To Whom Does Psalm
The Rabbis apply psalm 22 to Esther, an interpretation which can be seen in Rabbinic literature such as the Bablyonian Talmud and the midrash on Psalms. In the most literal, non-prophetic sense, the psalm most likely described David. However, Rabbi Tovia Singer of Outreach Judaism, incorrectly states,
". . . missionaries are confronted with another remarkable problem as they seek to project the words of this Psalm into a first century crucifixion story. In the simplest terms, this text that Christians eagerly quote is not a prophecy, nor does it speak of any future event."1First of all, this is not at all a "remarkable problem," as David's life was itself a prophetic picture of the coming Messiah, and an inspiration for the messianic prophecies he composed. Second, Singer's assumption that Psalm 22 "is not a prophecy," is fallacious. Rarely does the Hebrew Bible explicitly identify passages as a prophetically "messianic". Regarding the messianic prophecies, you have to INTERPRET them, to evaluate their messianic status. Singer correctly says,
All of the Gospels similarly [quote] Psalm 22:19 . . . in their crucifixion narratives, and Hebrews 2:12 quotes Psalm 22:21 to explain why the messiah had to suffer for humanity."2Interestingly, there is yet another piece of literature that quotes this Psalm to support the concept of Messiah's suffering for humanity, but does not occur in a Christian work. It appears in a 9th century Jewish work, in which a remarkable interpretation materializes, explaining that the Messiah, named Ephraim, suffers for the sins of Israel, and of the world, when God makes an agreement with him to be vicariously afflicted for their sake. This amazing portrayal of the Messiah's work, cites Psalm 22 as the foundational Scripture for the Messiah's atoning torment.
During the seven-year period preceding the coming of the son of David, iron beams will be brought low and loaded upon his neck until the Messiah's body is bent low. Then he will cry and weep, and his voice will rise to the very height of heaven, and he will say to God: Master of the universe, how much can my strength endure? How much can my spirit endure? How much my breath before it ceases? How much can my limbs suffer? Am I not flesh and blood?Like a Lion?
It was because of the ordeal of the son of David that David wept, saying My strength is dried up like a potsherd (Ps. 22:16). During the ordeal of the son of David, the Holy One, blessed be He, will say to him: Ephraim, My true Messiah, long ago, ever since the six days of creation, thou didst take this ordeal upon thyself. At this moment, thy pain is like my pain . . .
At these words, the Messiah will reply: Now I am reconciled. The servant is content to be like his Master.
Pesikta Rabbati, Piska 36.2, translated by William G. Braude, Yale University Press, pg. 680-681
It is taught, moreover, that in the month of Nisan the Patriarchs will arise and say to the Messiah: Ephraim, our true Messiah, even though we are thy forbears, thou art greater that we because thou didst suffer for the iniquities of our children, and terrible ordeals befell thee . . . for the sake of Israel thou didst become a laughingstock and a derision among the nations of the earth; and didst sit in darkness, in thick darkness, and thine eyes saw no light, and thy skin cleaved to thy bones, and thy body was as dry as a piece of wood; and thine eyes grew dim from fasting, and thy strength was dried up like a potsherd - all these afflictions on account of the iniquities of our children . . .
Pesikta Rabbati 37.1, translated by William G. Braude, Yale University Press, pg. 685-686
Ephraim is a darling son to Me . . . My heart yearneth for him, in mercy I will have mercy upon him, saith the Lord (Jer. 31:20). Why does the verse speak twice of mercy: In mercy I will have mercy upon him? One mercy refers to the time when he will be shut up in prison, a time when the nations of the world will gnash their teeth at him every day, wink their eyes at one another in derision of him, not their heads at him in contempt, open wide their lipes to guffaw, as is said All they that see me laugh me to scorn; they shoot out the lip, they shake the head (Ps. 22:8); My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my throat; and thou layest me in the dust of death (Ps. 22:16). Moreover, they will roar over him like lions, as is said They open wide their mouth against me, as a ravening and roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is become like wax; it is melted in mine inmost parts (Ps. 22:14-15).
