Psalm 22


Psalms 22-24 are Messianic Psalms. Psalm 22 focuses on the coming Saviour. Psalm 23 pictures the Saviour as a shepherd of the people. Psalm 24 proclaims the sovereignty of the Saviour.

The Psalm can be divided into two sections, the first dealing with trials, Psalm 22:1-21 and the second with triumph over trials Psalm 22:22-31.


‘For the director of music. To the tune of “The Doe of the Morning.” A psalm of David.’

Although the headings aren’t inspired by God, they are important because they give us some understanding of the Psalm and they help us to see why it was written. The headings usually tell us four things.

1. Who wrote them, probably wrote them or possibly wrote them.

2. Information about the historical background to the Psalm. Why it was written.

3. They tell us of the tune the Psalm was written to.

4. How it was used.

This is a psalm of David and some believe that it was written for God and God Himself is the director of music, others believe him to be a leader of choirs or musicians in David’s time, such as Heman the Singer or Asaph, 1 Chronicles 6:33 / 2 Chronicles 16:17 / 2 Chronicles 25:6.

No one knows what the tune of the doe of the morning relates to, some refer it to as a musical instrument used upon mournful occasions, but others say it was simply to be sung in the morning.

‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?’ Psalm 22:1

As we read on, we’ll see that these are basically rhetorical questions, because after verse 18 the theme of the Psalm changes radically from death unto life.

But to many standing around at the scene of the cross, especially those who weren’t familiar with this Psalm, and their attention captivated by the horror of it all, it would certainly ‘appear’ as if God had forsaken this man who had claimed to be His Son, Matthew 27:46.

‘My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest. Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises. In you our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. To you they cried out and were saved; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.’ Psalm 22:2-5

To whom did Jesus come? Israel. To whom was this Psalm written? Israel. Look how David is reminding them of their spiritual heritage, which included the Messiah.

‘But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people.’ Psalm 22:6

The word ‘worm’ here is very interesting, it is the Hebrew word ‘tola’, which isn’t the ordinary word for worm. Rather, this was a worm from which crimson or scarlet dye was obtained. Why is this word used? Because Jesus was covered with blood and was the colour of scarlet dye.

‘All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads. ‘He trusts in the LORD,’ they say, ‘let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.’ Psalm 22:7-8

These verses sound familiar, don’t they? Matthew 27:41-43. This very prophecy was unfolding right in front of their eyes, and Jesus was trying to call their attention to it.

‘Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God. Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.’ Psalm 22:9-11

The agony of death itself was approaching, the disciples ‘deserted him and fled’, Mark 14:10, with the exception of John, and in the excruciating agony of that situation, Jesus again cried out for help.

The torture described here is clearly that of a crucifixion, a form of execution, which, as far as we can determine, had never at that time been used by any government.

Although it resembles the impaling of enemies upon stakes, as practised by the Assyrians, the practise of crucifixion was never developed until a later time by the Romans.

‘Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.’ Psalm 22:12

Who was Bashan? And what does that mean? Bashan was the chief cattle-raising area of Israel and was where the biggest, best, and strongest bulls came from. Figuratively, this is referring to the religious ‘top notches’ of Israel.

It was the Pharisees who had inspired, persuaded, and manipulated the Romans to pound the nails. As such, they were the ones responsible for Jesus’ death, John 19:12-16.

‘Roaring lions that tear their prey open their mouths wide against me. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me. My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.’ Psalm 22:13-15

Using metaphorical language, these verses clearly describe a person dying. ‘All my bones’, we say things like that today, don’t we? ‘Every bone in my body is tired.’ That doesn’t mean all 216 or however many there are, it’s a figure of speech.

In regard to Jesus, crucifixion dislocated a number of his bones, and no doubt it felt like all of them. His heart, the most critical organ in his body, ‘turned to wax.’

A ‘potsherd’ was an old piece of pottery dried by the sun, Jesus’ strength had ebbed away. His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth, from the cross he said, ‘I thirst,’ John 19:28.

‘Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet. All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.’ Psalm 22:16-18

When the Romans crucified someone, they formed a cordon of soldiers around the cross to keep the people away. And the Jews referred to uncircumcised people like the Romans as ‘dogs.’

‘I can count all my bones.’ that’s another figure of speech meaning that in His many beatings and floggings, Jesus’ skin had been thrashed to the bone. People spit on Him, taunted Him, and gloated over Him.

‘They divide my garments among and cast lots for my clothing.’ This couldn’t more clearly describe what later happened at Golgotha in fulfilment of this prophecy. Matthew 37:35. And it’s at this point that the thrust of Psalm 22 begins to shift from death unto life.

‘But you, LORD, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me. Deliver me from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs. Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen.’ Psalm 22:19-21

The Messiah calls upon His God, Yahweh, to save him. How? Not by taking Him off the cross, but by raising Him from the dead in accordance with other Old Testament prophecies, Psalm 16:10.

