PSALM 22

You can't blame Christians for trying to fit this psalm into their crucifixion story.

Psalm 22 (KJV) 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. 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. 16  For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. 17  I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. 18   They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.

They say, not unreasonably, that this translation of these four verses describe someone suffering from dehydration and dislocation of joints -- as in a crucifixion.  Certainly the part about piercing hands and feet sounds like a crucifixion, and gambling for clothing specifically sounds like the Jesus's crucifixion story.

But there are problems with this idea.  For one, "they pierced my hands and my feet" is probably an incorrect translation.  The phrase "k'ari" more likely is "like a lion" -- i.e. "a band of evildoers has surrounded me, like a lion, (at) my hands and feet," and indeed, lions are mentioned elsewhere in that Psalm.

The  main problem is that the rest of the Psalm does not sound at all like Jesus or a crucifixion.  In verse 6, the speaker says, "But I am a worm, ..."   This is not humility.  This is pathological self abasement.  Do Christians assert that Jesus was G-d, and that G-d thinks of himself as a worm?  This is so bizarre as to border on blasphemy.  The middle of the psalm is equally untenable for Christians.  The psalmist does not say something like, "I'll bring  peace and salvation," as one would expect from a self sacrificing god.   Rather he says, in effect, "Save me and I'll tell everyone how great You are." (Vs 21-22 (KJV).)

This Psalm has too much livestock to refer to the crucifixion.  The Psalmist refers to bulls, lions, and dogs, and even unicorns (according to the KJV version).  Christians might reply that these are intended to be metaphorical, but then you must ask -- who gets to determine which detail is metaphor and how the metaphor is interpreted?  If the lions and bulls are metaphors, why are not the bones out of joint and the cleaving tongue also metaphors?

There is a historical figure who fits this Psalm much better -- i.e. King David, who is crying out in deep depression while fleeing Saul and his troops.  King David was a spiritual giant, but having the Anointed of HaShem (i.e. King Saul) and half the kingdom trying to kill you can depress anyone.  David resolves this depression, as he does in other psalms, by his faith in HaShem.  The verses follow a consistent progression of ideas.

 

Verse Summary Text - translation by Rabbi A.J. Rosenberg, published by Davka.
2-6 G-d -- where are you? 2 My God, my God, why have  You forsaken me? [You are] far from my salvation [and] from the words of my moaning. 3 My God, I call out by day and You do not reply, and at night I do not keep silent. 4 But You are holy; You await the praises of Israel. 5 Our ancestors trusted in You; they trusted and You rescued them. 6 They cried out to You and they escaped; they trusted in You and they were not shamed.
7-8 I'm no good. 7 But I am a worm and not a man; a reproach of man, despised by peoples. 8 All who see me will mock me; they will open their lips, they will shake their head.
9-11 I'm dedicated to you. 9 One should cast his trust upon the Lord, and He will rescue him; He will save him because He delights in him. 10 For You drew me from the womb; You made me secure on my mother's breasts. 11 Upon You, I was cast from birth; from my mother's womb You are my God.
12-19 G-d, come.  I'm in real trouble here. 12 Do not distance Yourself from me, for distress is near; for there is none to help. 13 Great bulls have surrounded me; the mighty ones of Bashan encompassed me. 14 They opened their mouth against me [like] a tearing, roaring lion. 15 I was spilled like water, and all my bones were separated; my heart was like wax, melting within my innards. 16 My strength became dried out like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my palate; and You set me down in the dust of death.  17 For dogs  have surrounded me; a band of evildoers has encompassed me, like a lion, my hands and feet. 18 I tell about all my bones. They look and gloat over me. 19 They share my garments among themselves and cast lots for my raiment.
20-24 Help me and I'll tell everyone how great you are. 20 But You, O Lord, do not distance Yourself; my strength, hasten to my assistance. 21 Save my soul from the sword, my only one from the grip of the dog. 22 Save me from the lion's mouth, as from the horns of the wild oxen You answered me. 23 I will tell Your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise You. 24 You who fear the Lord, praise Him; all the seed of Jacob, honor Him, and fear Him, all the seed of Israel.
25-31 G-d is great and does wonderful things. 25 For He has neither despised nor abhorred the cry of the poor, neither has He hidden His countenance from him; and when he cried out to Him, He hearkened. 26 Because of You is my praise in the great congregation; I pay my vows in the presence of those who fear Him. 27 The humble shall eat and be sated; they shall praise the Lord, those who seek him; your hearts shall live forever. 28 All the ends of the earth shall remember and return to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall prostrate themselves before You. 29 For the kingship is the Lord's, and He rules over the nations. 30 They shall eat all the best of the earth and prostrate themselves; before Him shall all those who descend to the dust kneel, and He will not quicken his soul. 31 The seed that worships Him; it shall be told to the generation concerning the Lord. 32 They shall come and tell His righteousness to the newborn people, that which He has done.

 

For comparison, here is the King James version.  It is written in much better English, probably because the Jewish translation is (IMHO) a more faithful rendering of the Hebrew.

Note that the numbering of the verses differs in the Jewish translation and in the Christian Translation.


Psalm 22 (KJV) 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?  2 O my God, I cry in the day time, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.  3 But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.4 Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. 5  They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded. 6  But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. 7  All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, 8  He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him. 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. 10  I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother's belly. 11  Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help. 12  Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. 13  They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. 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. 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. 16  For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. 17  I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. 18   They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. 19  But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me. 20  Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog. 21  Save me from the lion's mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the  unicorns. 22  I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee. 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. 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. 25  My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him. 26  The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever. 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. 28  For the kingdom is the LORD's: and he is the governor among the nations. 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. 30  A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. 31  They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.
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