Jewish learning A Psalm, Queen Esther and Us
Psalm 22 is one of the most well-known biblical texts among contemporary Christians, but many Jews today barely recognize it. The reason for this difference is largely because, according to the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, it contains the words Jesus cried out while being crucified: Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? This Aramaic statement is a direct translation of Psalm 22:2 (originally written in Hebrew): “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
The crucifixion narratives have played an essential role in the lives of countless Christians for millennia. No part of this psalm has served nearly the same function in the Jewish religious imagination. But these words—and the psalm as a whole—have been valuable to many Jews over the generations, especially those experiencing hardship. Not only does the psalm give readers permission to express their own pain and disappointment with God, but it moves from an opening cry of abandonment to praise for God’s deliverance. The psalmist thus offers the seeker hope in the possibility of salvation.