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Psalm 22

Insights into

Psalm 22

Many of the verses of this psalm

are cryptic

and need deeper examination.

This page will help illuminate
some of the deeper hidden meaning.

This page will take an in-depth look

at the key verses of the 22nd Psalm.

The entire psalm is written at the end of the page.


This is an in-depth study
that I previously presented to a Bible study group.

First a lighthearted introduction.

Then an in-depth study.

Have any of you seen the "Where's Waldo" children books?

These books are an updated version of the old hidden picture books. Each page shows a crowded, busy picture. Each picture is full of activity.

The point of the book is for the reader to look at each page and attempt to find Waldo among the flurry of activity.

The Bible is like a "Where's Waldo" book.

The Bible is full of stories, poetical verse, dialogues, and monologues. The object for the reader is to find the meaning that has been placed in the passage.

The author, both human and divine, have buried meaning in the verses of Scripture. The buried meaning is like treasure -  that one who is wise  - will dig out.

Yes, the Bible has buried treasure. God wants us to view ourselves as courageous godly police detectives who dig up clues to find truth.

We search for clues and dig up evidence to find the true meaning of the Love Letter that God has left for us to find.

Some meaning is left on the surface and some meaning must be found by digging deeper.

Experienced biblical sleuths use Bible dictionaries, commentaries, various translations of the Bible, Greek and Hebrew translating  tools, etc. in order to uncover truth.

The book of Psalms can be divided into categories on the basis of content. One type of psalm is a praise psalm. Psalm 22 definitely isn't put into the praise category. 

Some psalms speak of the coming Messiah - Jesus. These psalms are sometimes called Messianic.

Psalm 22 is a Messianic Psalm

Psalm 22 is a Messianic psalm because it speaks about the coming Messiah.  Psalm 22 is a prophetic glimpse into the life of Jesus. We, today, see this psalm through the eyes of the four Gospels. This helps us to understand the full meaning.

The psalms are poetry. Poetry deals in human experiences. Through poetry we hare the experiences of another person and thus learn from them. Through poetry, we share the emotions of the writer. When we are going through something similar to that of a psalmist, we feel that the psalmist empathizes with us and our situation. Since God is the divine author, we sense the understanding of God toward us and our situation.

Poetry uses figures of speech such as metaphors, similes, and personification. Through the use of these literary devices, an author can communicate a large amount of information in a small space. In addition, the use of figures of speech, is a valuable tool in holding the interest of the audience.

In Psalm 22, we see the author using figures of speech frequently and masterfully.

For example, in Psalm 22:12-13, we see the author using figures of speech such as "the bulls of Bashan" and "They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion."

Here, the author uses figures of speech as a tool to teach important truths.

Clues that this is a Messianic Psalm

Verse 16

The first clue that jumps out at most people is verse 16, because it talks about the victim had his hands and feet pierced. That is a picture of crucifixion.

16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.

Also note two other verses that are bold in declaring that this is a picture of Jesus:

Going backward to verse 15, we see that the man suffering is thirsty.

15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.

On the cross, Jesus said, "I thirst."

18 They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.

Note that "vesture" is another word for "garment."

While Jesus was on the cross, they cast lots for his garment.

I will not go verse by verse on this page.

My purpose is to give greater meaning to Psalm 22 by explaining some of the more cryptic words and phrases.

For an amazing look at the first verse of this psalm,

I urge you to visit my "Clever Clues" page.

It will make the rest of this page even more interesting for you.

See the link in the box below.

Note that I previously did an

entertaining yet insightful

devotional study of the first verse of

Psalm 22.

I hope you will consider reading it.

Click here for the link:  Clever Clues.

The main topic of this page deals

with Psalm 22 verses 12 and 13.

Those two verses have some words that need to be deciphered in order to gain a fuller meaning to the psalm.

Look at verses 12 and 13.

12 Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.

13 They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.

Now I am going to share with you the results of my detective work.


When looking at these verses, the most cryptic word I saw was "Bashan." I can get a mental picture of a bull and a lion, but why did the author add the word "Bashan?"

