Psalm 22, 10 Oct 21

This is actually the third appearance in 2021 of this song, categorised as one of the many ‘individual laments’ in the Psalter. It usually arises on Good Friday by virtue of Jesus’ quoting it on the cross: ‘Why have you forsaken me?’ Then also the predictions, including:

They pierce my hands and my feet (16) They divide my garments among them; they cast lots for my clothing (18)

Then in May we heard the later verses of this long lament; and now we return to the first 15 verses heard on Good Friday. The mood is dark, which is what the lament was all about. As pointed out elsewhere, such songs are akin to the African-American spirituals and blues: Nobody knows the sorrow I’ve seen. Let it all out.

Despite the angst running through the song, it only takes two verses before David, to whom the song is attributed, turns to recognise the holiness and greatness of the divine spirit. He flings out declarations of the many ways in which this eternal love has protected the psalmist against all sorts of evils — the sword, wild bulls, lions, even packs of dogs.

Deus, Deus meus, respice in me, Psalm 22:1 in the Luttrell Psalter, c. 1330. British Library Add MS 42130 folio 42r. Note the tiny ’21:’ at margin left of illuminated capital D, indicating Psalm 21 in the Vulgate numbering.

Positive thoughts also appear, spirited reverence for divine sway over the creation and all nations, and a call to praise, not only for this understanding but also that this is the same God who: … did not despise the suffering of the afflicted one (or the poverty of the poor); nor turn away from me, but heard when I cried (v. 24)


Amongst early music settings, My God, look upon me, a delicate setting of Ps.22:1-3 by John Blow (1649-1708) is worth taking a moment to listen. Basses enter first with the theme tune, followed in turn by T, A then S for 60 bars of classic restrained imitation.

Incipit to SATB motet on Psalm 22:1-3 by John Blow (1649-1708)

At Woden Valley:

  • This week, the setting by Christopher Willcock in Together in Song No 9 is an appropriate choice to support the theme of valid lament.
  • Next week 17 October under Keith’s leadership, we shall return to the theme of verse 24 (quoted above).

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