What does Psalm 22:20 mean?
ESV: Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog!
NIV: Deliver me from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs.
NASB: Save my soul from the sword, My only life from the power of the dog.
CSB: Rescue my life from the sword, my only life from the power of these dogs.
NLT: Save me from the sword; spare my precious life from these dogs.
KJV: Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog.
NKJV: Deliver Me from the sword, My precious life from the power of the dog.
Verse Commentary:
Old Testament writing often uses a mirror image pattern known as chiasm. David earlier compared his enemies' attacks to those of bulls (Psalm 22:12), lions (Psalm 22:13), and dogs (Psalm 22:16). In verses 20 and 21, he will complete the mirror-image by mentioning those same animals in the opposite order: dogs, lions, oxen.

This passage is symbolic of great pain in David's life, but also literally describes the suffering of Jesus during His crucifixion. This is one reason Christ mentions part of this psalm from the cross (Matthew 27:46).

David's foes carried swords, but in regards to Jesus the Messiah "sword" may refer to the power of the Roman government to execute a criminal. It was Pilate, the Roman governor, who authorized Jesus' crucifixion.

"My precious life" in this verse translates a Hebrew phrase meaning "my only one." The term was applied in Old Testament times to an only child. It appears in Genesis 22:2 where God summoned Abraham to take Isaac—his only son through his wife, Sarah—to the land of Moriah and offer him there as a burnt offering. Here it refers to the only life David has, and prophetically to the life Jesus was offering for our sins on the cross. Jesus made His soul an offering for sin (Isaiah 53:10, 12).

Mention of the power of the dog in Psalm 22:20 refers again to David's foes and to those who crucified our Savior. In ancient times, dogs were seen as lowly pack scavengers who attacked the vulnerable. Similarly, Jesus' enemies banded together to strike.
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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