I found that most scholars agree that Bashan was an area in northeastern Israel. It was located east of the Jordan River. It was originally part of the land belonging to the tribe of Manasseh.

Manesseh had land on both sides of the Jordan River. When you look at an Old Testament map of Israel, you see that Israel was much bigger than it is today. God formally gave the Jewish people much more land than they possess today.

Bashan had rich soil, and it received adequate rainfall. Therefore, this area was known for its bountiful crops. This area provided the food for many who lived in the area.

In addition, the area of Bashan was known far and wide for its magnificent herds of cattle. The cattle were large, well-fed, healthy, and strong. The pastures of Bashan were lush and thus able to sustain large herds.

The Bible speaks about Bashan in several instances. For example, Ezekiel 39:18 and Deuteronomy 32:14. The Bible describes the area as being a strong agricultural area and an area known for its large healthy herds of animals.

The Book of Amos

The book of Amos is extremely helpful in disciphering the meaning of the metaphor "bulls of Bashan."

Amos speaks extensively about the "cows of Bashan." Amos compares the women of Israel to the cows of Bashan. Remember the cows and bulls of Bashan are well cared for, healthy, and fat.

Amos describes these women of Israel as wealthy - filthy rich you might say. He further describes them as prideful, materialistic, self-absorbed, stuck up, spoiled brats. Amos says that the poor are trampled by these wealthy women (and their husbands). These rich brats have no mercy on those less fortunate.

Amos denounced the "cows of Bashan" because they ignored the poor and the needy.  Even worse they exploited them and made them victims of greed. Therefore in the book of Amos, we learn that the prosperity of Bashan was a symbol of selfishness.

In the book of Amos, the "cows of Bashan" do outwardly worship God. For example, they give tithes and offerings. They sing hymns of praise. However, as we see in Amos 4:1-5, God is hard against them.

It reminds me of the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:22-23.

The Cows of Bashan sound like the Pharisees.

Look at Amos 5:21-24. These "cows of Bashan" sound familiar. They sound surprisingly like the Pharisees. (Matthew 23:23-26)

In Amos 2:6 we read,

"They sold the righteous for silver."

The book of Amos tells us they do this by exploiting the poor.

In Psalm 22,
the Pharisees do this by exploiting the poor
and by giving Judas thirty silver coins.

They sold out Jesus, the righteous one, for silver.

Therefore, the strong bulls of Bashan in Psalm 22 are the Pharisees and all the other people who came in opposition to Jesus.

If we bring this understanding to Psalm 22, we see a man (Jesus) being surrounded by bulls of Bashan.

Bulls stand for power and strength.

In biblical times, bulls stood for power and strength. So we see men of power and strength who are pompous, unmerciful, cruel, and heartless, surrounding a man who has the appearance of being in great need.

Instead of compassion, the man is surrounded by snarling, vicious bulls ready to find and attack every vulnerable spot he has.

In times of trouble, we look for an escape.

Jesus asked for an escape in Gethsemane. In Mark 14:36, he asks for this cup to be taken away.

But instead of escaping, he now (verse 13) imagines himself in front of a roaring lion. "They gaped upon me with their mouths as a ravening and a roaring lion."

The Lion of verse 13

What does the lion symbolize?

It could symbolize Satan.  In 1 Peter 5:8, it does compare the devil to a roaring lion. Therefore, perhaps Jesus is visualizing Satan coming against him. 

I think the lion is Satan. But I will admit that it could be another symbol of human preditors ready to close in for the kill.

Lions cannot run for long distances.

When you study lions, you learn that they stalk their prey. They frequently wait until their victim comes somewhat close, because a lion cannot run for long distances. 

Most animals that they eat can run faster than they can. So the lion needs the advantage of quietly stalking his prey. A lion waits until the prey comes close enough for him to spring with surprise and attack before the animal knows what happened.

Here we see the lion in Psalm 22, who has stalked his prey for years - creeping ever closer. Now he is close to his victim. He pounces and captures his prey. He roars to announce his victory.