Pesikta Rabbati 37.1, translated by William G. Braude, Yale University Press, pg. 686-687
"Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar."R. Singer, probably the most prominent accuser of "deceptive mistranslations", also ADDS to the text with, "like a lion they are at my hands and my feet."5 While Singer condemns the anti-semitic attitudes of Martin Luther (and so should we all), he himself is guilty of offensive accusations against Christians, in regard to "mistranslating" the Tanakh. He unashamedly writes,
Proverbs 30:5-6, NIV
". . . in an effort to distance Christians from a compelling Jewish message, the founders and defenders of Christianity methodically altered selected texts from the Jewish scriptures. This rewriting of the Tanach was not done arbitrarily or subtly. The church quite deliberately tampered with the words of the Jewish scriptures in order to bolster their most startling claim which is: The Old Testament foretold of no messiah other than Jesus of Nazareth. With this goald in mind, missionaries manipulated, misquoted, mistranslated and even fabricated verses in Tanach in order to make Jesus' life fit traditional Jewish messianic parameters and to make traditional Jewish fit the life of Jesus."6emphasis mine.Rabbi Singer also utilizes the following words to describe the Christian translation of Psalm 22:16(17),
1. "Christian translators rewrote the words of King DavidEven in light of these SERIOUS allegations, Singer himself interpolates foreign words to the text of Psalm 22 with,
2. The insertion of the word "pierced" into the last clause of this verse is a not-too-ingenious Christian interpolation that was created by deliberately mistranslating the Hebrew word kaari () as "pierced". . .
3. "the phrase “they pierced my hands and my feet” is a Christian contrivance that appears nowhere in the Jewish scriptures."
4. ". . . this stunning mistranslation in the 22nd Psalm. . ."
5. "This verse was undoubtedly tampered with years after the Christian canon was completed."
6. "The Bible tampering. . ."
7. "Why then did [the Christian translators" specifically target Psalm 22 for such Bible tampering?"
8. "this church revision of the 22nd Psalm. . ."
9. "The church, therefore, did not hesitate to tamper with the words of the 22nd Psalm . . ."
10. " . . . the stunning mistranslation in this chapter. . ."7
Dogs have encompassed me.Singer, on his website, doesn't even put brackets around the words, "they are at", which are completely ABSENT from the Hebrew. Immediately after this quotation, he then accuses Christian translators of inserting the word pierced!
A company of evildoers has enclosed me;
like a lion, they are at my hands and my feet.8
"The insertion of the word “pierced” into the last clause of this verse is a not-too-ingenious Christian interpolation that was created by deliberately mistranslating the Hebrew word kaari . . ."9Sadly, all of the epithets wielded against "Christian mistranslators" by Rabbi Singer on his website, can now be justly applied to himself. However, if my memory serves me correctly, Singer's workbork DOES place brackets around the inserted words, but this particular page on his anti-missionary website, in its current form (1-17-01), does not.
Gerald Sigal, another anti-missionary, follows suit and ADDS to the text, "The text should read," Sigal says,"in effect: "Like a lion [they are gnawing at] my hands and my feet." This is the most plausible interpretation of the text."10 Again, the question is: Why is he ADDING to the text?! If it is really the "most plausible interpretation of the text," why does he have to INSERT words to make this "plausible intepretation," in essence, "plausible"? He goes on to say, "Rashi's interpretation of the verse--"As if crushed by the mouth of a lion are my hands and my feet"--is similar in thought to the one we have offered though differently. While these interpretations fit with the diction of the entire psalm, the Christian translation--"They pierced my hands and my feet"--does not."11 Says who? And how can they "fit with the diction of the entire psalm," if he has to ADD to the text to make it fit?
