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Psalm 22



A Cry of Anguish and A Song of Praise The Suffering, Praise, and Posterity of the Messiah Prayer for Deliverance from Mortal Illness
(A Lament)
A Cry of Anguish and A Song of Praise The Suffering and Hopes of the Upright
MT Intro
For the choir director; upon aijeleth hashshahar. A Psalm of David.
22:1-5  22:1-2 22:1-2 22:1-5 22:1-2
  22:3-5 22:3-5   22:3-5
22:6-8 22:6-8 22:6-8 22:6-8 22:6-8
22:9-10 22:9-11 22:9-11 22:9-11 22:9-11
  22:12-13 22:12-13 22:12-13 22:12-13
  22:14-15 22:14-15 22:14-15 22:14-15
  22:16-18 22:16-18 22:16-18 22:16-18
22:19-21 22:19-21b 22:19-21a 22:19-21 22:19-21
  22:21c 22:21b-24    
22:22-24 22:22-24   22:22-24 22:22-23
22:25-31 22:25-26 22:25-26 22:25-26 22:25-26
  22:27-28 22:27-28 22:27-28 22:27-31
  22:29 22:29-31 22:29-31  

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. Hermeneutical practice demands that modern interpreters take seriously the original author's intent as the beginning point in establishing a proper understanding of the meaning of any passage. This proves to be difficult in this psalm.

1. uncertainty of the inspiration of the MT introductions (i.e., not present in Dead Sea Scrolls)

2. the details do not fit the life of King David or any other OT person

3. the striking similarity to the experiences of Jesus on the cross (cf. Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34)


B. Therefore, how should modern interpreters classify this psalm?

1. typology (i.e., an event in the OT parallels an event in Jesus' life)

2. predictive prophecy

3. multiple fulfillment prophecy

4. historical account (in poetry) of the experience of an OT person


C. There are several unique elements that cannot be reconciled with an OT psalmist's historical setting.

1. crucifixion (i.e., "pierced," see note)

2. clothes gambled for by lot

3. rare assertion of the inclusion of the nations, Ps. 22:27

4. possible allusion to

a. eternal life, Ps. 22:26c

b. affect on the departed, Ps. 22:29

c. creation of a "seed" of faithful followers for generations to come

5. notice there is no call for vengeance or attack on the enemies


D. I will approach the psalm, as others, from a historical, grammatical, lexical orientation, but with an eye toward the death of Christ. I can do nothing less!


E. This psalm is quoted or alluded to in the NT in connection to Jesus' crucifixion. The NT is the proper lens to view the OT, not vice-verse! The NT (i.e., Jesus) is the ultimate revelation (cf. Matt. 5:17-48).

1. v. 1 — Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34

2. v. 7 — Matt. 27:39; Mark 15:29

3. v. 8 — Matt. 27:43

4. v. 16 — Matt. 27:35; John 20:25

5. v. 18 — Matt. 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34; John 19:24

6. v. 22 — Heb. 2:12

7. possibly Ps. 22:15 — in John 19:28



 1My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?
 Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.
 2O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer;
 And by night, but I have no rest.
 3Yet You are holy,
 O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel.
 4In You our fathers trusted;
 They trusted and You delivered them.
 5To You they cried out and were delivered;
 In You they trusted and were not disappointed.

22:1 There are repeated vocative type statements.

1. My God, my God, Ps. 22:1 (the doubling is for intensity)

2. O my God, Ps. 22:2 (Eloh, BDB 43)

3. O Lord, 22:19a (YHWH, BDB 217)

4. O You my help, 22:19b

The psalmist is calling on God in direct address with intensity and passion. They know each other!

Just a note about Jesus quoting the first part of this psalm from the cross, by that He meant (or an inspired gospel writer) for future readers to read the whole psalm. Quoting the first line was a way to denote a context on a Scripture scroll.

