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Pslam 22:17 Like a Lion or Pierced?

Tehillim 22:17 (5/6Hev Col. XI, frag. 9)

A common dispute some raise is over the interpretation of Psalm 22:17 as quoted by Matthew. 27:41-43.

The verse in Psalms (Tehillim) says:

Tehillim 22:17
כי סבבוני כלבים עדת מרעים הקיפוני כארי ידי ורגלי

According to the Jewish Publication Society bible the verse is translated:

Psalms 22:16 (22:17) For dogs have encompassed me; a company of evil-doers have inclosed me; like a lion, they are at my hands and my feet. (JPS)

כארי = Like (a) lion

According to the King James Version bible the verse is translated:

Psalms 22:16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.

Which is correct? They both are depending on what you’re looking at.

A well known Messianic blog posted: The Lion Dug The Nail Into My Hand? and argues that the yod of כארי is actually a vav ו thus becoming כארו (the root being כרה) according to the manuscript evidence in the photo above, and according to corresponding translations of the verse in existence at the time (1st century and before).

I made a comment there which I wanted to share here:

The LXX translators translated “כרה” as ωρυξαν which into English means “dug through” yet the concept is amplified by other texts such as the Syriac version which means “pierced” in English. Targum Jonathan renders the word in Psalms 22 as “נכתין” which means “biting” – again emphasizing on the sharp intent for the concept “dug through.”

The correct word for pierced – as in by a sharp instrument is “דקר.”

That Zechariah 12:10 speaking of messianic days uses the more explicit “דקר” which does mean “pierced through” as in by stabbing, shows that the concept of a pierced messiah is understood from Torah.

Of course, I like to bring any all arguments concerning Mashiach to the Torah. And as always, the Torah clarifies the answer (as to whether or not Messiah is to be pierced). For the Pslamist – if this is in fact is a messianic passage – can neither add or subtract from the Torah concerning Mashiach.  I came across this when doing a daily reading some time ago in Torah, and I wanted to share this:

Gen 25:31

Look for “יעקב מכרה”

yaa’kov. akov = heel. yod in front is what? a reference to yad – hand.


יעקב מכרה

י hand
עקב heel
מ (stands for) mashiach
כרה pierced.

The rest of the verse is a remez to various verses in Torah about Mashiach: Edom (verse before) “his coming from Edom,” heel “strike the heel,” and even “bikkur” – firstfruit, of which Abel offered up.

Furthermore “micrah” to sell, which without vowels we can see “m’ carah”references the selling of Messiah, again another remez back to Joseph – but this is another topic.

In conclusion, the wooden literal translation of כארי does not mean to “pierce,” and does mean “like a lion,” but “כרה” taken from Gen 25:31 does mean dig, as in to dig into the hand, and in the above example: to dig into the hand and heel of Mashiach. Thus we see from Torah that the hand and heel of Mashiach are dug into or pierced.

So depending on which tradition you hang on to, you will see either ari or carah – lion or dig or even both if you’re open to including in your research the totality of the evidence. Yet according to the Torah, you will see Mashiach’s hands and feet pierced.

(Syriac and Targum source:

A fellow writer was inspired to post a follow up article here: Is Jesus the Pierced Messiah Predicted by Zachariah?