Psalms 22

1My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
From the psalmist’s perspective it seems that God has abandoned him, for he fails to answer his cry for help (vv. 1b–2).

I groan in prayer, but help seems far away.
Heb “far from my deliverance [are] the words of my groaning.” The Hebrew noun שְׁאָגָה (sheagah) and its related verb שָׁאַג (shaag) are sometimes used of a lion’s roar, but they can also describe human groaning (see Job 3:24 and Pss 32:3 and 38:8.

2 My God, I cry out during the day,
but you do not answer,
and during the night my prayers do not let up.
Heb “there is no silence to me.”

3 You are holy;
you sit as king receiving the praises of Israel.
Heb “[O] one who sits [on] the praises of Israel.” The verb “receiving” is supplied in the translation for clarity. The metaphorical language pictures the Lord as sitting enthroned as king in his temple, receiving the praises that his people Israel offer up to him.

4 In you our ancestors
Heb “fathers.”
they trusted in you
The words “in you” are supplied in the translation. They are understood by ellipsis (see the preceding line).
and you rescued them.
5 To you they cried out, and they were saved;
in you they trusted and they were not disappointed.
Or “were not ashamed.”

6 But I
The grammatical construction (conjunction + pronoun) highlights the contrast between the psalmist’s experience and that of his ancestors. When he considers God’s past reliability, it only heightens his despair and confusion, for God’s present silence stands in stark contrast to his past saving acts.
am a worm,
The metaphor expresses the psalmist’s self-perception, which is based on how others treat him (see the following line).
not a man;
Or “not a human being.” The psalmist perceives himself as less than human.

people insult me and despise me.
Heb “a reproach of man and despised by people.”

7 All who see me taunt
Or “scoff at, deride, mock.”
they mock me
Heb “they separate with a lip.” Apparently this refers to their verbal taunting.
and shake their heads.
Shake their heads. Apparently this refers to a taunting gesture. See also Job 16:4; Ps 109:25; Lam 2:15.

8 They say,
The words “they say” are supplied in the translation for clarification and for stylistic reasons. The psalmist here quotes the sarcastic taunts of his enemies.

“Commit yourself
Heb “roll [yourself].” The Hebrew verb גלל here has the sense of “commit” (see Prov 16:3). The imperatival form in the Hebrew text indicates the enemies here address the psalmist. Since they refer to him in the third person in the rest of the verse, some prefer to emend the verb to a perfect, “he commits himself to the Lord.”
to the Lord!
Let the Lord
Heb “Let him”; the referent (the Lord) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
rescue him!
Let the Lord
Heb “Let him”; the referent (the Lord) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
deliver him, for he delights in him.”
That is, “for he [the Lord] delights in him [the psalmist].” For other cases where the expression “delight in” refers to God’s delight in a person, see Num 14:8; 1 Kgs 10:9; Pss 18:19; 40:8.
This statement does not necessarily reflect the enemies’ actual belief, but it does reflect the psalmist’s confession. The psalmist’s enemies sarcastically appeal to God to help him, because he claims to be an object of divine favor. However, they probably doubted the reality of his claim.

9 Yes, you are the one who brought me out
Or “the one who pulled me.” The verb is derived from either גָחָה (gakhah; see HALOT 187 s.v. גחה) or גִּיחַ (giyakh; see BDB 161 s.v. גִּיחַ) and seems to carry the nuance “burst forth” or “pull out.”
from the womb
and made me feel secure on my mother’s breasts.
10 I have been dependent on you since birth;
Heb “upon you I was cast from [the] womb.”

from the time I came out of my mother’s womb you have been my God.
Heb “from the womb of my mother you [have been] my God.”
Despite the enemies’ taunts, the psalmist is certain of his relationship with God, which began from the time of his birth (from the time I came out of my mother’s womb).

11 Do not remain far away from me,
for trouble is near and I have no one to help me.
Heb “and there is no helper.”

12 Many bulls
The psalmist figuratively compares his enemies to dangerous bulls.
surround me;
powerful bulls of Bashan
Bashan, located east of the Jordan River, was well-known for its cattle. See Ezek 39:18; Amos 4:1.
hem me in.
13 They
“They” refers to the psalmist’s enemies, who in the previous verse are described as “powerful bulls.”
open their mouths to devour me
Heb “they open against me their mouth[s].” To “open the mouth against” is a Hebrew idiom associated with eating and swallowing (see Ezek 2:8; Lam 2:16).

like a roaring lion that rips its prey.
Heb “a lion ripping and roaring.”

