It is written:
“Many bulls have surrounded Me; Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me.” (Psalm 22:12)
This passage teaches us that the Messiah’s suffering and death were instigated by the powers of Satan, fallen angels, and demonic spirits.
Bashan (modern day Syria) was a country that in the ancient Jewish mind was associated with the gates of Hell. Within the borders of Bashan was the famous mountain known as Mount Hermon. In Old Testament history, this location was replete with supernatural significance. We are told in Genesis 6:1-4 about the rebellion of the fallen angels and humanity in creating the Nephilim, a (mostly) wicked race of creatures that were half-angelic and half-human in nature. Their wickedness was so pronounced that it led God to bring the Flood upon the world.
According to the ancient book of Enoch, the fallen angels made a covenant together to rebel against Heaven in this scheme. The place where they made this alliance was on Mount Hermon, located in Bashan. Therefore the Jewish mind, Bashan was looked upon as the headquarters of Hell on Earth. Heiser has noted:
“In effect, Bashan was considered the location of (to borrow a New Testament phrase) “the gates of hell.” Later Jewish writers understood these conceptual connections. Their intersection is at the heart of why books like 1 Enoch teach that demons are actually the spirits of dead Nephilim. 17 Lastly, aside from Bashan being the gateway to the underworld, the region has another sinister feature identified in the Deuteronomy 3 passage: Mount Hermon. According to 1 Enoch 6:1–6 , Mount Hermon was the place where the sons of God of Genesis 6 descended when they came to earth to cohabit with human women—the episode that produced the Nephilim. 18 Joshua 12:4–5 unites all the threads: “Og king of Bashan, one of the remnant of the Rephaim, who lived at Ashtaroth and at Edrei and ruled over Mount Hermon.”” (Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, 3752-3759 (Kindle Edition); Bellingham, WA; Lexham Press)
What about the “bulls” that the Psalmist here discusses?
In the Bible, we see that often times supernatural spiritual beings are personified with different kinds of animals. The Bible especially documents these connections between “bulls” and the spirit world:
“Calves and bulls played a prominent role in the art and religious texts of Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, Phoenicia and Syria. In the biblical narrative, golden calves were worshiped under Aaron at Sinai (Ex 32) and later under Jeroboam I (1 Kings 12). In both cases the calves were identified as representations of Yahweh and linked to his power in bringing the people out of Egypt. The calf, as the issue of the powerful bull (see Ox, Oxen), functions as a symbol of potential power and perhaps even symbolizes the relationship of the king to deity with overtones of divine kingship. A calf ’s head decorated the back of Solomon’s *throne (1 Kings 10: 19). Calflike feet contribute to the wonder of the composite creatures in Ezekiel’s (Ezek 1: 7). The second of the four living creatures surrounding the heavenly throne in the Apocalypse has the features of a calf (Rev 4: 7 NASB).” (Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, Tremper Longman III, Dictionary of Biblical Imagery: An Encyclopedic Exploration Of The Images, Symbols, Motifs, Metaphors, Figures Of Speech And Literary Patterns Of The Bible,132 (Kindle Edition); Downers Grove, Illinois; IVP Academic)
Neighboring cultures of the Hebrews also made comparisons between the bull and the world spirit world:
“Herne is another version of a more widely worshiped being called Cernunnos, whose name derives from the Pillar of the Boatmen, a Roman column erected in Lutetia (modern-day Paris) in honor of Jupiter, but features images to other gods as well, including a horned man in a seated position. This being is listed on the pillar as Cernunnos. He is a god of fertility and the woodlands, associated with animals and plants (according to the pillar’s imagery) and wearing torcs or rings on his antlers. Other depictions show him wearing a torc round his neck and holding another in his right hand. His name refers to his horned state (cern being etymologically related to the proto-Indo-European word krn). He is also associated in imagery with the “ram-horned serpent,” and less frequently with bulls, dogs, and rats. The god’s horns represent power, virility, and aggression. In ancient Mesopotamia, horned gods abounded, usually representing a bull-like (bovine) physiology. The Bible speaks of the “bulls of Bashan,” referring to spirit beings, not actual cattle.[ 218] A bull’s horns may be seen in the crescent moon (the god Nanna or Sin), and in the god Kronos, also a name based on krn.[ 219] God specifically forbade woodland rites, condemning them.” (Sharon K. Gilbert & Derek P. Gilbert, Veneration: Unveiling the Ancient Realms of Demonic Kings and Satan’s Battle Plan for Armageddon, 1960-1965 (Kindle Edition); Crane, MO; Defender Publishing)
Archaeologists have further confirmed these connections between demons and the bovine:
“But the psalmist wasn’t shown a vision of angry bulls from the Golan Heights surrounding Christ on the cross. He was given a glimpse into the future at spirits from Bashan, demonic entities represented by bulls, who surrounded the cross to celebrate what they thought was their victory over the Messiah. Confirming this interpretation of Psalm 22: 12, Old Testament scholar Dr. Robert D. Miller II recently used archaeological and climatological evidence to prove that “the phrase Bulls of Bashan refers not to the bovine but to the divine, [and] moreover that Iron Age Bashan would have been a terrible land for grazing and the last place to be famous for beef or dairy cattle.” (Derek P. Gilbert, Last Clash of the Titans: The Second Coming of Hercules, Leviathan, and the Prophesied War Between Jesus Christ and the Gods of Antiquity, 80 (Kindle Edition); Crane, MO; Defender Publishing)
The hordes of Hell encircled Jesus at the time of His crucifixion.
Yet through His death, He defeated Satan and all of his forces (Hebrews 2:14-15)-and through Him, we have the victory (Romans 5:1-5; 6:3-4).
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.