Psalm 23 Reflection and Commentary

There is so much to be gleaned in a study of Psalm 23. This is my translation of Psalm 23 based on my study of the original Hebrew. What follows are some of my personal reflections and commentary on Psalm 23.

Psalm 23

  1. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not lack.
  2. He makes me to lie down in grassy pastures. He leads me to still waters.
  3. He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for the sake of His name.
  4. Yea, although I walk in the valley of deep darkness, I will fear no evil because You are with me. Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.
  5. You arrange a table before me in the sight of my enemies, You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.
  6. Surely, goodness and loving-kindness will pursue me all the days of my life and I will return to the house of the Lord for length of days.

Psalm 23 Commentary

As I reflect on Psalm 23, many things come to my mind. Psalm 23:1 shows how the Shepherd provides for the needs of the sheep. We shall not lack the things we need for the Good Shepherd will provide.

In this first verse, I meditate on the shepherd motif. This theme runs from Genesis to Revelation. In Genesis 48:15 and Genesis 49:24, we see Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel, speaking of the Lord as his Shepherd. John 10:11 speaks of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, who lays down His life for His sheep, and in Revelation 7:17 it speaks of the Lamb who will shepherd and lead them to streams of living water.

When I look at verse two and how it speaks of being led beside the still waters, I cannot help but think about the living water that Jesus speaks of in John and the water of life spoken of in Revelation.

John 7:28 “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.”

Revelation 7:17 “for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”

In the first two verses of Psalm 23, David explains what he means when he says the Lord is his shepherd. The Lord provides for all his needs by leading him to the grassy pastures and the still waters. God cares for His sheep.

In Psalm 23:3, David speaks of his soul being restored. A key word here is the word shoove, which means to return. This is the same word used for repentance. It means to turn or return. With repentance, it has the idea of heading in one direction (the wrong direction) and then turning around and heading in the right direction. The word often is used in reference to God’s covenant with Israel, when they were urged to return to Him. When David says for the sake of God’s name, it points us to the idea of God’s reputation and His glory.

In Psalm 23:4, we see the idea of being comforted with the rod and staff. According to the Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, the idea of the Hebrew word that is translated comfort here, has the idea of encouragement and not the idea of sympathizing. The rod and staff are shepherd tools. The rod fends off wild beasts and the staff guides and controls the sheep. These shepherd instruments gave David encouragement.

Verses three and four have the idea of protection. The Psalm has shifted from the Shepherd as Provider, to the Shepherd as Protector. The Shepherd provides and protects His own.

In Psalm 23:5, we see that the Lord prepares a table for David. The Hebrew word is arach and it means to arrange. God is a God of details and we can see in this verse how He has arranged things for David His anointed one. The idea of anointing here has the idea of a refreshing like at the end of a long journey.

Psalm 23:6 has an interesting word play happening that is pointed out by Robert B. Chisholm. David says, surely goodness and mercy will pursue him. Normally this Hebrew word, radaf is used in a negative context such as enemies pursuing someone, but here David speaks of being instead pursued by God’s goodness and mercy.

Again, the word shoove (to return) is used. It is easy to picture David returning to the house of the Lord after being on the run from enemies such as Saul or even his own son. The idea expresses fellowship with the Lord for the rest of his life.

In verses five and six, the imagery has shifted from the Lord as Shepherd and David as sheep to the Lord as gracious Host and David as honored guest. I am reminded of David’s words in 2 Samuel 7:18 when David asks, “Who am I.” This is after David is told that God would build him a house and give him an everlasting dynasty. David is overwhelmed by God’s treatment of him.

Psalm 23 Personal Application and Commentary

David uses strong imagery in this Psalm of confidence. David understood what it meant to be a shepherd and yet he places himself in the role as sheep with God as Shepherd. He speaks of God’s provision and protection. As believers, we have this same provision and protection.

David also speaks of the Lord as a gracious Host. God provides extravagantly for we who are His chosen ones. He pursues us with goodness and loving-kindness. There is so much to be gleaned from this wonderful Psalm. I hope you will check out My Psalm 23. This is my version of Psalm 23 that reflects on God’s goodness in my life. I hope you will be encouraged in further reflections and commentary of Psalm 23. There really is so much more that can be said, but perhaps we have said enough for now.

Sources Studied

“Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright (C) 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.”

Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., From Exegesis to Exposition, A Practical Guide to Using Biblical Hebrew, (Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 1998), 218.

Ludwig Koehler, Walter Baumgartner, M.E.J Richardson and Johann Jakob Stamm, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, Volumes 1-4 Combined in One Electronic Edition., electronic ed. (Leiden; New York: E.J. Brill, 1999, c1994-1996), 1427.

Walvoord, John F., Roy B. Zuck, and Dallas Theological Seminary. The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty New Testament. Colorado Springs: Victor, 2004.

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