Gleason Archer, professor of Old Testament and Semitic studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, writes,
" . . . we find in the MT of Psalm 22:17 (16 Eng.) the strange phrase "like the lion my hands and my feet" (kaari yaday we raglay) in a context that reads "dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men have encircled me- like the lion my hands and my feet!" This really makes no sense, for lions do not surround the feet of their victims. Rather, they pounce on them and bite them through with their teeth. Furthermore, this spelling of the word "lion" (ari) is rendered more doubtful by the fact that in v.13 (14MT) the word "lion" appears in the normal way 'aryeh. it is most unlikely that the author would have used used two different spellings of the same word within three verses of each other. Far more likely is the reading supported by most of the versions: ka'ru (They [i.e. the dogs or evildoers] have pierced" my hands and my feet). This involves merely reading the final letter yodh as a waw, which would make it the past tense of a third person plural verb. This is apparently what the LXX read, for oryxan ("they have bored through") reflects a a karu from the verb kur ("pierce, dig through"). The Vulgate conforms to this with foderunt ("They have dug through"). The Syriac Peshitta has baz'w, which means "they have pierced/penetrated." Probably the ' (aleph) in ka'ru represents a mere vowel lengthener that occasionally appears in the Hasmonean manuscripts such as 1QIsa and the sectarian literature of the second centurey B.C."The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible, translated by Martin Abegg, Jr., Peter Flint and Eugene Ulrich notes,
Dr. Gleason L. Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, pg. 37
Psalm 22 is a favorite among Christians since it is often 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 has "Like a lion are my hands and feet," wheras the Septuagint has "They have pierced my hands and feet." Among the scrolls the reading in question is found only in the Psalms scroll found at Nahal Hever (abbreviated 5/6HevPs), which reads, "They have pierced my hands and my feet"!The Dead Sea Scrolls have a vav instead of a yod at the end of the contested word, ka'aru. The strength of the anti-missionary argument against the Dead Sea Scroll reading of pierced arrives in the point that the word contains an aleph, which according to Sigal, "is not part of the root." Dr. James D. Price, professor of Hebrew and the Old Testament at the Temple Baptist Seminary, however, states:
Abegg, Flint and Ulrich, The Dead Sead Sea Scrolls Bible, pg. 519
"Sigal gave the impression that the presence of the Aleph in the word "ka'aru" prevented it from being derived from a Hebrew root which has no Aleph. But the words "ka'aru" and "karu" being variant forms of the same verb (as explained by the lexicographers) is demonstrated by the following Hebrew words that have the same kind of middle Aleph and the same kind of relationship: bo'r, bor (pit, cistern) from the verb bur (dig); da'g, dag (fish) from the verb dug (fish for); la't, lat (secrecy) from the verb lut (be secret); m'um, mum (blemish); n'od, nod (skin); q'am, qam (he arose); ra'sh, rash (poor) from the verb rush (be poor); sh'at (contempt) from the verb shut (treat with contempt); also in Aramaic, da'er (dweller) from the verb dur (dwell); and qa'em (riser) from the verb qum (he arose). These examples are sufficient to demonstrate that a middle Aleph frequently occurs in words and forms derived from middle Waw verbs as in this passage. His argument is convincing only to those who know little or nothing about Hebrew."12Mitchell Dahood, Professor of Ugaritic Language and Literature at The Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, translates the controversial reading,
My strength is dried up like a potsherd,His commentary to the translation, notes,
my tongue sticks to my jaws,
And they put me upon the mud of Death.
For dogs have surrounded me,
a pack of evildoers encircle me,
Piercing my hands and my feet.
Psalm 22:16-17, Psalms 1-50, The Anchor Bible, translated by Mitchell Dahood, pg. 137
Piercing my hands. Much-contested k'ry is here tentatively analyzed as an infinitive absolute from kry, "to dig," with the archaic ending -i, as in Gen xxx 8, xlix 11; Exod xv 6. See W.L. Moran in The Bible and the Ancient Near East: Essays in Honor of William Foxwell Albright, ed. G.E. Wright (New York, 1961), p. 62; J.M. Sola-Sole, L'infinitif semitique (Paris, 1961), pg. 185b. The aleph would be intrusive as, e.g., in Prov xxiv 7, r'mwt for rmwt.There is an occurence in Rabbinic literature reading the word ka'ari as a verb. However, it would not be
Mitchell Dahood on Psalm 22:17, Psalms 1-50, The Anchor Bible, pg. 140-141
"It is the mark of midrashic literature, however, to take liberalities with the biblical text - to pun onThe occurence in the Midrash on Psalms, however, is worth noting,
it, to twist its plain sense, and often to modify the meaning of a word by a change in its vowels, all
for the sake of homily."
