Psalm 22 foretells astonishing detailed prophecy of the suffering and death of Messiah in addition to the cost of His sacrifice. Since we have finite capacities we are unable to fully comprehend that cost. It was written by David around 1000BC (before crucifixion was invented), though it describes this event. His execution was also attested by Jewish, Greek, Roman[i], Syrian[ii] and Early Church sources in addition to the Bible itself.[iii] The implications of the first verse reveal the depth of His love, when the Son of God who had enjoyed perfect fellowship with the Father from eternity past, was separated from His Father. The end of the Psalm speaks of the triumphs of the Messiah and His kingdom and of all the families of the earth that will worship Him.
Here is an outline of some, though not all of the prophecies contained within Psalm 22.
In Psalm 22 verse 1 we read:
My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?
Why are You so far from helping Me,
And from the words of My groaning?
The first two lines are repeated by Yeshua crying out to His Father, since He was on agony suffering on the cross in Matthew 27:46. However we will look at the more profound implications of that later.
In verse 7-8
All those who see Me ridicule Me;
They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
8 “He trusted[b] in the Lord, let Him rescue Him;
Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!”
This speaks of the mocking and taunts that were directed at Yeshua by the onlookers. This was precisely fulfilled in Matthew 27:39, 43.
In verse 15
My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
And My tongue clings to My jaws;
You have brought Me to the dust of death.
Crucifixion involved an agonizing and slow death and extreme thirst. John recognises the fulfilment of this prophecy in John 19:28 writing ‘After this, Jesus, knowing[e] that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!”
In verse 16
For dogs have surrounded Me;
The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me.
They pierced[c] My hands and My feet;
Yeshua was referring to those who surrounded him at the crucifixion. ‘Dogs’ was an insulting term that at the time and in some cases, Jewish people would have used to describe Gentiles.
However, the next part of verse 16 ‘They pierced My hands and My Feet’, has been contested since some claim it should read ‘Like a lion my hands and feet’ because of the latter translation in the Masoretic text compared with the former in the Septuagint. Whilst scholars have argued over the exact translation that should be rendered, it is noticeable that the oldest copy of the Psalms we have available is from the Dead Sea Scrolls and that uses the verb ‘caru’ (not ca’ari like a lion)[iv], in support of ‘They pierced My hands and My feet’.
Additionally in the Dead Sea Scrolls Bible itself, there is a note in connection with the above.
‘Psalm 22 is a favourite among Christians since it is well linked in the New Testament with the suffering and death of Jesus. A well-known and controversial reading is found in verse 16, where the Masoretic Text reads “Like a lion my hands and my feet”, whereas the Septuagint has “They have pierced my hands and feet.” Among the scrolls the reading in question is found at Nahal Hever (abbreviated 5/6HevPs), which reads “They have pierced my hands and my feet”![v]
As with the rest of Psalm 22 this strongly and clearly describes the suffering of Yeshua at the crucifixion.
And finally in verse 18 we have a most unusual prophecy about the dividing of his garments and casting lots for his clothing which was fulfilled and recognised as fulfilment of prophecy by Matthew in Matthew 27:35.
They divide My garments among them,
And for My clothing they cast lots.
The Suffering and Sacrifice of the Messiah
The suffering Yeshua experienced was intense on all levels. Physically he was beaten brutally by scourging, causing intense pain and severe bleeding even before he began to carry the cross. The crucifixion itself held the victim in an awful stress position so that the sufferer would have to force themselves up to breathe causing immense pain in the wrists and feet and the back which was severely sore from scourging and would cause agonizing friction. Blood and water that came out of His side indicated death by asphyxiation. This was a terribly slow, painful death and we sometimes use the word excruciating which is linked to this.
The humiliation would have been horrendous. This happened to the Son of God who came and dwelt among us and the jeering, mocking and foul abuse would have added to the terrible nature of the event. Being deserted by most of His followers would have resulted in feelings of abandonment, isolation and loneliness.
But worst of all was the separation of the Son from the Father when Yeshua said “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” We cannot really comprehend eternity, though the Father and Son had enjoyed uninterrupted perfect fellowship for ever until this point. To have that broken is an awful reality that was yet far worse and more dreadful than all the other sufferings until that point. Our Lord bore the wrath of God and became a sin offering as a substitutionary atonement for our sins. And it most importantly demonstrates the deep, sacrificial love of the Messiah whom we love because He first loved us.
The Plan of the Messiah
That is not where Psalm 22 ended, since Jesus rose and ascended according to the Scriptures (Ps. 16:10; 68:18) and provided atonement for our sins. The latter part of Psalm 22 speaks of the Messiah’s triumph and glories. Verse 27 and 28 declare that people from all over the world will worship Him and from the families of all nations. David could never claim to have achieved what is written in those verses.[vi]It is clearly speaking of Messiah.
This Psalm demonstrates that God has determined a
detailed and specific means of reconciling man to God. It shows the character
of the Son of God through His love and sacrificial death, who gave of Himself,
since our sin is so grievous and an offence to Him and our righteousness, is as
filthy rags. Those who seek Him will praise the Lord! Psalm 22 also looks ahead
to His return when ultimately; everyone will bow before Him and worship Him.
[i] Matt Slick Non-Biblical accounts of New Testament events and/or people https://carm.org/non-biblical-accounts-new-testament-events-andor-people
[iii] Quotes about Jesus Crucifixion https://www.christian-history.org/jesus-crucifixion-quotes.html
[v] Martin Abegg Jr., Peter Flint & Eugene Ulrich The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible (Harper Collins, San Francisco; 1999), p519