In the book "Vetus Testamentum Hebraicum : cum variis lectionibus" Kennicott, Benjamin, a comparison of manuscripts with the Masoretic text is given, of which more than 600.


In the book of Psalms. 22:17 (v16 in some modern Bibles), in the word כארי ("like a lion"), there are different readings in the manuscripts with the Masoretic text.

Examples of discrepancies:

a) Instead of כארי ("like a lion"), it is written כארו (manuscripts numbers: 39, 267, 270, 277, 288, 660)

b) Instead of כארי ("like a lion"), it is written כרו ("dug") (manuscripts numbers: 283, 291)

c) The word כארי ("like a lion") is written, but in the margins it is also written כרו ("dug") (manuscript numbers: 539, 542, 649)

But I can't find the meaning of this Hebrew word: כארו

I made a screenshot from the book "Vetus Testamentum Hebraicum : cum variis lectionibus", where I highlighted the word כארי in Psalm 22:17 and indicated with an arrow where there are discrepancies on this word.

enter image description here

  • 1
    Hi, Steve. Thanks for the reply. I looked through the link. Unfortunately, there is only a partial answer to my question there. The meaning of the Hebrew word כָּֽאֲרִ֔וּ (ka’aru) is not studied. Commented Sep 26, 2022 at 8:34
  • 1
    Thanks Sebastian, apologies for the confusion. I've reopened the question.
    – Steve can help
    Commented Sep 26, 2022 at 13:24
  • 1
    related: "How should Psalm 22:16 read?"
    – Steve can help
    Commented Sep 26, 2022 at 13:26

3 Answers 3


I think what you are seeing here is a combination of two of the oddities of Hebrew that come in with the language having evolved. In the Books of Moses, for example, this spelling would not have existed. It took time before the "waw" (sometimes referred to as "vav") began to be used as a vowel, appearing, as here, as if it were a consonant. Furthermore, the "aleph" being silently dropped at times is a known exception as well but which goes beyond the scope of this answer to explain.

Three Root Letters

Hebrew nouns, verbs, and adjectives typically (not always, but by far most of the time) have three root letters. Words coming short of three root letters will often have a "hidden" letter, typically a "yod" or an "aleph"--these exceptions are studied in upper-level Hebrew courses. In this case, the final "waw" appears to represent a vowel--one of the few consonantal-style usages of vowels in ancient Hebrew.

Ancient Vowels

As excerpted from the Biblical Archaeology Society's online archive:

So the question is: Did Hebrew have vowels in its written alphabet?

In its earliest phases, around the 10th century B.C.E., there weren’t any vowels in the Hebrew abjad (the word for consonantal alphabets that begin with the equivalent letters a, b, g, and d). Only 22 consonants were used to make up words. However, as more people learned Hebrew and its grammar became more sophisticated, some of these letters began to serve a dual purpose as vowel letters. Specifically, these letters—the waw (ו), yod (י), aleph (א), and later the heh (ה)—were sometimes used as matres lectionis, Latin for “mothers of reading,” to help readers pronounce some words that were commonly mispronounced or misunderstood.

Finding the Meaning

Understanding the spelling will open the door to finding the correct meaning. You will be misled if looking in a lexicon for the apparent four-letter word, because it should have just three letters. You need to seek for "כאר" instead, dropping that final "waw" which is actually a vowel. The meaning for this is presented on BibleHub.

Scrolling down a bit on that BibleHub page, we find the following insight from Brown-Driver-Briggs (BDB):

Brown-Driver-Briggs [כאר] see II. כור.

II. [כוּר] verb meaning dubious, perhaps bore, or dig, or hew (DlProl. 121 compare Assyrian kâru, fell trees (DlHWB 324)) — only

Qal Perfect3plural כארו = כָּארוּ for כָּרוּ Psalm 22:17 (ᵑ0 כָּאֲרִי, see אֲרִי) they have bored (digged, hewn) my hands and my feet (si vera lectio; compare Vrss De Pe Che Bae and others; some, however, deriving from כרה in this sense); hence perhaps following.

Notice that "כארו = כָּארוּ for כָּרוּ Psalm 22:17" particularly. In this case they have identified the final "waw" as equivalent to the shuruk, with the addition of the mappiq.


The three root letters to focus on for this word in Psalm 22:16 (KJV) are "כאר". That Hebrew word corresponds to Strong's number H3738, and likely means "to bore (through)" or "to pierce" in this context.


The following is from John Brug's commentary on the psalms. It walks one through the variant reading vs. the masoretic text:

Special note on verse 17

One of the most interesting and significant textual variants in the Old Testament occurs in Psalm 22:17 (22:16E). The Hebrew text reads:

כִּי סְבָבוּנִי כְּלָבִים עֲדַת מְרֵעִים הִקִּיפוּנִי כָּאֲרִי יָדַי וְרַגְלָי:

The NIV translates:

Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.

The critical words are the last three words of the verse. In translating "They have pierced my hands and my feet,” the NIV is adapting a different reading than the Masoretic text, which reads, “like· the lion (כָּאֲרִי) my hands and my feet." A number of Greek and Hebrew manuscripts lend support to the reading preferred by the NIV. Because of the importance of this passage, we will take a more detailed look at the textual evidence.

