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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 22

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-2

Again David felt frustrated by God’s lack of response to his cries (cf. Psalms 13:1-4). God would not answer David regardless of when he prayed. The Lord Jesus quoted David’s words as He hung on the cross (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34).

"There are two ways in which we may understand Jesus’ use of these words, either as fuller sense (sensus plenior) or typology. . . . Franz Delitzsch well illustrates what we mean by fuller sense in his comment on Psalms 22 : ’. . . David descends, with his complaint, into a depth that lies beyond the depth of his affliction, and rises, with his hopes, to a height that lies far beyond the height of the reward of his affliction’ [Note: Delitzsch, 1:307.] The fuller meaning can be understood in the comprehensive sense as well. That is, the suffering on this occasion was insufficient to qualify for these gigantic terms of the text, so we understand David as summing up the suffering of his entire life. . . . In comparison to the fuller sense, the typological interpretation sees Jesus as the type of sufferer in Psalms 22, and the psalmist becomes the model. James Mays’s interpretation of this psalm belongs in this category, although he prefers to see Jesus as setting himself in its paradigm: ’He joins the multitudinous company of the afflicted and becomes one with them in their suffering.’ [Note: James L. Mays, "Prayer and Christology: Psalms 22 as Perspective on the Passion," Theology Today 42 (1985):323.] When the fuller sense method is applied, it recognizes that a future fulfillment is built into the language and meaning of the text, whereas typology looks back to a person or event as representative of a future event or person. It may or may not be a prophetic element built into the text." [Note: Bullock, p. 44.]

Verses 1-5

David’s frustration and God’s faithfulness to his forefathers 22:1-5

Verses 1-10

1. Frustration and faith 22:1-10

David felt forsaken by God and ridiculed by his enemies, yet his confidence was in the Lord’s continuing care.

Verses 1-31

Psalms 22

The mood of this psalm contrasts dramatically with that of Psalms 21. In this one, David felt forsaken by God, and the threats of his enemies lay heavily on his heart. He evidently felt death might be close. He described his condition as facing execution. Nevertheless the Lord answered his prayer for help.

"No Christian can read this without being vividly confronted with the crucifixion. It is not only a matter of prophecy minutely fulfilled, but of the sufferer’s humility-there is no plea for vengeance-and his vision of a world-wide ingathering of the Gentiles." [Note: Kidner, p. 105.]

The righteous sufferer motif that is so prominent in this individual lament psalm finds its fulfillment in the Messiah (cf. Psalms 69; et al.). [Note: Chisholm, "A Theology . . .," pp. 289-90.]

Verse 3

In spite of God’s silence, David’s confidence in Him was strong because he knew God is holy, set apart from all the idols as the only true and living God. Furthermore, God was still Israel’s real King enthroned in heaven and praised by His people for who He is.

Verses 4-5

Furthermore, David found encouragement as he remembered God’s answers to the prayers of the Israelites’ forefathers when they prayed in distress and experienced deliverance. Since God rewarded their trust, David believed He would honor his, too.

Verses 6-8

By comparing himself to a worm, David was expressing his feelings of worthlessness, vulnerability, and contempt in the eyes of his enemies. The figure pictures feeling less than human (cf. Job 25:6; Isaiah 41:14). These foes were insulting him, despising him, and mocking his faith in God because the Lord was not rescuing him (cf. Matthew 27:39; Matthew 27:44). Shaking the head can signify rejection (cf. Psalms 109:25) or astonishment (cf. Psalms 64:8: Lamentations 2:15). The Lord Jesus’ enemies spoke these very words as He hung on the cross (Matthew 27:42-43).

Verses 6-10

David’s humiliation and God’s faithfulness to him 22:6-10

The pattern of David’s thoughts in this section is very similar to that expressed in Psalms 22:1-5. It is a second cycle of the same lament and confidence expressed there.

Verses 9-10

Nevertheless, David drew strength by remembering that God had sustained him all his life, even from his birth. When David was only a small boy he had learned to trust in the Lord, who had sustained him to the present day.

Verses 11-18

2. Foes and fatigue 22:11-18

This section of the psalm emphasizes the psalmist’s miserable condition.

David’s cry for help 22:11

David cried out to God to be near him with saving help since he was in great danger and there was no one to assist him. He felt very much alone and vulnerable.

Verses 12-13

The psalmist felt he was at the mercy of his enemies, as a person is in the presence of a dangerous bull or lion. Cattle grew large and strong in Bashan (or Gilead), the territory east of the Sea of Chinnereth (Galilee; cf. Numbers 32:1-5; Amos 4:1).

Verses 12-15

David’s enemies and agony 22:12-15

Verses 14-15

With many other graphic word pictures David described how distressed he felt because of the attacks of his enemies. As water poured out on the ground, he could not gather himself to resist them. He felt pained and incapable of defending himself, as when bones become dislocated. His spirit, rather than remaining firm, had melted away like hot wax. He felt as devoid of energy as a broken shard of pottery. He was in need of refreshment, as a thirsty person craves water when his mouth is dry. He concluded that he was almost in the grave, almost dead, because the Lord had not helped him.

Verse 16

David compared his enemies to wild dogs that had him surrounded and were waiting to finish him off. Already he felt as though they had begun to tear him apart by biting his extremities, his hands and feet. Years later, the enemies of the Lord Jesus actually did pierce His hands and His feet when they nailed Him to the cross (cf. Luke 24:39-40). [Note: See Conrad R. Gren, "Piercing the Ambiguities of Psalms 22:16 and the Messiah’s Mission," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 48:2 (June 2005):283-99.]

