Psalm 22 - overcomer - My God, My God, Why hast Thou forsaken Me?
The Messiah's crucifixion and ministry in resurrection.
This is the 14th psalm for the overcomer, capping a long string of overcomer psalms. All the psalms from 4-22 are for the overcomer except 7, 10, & 15-17. After psalm 22 there are no overcomer psalms until psalm 31, which stands alone.
This psalm has been by far the hardest psalm for me to memorize and enjoy, but now I enjoy it more than any other passage in the Bible. I suggest memorizing it in thirds, into which the psalm naturally breaks.
Psalm 22 is read in Jewish synagogues during Purim because they consider that this psalm prophesies of the trouble that the nation of Israel would experience in the book of Esther and their subsequent exaltation. Thus the main current Jewish interpretation of Psalm 22 is similar to their interpretation of Isa 53, which is that the suffering person here is the nation of Israel (Rashi, Artscroll Book of Psalms). I will address this in black color in verses. If you are not interested in this, you can skip all the black text in this left column. If you are interested particularly in this, you can easily find the black text.
Similarly, I will use this reddish color when discussing Hebrew technicalities.
The Lord often visits at dawn (Jn 21:4; Job 1:5; 7:17, 21; Ps 5:3; 143:8; Isa 33:2; 50:4).
"Hart" and "hind" are the same word in Hebrew except that "hart" is masculine, meaning a male deer, and "hind" is feminine, meaning a female deer. The Lord will return as a hart upon the mountains at day break, and those Christians who overcome to be raptured at dawn, before the great tribulation, will be like a "hind of the dawn" to match Him. As Psalm 9 is to produce "virgins for the Son", Psalm 22 is to produce a "hind of the dawn" (Gen 49:21; 2 Sam 22:34; Ps 18:33; Prov 5:19; Song of Songs 2:7; 3:5; Hab 3:19).
At first, I had set this psalm to the tune, "Thy way, not mine, O Lord, however dark it be". I had memorized this Psalm to that tune before I had the understanding above of "hind of the dawn". The tune "Thy way not mine" is dirge-like, which adds to the heaviness of the psalm and, although I enjoyed it very much, I could not sing it often. After I completed the "Thy way not mine" version, I redid it to a morning tune corresponding to "hind of the dawn". I tried hymn #708, "Fresh as the dew of the morning", which is my favorite hymn at this time (11/09), but the tune was too complicated with 3 different sequences of 4 lines each. I chose this current tune because it sounds to me like a hart leaping on the mountains.
Outline of Psalm 22:
This psalm has only 2 requests, v11 and vv19-21. These 2 requests divide the psalm into 3 nearly equal parts. The 1st 3rd is the suffering of His soul, the 2nd 3rd emphasizes the suffering of His flesh, and the last 3rd the exaltation of His spirit.
I. My God why have You forsaken Me vv 1-11
A. You have forsaken me vv 1-2
B. You did not forsake our fathers vv 3-5
C. I trust in You and am put to shame vv 6-8
D. I have depended on You all My life - vv 9-10
E. 1st Request - Do not be far from Me v11
D. Conclusion - preaching of the gospel of the Lord's crucifixion vv 30-31
This being forsaken by God is especially painful because God has been taking care of Me all my life (vv 9-10).
Because the Lord bore this for us, a Christian should never experience God forsaking him. Paul wanted the Lord to forsake him for the sake of the Jews, but the Lord would not do it (Rom 9:1-3).
Jesus knew that He would be mocked, spit on, whipped and crucified (Matt 20:17-19; Mk 10:33-34; Lk 18:31-33). Why then did He ask God, Why have you forsaken Me? I think He did not know that He would lose God's presence during this time of ultimate suffering.
If God has forsaken the psalmist, David, here, or if it was referring to the people Israel, then there should be some mention of sins in this substantially long Psalm. But there is no word of confession of sins nor of moral weakness. That should tell the reader that this Psalm is not concerning any normal human being with a sinful nature. For example, Psalm 13 "How long will You forget me, O Lord?" starts in a similar way to this Psalm. Ps 13 is a very short psalm of only 6 verses, so it cannot include many things, but even in those 6 verses David admits that if God does not answer him, he will be moved away from God (Ps 13:4), and he requests that God enlighten his eyes (Ps 13:3), which is admitting that he is in darkness.
I offer a challenge to those who think this Psalm just refers to the sufferings David or of the people of Israel: Find me another Psalm that talks of something similar to God forsaking me, yet does not admit to sin or moral weakness on the part of the sufferer.