NRSV, NJB"forsaken"
TEV, JPSOA"abandoned"

This verb (BDB 736 I, KB 806, Qal perfect) means to leave or reject by abandoning. The perfect denotes the idea of a settled rejection. In several places the OT uses the term of YHWH rejecting His covenant people and promises (cf. Ps. 119:8; Isa. 54:7; Jer. 7:12; Ezek. 8:12), but thank God for Gen. 28:15 and the second line of Isa. 54:7.

Notice the very personal aspect of this rejection or abandonment (i.e., "me," cf. Matt. 27:46). The psalmist felt alone and betrayed by YHWH. He did not understand why. It was not because of any perceived sin (i.e., omission or commission).

The second line has no verbal. NKJV, NRSV, REB, JPSOA all add "Why are you. . .," making it a question. The psalmist is "groaning" (BDB 980, cf. Job 3:24; Ps. 32:3). The Hebrew word can refer to the roar of a lion (cf. Job 4:10), but here to a human groan of psychological and physical pain and confusion, which fits this context best. The psalmist could not understand why the covenant God had rejected a faithful covenant person (cf. Ps. 22:2).

This terrible sense of alienation, loneliness, and spiritual confession is the result of the Fall (cf. Genesis 3). Mankind, made in YHWH's image and likeness (cf. Gen. 1:26-27; 3:8), has been damaged. The estrangement is terrible. In this case the sense of YHWH's silence is accentuated because the psalmist knew Him. The psalmist could not understand the silence from God and the vicious attack of others! But there was a purpose (i.e., the gospel, cf. Mark 10:45; 2 Cor. 5:21)!

22:2 The psalmist's persistent prayer goes unheard by God or at least He does not apparently respond (cf. Ps. 42:3; 88:1-2).

The second line of Ps. 22:2 is difficult to translate. Literally "there is no silence for me." This could mean

1. he prays all night (NKJV, REB)

2. God remains silent

3. he finds no rest (LXX, TEV, JPSOA)

If this reflects Jesus' future experience, then the last night in the Garden of Gethsemane before His arrest fits best (cf. Matt. 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42).

22:3-5 The psalmist describes God as

1. holy (cf. Ps. 99:9)

2. enthroned upon the praises of Israel (i.e., YHWH dwells between the wings of the Cherubim above the ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies)

3. trusted in by the Patriarchs

a. they prayed, He delivered

b. they trusted and were not disappointed (i.e., there is historical precedent to trust in YHWH)


 6But I am a worm and not a man,
 A reproach of men and despised by the people.
 7All who see me sneer at me;
 They separate with the lip, they wag the head, saying,
 8"Commit yourself to the Lord; let Him deliver him;
 Let Him rescue him, because He delights in him."

22:6-8 In spite of Ps. 22:3-5 and God's faithful actions in the past to those who trusted in Him, the psalmist did not feel helped.

1. he felt like a worm, Ps. 22:6 (cf. Job 25:6; Isa. 41:14)

2. he was reproached and despised by people, Ps. 22:6b

3. they sneered at him, Ps. 22:7 (see Matt. 27:39; Mark 15:29)

4. they mocked his faith and prayers, Ps. 22:8

a. commit (lit. "roll," cf. Ps. 37:5; Pro. 16:3) — BDB 164, KB 193, Qal imperative (cf. Matt. 27:43)

b. let Him deliver him — BDB 812, KB 930, Piel imperfect used in a jussive sense (cf. Matt. 27:43)

c. let Him rescue him — BDB 664, KB 717, Hiphil imperfect used in a jussive sense


 9Yet You are He who brought me forth from the womb;
 You made me trust when upon my mother's breasts.
 10Upon You I was cast from birth;
 You have been my God from my mother's womb.

22:9-10 The imagery of these verses is the predestined purpose of the righteous suffering servant.

1. sometimes an individual (used of Messiah in Isa. 42:1 and of His death in Isa. 52:13-53:12)

2. sometimes the collective people of YHWH (cf. Isa. 41:8-9; 42:18-19; 46:3; 49:1)

This is OT covenant language. It expresses the redemptive purposes of God for Israel (see Special Topic at Intro. to Psalm 2). The psalmist believed he had a purpose in God's plan and could not understand God's seeming abandonment (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21).