14 My strength drains away like water;
Heb “like water I am poured out.”

all my bones are dislocated;
my heart
The heart is viewed here as the seat of the psalmist’s strength and courage.
is like wax;
it melts away inside me.
15 The roof of my mouth
Heb “my strength” (כֹּחִי, kokhiy), but many prefer to emend the text to חִכִּי (khikiy, “my palate”; cf. NEB, NRSV “my mouth”) assuming that an error of transposition has occurred in the traditional Hebrew text.
is as dry as a piece of pottery;
my tongue sticks to my gums.
Cf. NEB “my jaw”; NASB, NRSV “my jaws”; NIV “the roof of my mouth.”

Here the psalmist addresses God and suggests that God is ultimately responsible for what is happening because of his failure to intervene (see vv. 1–2, 11).
set me in the dust of death.
The imperfect verbal form draws attention to the progressive nature of the action. The psalmist is in the process of dying.

16 Yes,
Or “for.”
wild dogs surround me –
a gang of evil men crowd around me;
like a lion they pin my hands and feet.
Heb “like a lion, my hands and my feet.” This reading is often emended because it is grammatically awkward, but perhaps its awkwardness is by rhetorical design. Its broken syntax may be intended to convey the panic and terror felt by the psalmist. The psalmist may envision a lion pinning the hands and feet of its victim to the ground with its paws (a scene depicted in ancient Near Eastern art), or a lion biting the hands and feet. The line has been traditionally translated, “they pierce my hands and feet,” and then taken as foreshadowing the crucifixion of Christ. Though Jesus does appropriate the language of this psalm while on the cross (compare v. 1 with Matt 27:46 and Mark 15:34), the NT does not cite this verse in describing the death of Jesus. (It does refer to vv. 7–8 and 18, however. See Matt 27:35, 39, 43; Mark 15:24, 29; Luke 23:34; John 19:23–24.) If one were to insist on an emendation of כָּאֲרִי (kaariy, “like a lion”) to a verb, the most likely verbal root would be כָּרָה (karah, “dig”; see the LXX). In this context this verb could refer to the gnawing and tearing of wild dogs (cf. NCV, TEV, CEV). The ancient Greek version produced by Symmachus reads “bind” here, perhaps understanding a verbal root כרך, which is attested in later Hebrew and Aramaic and means “to encircle, entwine, embrace” (see HALOT 497-98 s.v. כרך and Jastrow 668 s.v. כָּרַךְ). Neither one of these proposed verbs can yield a meaning “bore, pierce.”

17 I can count
The imperfect verbal forms in vv. 17–18 draw attention to the progressive nature of the action.
all my bones;
my enemies
Heb “they.” The masculine form indicates the enemies are in view. The referent (the psalmist’s enemies) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
are gloating over me in triumph.
Heb “they gaze, they look upon me.”

18 They are dividing up my clothes among themselves;
they are rolling dice
Heb “casting lots.” The precise way in which this would have been done is not certain.
for my garments.
19 But you, O Lord, do not remain far away!
You are my source of strength!
Heb “O my strength.”
Hurry and help me!
Heb “hurry to my help.”

20 Deliver me
Or “my life.”
from the sword!
The verb “save” is supplied in the translation; it is understood by ellipsis (see “deliver” in the preceding line).
my life
Heb “my only one.” The psalmist may mean that his life is precious, or that he feels isolated and alone.
from the claws
Heb “from the hand.” Here “hand” is understood by metonymy as a reference to the “paw” and thus the “claws” of the wild dogs.
of the wild dogs!
21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lion,
The psalmist again compares his enemies to vicious dogs and ferocious lions (see vv. 13, 16).

and from the horns of the wild oxen!
The Hebrew term רֵמִים (remim) appears to be an alternate spelling of רְאֵמִים (reemim, “wild oxen”; see BDB 910 s.v. רְאֵם).