"Roaring" is also used in v13 of the crucified One's persecutors. Roaring is loud and not polite (Lk 18:1-7).
v2 - I think this refers to the Lord's time on the cross during which there was day from the 3rd hour to the 6th hour (9am -12 noon) and night from the 6th hr. to the 9th hr. (12 noon - 3 pm) (Mt 27:45-46; Mk 15:25, 33-34; Lk 23:44). Amos 8:9 says that the sun actually "went down" at noon on this unique day. Before this, God answered all of Jesus' prayers (Jn 11:41-42; Lk 22:41-43).
This shows that God forsook Jesus for the whole time He was on the cross, not just the last 3 hrs.
v3 -I really like this verse. It causes me to look up at God and know that He is in fully in control. What is happening is according to His plan. It is good to pray this verse early in your prayer when you are suffering.
Because Jesus was bearing all the sins of all mankind, God the Father had to forsake Him because God's holiness cannot tolerate sin.
There is a problem in this verse concerning what to do with "the praises of Israel". The Hebrew verb for "sitting" means "sit" or "dwell" depending on the context. Most translate it as, "You are sitting upon the praises of Israel" or "You dwell in the praises of Israel". I do not know of another statement like these in the Bible saying that God sits upon or that He dwells in His people's praises. If either of these was the intended meaning then there should be a preposition "upon" or "in" connecting the verb to "praises of Israel". In Hebrew the preposition can be omitted if the meaning is clear without it, but here it would not be at all clear. In this case it would be bad writing to leave out the preposition if "sitting upon" or "dwelling in" was the intended meaning.
Goldingay translates it as "But you sit as the holy one, the great praise of Israel." I do not agree with that because "praises" is plural. Goldingay explains that he takes the plural as being intensive, but gives no example to support it. I do not know of any verse to support that.
I think that "praises of Israel" connects with the next phrase, "Our fathers trusted in Thee". The praises of Israel are that our fathers trusted in You. This is why the phrase "our fathers trusted in Thee" is immediately repeated by "they trusted". The 1st phrase, "our fathers trusted in You", is the object of "The praises of Israel are". The 2nd phrase, "They trusted" is the cause for "and You delivered them".
"Israel" is explicitly named here and in v23. So the "I" and "me" of this Psalm is not Israel, as claimed by Rashi, but must be an individual. The 1st person pronoun in this psalm is not symbolism for the nation of Israel.
v4-5 - To practically trust in Him, that is to live by faith, is real praise to the Lord (Heb 10:38-39).
v6 - The fathers trusted and cried unto the Lord and were not put to shame, but the God-forsaken One has done the same, but is regarded as a worm and not even a person.
Jewish translations translate "despised by the people" as just "despised by people". This is wrong. In English the word "people" has 2 different meanings: 1) with an article, definite or indefinite, it means a particular race or nationality. 2) without an article, it is the plural of "person". The Hebrew word am, only means a particular race or a nationality, not the plural of "person". The reproach by mankind is by all nationalities (cf. Num 23:9; etc. on use of "nations" and "people"). Despised by the people is by a particular people. Who could this people here be except for the Jewish people? The suffering one here in this psalm is despised by the Jewish people (Isa 53:1-4; Ps 69:7-12,19-20; Isa 49:7; Jn 1:10; Heb 13:12). Therefore, the suffering one cannot be the Jewish people.
v7-8 - These words were spoken about the Lord while He was on the cross (Matt 27:39-43; Mark 15:29-32; Lk 23:35).
Verses 7-8 describe the mocking by religious people who use the Bible and the name of the Lord. These could not be Gentile persecutors, but Jewish.
v8 - This verse is spoken sarcastically by "the people" in verse 7.
We should roll our burdens upon the Lord. Some burdens are too heavy to lift, but we can roll them upon and unto the Lord (Ps 37:4-5; Prov 16:3).
This verse is similar to Ps 37:4-5. It seems that Psalm 22 is prophesying that the religious people quoted Ps 37:4-5 in mocking against the Messiah. Both Psalms 37 and 22 are by David. Psalm 37 was written when David was old (Ps 37:25). We do not know how old David was when he wrote Ps 22, but I think it would have been after his son Absalom rebelled against him because I think that great suffering enlarged his soul to be able to be one with the Holy Spirit to write this psalm. Ps 22 is directly from God (Matt 27:35), but Ps 37 is David's mature observations on life. It seems that Psalm 22 prophecies that future people would quote Ps 37:4-5 to mock the Lord even before Ps 37 was written.
