Psalm 22 - A suffering Savour

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Psalm 22 - A Messianic Psalm of David – The suffering saviour


This is one of my favourite Psalms and it makes you think of the theological aspects of suffering and specifically Christs sacrifice on the cross and the loneliness he must have felt

It is one of the more will know Messianic Psalms in that it prophesies the Lord Jesus Christs crucifixion as it opens with what Jesus said on the cross.

Within our own lives it can seem that even when we feel God seems to have forsaken us, he still present so our worship should continue, it is only our feelings and not our Lord has abandoned us.



There are two main sections to this Psalm;

Firstly, one of complaint (v 1-21a) to God, about his enemies and for himself and secondly of thanksgiving for resolution (v21b – 31)

The Psalm has three main themes;

  1. Suffering

  2. Abandonment

  3. and death

This Psalm as a whole is known as a “Pesher “or fulfilment as in verses 16-19 as these also relate to the crucifixion.


Interesting aspects of this Psalm

The Psalm refers to a morning star or doe and may be a melody or a musical instrument.

This has one of the most distressing verses as it represents the feelings of the Son and his dialogue with his Father;

i.e. Christ on the cross who is the son and in David’s sense it may represent his words upon hearing of Absalom’s death i.e. The Father.


Author and use in Jewish Life

I believe this is a Davidic Psalm due to its familiar structure, but commentators see 2 possible writers here. Jewish people saw this as a prophetic Psalm and believe it is dedicated to David who foresaw Esther and Mordecai destined to descend from Shimi and is part of customs for certain people to sing on the Festival of Purim. It is also used in the Festival in remembrance of the abolition of Haman’s decree of genocide of Jewish people in the book of Esther.

Other commentators think it may have been written by Jeremiah when he was thrown into prison as an apostate.


VERSE 1 - My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?

The opening verse here is what Jesus cried out to his Father as in

Matthew 27: 46 - 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?


Repeat of God’s name and is customary for those who cry out emotionally as somebody who has a relationship with God;

Also, as in test between the Lord and Baal, Elijah petitioned the Lord God in

1 Kings 18:37 - Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.


“My God, my God” shows faith in the Lord came before the question……as well a bond of love of the son to the Father.

There are a number of Interpretations of “Why has thou forsaken me”. David often wondered why God didn’t deliver or rescue him immediately. (time in wilderness)

The cry of Jesus who had never felt the absence of his Fathers love now felt his wrath i.e. the opposite of the cup of love in Psalm 23 and suffered hence he felt forsaken or abandoned or deserted.

Why was he forsaken? “Christ was forsaken by God so that we might never be forsaken”

God saw his son as a sinner hence could not look upon him and Jesus knew his presence wasn’t there….

2 Corinthians 5:21 - For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.


The best way to answer to “why hast thou forsaken me” is in scripture;

  1. God loved the world so much as in John 3:16, God gave his son as a sacrifice for sin, the answer is in the explanation of God’s love.

  2. Jesus loved us so much that he stood in the place of you and me and endured this.

  3. Isaiah spoke about Gods relationship with Israel in the following verse;

Isaiah 54:7-8 - For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I

gather thee.

8.  In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting

kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer.


God’s anger at sin was temporary but brought about an eternal reconciliation between God and man.

“Roaring” is a lamentation - the passionate expression of grief or sorrow; weeping.


VERSE 2 - O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season and am not silent.

“hearest not” – translates as “answerest not “David is talking about the loneliness of his complaint that his God seemed not there, and it is repeated unanswered pleas to the Father

We don’t know what Jesus was contemplating on the cross.


VERSE 3 - But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.

David is giving God a reason why he should listen to his petition and we know in the midst of suffering, both the Lord Jesus and David are still praising God and speaking to and trusting in the only one who can listen.

1 Peter 2:23 - who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously


VERSE 4 - Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.

This means that ‘You have helped us in the past as our Fathers “confided” in thee.’

The fathers are Noah, Abraham, Moses who all led the Israelites and they trusted in God to deliver them from their enemies.


VERSE 5 - They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded

Cried unto thee as in;

Exodus 2:23 - And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died : and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried , and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage.

Through their suffering the Israelites were delivered by God and Moses took the out of Egypt to the promised land and they asked and were delivered.


VERSE 6 - But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people

The word ‘worm’ is used to show that David lowers himself to that of something which is not worthy of Gods intervention and is degrading himself.

