Psalm 22

Psalm 22. Summary Handout. Undeserved Suffering, Prayer, Deliverance, Praise



Urgent prayer during undeserved attack and suffering, the LORD delivers, and praise the LORD


Psalm 22 is about David. David is suffering at the hands of his enemies—suffering to the point of almost dying. He does not yet experience God’s deliverance, and he continues to pray. God answered his prayer. David was delivered from death and he goes on living. Because of God’s deliverance, David praised God and encouraged others to praise God and trust God. This psalm includes statements that go beyond David—hyperbole about David that find expression in the greater David, Messiah. The greater David, Jesus Messiah, suffered horribly and was delivered out of death by his resurrection.


  1. Psalm 22:1-21, David prays while under attack and near death.
  2. Psalm 22:22-31. David praises God for deliverance and encourages others to praise God and trust God (Psalm 22:22-31).


  1. Psalm 22 is about David. It has hyperbole or exaggeration about David that finds expression about the greater David, Messiah.
  2. David was delivered from death and he goes on living. The greater David, Jesus Messiah, was delivered out of death by his resurrection.
  3. David is suffering at the hands of his enemies—suffering to the point of almost dying. He does not see God helping him, and he continues to pray.
  4. God answered his prayer. Because of God’s deliverance, David praised God and encouraged others to praise God and trust God.
  5. The ups and downs or highs and lows of this Psalm can be charted. Verses 1-2, David and God—down; 3-5, Israel and God—up; 6-8, David and enemies—down; 9-10, David and God—up; 11, David and God—transition; 12-18 David and enemies—down; 19-21, David and God and enemies—transition; 22-26, David and God and Israel—up; 27-31, all people and God—up.

