Dogs surround me; a pack of evil ones close in on me; dlike lions [they maul] my hands and feet.d (Psalm 22:17 NJPS)
d-d With Rashi; cf. Isaiah 38.13
כי סבבוני כלבים עדת מרעים הקיפוני כארי ידי ורגלי
Commenting on this portion of the Psalm, Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler say:
A graphic description of mortal illness. The psalmist feels his body stop working and disintegrate. He sees himself die , his body so dried up that it turns to dust. The scorners are like dogs (and lions, according to the NJPS) hunting prey (cf. v. 14). They gloat at his death and are eager to take his possessions.
The difficulty with the verse stems from the word, כארי which appears to come from כָּרָה meaning to dig or to excavate. Ellicott's Commentary details the issue:
They pierced.—The word thus rendered has formed a battle-ground for controversy. As the Hebrew text at present stands the word reads kāarî (like a lion). (Comp. Isaiah 38:13.) But no intelligible meaning can be got out of “like a lion my hands and my feet.” Nor does the plan commend itself of dividing the verses differently, and reading, “The congregation of wicked men have gathered round me like a lion. On my hands and my feet I can tell all my bones.” The punctuation of the text must therefore be given up, and a meaning sought by changing the reading.
As Ellicott notes, treating the word as "lions" creates problems, as the NJPS translation reflects. So "they maul" must be added to make sense of the passage and so "lions" is hardly an improvement. On the other hand, "they pierced" as in many Christian translations or "they pinned" as the NET, arguably are better than "lions;" yet they too fail to convey the proper sense of the Hebrew.
"Pierced" or "pinned" is seeing the passage through the lens of the Crucifixion. This may be criticized from the literal text, but it is Jesus' words from the cross which invite this perspective:
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 Mark 15:34) [ESV]
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me...(Psalm 22:2 NJPS)
As Jewish commentators note, Isaiah 38:13 uses the same word, which is rendered as lions there. However, Isaiah also gives this message about the prophetic word:
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55)
The example from the natural world is the word of God works like rain and snow that come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth... Rain waters the earth when it falls, but snow waters later only after it melts. Thus, an initial and later meaning are possible in a passage which is prophetic. In Psalm 22, the "snow" is reading the passage in the light of the Crucifixion.
In that case, the question is how does "digging" my hands and feet apply? "Pierced" or "pinned" misstate the action by describing the result after they the hands and feet were "digged." The meaning of כָּרָה as it applies to the crucifixion is in the process of finding the correct spot in which to drive the nails. The Roman soldier would have to "dig around" Jesus' body to make certain of the placement of a nail before he could drive them through a hand or foot and into the cross.
Any passage which speaks prophetically is fully understood after the "rain and snow." In the case of Psalm 22, the later meaning is seen in the Crucifixion. While "pierced" or "pinned" is not inaccurate because they describe what happened because of the "digging;" it would be better if the correct meaning was given:
Dogs surround me; a pack of evil ones close in on me; they dig my hands and feet.
The question then becomes how does "digging" my hands and feet make sense? The answer is, the nails must be correctly placed in order to support the body and so the Roman soldier would not simply nail a victim to the cross. They would carefully "dig" into the part of the body before driving the nail and in so doing avoid rupturing an artery of placing the nail in away which would not support the body.
1. Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler, The Jewish Study Bible, Edited by Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler, Oxford University Press, 2004, p.1306 (note the NJPS numbering is 22:17)