Isaiah 41:14 - Do not be afraid, O worm Jacob, O little Israel, for I myself will help you," declares the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.


In the context of Jesus, he talked about how mankind viewed him i.e. as low and trodden upon, loathed and hated

Hebrews 10:29 - Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?  


It is interesting to note that the Hebrew translation of worm here is the crimson coccus from which the scarlet dye was obtained (also used in the book of Job) and this may be reference to colour of the robe or Christs blood

The last part of this verse also translates as “Scorn of humanity, despised of nations”

The word despised is also used by the prophet Isaiah to talk about Jesus;

Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.


VERSE 7 - All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,    

Those who “see me laugh me to scorn” and other translations for “scorn” is to “mock”.

“Shoot out the lip” is “Open the lip”

“Shake the head” as in;

Matthew 27:39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads


The act of shaking the head was seen as an offensive gesture in David’s and Christ’s time as well as sneering and this shows the hatred there for our Lord Jesus for them to do this.


VERSE 8 - He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him

It is thought the scribes and elders quoted for this Psalm as Jesus was crucified as in;

Matthew 27: 43 - He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, 'I am the Son of God.' "'


As the scribes and soldiers insulted Jesus on the cross asking him where his help was now in somewhat of a taunt.


VERSE 9 - But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts.

God had sustained David in the past from his birth and was giving him hope showing this downcast state he is currently in will soon pass. There is a parental image here of God sustaining David from when he was in the womb right to when he was feeding from his mother.


VERSE 10 - I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother's belly

The reference to a womb is also used in Jeremiah to show how God cares for people before they are born.

Jeremiah 1:5 - "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."


In this verse, David was petitioning God as he knew him from time past and with the Lord Jesus, his God was always his God i.e. from consciousness.


VERSE 11 - Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help  

The merism here is of “far” and “near” and this is a prayer for reversal of the situation he is in verse 1.Verses 9 -11 can be summised as saying ‘even in the depths of despair Christ or David didn’t say “Since I feel abandoned by God, I will abandon Him.”, they held on and still petitioned their heavenly Father.

There is one clear distinction between the suffering of David and Jesus here is that David had allies even in the midst of rebellion as in Jonathan and Hushai during Absolom’s revolt, but our Lord Jesus had all his disciples desert him and he had nobody to help him.

Matthew 26:56 - But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled." Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled.


VERSE 12 - Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.

Some commentators see Bulls as relating to powerful enemies or the bulls signify the pharisees and soldiers that surrounded Christ on the cross or with David his mortal enemies like Saul as they searched for him whilst he was in hiding..

Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer – “Bashan was a location in (Eretz Yisroel) Land of Israel where the pastureland was lush and abundant. The animals which grazed there grew strong and thick with fat”.


VERSE 13 - They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.  

David here sees his enemies as lions ready to swallow him as in greedy.


VERSE 14 - I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.

David is in a state of terror and is now in a state of impotence and cannot do anything about his condition and is weak.

“Poured out” means wasted on the ground and empty, he couldn’t deal with the problem at hand as well as extreme exhaustion

“Bones are out of joint” Like our Lord Jesus on the cross in pain and suffering and his body contorted internally and externally.

“My heart is like wax” it is thought, Jesus suffered from a ruptured heart as well as the fact that the heart actually gives out whilst being crucified due to exhaustion

John 19:34 - But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.


“Bowels” = “within me “


VERSE 15 - My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.


Potsherd is a baked clay, and his strength was dried out and gone.

Palette (Jaws) and tongue are parallels in the biblical sense as “Tongue sticks to my palette” as a reference to Christs thirst in

John 19:28 - After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.


He believes God has a hand in his physical or emotional state.

“Dust of death” is so dried up that it turns to dust as Adam said in

Genesis 3:19 - In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.


Again, within the context of this Psalm, there is one big difference again here with David and Jesus. David recovered from this Psalm and his brush with mortality, but our Lord Jesus went into it and became all that was associated with death so that we might not have to face that. He took away the power of death as in “where is thy sting” and he faced and drank the cup of wrath that his Father couldn’t bear to look at.


VERSE 16 - For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.

“Dogs” were thought to relate to the Amalekites as dogs as animals were not prevalent in Israel hence it is thought to invoke contempt or disapproval. In relation to Jesus, the dogs were the people surrounding him in his last moments Jesus had scoffers and haters surrounding him.