22:10 This verse is reflecting the concept of covenant acceptance by birth (i.e., circumcision). Israelites were born into the covenant people, however, true covenant faith and obedience were the confirming evidence of the reality of their faith. So many Israelites were not truly covenant people (i.e., disobedience to the covenant stipulations, idolatry)!



NASB, REB"brought me forth"
NKJV"took me out"
NRSV"took me"
NJB, JPSOA"drew me"
LXX"cast from"

This participle (BDB 161, KB 189) occurs only here in the OT. Context gives us a general sense but the exact connotation must remain uncertain. However, the general meaning of the verse is clear.

YHWH is involved in a person's life even before birth (cf. Job 31:11; Ps. 139:13; Eccl. 11:5; Jer. 1:5). Life begins with God! Humans are created by Him and for Him.

 11Be not far from me, for trouble is near;
 For there is none to help.
 12Many bulls have surrounded me;
 Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled me.
 13They open wide their mouth at me,
 As a ravening and a roaring lion.
 14I am poured out like water,
 And all my bones are out of joint;
 My heart is like wax;
 It is melted within me.
 15My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
 And my tongue cleaves to my jaws;
 And You lay me in the dust of death.
 16For dogs have surrounded me;
 A band of evildoers has encompassed me;
 They pierced my hands and my feet.
 17I can count all my bones.
 They look, they stare at me;
 18They divide my garments among them,
 And for my clothing they cast lots.

22:11-18 This describes in poetic imagery the suffering of the psalmist. Many of the poetic details and parallelism turned out to be very literal of Jesus' rejection and crucifixion.

22:11 "Be not far from me" This verb (BDB 934, KB 1221, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense, cf. Ps. 22:19; Ps. 71:12) is used in an interpersonal sense, not a distance sense. The psalmist felt alone ("there is none to help," cf. Isa. 63:5) to face his enemies (i.e., bulls, lions, dogs, wild oxen). Notice the contrast—when trouble is near the psalmist wants YHWH near also!

22:12-13,16-18 His enemies are described.

1. bulls have surrounded him, Ps. 22:12

2. lions have attacked him, Ps. 22:13 (i.e., opened wide their mouths, which is an idiom for a vicious attack)

3. dogs have surrounded him, Ps. 22:16 

4. they stare at him

5. they pierced his hands and feet (cf. John 20:25; see note below)

6. they/I can count all my bones (i.e., [1] in the OT this may refer to the suffering man being just skin and bones, [2] he is dead, having been devoured by animals and only his bones are left or [3] in the NT this may refer to the detail that the two thieves' legs were broken to bring about their rapid death on crosses, but Jesus, by this time, had already died)

7. they divided his clothes by casting lots (cf. Matt. 27:35; Luke 23:34; John 19:24)


22:14-15 This is highly figurative language. It is hard to pin down the exact allusion but the accumulative effect is a completely discouraged person in light of

1. YHWH's apparent absence even though the psalmist cries/groans day and night

2. the presence of violent enemies on every side

3. the possibility that the imagery is alluding to symptoms of sickness (cf. Isa. 52:14) or even the early process of bodily decay before death (i.e., lit. "bones scattered about," BDB 825, KB 962)

A striking, painful, surprising feeling from a faithful covenant follower!


RSV, LXX"strength"
NRSV, REB"mouth"

The UBS Text Project gives the MT's "my strength" (כחי) an "A" rating (high probability). The NRSV, NJB, REB, and TEV reverse the consonants to produce "my palate" (חכי, KB 313, cf. Job 12:11; 20:13; Ps. 119:103; 137:6; Lam. 4:4; Ezek. 3:26).

