Gilbert House Fellowship #370: Psalms 22–23

THE PSALMS OF DAVID are often prophetic. We know this. But we often overlook just how supernatural they are.

This week, we focus on two of the most profound and stunning psalms in the Bible. Psalm 22 begins with a line quoted by Jesus on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

It’s widely acknowledged by Bible scholars that the 22nd Psalm is a prophecy of the Crucifixion written more than 600 years before the Persians invented that horrific method of execution. However, verses 12 and 13 are usually misinterpreted. They read:

Many bulls encompass me;
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.

Psalm 22:12–13, ESV

Bible commentaries usually explain these verses as a reference to the well-fed livestock of ancient Bashan. That’s not what the passage means.

Bashan was a terrible place to raise cattle, which would have starved on the poor pastureland available on that rocky, volcanic soil. Goats and sheep thrived in Bashan, but the ancient kingdom of Og was not then, and is not now, a place that would support a thriving cattle operation.

The point is that the “bulls of Bashan” were not bovine, they were divine  (We’re borrowing a phrase from Dr. Robert D. Miller II, whose paper “Baals of Bashan” is the source of this information). These were dark spirits from the land known from the time of Abraham down to Jesus’ day as the entrance to the netherworld—an evil place with a name, Bashan, that literally means “place of the serpent.”

Then we move to the 23rd Psalm, one that many of us have memorized. We suggest that the valley of the shadow of death is a literal place—the Huleh Valley, which separates Bashan from the Upper Galilee. The valley is ringed with more than 5,000 dolmens, megalithic monuments to the dead that resemble giant stone tables (which is what dolmen means in the Brittonic language).

We base this analysis on the gospel of Matthew, where he writes:

Now when [Jesus] heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
    the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—

the people dwelling in darkness
    have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
    on them a light has dawned.”

Matthew 4:12–16, ESV

Matthew quoted from Isaiah 9:1–2, the beginning of the messianic prophecy that includes the lines, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given”. The Way of the Sea is the Roman road, the Via Maris, that ran from Egypt through Judea, north through Galilee alongside the west shore of the Sea of Galilee, north through the Huleh Valley, and then “beyond the Jordan” (i.e., east) toward Damascus.

In other words, Jesus’ move from Nazareth to Capernaum, on the north end of the Sea of Galilee, fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy of a light dawning on those living “in the region and shadow of death”.

This makes this verse all the more powerful:

You prepare a table before me 
in the presence of my enemies
you anoint me head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Psalm 23:5, ESV

In the context of the pagan rituals for the dead, especially in the region of ancient Bashan, this verse is a celebration of Christ’s victory of the fallen spirits who have rebelled against their Creator—and who want to take us to destruction with them.

If you’re coming with us to Israel, we can’t wait to share the adventure with you! Here’s a link to some helpful tips to prepare from Lipkin Tours.

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TRAVEL WITH US TO TURKEY! Join us and our special guests Dr. Judd Burton and Dr. Aaron Judkins as we visit the churches of Revelation, Göbekli Tepe, Abraham’s home town Harran, the “Gates of Hell,” Mount Nemrut, and much more. Dates are October 17–November 3, 2023. More information is available at

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