What does Psalm 22:16 mean?
ESV: For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet —
NIV: Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet.
NASB: For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me; They pierced my hands and my feet.
CSB: For dogs have surrounded me; a gang of evildoers has closed in on me; they pierced my hands and my feet.
NLT: My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs; an evil gang closes in on me. They have pierced my hands and feet.
KJV: For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.
NKJV: For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet;
Verse Commentary:
This verse contains a phrase which is often contested by those who reject Psalm 22 as messianic prophecy. The psalm itself matches no specific incident in David's life; instead, it is a symbolic description of his anguish over what seems to be unanswered prayers for deliverance (Psalm 22:1–2). What follows closely matches the experience of Jesus during His final days, something that both Christ (Mathew 27:46) and New Testament writers noted (Psalm 22:22; Hebrews 2:12).

The controversial phrase here is translated in the ESV as "they have pierced my hands and feet." Critics claim the term translated "pierced" was originally the word for "lion," as these two are extremely similar in Hebrew. That would make the translation "like a lion, at my hands and feet." This would make the phrase much less suggestive of Roman crucifixion (John 19:16–18; 20:26–27; Luke 24:39–40). It would also fit the pattern of someone being attacked by savage animals.

However, history and evidence do not support the replacement of "lion" for the term "pierced." In the oldest known copies of Psalm 22, the term is clearly "pierced." This is not only true of Jewish materials like the Dead Sea Scrolls, but also of the oldest Latin Vulgate and Arabic copies. It is also translated as "pierced" in the Septuagint: a Jewish translation of Scripture into Greek, completed centuries before Christ. "Lion" occurs more often than "pierced" only in Masoretic texts produced a thousand years after Christ. Literary and historical evidence strongly indicate "they have pierced my hands and feet" is the psalmist's intended message.

That, in combination with other Scripture, makes Psalm 22 an even more potent prophecy about the suffering of Jesus, the Messiah. In the ancient middle east, dogs were almost always wild. They were despised as unclean scavengers. They roamed in packs, lived among garbage dumps, and attacked defenseless people when given the opportunity. Christ's enemies descended on Him at His crucifixion like packs of wild dogs that had smelled blood. This statement, "they have pierced my hands and feet," graphically explains what the Roman soldiers did to Jesus at the crucifixion. Like wild dogs that tear a victim's limbs apart, the soldiers tore Jesus' flesh apart by driving nails through His hands and feet.

Following the resurrection, when the disciples thought He was a spirit, Jesus said, "See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have" (Luke 24:39). Then He showed them His hands and His feet (Luke 24:40). The print of the nails was visible in His resurrection body (John 20:24–29). David described this piercing about 1,000 years before Jesus was crucified and long before the Romans practiced crucifixion. This fact is a strong testimonial to the divine inspiration of Scripture and to the accuracy of prophecy.
Verse Context:
Psalm 22:1–21 depicts David's questioning of God's silence and estrangement from him in his desperate situation. The structure of this prayer, and the images it evokes, are prophecies of Messiah's sufferings. Isaiah 53:3–8 likewise predicts these experiences and explains that Messiah endured them for us sinners. Matthew 27:46 reports that Jesus quoted Psalm 22:1 when he was suffering on the cross. First Peter 2:24 –25 refers to the sufferings of Jesus the Messiah and calls Jesus ''the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.''
Chapter Summary:
This psalm may be divided into two parts. The first part, verses 1–21, contains an urgent prayer, in which the suppliant questions a holy God's distance from him in his time of suffering. It also contains a graphic description of the Messiah's suffering. Messiah's suffering included humiliation, the taunts of unbelievers, a distressful sense of loneliness, and intense physical pain. The second part of the psalm continues a prayer to be delivered, and includes a glimpse of resurrection and exaltation. The psalm praises God and announces a future time when God will receive worldwide acclaim and worship.
Chapter Context:
This psalm of David should be understood in association with Psalms 23 and 24. Psalm 22 describes the sufferings of the Good Shepherd, Jesus, for His sheep. Psalm 23 describes His care for His sheep. Psalm 24 describes His return in glory to reward His sheep. Psalm 22 includes prophetic sayings which Jesus uttered from the cross. It also predicts the afflictions he endured there (Matthew 27:27–56; Luke 22:63–65; 23:18–49). Isaiah 53 also prophesies the sufferings that Jesus suffered on the cross.
Book Summary:
The book of Psalms is composed of individual songs, hymns, or poems, each of which is a ''Psalm'' in and of itself. These works contain a wide variety of themes. Some Psalms focus on praising and worshipping God. Others cry out in anguish over the pain of life. Still other Psalms look forward to the coming of the Messiah. While some Psalms are related, each has its own historical and biblical context.
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