Psalms 22:16-18

16 Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce[a] my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.

Psalms 22:16-18 Meaning and Commentary

To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar, a Psalm of David. The only thing observable in the title of this psalm is the sense of the words "Aijeleth Shahar," left untranslated; which, according to some of the Jewish {g} interpreters, is the name of a musical instrument; to which our version inclines; and a learned Jew {h} says, it is the instrument which the mourning women used on account of distress which was sudden, not known till it came, as a man does not think of the morning till he sees it. "Aijeleth" with him has the signification of mourning, as "Eli" in Joel 1:8; and "Shahar," as in Isaiah 47:11; so tyla and tyyla are used in the Misnah {i} for a mourning woman; and with others it is the beginning of a song to the tune of which the psalm was set {k} but I rather think the words express the subject matter of the psalm, and that they may be rendered, concerning "Aijeleth Shahar"; which signify, either according to the Chaldee paraphrase, "the daily morning sacrifice"; or, as some Jewish writers {l} observe, the "morning star"; or, according to the Septuagint, "the morning help" {m}; or rather "the morning hind"; or "hind of the morning": but who should be designed hereby is the question. The Jews would have any rather than the Messiah; some say Esther {n}, who so seasonably and readily appeared for the Jews in distress, and was the means of their deliverance; but there is not one word in the psalm that agrees with her; and there are some things which were manifestly spoken of a man, and not a woman, Psalm 22:8; others say David {o}, when he fled from Saul, or, as others, from Absalom: but the disjointing the bones of this person, the piercing his hands and feet, parting his garments, and casting lots on his vesture, mentioned in Psalm 22:14; were never fulfilled in him. Others {p} would have the congregation of Israel in captivity intended; but it is plain that a single person is spoken of throughout; and he is manifestly distinguished from others, from his brethren, from the congregation, from the seed of Jacob and Israel, Psalm 22:22; and, indeed, no other than the Messiah can be meant: and of this there ought to be no doubt with Christians, when Psalm 22:1 is compared with Matthew 27:46; Psalm 22:8 with Matthew 27:43; Psalm 22:18 with Matthew 27:35; Psalm 22:22 with Hebrews 2:12; and the Jews themselves sometimes say, that by "Aijeleth Shahar" is meant the Shechinah {q}, or the divine Majesty; and in what way soever these words are rendered, they agree with Christ: he is the antitype of "the daily morning sacrifice," the Lamb of God, who continually takes away the sin of the world; and very fitly is he so called in the title of a psalm which speaks so much of his sufferings and death, which are a propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of his people; he is "the bright and morning star," Revelation 22:16; the dayspring from on high, the sun of righteousness, and light of the world: he had "morning help" in his very infancy, when his life was sought for by Herod; and had early and seasonable help and assistance in the acceptable time, and in the day of salvation, and early in the morning was he raised from the dead, and had glory given him: but as the words are better rendered "the morning hind," this suits with Christ, who is frequently compared to a roe or a young hart, Song of Solomon 2:9; and he may be compared to a "hind" for its lovingness to its mate and young, Proverbs 5:19; the love of Christ to his church and people being very strong and affectionate, and passing knowledge; and also for its loveliness and goodliness, Genesis 49:21; Christ being exceeding amiable and lovely, and fairer than the children of men; likewise for its gentleness and harmlessness, Christ being meek and lowly, holy and harmless; and for its antipathy to serpents, there being an enmity between Christ, the seed of the woman, and the serpent and his seed; for its being hunted by dogs, as Christ was by Herod, by the Scribes and Pharisees, by Judas, and the band of soldiers; see Psalm 22:16; for its being fit for food, Deuteronomy 14:5; and as it is said to be the fitter for being hunted, Christ's flesh being meat indeed, and the more suitable to faith, as being sacrificed for us; and for its long life it is said to have, Christ, though once dead, being alive again, and living for evermore; to which may be added its great swiftness, expressive of the readiness of Christ to comply with his Father's proposals and do his will; to come into this world in the fulness of time, and set about the work he came to do; to deliver up himself into the hands of his enemies, and lay down his life for his people; and of his haste to help them in distress, and visit them with his gracious presence, and to appear a second time to them unto salvation. He may be called the hind of "the morning," looking lovely and beautiful as the morning, and swift and cheerful as the hind when it rises from its rest, and runs its course; or because of his being hunted in the morning of his infancy by Herod; or because it was early in the morning the chief priests consulted to take away his life; and as early also he rose from the dead, when God made his feet like hinds feet, and set him on his high places, Psalm 18:33. The ancient Christian writers generally understood it of Christ wholly. Justin Martyr {r} says, the whole psalm is spoken of Christ; and Tertullian observes {s}, that it contains the whole passion, or all the sufferings of Christ. The late Mons. Fourmont {t}, the elder, professor of the Oriental languages in the university of Paris, has a very singular notion, that this psalm was written by Jeremiah, when he was drawn up from the dungeon, and is a history of his life and sufferings, in which he was a type of Christ.

{g} Jarchi, Kimchi, & Abendana in loc. {h} Leo Mutinens. Shilte Hagibborim, fol. 5. 1. {i} Misn. Celim, c. 15. 6. & 16. 7. & Maimon. & Bartenora in ib. {k} Aben Ezra in loc. {l} Vide Kimchium & Abendauam in loc. {m} So Menachem in Jarchi, and others in Kimchi & Abendana in loc. {n} R. R. in Jarchi in loc. {o} In Kimchi in loc. {p} Kimchi & Ben Melech in loc. {q} Zohar in Lev. fol. 5. 4. & Imre Binah in ib. {r} Dialog cum Tryphone, p. 325. {s} Adv. Judaeos, c. 10. {t} In hunc Psalm. M. S. penes me, fol. 8. 9.

Cross References 6

  • 1. Philippians 3:2; Psalms 59:6
  • 2. Isaiah 51:9; Isaiah 53:5; Zechariah 12:10; John 19:34; John 20:25
  • 3. Luke 23:35
  • 4. Psalms 25:2; Psalms 30:1; Psalms 35:19; Psalms 38:16; Lamentations 2:17; Micah 7:8; Luke 23:27
  • 5. S Leviticus 16:8; Matthew 27:35*; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34; John 19:24*
  • 6. Mark 9:12

Footnotes 1

  • [a]. Dead Sea Scrolls and some manuscripts of the Masoretic Text, Septuagint and Syriac; most manuscripts of the Masoretic Text "me," / "like a lion"
Scripture quoted by permission.  Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®.  NIV®.  Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica.  All rights reserved worldwide.