Psalm 22 verse summary

  1. Psalm 22:1-21, David prays while under attack and near death.
    1. Psalm 22.1-2. David cries out and wonders if God has forsaken him. He finds no answer from God. He is alone and hounded by his enemies. Jesus uttered these same words while on the cross (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34). While on the cross Jesus was quoting these words and likely as the Hebrew custom, was applying the whole Psalm to himself.
    2. Psalm 22.3. David appeals to God’s attributes. Holiness brings to mind all the attributes of God.
    3. Psalm 22.4-5. David goes back in history and recalls that the Hebrew fathers trusted God and God delivered them. He did not disappoint them.
    4. Psalm 22.6-8. David senses his aloneness and helplessness because of the verbal attacks on him. The critics call him a worthless pest as they taunt him with cutting remarks and treat him as worthless (Psalm 22:6). They mock him (Psalm 22:7). They ridicule him by telling him to commit himself to the LORD (commit is the Hebrew galal, to roll, in the qal impv). They mockingly taunt “let Him rescue him, because He delights in him.”
    5. Psalm 22.9-10. David says that he was raised from birth on the principle of trusting God. History shows that God does not abandon those who trust him, and God did not abandon him.
    6. Psalm 22.12-13. In Psalm 22:11-21 David breaks out in prayer. In Psalm 22:12-13 he describes by metaphor and simile those who want him dead. Bulls of Bashan are well fed strong cattle. Bulls and the roaring lion bring to mind powerful brute strength possessed by the enemies (Psalm 22:12-13).
    7. Psalm 22.14-15. These describe how weak he is. In Psalm 22:14 he is drained of energy. He has lost his will to fight. This continues into Psalm 22:15. He writes that God is working in his life when he writes “You lay me in the dust of death.”
    8. Psalm 22.16. He calls his attackers scavenging dogs who have him surrounded. He then says clearly that those attackers are a “band of evildoers. “Piercing” (אֲרִי ‘ari, lion in the standard MT) is a difficult textual question. A few Hebrew manuscripts have a plural verb form (ending in vav ן ) which would indicate the verb “piercing.” The only DSS to have this verse is Nahal Hever (5/6HevPs), and it reads “They have pierced my hands and my feet” (The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible, Abegg, Flint, Ulrich, pages 518-519). This predates the textual controversy between Christians and Jews. The Greek (ὀρύσσω orusso to dig or dig up), Syriac, Arabic, and Latin have a verb. This, of course, has a strong relationship to crucifixion. Zechariah 12:10, written later, says “they will look on Me whom they have pierced” (דָּקַר daqar, to pierce, pierce through), referring to Messiah. Also, Isaiah 53.5 “But He was pierced through for our for our transgressions” (חָלַל chalal, to bore, pierce). The NET Bible note reasons that lion can make sense: “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.” Pierced seems to be the best meaning. According to Dr Allen Ross, the external and internal evidence point to the reading of a verb, “pierced.” If interested, you can see Ross’ article on Psalm 22 (A Commentary on the Psalms, Vol 1 page 523 note 9).
    9. Psalm 22.17-18. David looks at himself and sees how emaciated he is. The crowd of onlookers stares at him in his emaciated condition. The last thing enemies take from their victim is the clothes. David notes that they are already planning on dividing up his clothes after his death.
    10. Psalm 22.19-21. David returns to his plea for help. After his initial cry in Psalm 22:1-2 and his short plea in Psalm 22:11, David get down to serious petition. The LORD is his only hope for deliverance. He asks the LORD to hurry. His end is near. His prayer summarizes his enemies, all metaphors for the deadly power, the viciousness, the pain, and the cause of his imminent death—sword, dog, lion’s mouth, and horns of the oxen. The last line of Psalm 22:21 indicates that David now knows that God has answered his prayer. The LORD may have revealed to him that He has answered David’s request. “You answered me” has the Hebrew verb `anah “answer” in the Qal perfect 2ms indicating a change from request to recognition that God has done something—God has answered David’s prayer. From this point on David does not request, he praises the LORD. This should remind us of Psalm 13 where we see the same message: trouble, pray, faith, praise for deliverance.
  2. Psalm 22:22-31. David praises God for deliverance and encourages others to praise God and trust God. Note that David praises in Psalm 22:22, Israel praises in Psalm 22:23, all the nations praise in Psalm 22:27, and future generations praise in Psalm 22:30. Praise in the congregation will encourage people to pray.
    1. Psalm 22.22. David says that he will praise the LORD. Answered pray ought to call forth praise of the one who answered the prayer. The praise is not just a mention of the answer that God has given. Praise for answered prayer is also a proclamation of “your name” which really means your character and attributes. We clearly proclaim who God is and what he is like. When we praise God we are stating how God’s answer revealed more about God to us.
    2. Psalm 22.23. Those who fear the LORD are those who willingly revere, trust, obey, and serve the LORD because they know about him and know him. These are the core of the congregation. Israel (Jacob and Israel) is called upon to glorify the LORD and to stand in awe of him. Israel as a whole are to join David in praising God for answer to prayer.
    3. Psalm 22.24. The LORD was merciful and took action to deliver David. Not despised, not abhorred, neither hidden are all understatements emphasizing God’s attentiveness, mercy, and grace in response to David’s prayer.
    4. Psalm 22.25. David had vowed to praise God for his deliverance, and to do so publicly. The reason for his praise is because God delivered him. Now David will testify to God’s great deliverance. The assembly is the gathered believers, probably near the tabernacle. This probably had reference to David offering a peace offering and then the congregation and priest would eat the roasted animal together (Leviticus 7).
    5. Psalm 22.26. Here we see that those afflicted—persecuted and suffering—will share in the eating together and in praising the LORD for his deliverance. The last line in 26, “let your heart live forever,” contrasts with verse 14 where the heart is like wax and melting. There it is loss of will and here it is confidence of life praising and serving God and experiencing God’s blessings.
    6. Psalm 22.27. Verses 27 to 31 seem to be hyperbole in that it refers to the kingdom of the greater David. But the main point in David’s mind is that praise of the LORD will be a testimony of what God has done. Telling what God has done will bring people all over the world (ends of the earth, all the families of the nations) to faith in the LORD. David wrote the verbs will remember, turn to, and worship. Prayer, answered prayer, and the praise to God is God’s way of bringing people to recognize and honor God.
    7. Psalm 22.28. The kingdom in context is Israel, the LORD’S kingdom. His rule extends over all nations. Here we see that the sovereignty of God is the foundation for prayer and praise. He always has the last word. He is ruler over all people and all nations.
    8. Psalm 22:29. This verse speaks of the prosperous and the dying. The figure is a merism, a figure that states two opposites and includes all in between also. The text identifies the prosperous, those who go down to the dust, and he who cannot keep his soul alive. Everyone will worship the LORD.
    9. Psalm 22.30-31. Not only does David praise the LORD (Psalm 22:22) and Israel praise the LORD (Psalm 22:23) and all the nations praise the LORD (Psalm 22:27), even future generations—those not even born at the time—will praise the LORD (Psalm 22:30-31). God’s gracious answer to prayer will be told to future generations and they will serve him. The future generations will tell of God’s righteousness and his righteous acts of answering prayer.