The Jewish interpretation takes verse 8 to be a positive speaking to encourage the suffering one, instead of a mocking spoken by "the people" in v7. If that were the case, then who says, "Roll it unto the Lord"? Could it be God speaking to the suffering one, or could it be the suffering one speaking to himself? It could be neither of these because the next 2 phrases speak about the suffering one and God in the 3rd person. Therefore neither the suffering one, nor God is doing the speaking here. The speakers first mockingly advise the suffering one to roll his problem to the Lord, and then mock him to one another.
v10 - God was the suffering one's God, not just from His birth, but even while He was in His mother's belly.
This makes God's forsaking of Him even harder to take.
In times of trial it is good to review before the Lord our history of depending upon Him and to examine whether He has always come through for us or not. This will strengthen and purify our faith.
v11 - The 1st of only 2 requests in this psalm. This request is not for the trouble to be gone, but for God to not be far away from Him.
Some troubles that we pass through will be the Lord's will for our profit. We should always pray that He would not be far away (Ps 35:22; 38:21; 71:12). This is very important, because if He were far away, our suffering would be to no profit. This is more important than for the trouble to be gone.
The trouble is because God is not helping Him because He has forsaken Him in v1 because Jesus has taken the place of us, the sinners.
v12 - Bulls are clean animals signifying the Jewish leaders (Amos 4:1). Unclean animals signify the Gentiles (Acts 10:11-20, 28).
The word "roaring" is the same as in v1.
The roaring, devouring lion is the devil. 1 Peter 5:5-10 tells us how to resist him.
v15 - The Hebrew noun, malqowach, which I have translated as "prey" is universally translated here as "roof of mouth" or something similar. However, the word does not mean any part of the mouth. It is used 8 times in the Old Testament, and in the other 7 times it always means "prey". (Cf. Job 29:10, Lam 4:4, Ps 137:6 & Ezek 3:26 which do not use the word, malqowach ).
The nails in the Lord's hands and feet did not just pierce His hands and feet, but cut deep holes in them continually pulling away at His flesh. Thus the Hebrew word used is literally, "they digged" (Job 6:27), not "they pierced".
The nails in Jesus' hands were never counted as "pierced" by the Bible. John 19:34-37 says that after Jesus had already been nailed to the cross, a soldier pierced Jesus' side with a spear so that it might fulfill Zechariah's prophesy that at His 2nd coming, they shall look on Him whom they had pierced. If the nail holes had counted as piercing, then there would be no need for another piercing to fulfill this prophecy.
Jewish translations of the Bible translate the last phrase as "like a lion, my hands and my feet" instead of "they digged (or pierced) my hands and my feet". This is because the Jewish text says "kaari", like a lion, instead of "karu", they dug. Christian English versions had translated it based on the LXX which says "they dug my hands and feet". Today, due to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, it is clear that the correct reading is "they dug my hands and feet".
1. Textual evidence
a. Masoretic Text (MT) - the majority say "kari", like a lion. 1 MT manuscript says "kaaru", they dug, with an aleph added, and 2 MT manuscripts say "karu", they dug, spelled correctly (BHS).
b. LXX translated into Greek ~250 BC says "they dug" in Greek.
c. Dead Sea Scrolls - There are 2 DSS fragments containing the part of the verse in question:
1) 4QPs(f) (see DJD 16 p. 88) has just the letters koph resh with the fragment ending at the resh. This witnesses to karu, since there is no aleph between the koph and resh. Kari, like a lion, would require the aleph, since aleph is the first and thus most important letter of "lion". It does not matter that the last letter is missing because if it was a yod instead of a vav it would not be a word. This fragment was copied ~100 BC.
2) Nahal Hever (abbreviated 5/6HevPs) has the Hebrew letters koph aleph resh vav, spelling "kaaru", not "kaari", but having an extra aleph. This text is grouped as DSS, but is from a different location and time period. It is about 80 miles southwest of Qumran and was copied about 100 AD. The documents at this location are in the Cave of Letters where Bar Kochba's people hid their scrolls ~130 AD.
2. Grammatical - The Jewish version of the text literally says, "like a lion my hands and my feet", which does not make sense. Jewish translations need to add an extra verb that is not in the text, such as "like a lion they are at my hands and my feet". This should not be done unless they can find at least 2 other examples where such adding to the text is necessary.
3. Historical - The 2nd century AD Jewish translation by Aquila translated the verb "they have disfigured", and then his 2nd revision translated it as "they have bound". Another Jewish translation at the end of the 2nd century AD by Symmachus translated it "like those who seek to bind" (Hopkin). This seems to indicate that their text had "kaaru", with the extra aleph, which is not a word. Hence the trouble to translate it. They do translate it as a 3rd person plural verb, indicating that they saw the "vav" ending.
