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“From My Mother’s Womb” (Psalm 22:9–10), Part 1: The Artful Hebrew Bible

This is the fourth in a series of Hebrew and You looking at art in the Hebrew Bible as seen in Ps 22. The series began in April, a post that included brief descriptions of some features of Hebrew poetry. Two reminders once again: (1) we are following primarily the Hebrew versification, even though the titles to these series follow English versification, and (2) in the transliteration below hyphens (-) join multiple English words when they represent a single Hebrew word and an equals sign (=) marks the Maqqef (a mark in the Masoretic Text [MT] roughly approximating the English hyphen) joining multiple words into one stressed syllable or “beat.”

Because this post became longer than I wished, I have divided it into two parts. In this post we will make some general observations and see how to study rare words. In the second part next month we will take a closer look at the structural patterns and then draw out a devotional thought. Remember: Bible study is never complete until it results in worship.

Analyzing Psalm 22:10–11(E9–10)

As is our habit, we give the original text of these verses both in Hebrew and in transliteration labeling the verse lines and the “beat” count (Ct). After that is a wooden translation showing the correspondence between the Hebrew and the English words. Isolated words added for sense, especially forms to be, are in parentheses and do not count as a beat in the rhythm.





כִּי־אַתָּה גֹחִי מִבָּ֑טֶן


kî-ʾattâ ḡōḥî mibbāṭen


מַבְטִיחִי עַל־שְׁדֵי אִמִּֽי׃


maḇṭîḥî ʿal-šəḏê ʾimmî


עָלֶיךָ הָשְׁלַכְתִּי מֵרָ֑חֶם


ʿālêḵā hošlaḵtî mērāḥem


מִבֶּטֶן אִמִּי אֵלִי אָֽתָּה׃


mibbeṭen ʾimmî ʾēlî ʾāttâ


10 Yet=you (are) the-one-who-cares-for*-me since-(the)-belly;
(the)-one-who-earned-my-trust at=the-breasts-of my-mother.
11 Upon-you I-was-thrown* from-(the)-womb;
since-(the)-belly-of my-mother my-God (are) you.

* On these two words, please see the discussion on word studies below.

General Observations and Inferences

Recall that the psalm begins with a complaint: David focused on his plight (apparent abandonment by the Lord) in vv. 2–3(E1–2). The next stanza shifts to the Lord in which David makes a profession of trust recalling his past faithfulness to trusting Israel in vv. 4–6(E3–5). The third stanza shifts back to David giving a more specific description of the problem, the loathing he feels and receives in vv. 7–9(E6–8). This fourth stanza (vv. 10–11[E9–10]) is another profession of trust; this time, however, the psalmist recognizes the care he himself has received from the Lord.

This is what we see from the identities of the persons of interest, the genres, and the beat-count patterns so far:


Person of Interest


Beat Count






The Lord

Profession of Trust







The Lord

Profession of Trust


The beat counts vary in accordance with the shifts in person of interest and psalm genre. The repetitive patterns in the second and third stanzas seem to indicate a continuing of larger unit. The pattern for vv. 10–11(E9–10), 3-3-3-4, concludes with a line having one more beat than the three previous lines. This beat pattern may well correspond to the three-plus-one pattern seen in all genres of the Hebrew Bible.† In this pattern, the fourth item is a change some sort, e.g., a climax or reversal. In the case of vv. 10–11, the “change” is the conclusion of a poetic section larger than the stanza level in anticipation of a new unit.

† For further reading on these for example the following: on poetry see Bruce Waltke and Charles Yu, An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), 117; on narrative see “Three, Third” in Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, eds. Leland Ryken, Jim Wilhoit, et al. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 867; and on law see Duane L. Christensen, Deuteronomy 21:10–34:12, WBC 6B (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002), 605.

Studying Rare Words

The word גֹחִי (ḡōḥî) occurs only here in the Bible. Translations vary somewhat: “brough me out” (NIV), “brought me forth” (NASB), “took me” (NRSV, ESV), “brought me safely” (NLT). These all refer to the birthing process. This word is an active participle with a first person singular pronominal suffix. The participle is acting as a noun, hence the rendering “the one who ….”

As another possibility I have translated “the-one-who-cared-for-me.” Normally, the meaning of a word is determined by use in context. Ideally, the procedure is to look up all the occurrences of the word and determine the range of meaning based on contexts (see HRU, ch. 18, for more details). But what do you do if there is only a small number of contexts or even only one? You start with the immediate context. However, you must rely on the experts more than when there are plenty of occurrences including translations and word books. Here we’ll look briefly at semantic clues (i.e., based on word meaning) and structural clues (i.e., the poetic structures with and between poetic lines.

  1. Semantic contextual clues. The words in this stanza cluster around child/mother and care: womb, belly (in the sense of womb), mother, and breasts (in the sense of nursing). These images are all positive, comforting, and nurturing. The meaning of the verb גחה should fit this this situation.
  2. Structural contextual clues. Verse 10 is a bicolon. Understanding of parallelism in poetic text gives you a contextual clue that are less prominent in prose texts. In addition to the chiasm we identified above, there may be another tight parallel between 10a and 11a. It is possible that the word גֹחִי has a meaning parallel to the meaning of שׁלך III given above. The translation offered at the beginning reflects the idea of the Lord’s care for David since before his birth.

To this list we add the word thrown*. This verb (שׁלךee) is quite common in the Bible but the expression “throw from the womb” certainly seems odd to us. Still, it might be an idiomatic or even poetic way of referring to birth. However, the Dictionary of Classical Hebrew identifies three homonymous roots. The third (שׁלך III) they gloss “nourish, provide.” It is possible that there is in fact a double entendre in Ps 22:11a referring both to giving birth and to giving care. In either case, the idea of the Lord’s care from (in the temporal sense as in the translation “since” given above) is powerful.

I invite you to return next month for part 2 on these verses.

“All who see me mock me” (Psalm 22:6–8): The Artful Hebrew Bible
“All who see me mock me” (Psalm 22:6–8): The Artful Hebrew Bible This series of Hebrew and You is looking at art in the Hebrew Bible as seen in Ps 22. The series began in April, a post ...
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