The second part of this verse is different between the KJV and the JPS version

In the JPs version it is interpreted as “like a lion on my hands and feet” which taking out the reference to the nails which pierced Jesus hands and feet on the cross. In this version they have pierced" is kaaru while "like a lion" is kaari. The words are identical except that "pierced" ends with the Hebrew letter vav and "lion" with yod. “Vav” and “yod” are similar in form, and a scribe might easily have changed the text by inscribing a yod and failing to attach a vertical descending line so that it would become a vav. The evidence suggests that this may be what happened, since the Greek version of the Scriptures, known as the Septuagint, rendered in Egypt before the time of Jesus, preserves the reading of "pierced."

The Masoretic Hebrew text of Psalm 22:16 doesn’t say pierced, it says “as a lion.” Yet the Septuagint (Greek) translation of the Old Testament – long before the Christian era – renders the Hebrew text as saying pierced. While the Masoretic text shouldn’t be casually disregarded, there is good reason to side with the Septuagint and almost every other translation here. “It may even suggest that the Masoretic text was deliberately pointed in the way it was by later Jewish scholars to avoid what otherwise would be a nearly inescapable prophecy of Jesus’ crucifixion.” (Boice)

There are many variations, and the word varies i.e. in the Inter-linear text the word is “DIG” and only has one occurrence in this verse.

But this verb and description agrees with;

John 19:37 and, as another scripture says, "They will look on the one they have pierced."


In addition, it was foretold as in;

Zechariah 12:10 - "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. 


VERSE 17 - I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.

This is where your bones are sticking through due to your emaciated condition and “tell” is also translated as “count” This relates to prophecy as in the messiah had no broken bones as John talks about;

Exodus 12:46 - In one house it shall be eaten; you shall not carry any of the flesh outside the house, nor shall you break one of its bones.


The parallel here is with mockers versus repentant sinners looking at the cross as an object of hope and salvation.


VERSE 18 - They part my garments among them and cast lots upon my vesture.

 The adversaries see the Psalmist as already dead and start to divide his clothes up as with Jesus in:

Matthew 27:35 - When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots.


In biblical times, this was one of the final things an enemy would do to dispose of the effects of the deceased i.e. their belongings. The reference to the Roman soldiers playing dice to put fortune and luck into the proceedings unaware that they were fulfilling prophecy is one of the ironies of this verse.



VERSE 19 - But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me.

This is the third time God’s distance from the Psalmist is discussed, repeating again, again and again.

“strength “is a Hebrew term “eyalut” which is a physical measure of strength as in the source of it.

The urgency of the situation is mentioned here as in “haste”.


VERSE 20 - Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog. 

The sword symbolises the authority of the Roman empire by which he was put to death

There are two trains of thought on what dog signifies; 

  1. Amelikites as a nation

  2. In Jesus case it could be satans presence whilst he was crucified. 

“My darling” is my precious life.


VERSE 21 - Save me from the lion's mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns

This is a picture here is of satan and his minions hoping Christ would be tempted into saying or doing something, but he didn’t on the cross.

David is saying God has answered him, but we don’t know if Jesus verbally confirmed God answered his prayer, but he reconfirms his Father and his relationship just before he left his earthly body as in;

Luke 23:46 - And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, "Father, 'into Your hands I commit My spirit.' "  Having said this, He breathed His last.

Horns of unicorn also referred to a number of times in the OT

Psalm 92:10 But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of a unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil.


Here this is not the mythical beast from mythology but a one horned rhinoceros, it’s just when the King James translated it, this was the name for a rhinoceros.


VERSE 22 - I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.

From his petition now there is an abrupt change, and he gives thanks to the Lord hence an answer has been given. It is also a reference to Jesus talking to 2 Martha’s after he was resurrected going to see his disciples

Matthew 28:10 Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me."


He will join in a service of thanksgiving to the Lord in the temple.

It is worthwhile pointing out that Hebrews 2:12 quotes the second half of Psalm 22 (specifically, Psalm 22:22), proving clearly that the entire Psalm points to Jesus, not just the agony of the first half as some people think part of it relates just to David.


VERSE 23 - Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel.

The first “fear” means to “stand in awe” which is an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, or wonder produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful. The second use of the word “fear” means to “revere” i.e. feels deep respect or admiration for (something).