Burton Visotzky, The Midrash on Proverbs, Yale University Press, pg. 14
For dogs have compassed me (Psalm 22:17) - that is, Haman's sons have compassed me; the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me (ibid.) - that is, Haman's hosts have inclosed me.Prophetic Fulfillment
My hands and my feet they made repulsive51 (Psalm 22:17). According to R. Judah, Esther said: "Though Haman's sons practiced sorcery on me so that in the sight of Ahaseurus my hands and feet were repulsive, yet a miracle was wrought for me, and my hands and my feet were made to shine like sapphires.
But R. Nehemiah said: The verse is to be read At my hands and my feet he was favored with blessing52, and conveys much the same meaning as with the verse "The Lord hath blessed thee at my foot" (Gen 30:30). Thus Esther meant: Because of the work of my hands, blessing came to Ahaseurus.
51. The word ka'ari, rendered in JV "like a lion," and in AV "They pierced," is taken by R. Judah to be derived from k'ar, "ugly, repulsive."
52. Apparently, R. Nehemiah takes ka'ari as related to the Greek chara, "favor," or "blessing."
Midrash on Psalms, Psalm 22, translated by William Braude, Yale University Press
The words Singer employs are offensive, and the initial reaction against such rhetoric was to respond with equally charged language. In doing so, however, I would be guilty of the very thing I disagree with, concerning Singer's presentation. When working and distributing information from the internet, one must be careful not to use defamatory propaganda, in order to demonize, and discredit one's opponent. The internet reaches to massive amounts viewers, and one who owns a website, or dispenses information through e-mail lists or any other media interface, has an special responsibility to the minds of their readers and viewers. Such strong language only serves to stir the emotions of the reader, and give the argument an authoritative tone. One should observe that Rabbi Singer, in his website, gives no actual evidence that "Christian bible translations were meticulously altered," the text other than the allegation that it was the word ka'ari that the translators were translating and a theological motive for "painting Jesus into the Tanakh," because of the importance of this psalm in Christian tradition. The argument that, "this stunning mistranslation in the 22nd Psalm did not occur because Christian translators were unaware of the correct meaning of [ka'ari]," is already null, because it implies that Christian translators are 1.) attempting to translate the word ka'ari, 2.) provide a translation solely from the Masoretic text, all the while not taking into account the witness of the other ancient versions. Only one with a blind devotion to the Masoretic text would say that the Christian rendering here is a "stunning mistranslation." Because translations such as the Vulgate were translated and preserved by Christians, their witness for textual scholarship, in this type of case, does indeed have a limited weight, due to the possibility of an apologetic rendering. But when an ancient text such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, which could not have been influenced by an apologetic or defensive theology on either side of the debate, has ka'aru, instead of ka'ari, it seriously damages the anti-missionary allegation of a "mistranslation", and provides textual weight for the translation "pierced". While not denigrating the importance of the Masoretic text, the other ancient versions must be taken into account. Moreover, the Masoretic text itself is not one monolithic text, but a family of texts, a very small amount of which have the vav, instead of a yod, at the end of this controversial word. The 1948 discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls also gave us a major contribution to textual scholarship, providing the most ancient Biblical texts known in history. While, the Dead Sea Scrolls attest to the accuracy of the Tanakh manuscript transmission, they have made known a variety of significant textual variances, which not only give us a tremendous textual witness. The need for the anti-missionary to INSERT words into the controversial sentence, only provides more supportive substance in favor of the "pierced" translation.
"They have pierced my hands and my feet."
1. Rabbi Tovia Singer, A Lutheran Doesn't Understand Why Rabbi Singer Doesn't Believe in Jesus: A Closer Look at the "Crucifixion Psalm", Outreach Judaism, URL: http://outreachjudaism.org/like-a-lion.htm
3. G. Shapiro, Psalm 22, Shomrai HaBrit-Keepers of the Covenant, URL: http://members.tripod.com/~GHaas/writings/ps22.htm
5. Rabbi Tovia Singer, A Lutheran Doesn't Understand Why Rabbi Singer Doesn't Believe in Jesus: A Closer Look at the "Crucifixion Psalm", Outreach Judaism, URL: http://outreachjudaism.org/like-a-lion.htm
10. Gerald Sigal, Crucifixion Item: 57, Jews for Judaism,
12. Dr. James D. Price, Response to a Skeptic, Chazak!, URL: http://www.MessianicArt.com/chazak/proph-response.html