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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 23

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

Psalms 23:1-6 -The Lord's Shepherd-like Care for His People.

The image (Psalms 23:1-2); the reality, the spritual history of even redeemed, one (Psalms 23:3-6). The 22nd, 23rd, and 24th Psalms form a Trilogy: Psalms 22:1-31, Christ on the cross; Psalms 23:1-6, God the Father's Shepherd-like care of Him, even in dying, and His anticipation of heaven; Psalms 24:1-10, His ascension there. So Christ's followers (John 10:2; John 10:14; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25; 1 Peter 5:4; cf. Genesis 48:15; Genesis 49:24 the first use of the image). The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. The Hebrew is emphatic: 'I want nothing.' This implies a supply of every possible want of body, soul, and spirit, in the Lord. Compare Isaiah 40:11; Psalms 80:1. All that Yahweh did for His people in the Old Testament, He did through the Mediating Angel of the covenant, the Word, who subsequently was made flesh. In Zechariah 11:7-11 this Angel of the Lord is spoken of as the Shepherd of Israel.

Verse 2

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

In green pastures. The Hebrew [ nª'owt (H4999)] for "pastures" implies their desirableness [from 'aawah, to desire]. This, in the application to the believer, marks the first stage in his spiritual history-namely, when first he comes heavy laden to Christ, and finds rest to his soul (Matthew 11:28-29). In Psalms 23:5 follows the actual feeding, or feasting of the Lord's people.

The still waters - Hebrew, 'the waters quietnesses;' not violent torrents, which would terrify the sheep with their roar, and sweep them away with the current, but gently flowing; or else, waters where manifold rest is enjoyed. Two means of refreshment are specified-the "green" grass, on which they lie; and "the still water," which are "beside" them. Such a rest was enjoyed by David "when the king sat in his house, and the Lord had, given him rest round about from all his enemies" (2 Samuel 7:1); not only from Saul, but from the surrounding Gentile nations (Psalms 116:7). In a sandy and rocky country like Palestine, where the hot sun dries up the streams, water is the great desideratum and supplies the most expressive image of refreshment. The Hebrew for, "He leadeth me" ( naahal (H5095)) expresses gentle and gradual leading, the gracious Shepherd accommodating Himself to the strength of the sheen (Genesis 33:14; margin, 47:17). so that it includes the idea of tending, etc.

The second stage in the believer's spiritual history, his restoration when out of the way, and his safe guidance through the darkest trails, and through death itself.

Verse 3

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

He restoreth my soul - reviving me when fainting (Psalms 19:8), and overcome temporarily by temptations. The good Shepherd not only cares for the sound sheep, but also and especially for the sick. So Ezekiel 34:16.

Paths of righteousness - "the way of the just" (Isaiah 26:7); that justification whereby He graciously accounts believers righteous through faith, and enables them to be righteous by His inworking Spirit.

For his name's sake not for my merits for I have none; but for "the praise of the glory of His grace" (Eph For his name's sake - not for my merits, for I have none; but for "the praise of the glory of His grace" (Ephesians 1:6), and from regard to His own manifested character ('name'). Compare Exodus 34:5-7. Messiah is to us the fullest manifestation of the name of God, for God's, name is in Him (Exodus 23:21). "For His name's sake" is thus equivalent now to "for Christ's sake."

Verse 4

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

The valley of the shadow of death. The "shadow of death," or the death-darkness, does not, as sometimes explained, imply that it is mere shadow, but is the Hebrew idiom for thee blackest darkness; hence, a position surrounded by great perils and deaths (Psalms 44:19; Job 24:17): also death itself in its gloomiest aspect (Job 10:21-22). Both senses hold good in this verse. In all dangers, and especially in the last and most trying of all-the dying hour-we, have stronger reason than David to "fear no evil." It is not his own fearlessness, but it is God's saving care of him, even at a season when that care might seem no longer available, which is the object of David's praise. The "yea" expresses 'even' in such an extremity. The darkness described is that of midnight, when, the beasts are abroad seeking their prey, The "valley" is mentioned on account of the wooded hills on either side, the coverts of wild beasts.

For thou art with me - present to faith, though not to sense.

Thy rod and thy staff. The "rod" was used by the owner in counting his sheep, which were said, therefore, to 'pass under the rod' (Leviticus 27:32). It cannot refer to the rod of affliction, for here "comfort," not chastening, is what is needed when passing through the darkness. He means, Thy making me to pass under the rod, thereby acknowledging me as thine, comforts me. How many in their dying moments have felt strong consolation in Christ's assurance, John 10:14; John 10:28-29! The rod is the assurance which Yahweh gives His child by His Spirit, that He counts him as His own. The "staff" is the emblem of support to the weak. So Jacob, Genesis 32:10. At the same time it is the shepherd's instrument of warding off beasts hostile to the sheep. So "David took his staff in his hand" in going against Goliath (1 Samuel 17:40); and the Lord is represented as 'lifting up His staff against' Assyria in behalf of His people (Isaiah 10:24). The Word of God is at once a prop to support the child of God, and a defense against Satan and the powers of darkness.

The third and crowning stage of the believer's history is the rich spiritual feast provided by God in heaven, of which even now a sweet foretaste is given.

Verse 5

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

A table before me. The Hebrew for "table" [ shulchaan (H7979)] is one spread with viands.

In the presence of mine enemies. They may look on and envy, but such is my security in thee, that none of them can deprive me of the rich table that thou spreadest. So the rich man in hell beheld Lazarus in Abraham's bosom, afar off and separated from him by an impassable gulf. Lazarus' joy only added to the rich man's torment, God spreads a table of temporal and spiritual viands for His people even in the wilderness. The fullness of the feast is reserved for the "house of God, eternal in the heavens." Compare as to the "pasture" provided by the good Shepherd, John 10:9.

My head with oil. The head and person used to be anointed with refreshing perfumes at a feast (Ecclesiastes 9:8). The oil of gladness (Psalms 45:7); the joy which the Holy Spirit imparts (Isaiah 51:1; Isaiah 51:3; 1 John 2:20). Love and brotherly unity are fragrant odours of this oil (Psalms 133:2). The manifestation of Christ's 'name' produces this oil of joy (Song of Solomon 1:3).

Verse 6

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Surely goodness, [ 'ak (H389)] - rather, 'only;' i:e., nothing but goodness.

Shall follow me. As my enemies, like wild beasts, follow me with evil intent, so God follows me with good. Ordinarily men follow after happiness, which still flees from them; here blessedness of itself follows believers. 'Such is the ardour of divine grace, that it eagerly, follows us, even when careless, nay, averse' (Gejer).

All the days of my life - the days of this transitory life, in contrast to the life "forever," wherein I shall not be, as here, a traveling pilgrim (followed, indeed, by 'the goodness, of God'), but a 'dweller in the house of the Lord.'

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 23". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/psalms-23.html. 1871-8.
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