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This Bible study on Psalm 22 contains outlines, extensive cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, lessons to learn, and applications.  Visit our inductive Bible studies for more studies on this and other books of the Bible. 

Psalm 22 Bible Study Commentary And Questions – The Suffering Of The Messiah


I. David’s confusion (1-2)
II. David remembers God’s goodness (3-5)
III. David’s sufferings (6-8)
IV. David remembers God’s faithfulness (9-11)
V. David’s trials (12-18)
VI. David pleads with God for deliverance (19-21)
VII. David praises the Lord (22-31)

I. David’s confusion (1-2)

Discussion Questions

• Who wrote this psalm?
• What is the key theme of this psalm?
• Is this Psalm about David or Jesus or both? Explain.
• What do you observe about David’s emotions and feelings as he was praying this?
• Is it wrong to mention being forsaken and God not answering his prayers? Was this lacking faith?
• Have you ever felt like you were abandoned and God did not answer you?
• What might you be tempted to do during those times?
• What can you learn from David’s response when he was confused?
• What does this passage teach you about prayer?
• What prophecies in this Psalm did Jesus fulfill?


Matthew 27:46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Messianic psalm – Psalm 22 is one of the most famous Messianic psalms in Scripture. That means that many of the events described by the writer point forward to the life and experiences of the coming Messiah. While David was describing his own feelings and situation to some extent, at the same time he was being inspired by the Holy Spirit to write about the future Messiah. That future Messiah would be David’s descendant and often called “son of David.” (Luke 18:38). David’s life pointed to his.

Many of the things David describes in Psalm 22 were partially realized in his own life, but fully fulfilled in the Messiah.

For example:

• David felt forsaken. The Messiah would be forsaken to a much greater extent.
• David felt like a “worm” and “despised” by people. The Messiah would experience more deeply.
• David experienced mocking. The Messiah was ridiculed and scorned to the point his accusers killed him.
• David was prepared for a task from before birth (9-10), while the Messiah was chosen for to save the world from before the foundations of the earth were layed.
• David felt weak, stretched, and faint (14-15). The Messiah would literally experience all of these things.
• David was figuratively pierced. The Messiah would be literally pierced (16).
• David experienced hunger (17). The Messiah would be wracked on a cross so that his ribs could be counted.
• Whatever David experienced as far as his clothing being taken and gambled for, the Messiah watched as they gambled for his clothes while He was hanging on the cross.

The list goes on. As you read this Psalm the name, “Jesus!” yells at you from the pages. It is almost impossible to read this Psalm without thinking, “this sounds like Jesus.”

Even atheists and devout Jews who seek to deny the prophetic implications of this Psalm spend much time arguing against the fact that it refers to Jesus. They do this because it sounds like Jesus!

If something walks like a dog, barks like a dog, and looks like a dog, it is probably a dog.

In this case, the obvious references to the life, and especially the death, of Jesus on the cross cannot be denied.

And Jesus did not want people to miss it. When He was hanging on the cross, he quoted Psalm 22:1.

Matthew 27:46 – And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Why did He say these exact words at this exact time? Part of it was to call attention to the fact that He was fulfilling the prophecies made about the Messiah even in the Old Testament. Saying these words was a way to point all onlookers to Psalm 22. He is basically saying, “Look at Psalm 22! Don’t miss it! Don’t miss the implications of what I am doing here.”

2. This Psalm is evidence of the inspiration of Scriptures and God’s sovereignty – Fulfilled prophecy is one of the most convincing indicators that Scripture is inspired and credible. In Psalm 22, David writes in remarkable detail about the events surrounding Jesus’ death, which wouldn’t occur for over a thousand years. The descriptions very accurately portray death on a cross, which hadn’t even been invented yet!

And lest anyone say that Scripture has been changed over the years to force it to fit Jesus, when the dead sea scrolls were discovered a fragment of Psalm 22 was found that validated the modern translations we have of Psalm 22.

The Old Testament is filled with foreshadowing, types of Christ, prophecies, and symbols which point to the coming Messiah. God’s redemption plan was established before creation. This shows His sovereignty over history and the writing of Scriptures. It shows His providence in that He is not a passive observer of human history, but He writes the story. And it shows His grace as He gives us, His creation, ample evidence of what He is doing and going to do so that we have no excuse for missing it.

Reflect – Spend some time reading and meditating on this Psalm. Consider what these prophecies teach us about the character and nature of God.

3. David’s confusion – David felt that God had abandoned Him. We don’t know when he wrote this psalm, but there were many times in his life he faced serious trials. Often, he was on the run for his life. He had been anointed as king of Israel, and yet things didn’t go smoothly right away. Things got worse. Even later after he was king, he fought many battles. His own son attempted a coup and started a civil war. That civil war was followed by another civil war.