TEV"the roof of my mouth"

This Hebrew word (BDB 544 II, KB 594) occurs only here in the OT. Therefore context, parallelism, and related roots must provide interpreters a possible meaning. But please note that just because we do not know the exact meaning of this word, still the general sense of the verse is obvious.

22:15 "You lay me in the dust of death" The "you" here must refer to YHWH. YHWH (i.e., the only causality in the universe) allowed the psalmist to approach death (i.e., imperfect verb, cf. Psalm 104:29).

This fits into the NT understanding of Jesus' vicarious, substitutionary death on our behalf as YHWH's predestined will (cf. Luke 22:28; Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:28; 1 Pet. 1:20).

Jesus was incarnated for several purposes.

1. fully reveal the Father

2. fully reveal His redemptive plan (i.e., the gospel)

3. die in our place, for our sin

4. show us what humans were created to be

It is crucial in interpreting these oblique OT texts to see the full and complete revelation of the NT. The NT is the perfect fulfillment of the OT (cf. Matt. 5:17-48). The story is fully understood only in Jesus, the Messiah!


RSV"they have pierced"
NRSV"shriveled" (Akkadian root)
TEV"tear at"
LXX"gouged" or "dig"
NJB, NEB"hack off"
(cf. Isa. 38:13)"like lions (they maul, cf. Ps. 22:13)"
REB (footnote)"bound"
NET Bible"like a lion they pin"

This verse is not quoted directly in the NT Gospels related to Jesus' crucifixion. Several other verses of this Psalm are. The real question is "What does the Hebrew say?"

1. The UBS Text Project gives "like a lion" (כארי, BDB 71) a "B" rating.

2. The verb "dig," "bore," or "pierce" comes from רוכ, BDB 468 II (found only here).

3. "Bound" or "tie" comes from the Greek translation of Aquila, Symmachus, the Latin translation of Jerome, and two Hebrew MSS (cf. UBS Handbook, p. 221). They assume the root is ןרכ, BDB 501, KB 497, but there are no OT examples of it.

4. See a good technical note in Gleason Archer's Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, p. 37.

Usually this idea of being pierced refers to a violent death by sword or spear in battle (several different roots but two prophetically significant).

1. Zech. 12:10 — BDB 201, KB 230 (cf. John 19:37; Rev. 1:7)

2. Isa. 53:5 — BDB 319, KB 320

The ambiguity (i.e., rarity, only here in the OT) of this word allows it to function in an OT sense and a NT sense. This Psalm must have had meaning in its day but obviously points beyond to the vicarious, substitutionary atonement of Christ (i.e., nails pierced His hands and feet). The full meaning of many OT texts comes to light only in Christ (i.e., typology or direct prediction). I think it was Jesus Himself who showed these texts of His suffering and resurrection to the two on the road to Emmaus (cf. Luke 24:13-43) and they told the ones in the upper room. Just then He appeared to them and showed them His hands and feet (cf. Luke 24:36-43).

22:14-15,17 These verses describe how the suffering/attacked author feels.

1. I am poured out like water

2. all my bones are out of joint (i.e., this was one result of crucifixion)

3. my heart is like wax

4. my strength (or "palate") is dried up (this possibly relates to Jesus taking some wine just before His last words, cf. Matt. 27:48; Mark 15:36; John 19:29)

It is not certain how or if Ps. 22:17a relates to Ps. 22:14b. We are dealing with Hebrew poetic parallelism! Remember this is not prose. This is figurative language. Be careful of pushing details for theological purposes, unless it is done by an inspired NT author!

22:16 "a band of evildoers" The word "band" (BDB 417) means gathering or assembly. A different word (BDB 874) is used of the same concept in Ps. 22:22 and 25. What a contrast between these two assemblies.

1. evil men with evil purposes gather together

2. godly men with witness and worship purposes gather together (cf. Ps. 1:5)

Which group do you want to be a part of?

22:18 In the OT this would refer to the spoils of war being divided among the victors! Notice there is no parallel OT passage. In the NT it refers to the fact that the Roman soldiers who carried out the crucifixion were allowed to divide the condemned person's possessions among themselves as a payment for the extra duty.