VERSE 24 - For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard

The word “affliction” also means “humiliation”

Isaiah 53:10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.

The “afflicted” is “the patient one” and if you think about patience, the Lord Jesus patiently waited nearly 30 years to be crucified i.e. to fulfil his purpose.

What the Psalmist is saying is that he didn’t hide his face from me all along and he was listening to me all the time as what we do when God answers prayer, we retrospectively look back and thank the Lord.


VERSE 25 - My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him

David is talking about having his prayers answered and thanking God in front of the temple congregation or the crowd of worshippers in the temple.

“pay my vows” relates to fulfilment of a vow as in either a payment of a debt or bringing a peace offering burned on the altar and shared by worshippers as in the sacrificial lamb the book of Leviticus.


VERSE 26 - The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him:

your heart shall live for ever.

The word "meek" - ănâviym - means here rather "afflicted, distressed, miserable”

In the last line, tis also translates as “You shall live forever”


VERSE 27 - All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.

Another reason why Jesus allowed himself to be sacrificed for us, was that he loved those who believed on him and to those who to turn to him. A Cambridge Commentary refers to “The Psalmist’s hopes take a wider range, extending to all mankind and to future ages. He anticipates the time when not he alone, not the seed of Israel only, but all nations to earth’s remotest bound, will pay homage to Jehovah”


VERSE 28 - For the kingdom is the LORD'S: and he is the governor among the nations

This verse confirms the fact that one day Jesus will rule over every nation as in the Lord’s prayer, “Thy Kingdom come”, we as believers should be doing all we can to further his kingdom by spreading his word and living our lives that honour him.

Psalm 103:19 - The Lord has established His throne in heaven, And His kingdom rules overall.  


VERSE 29 - All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul

The first line refers to all types of people will worship the Lord i.e. poor and rich, healthy and dying (this is what fat might mean i.e. fat in life, full of life)

The second line is at odds with one of the themes of the Psalms that the dead cannot praise God.

Psalm 30:9 “What profit is there in my blood, When I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise You? Will it declare Your truth?


Here it could mean Gods dominions extends to the underworld also.

This whole verse is similar in subject to Pauls writings in.

Philippians 2:10-11 - that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,

11.  and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.


The last line was used by the priests and elders who mocked Jesus;

Matthew 27:42 - "He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him.


VERSE 30 - A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.

The “seed” here refers to worshippers of him, who serve the Lord Jesus i.e. us

“Accounted to” also translates as “recounted of “


VERSE 31 - They shall come and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.


The line “people that shall be born” relates to a “generation to come”

“He hath done this” is similar to Christ on the cross when he spoke “It is finished”

Hebrew word “asah” which means to accomplish or finish as Jesus finished performing the work his Father had sent him to do which was the “work of redemption”.(Redemption definition – “the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil”)



There are a number of themes in this Psalm;


  1. Christ’s love for us on the cross whilst he was in the midst of pain and suffering,


  • talk about his contorted body

  • bones showing through

  • spat on, beaten and mocked


  1. Through Christ time on the cross, we do not know exactly what he was thinking but we know he was distressed and in pain.

  2. One writer explains;


“I think that is an absolutely wonderful thought and one that should move us to the most intent love for and devotion to Jesus Christ.

You and I were in Jesus’ thoughts at the very moment of his death. It was for you and me explicitly and for our salvation from sin that he was dying.” (Boice)


   3. He could not get off the cross as if he did, his purpose would have been negated and he had to go through all of this for our sin.


   4. There is a French word which sums this up. It was Jesus “raison d'être” to be crucified – “the most important reason or purpose for someone or something's existence”


    5.The repetition of questions in this Psalms as in the word why, where you repeat the question if difficult moments in your life.


  • why has God abandoned me?

  • how could he

  • why would he?


   6. God understands your pain and suffering through his son Jesus on the cross because he endured that pain, and one who understands us and has     

       gone through the trials and temptations of life.

       Hebrews 12: 2 - looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the

       shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God


    7. Worshipping God in the midst of suffering is one of the key points of this Psalm. David and our Lord Jesus did this constantly as in verse 1 “My God”


    8. Jesus, when his Father “Forsook” him was the first and last time his Father did this.


Let’s thank our Lord Jesus in prayer tonight for the sacrifice he made and how he took our place on the cross