  1. The readings כָארוּ and כארוּ, found in a few Hebrew manuscripts including one of the Dead Sea Scrolls from Nahal Hever, are 3rd plural perfects apparently from the verbal root כאר or כור. The NIV translates “They have pierced” The difficulty with this translation is that the verb which may be translated "pierce” is usually spelled כרה, not כאר or כור, Furthermore, it usually refers to digging more than to piercing. This root appears 15 times in the Old Testament. The NIV translates it as "dig” 12 times and as "pierce” only twice (in Ps 22:17 and Ps. 40:7). Even in Psalm 40:7 this verb appears to refer to the “digging out" or the "opening" of the ears, not to the piercing of the ear described in Exodus 21:6. Exodus 21:6 uses a different word for “pierce” (רצע).

  2. The Septuagint reading ὤρυξαν also means "They pierce" or “They dig.” This understanding is followed by the Syriac, the Old Latin, and the Vulgate (foderunt). The rendering of Aquila’s first edition, ᾔσχυναν (“they disfigure”), also appears to support this reading.

  3. Jewish revisions of the Greek translation by Aquila and Symmachus read “They bind" (ἐπέδησαν and δῆσαι). Jerome supports this reading in his Psalterium iuxta Hebraeos, which reads vinxerunt ("They bind"). An alternate reading in his Psalterium iuxta Hebraeos is fixerunt (“'I'hey fasten [to the cross]”). These renderings seem to be guesses, attempts to find an appropriate verb with “hands and feet."

  4. A solution which retains the consonants כארי is to repoint these consonants as a plural participle of כאר (either as the construct חֹארֵי or as the absolute with omission of the final ם ), “They are piercing my hands and feet."

  5. The Masoretic reading is supported by a Greek manuscript from the Cairo Genizeh (ὡς λέων). The Targum seems to conflate both readings: "They bite like a lion" (נכתן היך כאריא).

It is significant that all the ancient versions agree that the word in question is a verb form. Only the pointing of the Masoretic text adopts the reading as a noun, “lion.” This reading, which eliminates any possibility of a reference to crucifixion, was finalized long after Christ fulfilled this prophecy. It is possible that polemics between Christians and Jews had an influence on the Masoretes’ pointing of this word. Luther believed that the text had been altered by Jewish interpreters to deny messianic implications. The reading "like a lion" may, however, simply be a misunderstanding of a difficult text, which was prompted by the mention of attacking animals in the context.

Many modern translations either follow the Masoretic text or amend the text in some other way to avoid any reference to crucifixion, which they would regard as an anachronism. The New " RSV, for example, renders "My hands and feet have shriveled.The modern critics’ prejudice against messianic prophecy may be reflected in the statement of the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (TDOT), which says that כרה may mean “bind" only in Psalm 22:17 (VII, p 305). They will accept a unique meaning as long as it is not “pierce."

Psalm 22:17 may be one of the comparatively rare cases in which other versions preserve a better reading than the standard Hebrew text. lf we accept the NIV translation, the verse is a striking description of the process of crucifixion. The combination “hands and feet" is very specific. It is difficult to imagine why this wording would be chosen to describe the wounds inflicted by a lion. People are worried about lions biting their necks, not their hands and feet. The unusual combination “hands and feet" lends support to the traditional claim that we have here an allusion to Jesus’ crucifixion. It is noteworthy, however, that this passage is not cited as messianic in the New Testament although several other verses of this psalm are.

Hopefully this will give you a head-start to answering your question.


"Eri" אֱרִי (Dig) | "Ka-Ari" כָּ-אֲרִ֔י (Like-Lion) meaning [overpower] analogous simile to fierce attacks felt by King David in Tehillim 22:17 and by King Chizkiyahu in Yeshayahu 38:13.

Rashi on Tehillim 22:17

"like a lion, my hands and feet" As though they are crushed in a lion’s mouth, and so did Hezekiah say (in Isaiah 38:13): “like a lion, so it would break all my bones.”


  • If כִּעֲרוּ Ki'aru had been written in Tehillim 22:17 (with an Ayin not an Alef) then the Ivrit meaning would be "they defaced" like אָרוּ "Aru" (they harvested).

כְּרֵי, כְּרָא to dig, bore : https://www.sefaria.org/Jastrow%2C_כְ%D6%BCרֵי.1?lang=bi&with=Jastrow&lang2=en

Unseemly כאר "Ka'ar" (a secondary form of base כער), the Klein Dictionary states
כאר [means] to be ugly, be unseemly. — Hiph. - הִכְאִיר he made ugly. — Hoph. - הֻכְאַר was made ugly. — Nith. - נִתְכָּאֵר became ugly.


“Kaar” : כָּעַר, כָּאַר (cmp. כָּעַס) to be dark, ugly, repulsive (cmp. אוּכְמָא).—Part. pass. כָּעוּר, כָּאוּר; f. כְּעוּרָה; pl. כְּעוּרִים, כְּעוּרִין; כְּעוּרוֹת, כְּא׳ a) ugly, ungainly.


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