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Once upon a time, there was this handsome young prince. His father the king, ruled his kingdom with love, mercy, justice and righteousness. But there were many people in the realm that did not accept his rule and rebelled against him. The king was hard pressed as to what to do. Any other monarch would have squashed the rebellion by killing all the rebels. But the king loved his people very much and did not want to destroy them.
The prince loved his father dearly. He devised a plan and took it to his father for approval. Upon hearing it the father gasped in pain and sadness. The son spoke of an idea to appeal to the heart of the rebels. The prince would take upon himself, the punishment of death for all the rebels, thus freeing them to return to the king. The son reasoned that only something that could pierce the heart, would ever have a possibility of turning the hearts of the rebels back to the king. The prince said that if they could understand that the king had given up his most precious possession, for them to be forgiven of their rebellion, they would come to see the great love that the king had for them, and they would return in humility. And so the two of them set out to do just that.
Fairy tale? Hardly. Just the opposite. A divine tale of love that will take eternity to comprehend and to experience. The greatest tale of all. You can read about it in the Book. It's all there; His love for you and me; our perverse hearts, and the sacrifice that He paid to get our attention, that we might return to Him and receive His most gracious Forgiveness and Life giving Love.
Unfortunately, there have been rebels who have rejected His Plan. Some of them have even twisted and distorted His Word, causing many to pass over aspects of the Tale and think nothing of it. One such place is Psalm 22:17:1
'For dogs have compassed me; A company of evil doers have inclosed (sic) me; Like a lion, they are at my hands and my feet.' 2
Psalm 22 is about a righteous man being brutally murdered (v 10-11,15-16, 20, 23), at the hands of rebels (v 13-14, 17-18), seemingly forsaken by God (v 2-3, 7-9). And yet the man's trust in God is so strong (10-11, 20-22), that he believes that God will raise him to life so that he may declare God's Righteousness and Love to Israel and the nations (23-32).
I have emboldened 'Like a lion...' because it is one word in Hebrew, and on this word hinges the meaning of the verse that intentionally has been hidden from us. As it traditionally stands, we might think that the 'company of evil doers' were 'like a lion' or with the power and fury of a lion, at the man's hands and feet. But what could that mean? Were they slapping his hands and his feet? Were they biting his hands and his feet?! Were they growling at his hands and his feet?!
The awkwardness of the translation is further compounded by realizing that the translators have been sloppy in their assessment of 'like a lion.' The Hebrew word 'kah-ah-ree' should normally be translated, 'like the lion.' Not a major difference but when seen in the context that the words, 'they are at...' (as in, 'Like a lion, they are at my hands and my feet'), are not in the Hebrew either, we have an extremely awkward sentence, even for Hebrew. It reads, 'Like the lion my hands and my feet.'
Immediately we see that the subject or action shifts from the evil men being at the man's hands and feet (which the placing of 'they' led us to assume; 'like a lion, they are at my hands and my feet'), to the man himself. Is one to think that the man, who is surrounded by those evil men, has the strength of a lion in his hands and his feet? Lion hands? This can hardly be what King David meant. Reading the two previous verses, we see that the man has absolutely no strength whatsoever:
'I am poured out like water and all my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax. It is melted within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd3 and my tongue cleaves to my jaws. And You lay me in the dust of death.'4 (Ps. 22:15-16)
The traditional Jewish translators have added the words 'they are at' to make it sound better in English, but those words aren't in the sentence. The traditional Jewish placing of 'they' might be seen being 'borrowed' from the previous phrase, as it is indirectly there; 'Evil doers (they), have inclosed me,'5 but this does not properly belong to the phrase as it stands. Also, there are no words or verb to give us 'are at'. All this has been added by the translators. The sentence, 'Like the lion my hands and my feet' makes little sense in Hebrew or English.
There is an alternate translation in the Septuagint, the Hebrew Bible translated into Greek about 250 BCE. This was made for Jews living outside the Land of Israel whose Hebrew was poor or non-existent. Because of Alexander the Great (330 BCE), Greek was the lingua franca of the day. The Rabbis who wrote the Septuagint translated the Hebrew word in Psalm 22:17 (that traditionally stands as 'like a lion'), into a Greek word that means, 'they pierced.'6 The Greek word those ancient Jewish scholars used was oh-rooks-sahn 7 It comes from the verb oh-roos-so 8 The ancient Rabbis knew the text as, 'They pierced my hands and my feet.'9 Those Jewish scholars didn't translate it as 'like a lion' because they saw a vav in the word and not a yod. This dramatically clashes with the traditional Jewish text of today. But 'They pierced my hands and my feet' is how the Jewish People understood Psalm 22:17, 280 years before the Prince had His hands and feet pierced to a tree in Jerusalem...for you my friend.
