King James Bible For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet

JPS Tanakh 1917 For dogs have encompassed me; A company of evil-doers have inclosed me; Like a lion, they are at my hands and my feet

Which translation is correct?


The JPS translation is more faithful to the Hebrew wording of the MT here. The original word, כארי, means "like a lion". See H738 here.

The KJV may be following the understanding of some commentaries, such as Rashi (here in Hebrew), which understand this verse to mean that "my hands and feet have been attacked by a lion" i.e. they have been pierced by it's teeth.

(Note that in Strong's concordance linked above, the definition of pierced is noted, and sourced to the KJB margin, however, there were no marginal notes on this verse, so I don't know what motivated that.)

It is more likely that the KJV abandons the MT here, and follows a variety of other versions, as explained in the Cambridge commentary:

The A.V. here rightly deserts the Massoretic text in favour of the reading represented by the LXX, Vulg., and Syr., which have, they dug, or, pierced. Another group of ancient Versions (Aq. Symm. Jer.) gives they bound. (Fixerunt in some editions of Jerome is a corruption for the true reading vinxerunt.) The Massoretic text has, like a lion my hands and my feet. A verb did they mangle must be supplied, but the construction is harsh and the sense unsatisfactory. It seems certain that a somewhat rare verb form כארו (kâ’ărû), ‘they pierced,’ has been corrupted into the similar word כארי (kâ’ărî), ‘like a lion.’ The Targum perhaps preserves a trace of the transition in its conflate rendering, biting like a lion.

The alternative word would be found as H3738, which means dug, but could technically mean pierced.

  • 1
    Isn't the only difference between ka'ari (like a lion) and ka'aru (they pierced) only a yod and waw? Which look similar except the waw is a longer line. Ive heard there was a dead seal scroll fragment that had ka'aru which means they pierced. Have you heard anything about that?
    – diego b
    Jul 17 '18 at 20:44
  • @diegob indeed, the difference is only the final yod and waw. However, ka'aru does not usually contain an aleph, but rather is simply khaf resh waw. Based on what I looked up in the dead sea scroll fragment just now, it contains two letters that appear to be a khaf and resh, which does make it seem like the root was Karu (dug) rather than Ari (lion), as there was no Aleph present at all. However, the final letter(s) of this word is not seen on the fragment.
    – user22655
    Jul 17 '18 at 20:52
  • ok thank you. If you can add a section dealing with the dead sea scroll fragment I would greatly appreciate it and accept your answer.
    – diego b
    Jul 17 '18 at 20:58
  • The fact that Jesus quotes the beginning of this Pslam fastened to the cross by the nails in His hands and feet, and the Evangelists record it, reduce the chances of it originally reading 'like a lion' instead of 'they have pierced' to almost nothing in my opinion. Jul 17 '18 at 21:08
  • Basically we are talking about "lion" vs "lion" with a different ending, like maybe "liony". "Lion" means "lion" and "liony" means "like a lion attack". Might "liony" might imply "by piercing"?
    – Ruminator
    Jul 17 '18 at 22:16

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