1 Peter 5:8, Death on the cross, Jesus sacrifice on the cross, nails and the crucifixion, Psalm 22, Roman nails and the crucifixion, the bulls of bashan, the place of the serpent, the sacrifice of the cross, the tola worm, They pierced my hands and my feet
We have been studying Psalm 22. So far we have uncovered that Psalm 22 is in general a prophetic psalm that had been recognized by the Jews as Messianic; we have discovered that it predicted the death of Jesus, that specifically God did not turn His face from Jesus when on the cross, that God had always saved His people, and that on the cross God was saving His people in the manner of the Tola worm who is scientifically known to give up her life for her young, and that such a salvation would be despised and rejected by those needing salvation.
Today, let’s continue on with the intricate details of Psalm 22.
The Passage Unpackaged
Psalm 22:7-8 The Shame
“All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.”
This we see fulfilled in Matthew 27:39-44 (also accounts found in Mark 15 and Luke 23) in the account of Jesus’ crucifixion:
“And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God. The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.”
Psalm 22:11-13 The Sacrifice
“Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.”
“Many bulls have compassed me.” Does this mean actual bulls are standing at the base of the cross? Does this mean that the cows got out and herded around Jesus? We’ll get to who the bulls are in a minute.
To begin with, however, what does “compassed me” mean? When it says that they are compassing the Suffering One, this means (Hebrew: sabab, #5437) they are encircling Him, moving around Him in a circular, fluid motion, like as if He is a ritual sacrifice.
“Strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.” When it says here that the Suffering One is “beset” the Hebrew word (katar, #3803) means that He is now being pressed upon as in a large crowd, the enemy is closing in on Him; His enemies are gathering closer and closer and waiting to pounce.
“They gaped upon me with their mouths.” The Hebrew word pasah (#6475) means “to open one’s mouth, to utter.” It is used of the earth opening its mouth for Abel’s innocent blood (Gen 4:11) and of the earth swallowing the wicked in an earthquake (Numbers 16:30, Deut 11:6), and also is used of one speaking accusations such as in Lam. 2:16 and 3:46. And this is done as a “ravening and roaring lion.” To raven means “to tear in pieces” (Hebrew: tarap # 2963). To “roar” is the Hebrew word saag (#7580), and it means to roar like a lion, to emit a sound like thunder, or like the shouts of an aggressive enemy. This roaring is done in either great distress or victory. In the context of this passage, it seems that the enemies of the Suffering One, are in a circular, ritualistic fashion closing in on Him, and are opening their mouths in order to devour with accusatory words and thunderous bombastic presumptuous shouts of victory.
Now, who are these bulls of Bashan that are tormenting the Suffering One of Psalm 22? To begin with, there is an actual area known as Bashan. It is to the Northeast of Israel, is on the eastern side of the Jordan river, and is the present day Golan Heights. It is an incredibly fertile area well-known for its oak trees and its cows. Even today, its land is excellent for cattle and is home to many dairy farmers.
But, there is a darker side to this beautiful, lush landscape. For indeed, “Bashan…had a terrifying reputation. In ancient literature outside the Bible, Bashan was known as “the place of the serpent”…Bashan was ground zero to demonic gods and the realm of the dead. The area was a leading center for the worship of Baal, symbolized by bulls and cows. “Bulls from the land of Bashan” is a reference to demons, the powers of darkness,”” (Heiser).
Some scholars believe that the Jewish leadership could have been playing out the part of the bulls of Bashan. After all, the scene that unfolds around the base of Jesus’ cross portrays the Jewish leadership parading themselves around Him, gawking up at Him, tormenting Him with their words and sneers. So, on one level, this may be true. After all, Satan loves to use people as his willing pawns and through them he could have dealt out vile vitriol and grim torment. But, on yet another level there is a very real spiritual realm that is very much active on their own and were fully capable of encircling Jesus on the cross, thinking they had defeated the darling of heaven. For truly, 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”
Psalm 22:14-15 An Excruciating Death
“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.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.”
We see this scene unfold in John 19:28-29 which says, “After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.”
In the gruesomeness of crucifixion, it is not surprising that all of His bones were out of joint, for that was common to those crucified. Furthermore, His heart melting like wax, Him drying up like a piece of pottery and His tongue sticking, meant He was quickly dying because of an extreme amount of fluid loss, His lungs collapsing, the thickening of His blood, and heart failure.
