Psalm 22 is a wonderful example of the richness and depth of meaning that can be derived from almost every word as it is written in Hebrew. There are several words and phrases in particular that do not make a lot of sense in English in this Psalm that in Hebrew have tremendous meaning. As one example (see this post) that I wrote about a couple of years ago, verse six begins with But I am a worm, and no man, and from a superficial reading of that phrase it certainly makes no sense. Why compare Christ to a worm?
A more in depth examination of the language found here uncovers beautiful symbolism and profound meaning: There are three Hebrew words that are translated into worm in English, and the two occurring most frequently refer to entirely different creatures and carry completely opposite symbolic meanings. Both of these Hebrew words are found in Job 25:6 and are translated as worm in English:
How much less man, that is a worm? And the son of man, which is a worm?
Again, in the English translation finding meaning is difficult, but turning to the Hebrew provides tremendous meaning. The first worm in this verse, which is associated with imperfect man, in Hebrew refers to a typical worm, which is involved in the process of decomposition and returning living matter into the earth. The second worm, which is associated with God in this verse, in Hebrew is a different creature altogether and is associated with life and new life in a wonderful way both in reality and symbolically.
This second worm is the crimson worm (coccus ilicis). When the female crimson worm gives birth she attaches herself to a tree or other form of wood and makes a hard shell. She attaches so securely to the wood that the shell cannot be removed without tearing her flesh completely apart and killing her. After attaching to the tree she then lays her eggs under her body, which is under the protective shell. When the baby worms hatch they remain there where the mother worm provides protection, and where they feed on the still living body of the mother worm. After a few days the young worms are able to live on their own, and at that point the mother worm dies, oozing in her death a crimson dye, which stains the wood to which she is attached as well as staining the baby worms so that they are colored crimson for the remainder of their lives. Finally, three days after her death the mother crimson worm loses her crimson color, turns into a white wax, and falls to the ground.
This entire process is richly symbolic of the sacrifice of Christ, as He died for us on the cross, and in that sacrifice makes us His children; as He provides protection from evil and becomes for us the bread of life; as He bled from every pore, and we are washed clean and transformed through His blood; and finally as He voluntarily lay down His life on the cross and three days later took His body up again in His resurrection, transformed and perfected.
Returning to Psalm 22:6, Christ is well typified by the female crimson worm who gives life to her children through her total sacrifice and death, and just as that creature is wholly different from a typical worm who is associated with decay and the earth, Christ is no man, in that He is completely different from fallen man in His sinless nature and matchless character.
One characteristic of the crimson worm and its symbolism of Christ that is particularly meaningful to me is the securely fixed attachment the crimson worm makes to the wood. There is nothing that can dissuade and prevent the crimson worm from making her sacrifice for her children except external force beyond her own strength, leading to her death.
Similarly, the atoning sacrifice of Christ is firmly secured from before the creation due to His completely pure and infinite love for His children. One crucial and comforting difference between the crimson worm and Christ here is that in the case of Christ there is no opposing power able to overcome His love and power and by force prevent Him from accomplishing His mission. Death did not and cannot overcome Him; He conquered death. Hell did not and cannot overcome Him; He conquered hell. He overcame all things and truly is the resurrection and the life.
Another word that is profoundly meaningful to me in Psalm 22 is found in verse two. Verses one and two read as follows with this word being the last word of verse two:
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?
O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.
The Hebrew word translated as silent comes from a root verb that means to be brought to silence, to be cut off or destroyed. This verb appears in a number of the prophetic books of the Old Testament. Silent derived from this root verb is a noun rather than an adjective as it is translated in English at the end of this second verse. This noun only appears four times in the Old Testament, in each case in the Psalms, and it describes the condition of waiting in stillness for salvation. It is meaningful to me that each of the four occurrences of this word appears in the Psalms, as it is David who waits in stillness with expectation for the Lord to redeem him from hell. (see Psalm 16:10) One example of this usage is found in Psalm 62:1, translated as waiteth:
Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him cometh my salvation.
Significantly the occurrence of this word in Psalm 22 is different from the other three occurrences in that in this psalm it appears as a lack of expectation--it is clear that for the Messiah there is no waiting in stillness for salvation. He bears the full weight, horror, and agony of the pains, sickness, death, and sin of His people, and through this infinite and unfathomable sacrifice He is salvation, not being saved but providing salvation, not being delivered from His suffering but overcoming all things and becoming the Great Deliverer.
Another meaningful link in Hebrew with this word is with earth, man, and blood. In this sense this wording could indicate that there is no earthliness to him, or as in the above, that he is no earthly man. It may also be meaningful in the sense of its link to blood: This second phrase of the second verse specifically is linked to the night, and it is in the darkness of the night before the crucifixion that Christ bled from every pore, leading to questions in my mind: Did Christ shed all of His blood from His body during His suffering both in the garden and on the cross, and thereby, as that phrase could be understood, in the night literally there is no blood to him? When His suffering was finished was He filled with spirit rather than blood as part of the process of His unique death, resurrection, and judgement. One other component of His suffering that may be related to His loss of blood is that He suffered thirst more than is possible for mortal man to suffer:
And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people. Mosiah 3:7
These questions remain without answer for me. I feel strongly in these matters not to express my musings and opinions as more than that. In general with Christ I am careful not to limit Him, place human characteristics of imperfection on Him, or feel that I am able to comprehend Him beyond a point in my thoughts due to the limitations of my own mind and heart--not presuming to fathom the Unfathomable. It is enough for me to think of Him often, asking the questions, contemplating, worshipping, and engaging in my own stillness and waiting for salvation made possible by all that Christ did, offers, and is.