At some point during all of this, David cries out to God in confusion. And he did not immediately feel or see an answer (verse 2).

Reflect – Had God forsaken him? Was it wrong for him to pray this way?

God does not forsake His people. This is a promise.

Deuteronomy 31:6 – Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.

Believers are held safe in His hands.

John 10:27-28 – My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

And yet many times, it may feel as if God has forsaken us. When we experience pain, suffering, or terrible trials it is hard to see the hand of God in those situations. This is what David was feeling.

As we move forward, we will see that David expressed trust in God (verses 3-5), so he was not impugning God’s character. Rather he was attempting to understand why God allowed him to face such difficulties. He wanted to know God’s purpose in allowing these sufferings.

The best place to take our confusion is to God. When we have questions, we should ask Him. God knows our hearts already. There is no purpose in feigning total understanding or agreement with the situation we are in. Faking our feelings or attempting be more spiritual than what we are will get us nowhere.

If we do not understand something, we should ask God and study His Scriptures. The very same question can be asked in sincerity or out of disbelief (or even hostility). Mary and Zachariah both asked the angel how the prophecy regarding their prospective children could come to pass. The angel rebuked Zachariah but graciously answered Mary. Gabriel must have discerned that Mary asked out of a sincere desire to learn while Zachariah asked out of disbelief.

Application – Be honest with God. Take your confusion to Him.

We should point out that when Jesus cried out with these words to God, He was forsaken by God during that moment (at least on some level.) He took the sins of the world onto Himself and carried them on the cross. Because of that, God poured out His wrath upon Him. His perfect fellowship with God was severed.

We learn two key principles from this.

A. Jesus was truly forsaken so that you don’t have to be. He took your sin onto Himself so that you don’t have to bear it. When Jesus asked “Why have you forsaken me?” to the father, the answer is “so that I never have to forsake anyone else again.” Jesus is the way to the arms of the Father. And once you are safe in His arms, He will never let you go.

B. Know that however you may feel and whatever trials you are experiencing, Jesus faced far worse on your behalf. If your flesh cries out to God asking why He has abandoned you and doesn’t you, remember the truth. The truth is, He loves you. He does not forsake you. And that truth was proven on the cross. You might feel like you are abandoned, but feelings lie to us all the time.

Hebrews 4:15 – For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.II. David remembers God’s goodness (3-5)

Discussion Questions

• How does David deal with his feelings of doubt and confusion?
• Was he reminding himself of God’s holiness or praising God for it?
• How can you address feelings of doubt or confusion in your prayers?
• When you are feeling confused, how important is it to make statements of your faith in God during prayer time?


Proverbs 3:5 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Yet you are holy – David did not allow his feelings to take him off the deep end. As soon as he shared with God his confusion about his current situation, he immediately came back to the foundational truth, “yet you are holy.”

David held on to what he is sure of. He doesn’t attack God’s character. He knows God is holy and good. He repeats this to himself.

And in verses 4-5, he acknowledged that God has been faithful in the past. He has answered prayers. He has not abandoned His people. That knowledge gave David renewed faith and confidence in the Lord.

Application – David gives us a good model of prayer here. It is good to take our confusion to God. But we should not remain in a questioning posture for a long time. When our feelings make us question God’s plans, we should review the truths we know about Him. We should repeat back His promises. We should recall how He has been faithful in our lives in the past. We should make declarations of faith in God’s goodness. It can be helpful to take our eyes off of the immediate troubles surrounding us and lift them up to gaze at God. When we do, the potency of those troubles will fade.

III. David’s sufferings (6-8)

Discussion Questions

• Why did David describe himself as a worm?
• How was Jesus like a worm?
• Why was Jesus despised?
• How were verses 7-8 fulfilled in Jesus’ life?


Matthew 27:40-44 – “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.

Isaiah 53:3 – He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. I am a worm and not a man – David felt dehumanized by many of the things he faced. He wasn’t even treated like a man, much less like a king. A worm does not defend itself. It is trampled on, cast aside, and ignored. A worm is not valued or respected. It is despised.

This statement also points to Jesus. He was despised, disrespected, rejected, cast aside, and trampled. The cross dehumanized Him, robbing Him of His dignity.

The word in Hebrew for worm here refers to the kermes worm. The kermes worm is small and seemingly insignificant. But in ancient times, it was a source of crimson dye. The word crimson itself comes from the word “kermes.”

Its process for giving birth was very interesting. A female kermes worm would attach itself to a tree. Once attached, it wouldn’t leave. Its own body would protect its eggs. After they were hatched, the new larvae would feed on their mother’s body. After she died, crimson fluid would stain her body and leave a mark on the tree. It was from these dead bodies that scarlet dyes could be extracted in the ancient world. Finally, the body itself will turn white and fall to the ground like snow.

