It is written:
“For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet.” (Psalm 22:16)
In graphic description, Psalm 22 describes the agonies of the Cross that the Messiah would endure during the terrible and excruciatingly slow death of crucifixion. In our day and age, we are removed from the details involving crucifixion. Therefore, it will be helpful for us to see what is actually involved in this horrible form of execution.
Prior to the crucifixion there was a process known as the “scourging.” This was a common element of crucifixion process, and the Lord Jesus underwent this brutal treatment.
John 19:1-So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him.
What was involved in this “scourging?”
“The Romans humiliated the scourged in many ways to shame them to the most extreme manner possible. Unless it was the chosen method of execution, the lictors (executioners trained in torture) halted their assaults just short of death—distinguishing it as the halfway death.[ 20] The Roman scourge was unlimited in the number of thrashes given. The judge determined the severity and the number, and these components varied in individual cases. Pries estimated some lictors inflicted as many as seven hundred twenty-four stripes.[ 21] They marred the whole body with lashes.[ 22] The Romans embarrassed the flogged to deter similar crimes against Rome by others. Thus, the Roman scourge differed from the Jewish flagellation in purpose, in technique, and in severity.[ 23][ 24]…“Nude and tightly secured, the criminal was helpless. He was unable to protect his extended body or his face from the flogging. [ 53][ 54][ 55][ 56] His public nakedness wreaked more embarrassment on one already ashamed. In Oriental culture, himas possessed a defiled connotation, and the whole process debased those who suffered it.[ 57] After stretching out the victim, the lictors flayed him with full force. One to six lictors typically participated in the scourge—with each whipping until they tired.[ 58][ 59] The assailants used different directions to subject as much of the doomed man’s body to the torture as was possible. They rotated the victim to inflict the torment on every part of the body. The degree and the form of the punishment varied from region to region, from lictor to lictor, from judge to judge, and from crime to crime. Thusly, not all the scourges were the same….“Even though the severity of the flogging varied, the Romans intended “to weaken the victim to a state just short of collapse or death.”[ 68] The lictor would test the pulse of the wounded if he fainted to insure he had not endured too much. Fainting protected the body from further knowledge of pain. The Romans prevented this escape to disallow any reprieve from the intense suffering. If the victim’s pulse was still strong, the officer revived the doomed—only to inflict more stripes.[ 69][ 70] To awaken the unconscious victim, they kicked the sufferer, or they doused the scourged with cold water.[ 71][ 72] The shock of the cold water on the fresh wounds caused great discomfort, for the severed nerve endings were hypersensitive. They repeated this process until they determined the abused was at a fatal end.[ 73][ 74] Thus, the populace named the Roman flagellation, the half-way death.[ 75] Jesus used this same manner of language to describe the wounded man who was left for dead after his beating in “The Parable of the Good Samaritan.”…“To scourge the victims, the Romans utilized the flagrum—a whip with multiple leather straps attached to a handle. The number of leather thongs varied, but there were sometimes as high as nine straps attached (the infamous cat-o’-nine-tails).[ 83] The length of the thongs varied, with some extending six feet or more.[ 84] These leather straps had metal balls, metal pellets, jagged shards of glass and sharp animal bones embedded at variable distances from the ends, which magnified the destruction these instruments of torture inflicted on the human body. The Romans even thrashed the condemned with metal chains at times.[ 85][ 86][ 87] Each blow caused extensive damage, bleeding and pain beyond our comprehension. The metal balls bruised the skin deeply to soften it. The leather straps sliced through the skin and underlying tissues—cutting into the dermis of the skin and beyond. The metal pellets, jagged shards of glass, and razor-sharp animal bones lacerated the deeper tissues, muscles, nerves, and blood vessels. As these sharply incisive objects embedded into the underlying tissues, they ripped these tissues apart as the lictors withdrew the lash—causing deep lacerations well below the skin’s surface.” (J. Shan Young, Crushed: A Physician Analyzes the Agony of Jesus, 2154-2312 (Kindle Edition, emphasis added, M.T.); Glass Road Media)
It is difficult to imagine the agony inflicted during the scourging, and painfully understandable why the Psalmist depicted the suffering of the Messiah in such graphic and powerful terms.
Yet as horrible as the scourging was, the crucifixion was far worse.