On the Day of Pentecost, when Peter preached the first Gospel sermon, he boldly asserted that God had raised Jesus from the dead, Acts 2:24. He then explained that God had performed this miraculous deed in fulfilment of David’s prophecy in Psalm 16. In fact, he quoted the words of David in detail as contained in Psalm 16:8-11.

Years later, Paul did the same thing when he spoke to the Jews of Antioch in Pisidia. Acts 13:33-35. Like Peter, he declared that God had raised Jesus from the dead in fulfilment of Psalm 16:10.

‘I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you. You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honour him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!’ Psalm 22:22-23

How is the Messiah going to praise God in the future when it’s clear that He was to die? Only if God keeps His Word and raises him from the dead. And the next verse indicates that God hadn’t forsaken him and would do just that!

‘For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.’ Psalm 22:24

In this magnificent psalm, we see a vivid portrait of the death and resurrection of the man we now know as Jesus, the Messiah. This Psalm ends in triumph and God will bless the world through Him.

Again, if God turned His back on His Son, why does the Psalm say otherwise? Does ‘the Father turn His face away’ according to this verse? Not at all.

‘From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you I will fulfil my vows. The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the LORD will praise him—may your hearts live forever! All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations. All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—those who cannot keep themselves alive. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!’ Psalm 22:25-31

The proclamation of the prayer was to all the people. The proclamation was an exhortation to fear, praise and glorify God. In times of trouble, vows were made to God and when the day of deliverance came, the one delivered remembered what he had promised the Lord, and thus gave his thank offerings to the Lord.

After the victory over an enemy, Israel ate of the sacrifices that were made to the Lord, Leviticus 3:17 / Leviticus 7:16 / Numbers 15:3. Not only would Israel worship the Lord, but this Psalm speaks of all the nations giving praise to God. This is certainly a Messianic prophecy of what would eventually come and did come in reference to Jesus, Revelation 11:15.

The last verse of verse 31 should be translated a bit differently. In the KJV you can see that the word ‘it’ is in italics, indicating that the translators added it. The pronoun ‘he’ should be ‘it,’ so that the Psalm closes with the words, ‘for it is finished,’ John 19:30.


Many today believe that these words of Jesus clearly demonstrate that God actually turned His back on Jesus whilst He was on the cross, that God somehow, couldn’t bring Himself to look at Jesus and so abandoned Him because of the sin He was carrying.

Although this idea seems plausible to some, to understand what Jesus meant we have to look to other Scriptures to see if this claim could actually be plausible.

To claim that God can’t look at sin is foreign to the Scriptures, God has been looking at the sin of mankind since the fall of mankind in the garden and has been ever since. Even in the days of Noah, the Bible tells us that God SAW their sin which implies He was looking at mankind’s sin, Genesis 6:5-7 / Hebrews 4:13.

If God can’t look at sin, then surely that would imply that He can’t bring Himself to look at mankind today, because we’re all sinners, Romans 3:23. There’s a huge difference between God hating sin and not being able to look at it, in order to deal with it.

We also need to ask the question, whose sin was Jesus carrying? He was carrying OUR sin because He Himself was sinless. Jesus wasn’t a sinner and there’s a huge difference between being a sinner and bearing the consequences of someone else’s sin, 1 Peter 2:22 / Hebrews 4:15.

Jesus became sin for us, but He was still the perfect Son of God, Matthew 23:47. Ask yourself this question, if you were a judge, and your own innocent son heroically stepped forward at a trial to take a criminal’s punishment upon himself, would you be angry with him and reject him? Of course not.

Why would the Father turn His back on His Son, if the Son pleased the Father in every way? When we think about the cross, it was God’s plan to deal with sin once and for all, it was Jesus’ ultimate act of obedience to the Father, Philippians 2:8 / Hebrews 5:7.

And surely if there was ever a time in the life of Christ when the Father would have said, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I’m well pleased’, it would have been at the cross.

We know that the Old Testament sacrifices to God were ‘a sweet-smelling aroma’, how much more would God be pleased with Christ’s selfless sacrifice, Ephesians 5:1-2.

We have to remember that everything Jesus did was in accordance with the will of the Father, this included Jesus’ death on the cross, Luke 22:42 / Isaiah 53:9 / Acts 2:23.

The whole point of God coming in the flesh was to deal with our sin problem and fulfil Scripture, the whole point of Jesus having a body was for the purpose of the cross, Hebrews 10:5-10.

Jesus Christ knew that, and in the final agonising moments of His life had the presence of mind and the love for all men, including those who were killing Him, to hold forth to them once again the Word of Life. He quoted the very first verse and the very last verse of a section of Scripture that they knew very, very well.

With His dying breaths, He affirmed one more time that He was who the Word of God said he was, the Messiah, the Son of the living God, the Redeemer of Israel and all who in the future would believe in Him.

God didn’t forsake His Son, God didn’t turn His back on Him because He was sinless, perfect, He was carrying our sins and God proved how pleased He was with His Son because three days and three nights later, He raised Him from the dead, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.

Go To Psalm 23