The Pierced Prince
With the 'clipping short' of one Hebrew letter, 'They pierced' was changed to, 'Like a lion'. We see this concept in English with letters that, with the 'clipping off' of part of the letter, become another letter. The English G clipped becomes a C; the E an F; and the R turns into a P; etc. In terms of how this effects a word, some permutations are: Gap to Cap; Rat to Pat; and Eat to Fat.
The Hebrew letters in question are the vav, a straight up and down line, like our small 'l' and the yod, a straight up and down line, about half the length of the vav, or half an 'l' that hangs from the top. As you can see, there is not much difference between the two of them. The vav is just a 'longer' yod. Without the vowels showing,10 the word can be either, kah-roo11 or kah-ah-ree.
The two words are identical in their consonental spelling, except for their last letter, the vav or the yod. (Hebrew is read from right to left, just the opposite of English.) With the vav (kah-roo), the word becomes, 'They pierced...' If we accept the yod of the Masoretic text (kah-ah-ree), it reads, 'Like the lion...'
The ancient Rabbis who wrote the Septuagint, must have seen a vav as the last letter of the Hebrew text that they had. The vav makes the word kah-roo ('they pierced'). This solves our grammar and translation problems. We now have a verb ('pierced'), and a pronoun ('they'). 'They pierced my hands and my feet.' The evil men pierced the hands and feet of the Prince.
The traditional Jewish text of today is a deliberate attempt on the part of the Masoretes12 to destroy the Messianic meaning, with its full implications of a Pierced Prince. It was common for the shorter yod to be lengthened, over many scribal copies, to become the longer vav, as one scribe would make the yod slightly longer and the next scribe might think it was a vav.13 But it is highly unlikely that the longer vav would be made shorter over time and thought to be a yod. Such a reversal, the vav being 'mistaken' for the shorter yod, could only be intentional on the part of the revisers of the text, especially as there are ample texts to determine the proper word.
The Hebrew word with the vav, kah-roo ('they pierced'), also appears in other Hebrew manuscripts, as well as the Syriac Bible for Psalm 22:17.14 By no means does the traditional Jewish translation of the text go unchallenged by ancient sources. Therefore, it's not just 'the Septuagint verses the Masoretic' version of the text, which would have been overwhelming evidence against the Masoretic version anyway.15 With many texts available to the translators, there is no justifiable reason to print, 'Like a lion' except to maliciously hide the piercing of the Prince. Against all these other manuscripts, the modern Rabbis find themselves alone in their incompetent and perverse translation of, 'Like the lion my hands and my feet.'
The only 'lion hands' that we find in the text are those lyin' hands that corrupted it. There have always been rebels who have hated the sacrificial Love of the King and His Son. In their arrogance they despise what the King has done for them. Those rebels have done their utmost to keep you from knowing the Truth about your God, and your Prince.
Two thousand years ago, God sent the Prince to be pierced. It was Their Plan. I know that there have been many vicious anti-Semites who have accused us Jews of being 'Christ killers'. Many of us have been murdered and persecuted because of that satanic lie. The divine Truth is that the Prince said that no one could take His life. He willingly laid it down (John 10:18), that we rebels, every Jew and every Gentile, could be forgiven of our rebellion against the King.
The human side of this Truth is that both Jew and Gentile pierced the Prince. Our highest authority, the Sanhedrin, declared that the Prince was a blasphemer (Matthew 26:65). Our High Priest placed the Prince under oath and demanded to know if He was the Prince, the Son of the King. He said that He was and the High Priest accused the Prince of blasphemy and the Sanhedrin condemned Him to death. But we Jews at that time did not have authority to kill anyone. That had been taken out of our hands by the Roman Empire. Pontius Pilate, representing Rome, and symbolically all the Gentile world, ordered the death of the Prince, thus implicating both Jew and Gentile of the most sinister murder and rebellion that the Heavens have ever witnessed.