Verses 16-18

David’s enemies and agony restated 22:16-18

Verses 17-18

Again, David followed a metaphor of his enemies with a description of his own agony (cf. Psalms 22:12-15). He was evidently weak and emaciated; his bones were showing prominently under his skin due to loss of weight produced by his distress. Apparently his enemies were so sure that David would perish they were already invading his wardrobe and dividing his clothes among themselves. This also happened when Jesus Christ’s enemies crucified Him (Matthew 27:35).

"Psalms 22 is a graphic picture of death by crucifixion. The bones (of the hands, arms, shoulders, and pelvis) out of joint (Psalms 22:14); the profuse perspiration caused by intense suffering (Psalms 22:14); the action of the heart affected (Psalms 22:14); strength exhausted, and extreme thirst (Psalms 22:15); the hands and feet pierced (see Psalms 22:16, note, but cp. John 20:20 also); partial nudity with the hurt to modesty (Psalms 22:17), are all associated with that mode of death. The accompanying circumstances are precisely those fulfilled in the crucifixion of Christ. The desolate cry of Psalms 22:1 (Matthew 27:46); the periods of light and darkness of Psalms 22:2 (Matthew 27:45); the contemptuous and humiliating treatment of Psalms 22:6-8; Psalms 22:12-13 (Matthew 27:39-44); the casting lots of Psalms 22:18 (Matthew 27:35), were all literally fulfilled. When it is remembered that crucifixion was a Roman, not Jewish, form of execution, the proof of inspiration is irresistible." [Note: The New Scofield . . ., p. 610.]

Verses 19-21

3. Prayer for freedom from death 22:19-21

The psalmist pleaded with God to rescue his life from the fatal attacks of his foes, to whom he referred again as wild animals. He cried to God to be near him and to act swiftly to save him.

A marked change in David’s attitude took place in the middle of Psalms 22:21. Evidently he received assurance of the Lord’s help because the last part of this verse expresses confidence in His deliverance. This confidence may have come to the prophet by direct revelation. The rest of the psalm continues this theme of confident assurance of salvation.

Verse 22

In view of the Lord’s deliverance, David vowed to praise God publicly. God later saved His Son from death just as He now delivered the psalmist from it. In David’s case, He did so by prolonging his life, and in Christ’s, by resurrection. The writer of Hebrews quoted this verse in Hebrews 2:12 as an expression of the Lord Jesus’ praise to God for delivering Him from death in answer to His prayer (cf. Hebrews 5:7).

Verses 22-31

4. Praise and encouragement 22:22-31

Verses 23-26

David next called on the congregation of Israel to join him in praising God because He had come to his aid (cf. Psalms 22:1-2). David had evidently made vows to God during the time of his distress that he now promised to pay. Vows in Israel were promises to give God something if God would do a certain thing for the person vowing, or because He had already done a certain thing for him or her. People sometimes vowed material things, but often they promised to give praise.

Psalms 22:26 describes a reversal of the bad conditions previously referred to as characteristic of David in his misery (cf. Psalms 22:14-15; Psalms 22:17). These words would have encouraged God’s people to keep praying and trusting in the Lord.

Verses 27-31

God’s purpose for Israel was that she be a kingdom of priests by mediating the knowledge of God to all people, and by bringing all people into a relationship with God (Exodus 19:6). David had an unhindered view of this purpose, as is clear from this expression of his concern that God’s deliverance of him would result in the Gentiles turning to Yahweh in faith. After all, Yahweh is the sovereign King who rules over all nations, not just Israel (Psalms 22:28). All people will bow before Him, whether they are rich or dying (Psalms 22:29). David believed his testimony of God delivering him from death would influence later generations of people to trust in the Lord. Because God has preserved this record in Scripture, it has encouraged all succeeding generations to do so. The record of God delivering Jesus Christ when He cried for salvation from death (Hebrews 5:7) and God hearing and resurrecting Him has encouraged many more to put their confidence in David’s God. The last phrase (Psalms 22:31), "He has performed it," is similar to our Lord’s cry, "It is finished" (John 19:30).

This is one of the Messianic psalms (cf. Psalms 22:27-30 with Acts 2:30-31 and Philippians 2:8-11; and Philippians 2:22; Philippians 2:25 with Hebrews 2:12). VanGemeren considered it an individual lament that contains thanksgiving. [Note: VanGemeren, p. 198.] It became clear later, that it not only recorded actual events in the life of David, but also predicted events in the life of David’s greatest Son, the Messiah, Jesus Christ. David probably described many of his own sufferings figuratively, but his descriptions happened literally in the sufferings, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Some commentators believed that David did not experience anything like what he described in this psalm, but that his words were totally predictive of Messiah. [Note: E.g., Kidner, p. 105.] Interestingly, there is no confession of sin or imprecation on enemies in this psalm. Our Lord’s cross sufferings were also free of these elements. [Note: See Richard D. Patterson, "Psalms 22 : From Trial to Triumph," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 47:2 (June 2004):213-33, for further interpretation of the grammatical, historical-cultural, literary, and theological data in this psalm.]

God’s people of all ages can learn from this psalm. Even though it may appear that the Lord has forgotten and forsaken us in times of extreme persecution, we can count on Him delivering us from death in answer to our prayers. Our rescue may come through the prolongation of our lives, as in David’s case, or through resurrection, as in the case of our Lord. With this assurance of deliverance, we can praise God even today, and encourage others to trust in and worship Him as well. [Note: See Ronald B. Allen, Lord of Song, pp. 103-30; and Mark H. Heinemann, "An Exposition of Psalms 22," Bibliotheca Sacra 147:587 (July-September 1990):286-308.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 22". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/psalms-22.html. 2012.
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