 19But You, O Lord, be not far off;
 O You my help, hasten to my assistance.
 20Deliver my soul from the sword,
 My only life from the power of the dog.
 21Save me from the lion's mouth;
 From the horns of the wild oxen You answer me.

22:19-21 Verse 19 links to verse 11. The jussive (see note below) is followed by three imperatives of request.

1. hasten to my assistance — BDB 301, KB 300, Qal imperative, cf. Ps. 38:22; 40:13; 70:1,5; 71:12; 141:1

2. deliver my soul — BDB 664, KB 717, Hiphil imperative

3. save me — BDB 446, KB 448, Hiphil imperative

This strophe closes "You answered me" with a Qal perfect verb (BDB 772, KB 851) which implies that the psalmist has come to the conviction that YHWH is/will answer him (cf. Ps. 34:4; 118:5; 120:1).

Notice again how the psalmist characterizes his enemies.

1. the sword (i.e., "pierced" of possibly the bite of dogs, cf. Ps. 22:16)

2. paw of the dog (cf. Ps. 22:16)

3. the lion's mouth (cf. Ps. 22:13; 35:17)

4. the horns of the wild oxen (symbol of power, cf. Job 39:9-10)


22:19 "be not far off" See note at Ps. 22:11.

22:20 "from the sword" It is difficult to know exactly what problems/distresses/enemies the psalmist is facing.

1. sickness

2. rebellion

3. invasion

Because of the many links to Jesus' life, I think "sword" is figurative language (cf. Ps. 37:12-15).

 22I will tell of Your name to my brethren;
 In the midst of the assembly I will praise You.
 23You who fear the Lord, praise Him;
 All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him,
 And stand in awe of Him, all you descendants of Israel.
 24For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted;
 Nor has He hidden His face from him;
 But when he cried to Him for help, He heard.

22:22-24 In a sense this strophe overlaps with Ps. 22:25-31. Both speak of witness and praise of YHWH in a worship setting (i.e., the assembly, Ps. 22:22; the great assembly, Ps. 22:25). The difference is the scope of the help.

1. vv. 22-24 — the afflicted

2. vv. 25-31 — the world


22:22 There are two cohortative verbs.

1. I will tell — BDB 707, KB 765, Piel cohortative

2. I will praise — BDB 237, KB 248, Piel imperfect used in a cohortative sense


22:23 Notice the parallelism.

1. you who fear the Lord

2. you descendants (lit., seed) of Jacob

3. you descendants of Israel

They are to

1. praise Him — BDB 237, KB 248, Piel imperative

2. glorify Him — BDB 457, KB 455, Piel imperative

3. stand in awe of Him — BDB 158, KB 185, Qal imperative


22:24 The reasons for the praise, glory, and awe to YHWH are

1. He has not despised (BDB 102, KB 117, Qal perfect) the afflicted

2. He has not abhorred (BDB 1055, KB 1646, Piel perfect) the afflicted

3. He has not hidden His face (BDB 711, KB 771, Hiphil perfect) from the afflicted

4. When the afflicted cried to Him for help, He heard (BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal perfect)

The psalmist now feels YHWH has heard his cries for help and will respond (cf. Ps. 22:21,22-24). This is a reversal of Ps. 22:1-2,8,11,19.

 25From You comes my praise in the great assembly;
 I shall pay my vows before those who fear Him.
 26The afflicted will eat and be satisfied;
 Those who seek Him will praise the Lord.
 Let your heart live forever!
 27All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord,
 And all the families of the nations will worship before You.
 28For the kingdom is the Lord's
 And He rules over the nations.
 29All the prosperous of the earth will eat and worship,
 All those who go down to the dust will bow before Him,
 Even he who cannot keep his soul alive.
 30Posterity will serve Him;
 It will be told of the Lord to the coming generation.
 31They will come and will declare His righteousness
 To a people who will be born, that He has performed it.