The witnesses of 2 independant fragments of the DSS, along with the LXX make it clear that "karu" or "kaaru" was the reading. The MT manuscripts are unified by the Masoretes, but even among these there are 2 with karu and 1 with kaaru.
There has been much discussion about the extra aleph in kaaru. I think the correct reading is just karu from the earliest DSS source 100 BC and the LXX 250 BC. The Nahal Heder source is from 200 years later, 100 AD, from the Bar Kochba rebellion. I think the extra aleph was added or retained due to Jewish bias against Christ. This just made the meaning of the word arguable. Then centuries later, the final vav was accidentally written by a scribe as a yod, and the Masorete committee chose that as the correct reading due to bias.
The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible, which is not a Christian translation, translated kaaru as "they pierced" without any note about the aleph. This is because an extra aleph appearing in a word is not that unusual.
This article by Tim Hegg contains a color picture with the line containing "they dug My hands and feet" enhanced. He gives an explanation regarding the extra aleph.
v17 - The verb, saphir, which I translated as "expounding" is in the intensive form, as it is in v22 & v30. The intensive form of saphir means "retell" or "expound". The normal non-intensive form of the verb means "count" or "scribe", but that is not the form used here. Many translations wrongly translate the verb here as "count".
I think the meaning here is that because He is stretched out with His hands and feet nailed on the cross, without basic clothing as a covering, and they are all looking at Him, it is as if He were expounding all His bones to them. They are all looking and staring at Him as if listening to a sermon from Him, but He is not saying anything but "expounding all His bones to them."
v18 - "They" here is still the Roman soldiers, the dogs, in v16.
This is to treat Him as a reproach of mankind and a worm.
Note that Matt 27:35, in quoting this verse says it was spoken by "the prophet". This is the only quotation from a psalm, which is attributed to a prophet. This shows that this psalm is not about David but is a prophesy given to David.
v19 - This is the 2nd and final request in this psalm. The 1st request, v11, was only for the Lord to not be far away. This request begins with the same. The most important thing to pray in a dire situation like this is for the Lord to not be far away from us (Ps 35:22; 38:21; 71:12).
v20 - Here, after the trouble is completed, He asks the Father to save His soul. The Father answered in v22.
The expression, "My only one" is most often used for an only begotten child (Gen 22:2; etc). Here it is feminine referring to the speaker's soul (Ps 35:17), which is feminine. For Him to call His soul, "My only one", means that He was childless (Ps 68:6 same word). David uses the same expression for his soul in Ps 35:17 when he was being persecuted by Saul, at which time he had no children (2 Sam 3:2). Thus, Psalm 22 could not be about David at the time of his worst suffering, which was from Absalom, because David had many children at that time. It certainly could not refer to Israel! Who would Israel's "only one" be?
v21 - He prayed to be saved from:
1) the sword - violent death
2) the hand of the dog - gentiles, specifically Romans (Acts 4:27)
4) the horns of the high ones - religious leaders (Acts 4:27)
All translations that I have seen translate the Hebrew word ramim as "unicorns" or "wild oxen", but that word is spelled differently, with an aleph between the resh and mem. The word as it is spelled here, ramim, is always translated "high ones", or "high places" (2 Sam 22:28; Job 21:22; Ps 78:69). The Hebrew word translated by KJV as "unicorn" is never spelled as it is here.
v22 - The Father answered Jesus by resurrecting Him from the dead.
The Lord expounds the Father's name to us in the church and sings hymns of praise to the Father through us. Our knowledge of the Father and enjoyment of Him is much richer in the church than alone.
The Hebrew word which I translated as "expound" is the intensive verb form of the word "book". It is also used in verses 17 & 30 of this Psalm.
Verse 22 says that the God-forsaken One will expound God's name to "my brothers". If the God-forsaken One is Israel, who are "my brothers"? The nations? The nations are not called Israel's brothers in the Tanach. Thus the speaker in this psalm is not Israel.
v23 - First, those who fear the Lord praise Him as a result of the Messiah's death and resurrection. It doesn't say "all", because not all the Jews who feared the Lord believed in Him.
Then at Jesus' 2nd coming, all the seed of Jacob, that is all the Jews, will be saved and glorify Him (Rom 11:25-27; Isa 59:20-21).