You have answered me!
Heb “and from the horns of the wild oxen you answer me.” Most take the final verb with the preceding prepositional phrase. Some understand the verb form as a relatively rare precative perfect, expressing a wish or request (see IBHS 494–95 #30.5.4c, d). However, not all grammarians are convinced that the perfect is used as a precative in biblical Hebrew. (See the discussion at Ps 3:7.) Others prefer to take the perfect in its usual indicative sense. The psalmist, perhaps in response to an oracle of salvation, affirms confidently that God has answered him, assuring him that deliverance is on the way. The present translation takes the prepositional phrase as parallel to the preceding “from the mouth of the lion” and as collocated with the verb “rescue” at the beginning of the verse. “You have answered me” is understood as a triumphant shout which marks a sudden shift in tone and introduces the next major section of the psalm. By isolating the statement syntactically, the psalmist highlights the declaration.

22 I will declare your name to my countrymen!
Or “brothers,” but here the term does not carry a literal familial sense. It refers to the psalmist’s fellow members of the Israelite covenant community (see v. 23).

In the middle of the assembly I will praise you!
23 You loyal followers of the Lord,
Heb “[you] fearers of the Lord.” See Ps 15:4.
praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
All you descendants of Israel, stand in awe of him!
Heb “fear him.”

24 For he did not despise or detest the suffering
Or “affliction”; or “need.”
of the oppressed;
In this verse the psalmist refers to himself in the third person and characterizes himself as oppressed.

he did not ignore him;
Heb “he did not hide his face from him.” For other uses of the idiom “hide the face” meaning “ignore,” see Pss 10:11; 13:1; 51:9. Sometimes the idiom carries the stronger idea of “reject” (see Pss 27:9; 88:14).

when he cried out to him, he responded.
Heb “heard.”

25 You are the reason I offer praise
Heb “from with you [is] my praise.”
in the great assembly;
I will fulfill my promises before the Lord’s loyal followers.
Heb “my vows I will fulfill before those who fear him.” When asking the Lord for help, the psalmists would typically promise to praise the Lord publicly if he intervened and delivered them.

26 Let the oppressed eat and be filled!
Eat and be filled. In addition to praising the Lord, the psalmist also offers a thank offering to the Lord and invites others to share in a communal meal.

Let those who seek his help praise the Lord!
May you
Heb “may your heart[s].”
live forever!
27 Let all the people of the earth acknowledge the Lord and turn to him!
Heb “may all the ends of the earth remember and turn to the Lord.” The prefixed verbal forms in v. 27 are understood as jussives (cf. NEB). Another option (cf. NIV, NRSV) is to take the forms as imperfects and translate, “all the people of the earth will acknowledge and turn…and worship.” See vv. 29–32.

Let all the nations
Heb “families of the nations.”
worship you!
Heb “before you.”

28 For the Lord is king
Heb “for to the Lord [is] dominion.”

and rules over the nations.
29 All of the thriving people
Heb “fat [ones].” This apparently refers to those who are healthy and robust, i.e., thriving. In light of the parallelism, some prefer to emend the form to יְשֵׁנֵי (yesheney, “those who sleep [in the earth]”; cf. NAB, NRSV), but דִּשְׁנֵי (dishney, “fat [ones]”) seems to form a merism with “all who descend into the grave” in the following line. The psalmist envisions all people, whether healthy or dying, joining in worship of the Lord.
of the earth will join the celebration and worship;
Heb “eat and worship.” The verb forms (a perfect followed by a prefixed form with vav [ו] consecutive) are normally used in narrative to relate completed actions. Here the psalmist uses the forms rhetorically as he envisions a time when the Lord will receive universal worship. The mood is one of wishful thinking and anticipation; this is not prophecy in the strict sense.

all those who are descending into the grave
Heb “all of the ones going down [into] the dust.” This group stands in contrast to those mentioned in the previous line. Together the two form a merism encompassing all human beings – the healthy, the dying, and everyone in between.
will bow before him,
including those who cannot preserve their lives.
Heb “and his life he does not revive.”

30 A whole generation
Heb “offspring.”
will serve him;
they will tell the next generation about the sovereign Lord.
Heb “it will be told concerning the Lord to the generation.” The Hebrew term translated “Lord” here is אֲדֹנָי (’adonay).

They will come and tell about his saving deeds;
Heb “his righteousness.” Here the noun צִדָקָה (tsidaqah) refers to the Lord’s saving deeds whereby he vindicates the oppressed.

they will tell a future generation what he has accomplished.
Heb “to a people [to be] born that he has acted.” The words “they will tell” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.

Psalm 23

A psalm of David.

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