So what for us?

  1. No matter how severe the attacks, the strength or size of the enemy, how hopeless we may feel, we must never turn away from or against God the LORD.
  2. This Psalm takes prayer seriously. Prayer is not just “please God, give me this, or do this for me.” Prayer includes talking with God about his greatness, his blessings to us, our dependence on him, our need for him to rescue us, and our thanks and praise of him.
  3. It helps us to remember God’s deeds of the past—review divine history—and we will see that he never disappoints those who fear him, trust him, and obey him. See Psalm 85; Psalm 44.1-7; Psalm 77.11-15; Psalm 106.7; Psalm 78.
  4. Any looking at ourselves or the enemy should always turn us to reflecting on God, His attributes, and His past acts. This should bring us to faith, prayer, and to praise.
  5. We should be lavish in our praise of God and this praise should not be just because He did something for us, but also because who He is. Who God is, His character and attributes make possible His answers to our prayer and our encouragement.
  6. Answered prayer and praise for answered prayer can become a testimony to ourselves, to our nation, to the world, and to future generations that God is sovereign, holy, just, love, and omnipotent. This can result in worship, service, and witness.
  7. Note David’s sequence: sense that God has abandoned him, God helped Israel in the past, God’s greatness, attack on David and his helplessness, prayer for deliverance, David is confident of deliverance, he will praise the LORD, others will praise the LORD as a result of God working in David’s life. We can put ourselves in David’s place.
  8. Jesus and New Testament writers, under inspiration, use this Psalm to apply to Jesus in his crucifixion. They are not interpreting the Psalm. The Holy Spirit inspired David to write about himself, and to use hyperbolic language that even went beyond himself. The New Testament writers apply this to Jesus (inspired sensus plenior application). See Robert L Thomas, Evangelical Hermeneutics, The New Versus The Old, Kregel, 2002. He explains the grammatical historical hermeneutics, inspired sensus plenior application, and the shift by many away from grammatical historical hermeneutics.

Psalm 22 in the New Testament

Psalm 22 is about David, but there are New Testament citations (a specific reference) or allusions (an indirect reference) to Psalm 22. The New Testament writers, under inspiration, use portions of Psalm 22 to teach about the greater David, Jesus Christ, and his future kingdom. These Psalms statements are hyperbole about David and likely types about Jesus. A type is an illustration or a rough draft of someone or something that comes at a later time.

  1. Psalm 22:1. My God, my God. Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34
  2. Psalm 22:7. I am a worm, reproach, despised, sneer separate with the lip wag the head, look and stare. Matthew 26:66-68; 27:29,39-40; Mark 15:20, 29, 30-32; Luke 23:11, 35-39
  3. Psalm 22:8. Commit yourself to the LORD. Matthew 27:43.
  4. Psalm 22:15. Tongue cleaves, I am thirsty. John 19:28.
  5. Psalm 22.14. Bones out of joint, pierced my hands and feet (crucifixion). Zechariah 12:10; Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:33
  6. Psalm 22:18. They divide my garments and cast lots for my clothes. Matthew 27:35; John 19:23
  7. Psalm 22:22. I will tell of your name to my brethren. Hebrews 2:12.