It is as if God put in nature a visible sign pointing to Jesus’ work on the cross.

Isaiah 1:18 – “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

IV. David remembers God’s faithfulness (9-11)

Discussion Questions

• What does David mean in verses 9-10?
• How would remembering these things help him face trials with the right attitude?
• How has God been faithful to you?
• How can you see God’s protection of Jesus when Mary was pregnant? How about after His birth?


Psalms 139:13-14 – For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. David’s prayer goes in cycles – First, he brings his confusion and despair to the Lord. Then he returns and grasps of the truths he knows about God’s character. These things helped keep him centered.

Next he shared about some of his trials and the rejection he faced from those around him.

After that, we see the same transition word, “yet.” He says, “yet you are he who took me from the womb.” David comes back to the solid truth that God has been faithful to him, even from the womb. That fact is true. And he could lean on it in times of discouragement.

Application – When feelings of despair or discouragement start to overwhelm you, bring those to God. Then recite Scriptures reminding you of God’s faithfulness. And review specific instances of how He has proved His faithfulness in your life over the years. Reviewing Scripture and remembering testimonies will help your emotions better reflect reality. You will gain perspective. And you will be encouraged.

2. Jesus was appointed to fulfill God’s redemptive plan even before birth – God used David. He had a plan for him from when he was in the womb.

That is even more evident in the life of Jesus. From before the beginning of the world, salvation was planned to come through Jesus. That would not work if something happened to Jesus and He lost His life before He could fulfill that purpose.

Therefore God protected Him. He was protected from having to grow up without a father in the home. And he was protected from Herod’s plot to kill all the male babies in Bethlehem. In both cases, God supernaturally protected him by giving a dream to key people. God was faithful to protect Jesus so that He would be able to fulfill every single aspect of God’s purpose for His life.

Application – Someone once said that we are immortal until God’s time for us is up. And that is true. This fact should help us to remember that God is sovereign. He has a purpose for you even in the midst of trials (Romans 8:28).

Next time you face trials which dishearten you, remember that God has a purpose for your life and that as long as you have breath, he is not through with you.

V. David’s trials (12-18)

Discussion Questions

• What do the bulls represent in this passage?
• Did verses 14-16 happen to David?
• How about to Jesus?
• Are they literal or figurative?
• What does it mean to be laid in the “dust of death?”
• What do dogs represent in verse 16?
• What evildoers encircled Jesus in His final hours?
• What does the “piercing” in verse 16 refer to?
• How were verses 17-18 fulfilled in Jesus’ life?


James 1:2-4 – Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Romans 5:3-5 – Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Bulls encompass me – David was not referring to a literal bull. In the Bible, bulls are often used metaphorically for strong people. Strong and powerful people had allied themselves against David.

They looked at him with evil intent like lions who are stalking their prey.

Reflect – Have you ever felt like the world was against you? What should we do in moments like those?

2. Verses 14-18 accurately describe a crucifixion – Most likely, David was using these words to poetically describe his own situation. He felt weak and faint. He felt like he was being ripped in two by outside forces. His heart felt like it was going to give way. And he had no strength.

What he was describing as something that he felt, literally happened to Jesus. The Spirit led David to write these inspired words which would point to the cross. Let us look at each phrase.

• I am poured out like water – It refers to Jesus’ lack of strength on the cross. Even while carrying the cross up the hill, Jesus could not carry on as He was too exhausted.
• All my bones are out of joint – A crucifixion does not generally rip bones out of joint, but it can. Certainly, he was wracked on the cross. And hanging from his hands and having to breath would pull him in two directions. This could be hyperbole or it could have happened to Him.
• My heart is like wax – God’s wrath came upon Jesus for our sin. At the same time, His heart would have been under intense pressure. Breathing was difficult. And His heart would have had to work very hard to pump blood throughout the body. Many medical experts believe Jesus’ heart ruptured (cardiac arrest) and caused His death.
• My strength is dried up – He would have been utterly exhausted on the cross.
• My tongue sticks to my jaws – He was very thirsty.
• You lay me in the dust of death – The experience ended with his death. In the Hebrew Old Testament, dust is often a metaphor for death.
• I can count all my bones – Stretched out and naked on the cross, his bones would have protruded for all to see.
• They stare and gloat at me – He was exposed. Even clothes were taken away. He lost all dignity as people stared at him hanging naked in public for all to see.
• They divide my garments and for my clothing they cast lots – Roman execution squads were permitted to keep the belongings of those they put to death. When things could not be divided equally, they might turn to gambling. This is what happened with Jesus’ clothes. Matthew 27:35 – And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots.

