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Psalms 22:12-21

Context

22:12 Many bulls 1  surround me;

powerful bulls of Bashan 2  hem me in.

22:13 They 3  open their mouths to devour me 4 

like a roaring lion that rips its prey. 5 

22:14 My strength drains away like water; 6 

all my bones are dislocated;

my heart 7  is like wax;

it melts away inside me.

22:15 The roof of my mouth 8  is as dry as a piece of pottery;

my tongue sticks to my gums. 9 

You 10  set me in the dust of death. 11 

22:16 Yes, 12  wild dogs surround me –

a gang of evil men crowd around me;

like a lion they pin my hands and feet. 13 

22:17 I can count 14  all my bones;

my enemies 15  are gloating over me in triumph. 16 

22:18 They are dividing up my clothes among themselves;

they are rolling dice 17  for my garments.

22:19 But you, O Lord, do not remain far away!

You are my source of strength! 18  Hurry and help me! 19 

22:20 Deliver me 20  from the sword!

Save 21  my life 22  from the claws 23  of the wild dogs!

22:21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lion, 24 

and from the horns of the wild oxen! 25 

You have answered me! 26 

1 sn The psalmist figuratively compares his enemies to dangerous bulls.

2 sn Bashan, located east of the Jordan River, was well-known for its cattle. See Ezek 39:18; Amos 4:1.

3 tn “They” refers to the psalmist’s enemies, who in the previous verse are described as “powerful bulls.”

4 tn 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).

5 tn Heb “a lion ripping and roaring.”

6 tn Heb “like water I am poured out.”

7 sn The heart is viewed here as the seat of the psalmist’s strength and courage.

8 tc 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.

9 tn Cf. NEB “my jaw”; NASB, NRSV “my jaws”; NIV “the roof of my mouth.”

10 sn 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).

11 sn The imperfect verbal form draws attention to the progressive nature of the action. The psalmist is in the process of dying.

12 tn Or “for.”

13 tn 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.”

14 tn The imperfect verbal forms in vv. 17-18 draw attention to the progressive nature of the action.

15 tn 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.

16 tn Heb “they gaze, they look upon me.”

17 tn Heb “casting lots.” The precise way in which this would have been done is not certain.

18 tn Heb “O my strength.”

19 tn Heb “hurry to my help.”

20 tn Or “my life.”

21 tn The verb “save” is supplied in the translation; it is understood by ellipsis (see “deliver” in the preceding line).

22 tn Heb “my only one.” The psalmist may mean that his life is precious, or that he feels isolated and alone.

23 tn Heb “from the hand.” Here “hand” is understood by metonymy as a reference to the “paw” and thus the “claws” of the wild dogs.

24 sn The psalmist again compares his enemies to vicious dogs and ferocious lions (see vv. 13, 16).

25 tn The Hebrew term רֵמִים (remim) appears to be an alternate spelling of רְאֵמִים (rÿemim, “wild oxen”; see BDB 910 s.v. רְאֵם).

26 tn 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.



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