been chosen to fulfill, it is doubtful whether his sacrifice would have been accepted.
Thanks be to the Almighty and Everlasting God the sacrifice of Jesus was accepted; and by his life and his sacrifice we have the hope of a destiny which otherwise would be beyond the wildest dreams of any man!
Note: Next week I hope to share with you my thoughts concerning the inception of the rites of baptism as taught and practiced by John. How well do we truly understand the meaning of the rites of baptism? Do we rise from the waters of baptism cleansed from sin; or does this rite have an entirely different meaning?