Psalm 22 is a perfect picture of a man being crucified, 800 years before the Romans made crucifixion a means of death. King David, who wrote the Psalm, was also a prophet. He described what the Messiah, the Pierced Prince,16 would be going through for us as He cried: 'My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?' (Psalm 22:2, Matthew 27:46).
Have you ever felt forsaken and abandoned by God, surrounded and crushed by evil? The Prince has felt that too, so that you would know that He is able to feel and to understand your pain and confusion. He is also able to heal and to save you. (Isaiah 53:1-12; 61:1, Acts 3:15; 5:31, etc.). And His Father the King, has given all authority to the Prince for Final Judgment and Eternal Life. (Matthew 28:18; John 5:19-30; 17:2-3, etc.).
Fairy tale or divine drama? Once upon a time there was this handsome young Prince who was pierced, so that your heart might be also. And if you ask Him to come into your heart, you'll know why He's called the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). His Hebrew Name is Yeshua and He has made a way for you to come Home.
Hebrew Bibles list it as verse 17. Christian Bibles list it as verse 16. The reason for the difference is because the Hebrew Bibles count the heading ('For the leader...' or 'For the director of music...'), as verse one. The Christian rendering for verse one begins with, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' Because of this, the misalignment of one verse is very common in the Psalms. I'll be listing the Psalm from the Hebrew rendering.Merrill F. Unger, Unger's Bible Dictionary (Chicago: Moody Press, 25th printing, 1976), p. 877. A potsherd is, 'a fragment of an earthen vessel.' It's figuratively used of, 'that which is very dry.' This parallels the man's tongue cleaving to his jaws, as one would expect when extremely thirsty or dehydrated.These two verses, along with our verse, offer us a powerful description of what one would experience if they were being crucified. The whole Psalm is about the Prince being crucified. Verses 7-9, 13-14 and 17-18 are almost a word for word account of what will happen to the Prince (Matthew 27:35, 39-43; Mark 15:24, 29-32, etc.)R. L. Harris, Editor; Gleason Archer, Jr. and Bruce Waltke, Associate Editors, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. 1 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), p. 439. There are 32 occurrences of 'dog' in the Tanach, 'none of them positive.' '...for one's body to be eaten by dogs was the ultimate in tragic ends to a life.' The evil men enclosing the Prince (verse 17), is paralleled by the first phrase, 'For dogs have compassed me...'Hebrew vowels, mostly a series of dots and dashes, are generally placed under the Hebrew letters. Originally, these were not in the Hebrew Scriptures. They were inserted by the Masoretes about 900 years ago. So, we cannot look to the vowels to help us to understand this word. When we consider that King David wrote this Psalm about 3,000 years ago, we see a tremendous amount of time that lapsed between his writing it, and when the vowel pointing was added by the Masoretes.Dr. Francis Brown, Dr. S. R. Driver, Dr. Charles A. Briggs, based on the lexicon of Professor Wilhelm Gesenius; Edward Robinson, Translator and E. Rodiger, Editor, The New Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon (Lafayette, IN: Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1978), p. 468. The verb is translated as, 'to bore or dig or hew.' Dr. Brown translates our verse as, '...they have bored (digged, hewn) my hands and my feet...' Also in our word, the vav will change from its consonantal 'v' sound, to its vowel sound of 'ou.' The 'ou' attached to the verb then becomes a personal pronoun (they), a very common occurrence in Hebrew.Whether the Masoretes did the 'clipping' of the vav or those before them, is not important. What is significant is that the text was altered. It now has two variant readings. One that makes sense (the vav), and the other that doesn't (the yod). Obviously, someone tampered with the Hebrew text from the time that the Septuagint was written.The NIV Interlinear Hebrew-English Old Testament, vol. 3, p. 368. Footnote n states, 'Some Hebrew manuscripts, Septuagint and Syriac...' have kah-roo, (they pierced), while 'most Hebrew manuscripts' have kah-ah-ree, 'like the lion.' This means that there are a number of reliable texts that translate our word as 'they pierced' including Hebrew manuscripts and the Syriac Peshita, a direct translation from the ancient Hebrew Bible, like the Septuagint.Isaiah 53:5 speaks of the Prince being pierced but the English text of the Jewish Bible fails to bring this out, substituting the word 'wounded' instead. Zechariah 12:10 also has Him being pierced ('thrust him through') but the translation and subsequent note (a), obliterate the true meaning of the text.
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