The Roar of a Lion

Lions typically roar to announce their victory. They also roar to mark their territory. Their roar can be heard for five miles.  It is as though the lion is proclaiming, "I am the Lord of this land."

Most of the time when we see a picture of a lion, his mouth is closed.

If you notice the picture below, you will see the fierceness of the lion's open mouth. His sharp teeth cut through touch skin and muscle. He has no teeth for chewing. He swallows food in chunks.

The open mouth of a roaring lion brings images of strength, power, and pain to its victim. The lion will attack his victim, tear him apart, and swallow him up.

Sometimes Lions Lose

But lions are not always successful. Sometimes an animal can use their horns or hooves, etc. to kick, claw, and somehow manage to escape.

Real-life struggle between a lion and a zebra -

And the Zebra miraculously wins!

So what happens to the lion in Psalm 22?

The Bible tells us that Satan was defeated by the horn of Jesus.

Horn can frequently be translated "power" in the Bible.

Luke 1:68-69

Jesus is our horn of salvation.

Jesus defeated the Satanic lion by his power. Jesus defeated the Satanic lion by his horn.

Verse 20

20 Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog.

The words "my darling"are translated in the King James Bible as "only" 6 times, "darling" 2 times, "only child" 1 time, "only son" 1 time, "desolate" 1 time, "solitary" 1 time

There is one Hebrew word that is translated "my darling."  The word is # 3173 in the Strong's Hebrew. Here are the definitions of that word:

 1) only, only one, solitary, one
1a) only, unique, one
1b) solitary
1c) (TWOT) only begotten son


If we look deeply into Psalm 22, we find an underlying message of loneliness.

The victim in Psalm 22 is all alone while facing his evil enemies:

There is no one standing with Jesus.

Jesus even felt  - God the Father's presence -  leave him.

In verse one, he says, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Obviously, Jesus had to fight the battle alone.


As I examined verses 12 and 13, I got out my magnifying glass and investigated the meaning behind the bulls and the lion and the word "Bashan."

After I uncovered the meaning of Bashan, the bulls, and the lion, I gained insight that produced three applications of these verses in my life.

The First Application

The first application I found was that the more we understand the suffering of Jesus, the more we become thankful and grateful to our Savior. When we see his agony, we realize that he chose to go through this ordeal because of his love for us.

The Second Application

The second application is that it helps us to FEEL the emotions of Jesus. We share some of his deep innermost feelings. We become more intimate with Jesus through our understanding.

The Third Application

Thirdly, this psalm has practical application to my personal life.

I will go through valleys where I will experience deep (possibly physical) but definitely emotional distress. I will "feel" surrounded by vicious, arrogant, mean people. I will be in situations where the forces of the lion, Satan, will unmercifully attack me. And many of these times I will fight alone. No other human person will fight next to me. No other person will be there to protect me or to fight on my side. But I can remember that I have a Savior who will never leave me or forsake me. He has been through all Satan could throw at him and he walks victoriously. He is my Shield, and my Fortress. Therefore, I will never actually walk alone. I am in the hand of my Lord.

In HIS Hand

In John 10:27-28, Jesus tells us that we are in his hand and no one can snatch us away. We are safe in his hand.

It says, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand."

No one -
no human being, Satan,
or any Satanic being
can pluck me out of the hand of my Lord.

Copyright © 1998 Beth McLendon of

Psalm 22 KJV

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?

2 O my God, I cry in the day time, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.

3 But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.

4 Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.

5 They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.

6 But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.

7 All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,

8 He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.

9 But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts.

10 I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother's belly.

11 Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.

12 Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.

13 They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.

14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.

15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.

16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.

17 I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.

18 They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.

19 But be not thou far from me, O Lord: O my strength, haste thee to help me.

20 Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog.

21 Save me from the lion's mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.

22 I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.

23 Ye that fear the Lord, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel.

24 For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.

25 My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him.

26 The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the Lord that seek him: your heart shall live for ever.

27 All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.

28 For the kingdom is the Lord's: and he is the governor among the nations.

29 All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul.

30 A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.

31 They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.

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