Psalm 22:16-18 They Pierced My Hands and Feet
“For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.”
In Matthew 27:35 (as well as Mark 15 and Luke 23) we find the fulfillment of this scene, “And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots. And sitting down they watched him there…” John 19:23-24 says, “Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did.”
The history of crucifixion began as far back as the Assyrians, followed by the Persians, the then the Greeks, specifically Antiochus Epiphanes who crucified Jews who would not bow the knee to Hellenism. But, what was begun by other empires, was said to have been perfected by the Romans. It was developed by the Romans to be a torturous death in which the crucified one suffered greatly. Crucifixion was known as one of the, if not the cruelest and most shameful forms of death.
“Some have questioned the historical accuracy of Jesus being nailed to the cross. An analysis of the recorded instances of nailing in regards to time and place provide some striking data.” In the three hundred years before Christ, only ten “nailings” as they are called, were recorded as taking place. This means, that the use of nails in crucifixion was only recorded to have been used ten times in three hundred years. However, by the first century A.D. it is recorded that nails were used in crucifixion twenty-one times. Thus, the use of nails in crucifixion had increased. Not only this, but after the first century A.D. the use of nails in crucifixion sharply declined. Furthermore, according to historical accounts, “there are six recorded instances [of nails used in crucifixion] in Greece, two in regard to Carthage, and thirty-nine in regard to Rome…this…does demonstrate that historically speaking the greatest use of nails, both in time and place, center around the time of Jesus,” (John C. Robison, “Crucifixion in the Roman World: The Use of Nails at the Time of Christ,” pg. 49, https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1014&context=studiaantiqua) and most definitely and more specifically center around the Romans in the first century A.D.
In the day of King David writer of Psalm 22, there was no such thing as crucifixion or the piercing of one’s hands and feet in such a manner. There is no way that David could have known on his own what he was writing about nearly 1000 years before Jesus’ horrific death on the cross.
Just think, God predicted this torture scene, this death, this pain, this horror…this salvation. God loved us so much that He came down, took on human flesh, dwelt among the very people who would spit upon Him, reject, unjustly condemn, mercilessly beat and crucify Him. He foresaw the Roman dogs and the brutality of their form of crucifixion; He predicted the Satanic onslaught at the base of the cross both in the spiritual realm as well as through the Jewish leadership; He foreknew His own horrific suffering and exactly how He would die. The book of Hebrews chapter 12:1-3 says it well when it tells us to, “lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.”
We are all enduring something. For some it is physical. For some it is emotional. For some it has to do with family or friends. But, we are all running a race while we are here on earth. But, the Lord wants us to remember what He endured, that He despised the shame of His own death, the false accusations of sinners against Him—the King of glory—BUT He did it because He knew the JOY that lay just beyond it, the eternal joy, the joy of being seated next to God. For, the cross was not the end for Jesus. And our trials are not the end for us. Even so, it says, that we who are going through great trials in this life must keep things in perspective, and must not become exhausted nor give up. Let us remember the words of Jesus in John 16:33, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
Blessings this Passover and Resurrection Season,
Holy Light Ministries
Michael S. Heiser, Supernatural: What the Bible Teaches about the Unseen World—And Why It Matters, ed. David Lambert (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015), 92.
Holy Week: The Bulls of Bashan Surround Me, https://seerssee.com/holy-week-the-bulls-of-bashan-surround-me/#note-2580-3.
Caesarea Philippi and the Nephilim?, http://www.biblestudywithrandy.com/2016/03/caesarea-philippi-nephilim/.
Baal and Ashera, http://www.christianfaith.com/resources/baal-and-asherah.
Golan Heights, Biblical Bashan, https://www.bibleplaces.com/golanheights/.
The Crucifixion of Jesus in Excruciating Detail, https://mudpreacher.org/tag/bulls-of-bashan/.
John C. Robison, “Crucifixion in the Roman World: The Use of Nails at the Time of Christ,” pg. 49, https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1014&context=studiaantiqua)
Jonathan Sacks, “Psalm 22,” http://www.hopeinmessiah.org/psalm-22/.
“Did God Really Forsake Jesus Christ on the Cross?” http://www.truthortradition.com/articles/did-god-really-forsake-jesus-christ-on-the-cross