A result of the suffering described in this psalm is praise from:
1. The crucified One v22, 25
2. You that fear the Lord v23
3. All the seed of Jacob v23
4. Those who seek the Lord v26
5. All families of the nations v27
6. All the fat on the earth v29
7. All that descend to dust v29
v24 - This verse gives the reason why all the seed of Israel should fear, why all the seed of Jacob should glorify the Lord, and why they that fear the Lord shall praise Him: because God hears the cries of the afflicted and poor. This implies that the Jews who come to know Jesus as the Messiah find Him at a time of their affliction (Lev 26:36-45). This will be especially the case at Lord's 2nd coming (Zech 12:10-13:1; Hos 6:1-3).
v25 - "Of Thee" is literally "From-with Thee" or "From about" Thee. It does not mean that God will praise the crucified One, but that the crucified One's praise of the Father in the assembly in v22 will come from the Father and will bring with it the Father's presence.
The great assembly is the universal church. It is not a small sect of those with the correct doctrines and practices, but includes all believers in Christ. Thus it is the great assembly.
The resurrected Lord does not just pay His promises, but while He pays His promises, He is near to those who fear God. A great promise is that He will be near us (Matt 28:20; Eph 2:12-13). He was forsaken by God for us, so that He would always be near us.
v26 - The Lord's promises that He pays in the church are not enumerated here. They are enumerated throughout the Old Testament. The results of Him paying His promises are:
1. He will be near them that fear Him (v25)
4. They will have eternal life (v26) (Jn 3:14-16).
v27 - During the church age people in all the ends of the world (Acts 1:8) will remember the Lord's crucifixion and resurrection by eating Him (Lk 22:17-20; 1 Cor 11:23-26). People from every race and family will worship in His presence.
v28 - This is fulfilled in the church age and more so in the millennium.
"None can keep alive his own soul" refers to today as well as the future. No human being can earn eternal life by his works (Mk 10:26-27). We have eternal life through the Messiah's death on the cross (v26).
This verse gives the reason that God forsook Him in v1: because no human being is able to save himself.
v30 - The events in verses 30-31 take place before those in verses 27-29. This is because verses 30-31 are the conclusion of this amazing psalm.
The verse in the Masoretic Text says literally, "A Seed will serve Him. This will be retold for my Lord to a generation."
The LXX adds "And" to the beginning of the verse, and "my" before "seed".
The "And" at the beginning of the verse in LXX connects the service of my Seed to the unsolvable problem in the previous verse. My Seed's service is the solution to the problem that no one can keep his own soul alive.
I think the LXX is a faithful translation from a Hebrew text that had the "and" and "my" because:
1. LXX is very faithful in translating "and" throughout the Old Testament. If "and" was not there in the Hebrew text, there would be no reason to add it.
2. LXX did not add "his" before "seed" in Isa 53:10 even though KJV and others mistakenly add "his" there to make it sound better.
The word "my" before Seed, makes it clear that the speaker in the conclusion has changed from the crucified One to David, the psalm's author.
It is also evident that the speaker has changed to David because of the word "Adonai" for "my Lord". This is the only time Adonai is used in this psalm. The other times (vv 8, 19, 23, 26, 27, 28) "LORD" is Jehovah. The change from Jehovah to Adonai means that David is addressing the Messiah as "my Lord" (Ps 110:1) instead of the Messiah addressing the Father as Jehovah.
Whether the MT or LXX text is used, the important meaning is still the same. The Seed here is the promised Seed of David (Ps 89:3-4; 132:11; Acts 2:30; 13:23) who is the Messiah, and also the Seed of woman (Gen 3:15) to destroy Satan, and the Seed of Abraham (Gen 22:18; Acts 3:25; Gal 3:8), Isaac (Gen 26:4) and Jacob (Gen 28:14) through whom all nations will be blessed.
The verb "shall be retold" is passive. The subject, what is to be retold, is "my Seed's serving of Him". "Him" whom my Seed serves is "God", who is the "Him" in the previous verse. The unusual construction here conveys that the thing to be retold is what is most important. My Seed's service to God is to be retold as if by my Lord Himself to a generation. My Seed's service to God must be the promised Seed of David's coming to fulfill all the foregoing verses of this psalm.
What is retold, is, according to v31, "His righteousness", which is "that which He has done".
For my Lord
Many translate it as "about the Lord" or "of the Lord" instead of "for the Lord", but the le preposition does not mean "about" or "of". Le is translated "of" to indicate psalm authorship, as in "of David", but that is the only place it is so translated. I think the meaning in the case of Psalm authorship is "given to David" or "through David".
"For my Lord" means "in my Lord's stead" (Exo 4:16; Job 33:6). Because "my Lord" suffered and died for me in my stead, others will retell His righteous deed in His stead.
The words "to a generation" are also unusual. Normally it would say "to the next generation" or "to all generations". It is to be told to a particular generation, the generation that begins the New Testament age after the Messiah's death and resurrection.
-copyright Steve Miller 2010