3. Dogs encompass me – It is similar to the statement that bulls encompass him in verse 12. A dog is less powerful than a bull. It is annoying and pesky.

Both the powerful people and the commoner turned against Jesus. At His trial before Pilate, the same crowds that had welcomed Him days before called for His crucifixion.

VI. David pleads with God for deliverance (19-21)

Discussion Questions

• What was David’s plea in verses 19-21?
• How was Jesus delivered after His death?

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. A shift to deliverance – The first eighteen verses of this psalm have been about the suffering servant. He is forsaken and ill-treated. Evil people gang up against him. Even God does not step in and immediately save him.

However, God does not finally forsake this person. Throughout Scripture, we see that God delights in exalting the humble.

James 4:10 – Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Psalm 22 accurately describes Jesus’ suffering and humiliation. His agony is clear. But the story does not end there. Starting in verse 19, there is a cry for deliverance.

There is going to be rescue and then triumph.

David was lifted up and saved from the lowest points of his life. And Jesus also was exalted (Philippians 2:3-10). The path through suffering ended with triumph over all of His enemies.

VII. David praises the Lord (22-31)

Discussion Questions

• What did David commit himself to do?
• What do you see in this passage that alludes to Jesus?
• How can deciding to praise God affect your attitude while you are facing trials?
• How do you see that Jesus fulfilled verse 27?
• What principle do you see taught in verse 29?
• What effect does Jesus’ death and triumph have even for those who die?


Philippians 2:10-11 – So that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Habakkuk 2:14 – For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. I will – David makes the commitment that he is going to praise God. He will testify of God’s goodness “in the midst of the congregation.” That refers to a public confession in front of his brethren. Perhaps this would be at the tabernacle. He then says, “I will praise you.”

Habakkuk made a similar resolution in Habakkuk 3:17-18.

David is choosing to exercise dominion over his feelings. He will not be run by them. His reaction to difficulties was a choice.

It is important for us to realize that we too have a choice in how we react to various trials.

Application – Have you made a similar commitment to the Lord? Have you resolved that you will praise God and testify of Him no matter what?

2. Verse 23 – In this verse, David exhorts others to make the same decision that he has. As he decides to praise God, so should they.

3. He has not hidden his face; He has heard – In the first two verses of this chapter David felt like God wasn’t hearing. During the process of this prayer, he has come to the clear realization that God does hear. He does not forsake His people. He does not hide His face. Prayer is not about changing God, but is about changing us. David’s dialogue with God reminded him of God’s goodness.

4. The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied – David confirms that it is worthwhile to praise God. His people may be afflicted for a while. They may go through a valley. They may face the night. But eventually, the suffering servant will be rescued. His prayers will be answered. He will be satisfied in the Lord.

Application – If you are experiencing a dark time now, be encouraged. There is light at the end of the tunnel. The light is found in Christ. If you draw close to Him, He will rescue you. When we are afflicted, let us not turn to the world for comfort. The world cannot satisfy us, but the bread of life can.

5. All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord – This is very prophetic. It did not happen in David’s day. It did not happen in the Old Testament. It started happening during the life of Christ. Magi came from far out of Israel to worship Him. Later in His life Samaritans and Greeks came to learn about Him (John 12:20). Still, these were just the first fruits.

It was only after His suffering was completed in His death and He rose again, did this start to happen in earnest. The disciples started taking this news around the world. And until now, the task of the great commission is still ongoing. Because of Jesus, the gospel would go the ends of the earth.

We see God’s vision for the world fulfilled in Revelation 7:9.

Revelation 7:9 – After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.

6. Before Him shall bow all who go down to the dust – Death is not the end. This verse clearly teaches there is a soul. Many believe that after death there is nothing. However, David proclaims that after death we will meet God and coming face to face with Him, we shall worship.

Jesus’ suffering on our behalf and then glorification prepares us for that day. His life, death, and resurrection affect us even after we die. He gives us hope.

7. We should be proclaiming His righteousness – How should we respond to what we have learned in this Psalm? One clear application is given to us in verse 31. We should “proclaim his righteousness.” We should tell others what He has done.

Reflect – Who can tell what you have learned in psalm 22 about Jesus, the inspiration of Scriptures, and prayer?

Final Note

Psalm 22 is very rich and deep. It is hard to do it justice in one study. This Psalm is worth spending more time meditating on.

Here are a couple of great resources to go even deeper into this chapter, which is one of the most important prophetic Scriptures in the Old Testament.

A detailed commentary of Psalm 22:

Looking at the apologetic significance of Psalm 22 by Mike Winger:

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