22:25-26 The setting is a worship setting, probably the tabernacle/temple (i.e., "pay vows" and "eat and be satisfied"). The worshipers are characterized as "the afflicted" (BDB 776) from Ps. 22:24. They are the ones who

1. seek YHWH, Ps. 22:26 — BDB 205, KB 233, Qal participle

2. praise YHWH, Ps. 22:26 — BDB 237, KB 248, Piel imperfect


22:26 "Let your heart live forever" This verb (BDB 310, KB 309, Qal jussive) reflects the common idiom used of the Kings of Israel/Judah. The psalmist is a king. There seems to be fluidity in Ps. 22:28-31 between the covenant God and His kingly representative (i.e., Messiah, cf. 2 Sam. 7:1-17).

22:27 The universal emphasis is shocking and unmistakable.

1. all the ends of the earth (cf. Isa. 45:22; 49:6; 52:10; 66:23; Jer. 16:19; Micah 5:4)

2. all the families of the nations (cf. Gen. 12:3; Acts 3:25; Gal. 3:8)

Notice what the nations will do.

1. remember YHWH — BDB 269, KB 269, Qal imperfect

2. turn to YHWH — BDB 996, KB 1427, Qal imperfect (this verb is often used of repentance)

3. worship before You/Him — BDB 1005, KB 295, Hishtaphel/Hithpalel imperfect, cf. Ps. 66:4; 86:9


22:28 The reason for the universal emphasis is given. This has always been YHWH's desire. It is the clear implication of Gen. 1:26-27 and the theological assertion of monotheism!

1. The kingdom is YHWH's (cf. Ps. 47:7-9; 67:4; Obad. Ps. 22:21; Zech. 14:9)

2. He rules over the nations (cf. Ps. 47:8; 1 Chr. 16:31)


22:29 This verse is difficult to translate. Literally it would be

"all those in full vigor shall eat and prostrate themselves;

all those at death's door, whose spirits flag, shall bend the knee before Him" (JPSOA)

There is obviously a contrast between the wealthy and the poor/dying. The thrust of the verse is that everyone, everywhere will worship YHWH/His Messiah. Can we go so far as to see this verse as teaching an afterlife? In light of the NT's use of this Psalm as referring to Jesus' death, maybe so (cf. Luke 23:39-43).

One wonders if Ps. 22:29b has any connection to Phil. 2:10. The NT asserts that one day every knee shall bow.

1. the lost

2. the saved

This bowing in judgment is not an act of faith for the lost, but an acknowledgment of a fair judgment.

NASB, NKJV"even he who cannot keep his soul alive"
NRSV"and I shall live for him"
NJB"those who are dead"
REB"But I shall live for his sake"

The MT is reflected in the NASB, which the UBS Text Project gives a "C" rating (considerable doubt). The LXX is reflected in the NRSV, which involves the emendation of two consonants.

MT — פנושׁו אל היח

LXX — פנושׁי ל היח


22:30-31 A new faith seed/family/descendant will come from the terrible suffering event. They will serve the Suffering One and declare His righteousness (i.e., innocence)!


NASB"He has performed it"
NKJV"He has done this"
NRSV"he has done it"
TEV"the Lord saved his people"
NJB"he has fulfilled it"
NRSV, REB"the Lord acted"

The verb (BDB 793, KB 889, Qal perfect) speaks of an accomplished task (cf. 1 Sam.26:25; Dan. 8:24). In light of NT usage this refers to mankind's redemption on Calvary (cf. Rom. 5:12-21), evidenced and verified by the empty tomb (cf. 1 Cor. 15:1-28)!


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Is this Psalm a prediction, a typology, or a multi-fulfillment prophecy?

2. List the possible connections between this psalm and Jesus' death.

3. The psalmist calls his adversaries by names of several animals. List them.

4. Why is there doubt about the word "pierced" in verse 16?

5. Explain the mood shift at verse 22.

6. Why are verses 27-29 so theologically significant?