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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 23

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-6

Verse. 2. The still waters. The refreshing or abundant waters; the waters of Shiloh, which flow softly.

Psalms 23:3 . He restoreth my soul. Symmachus reads ανεκτησατο με , he refreshes me, or renovates my soul.

Psalms 23:4 . Valley of the shadow of death. There is a place of that name: “Waad- el ajal, four hours distant from Carmel along the coast. The passage is cut through the bed of a rock, just wide enough to admit a narrow-wheeled carriage, or a loaded camel.” Buckingham’s Travels. See on the word hell, Psalms 16:10. Hebrews Though I shall walk through the valley of the shadow of death; the dreadful valley where robbers and wild beasts lie in wait for spoil, I will fear no evil. What then has the christian to fear; the presence of the Lord is light and life to the soul. Death is ours to open the gates of immortality. Thy rod; that is, thy sceptre, as Psalms 2:9, which rules both heaven and earth; and thy staff, the crozier of support, console me. Therefore the king, the conqueror of death and hell, being with me, I will fear no evil. The momentary eclipse of dying will suddenly brighten with the full sunbeams of the Sun of righteousness.

Psalms 23:5 . Thou anointest my head with oil; by Samuel in Bethlehem. 1 Samuel 16:13. Also in Hebron, when the tribe of Judah made him king. 2 Samuel 2:4. David was probably anointed a third time, when all the tribes called him to the throne. 2 Samuel 5:3. But in a spiritual sense, Thou anointest my head by crowning me with lovingkindness and tender mercy, and with the unction of the Holy Spirit, in all his characters of grace and truth.


This beautiful psalm is a pastoral allegory, and well supported through all the succession of figures. It rises from simplicity of life, to the splendour of the throne. St. Peter calls the Saviour the great shepherd and bishop of souls. He never slumbers; his eye surveys all his flock in heaven and earth at a single glance. He knows, he loves, he feeds them all; yea, he lays down his life for his sheep. Why then, oh my soul, indulgest thou in boding fears? The Lord who feeds the ravens, will never let thee want. As the good and the great Shepherd is our leader and guide, we must follow him in all his ordinances, which are as green pastures and refreshing waters to the sheep.

If it be so pleasant to follow him in life, it will be more so in dangers and in death; for he will be with us in the dark valley. His rod will support and defend us against all foes, and his houlet or crozier will gather us to be healed and succoured, as the kind shepherd gathers his sheep with his crook. By consequence, it is not the philosophy of the schools, but the dying Saviour who consoles and supports his saints when passing the dark valley, which presently opens on the sunshine of eternal day.

All our favours, all our prosperity, wealth and rank, in the present world, must be turned into excitements to greater piety. “Thou preparest a table before me,” in presence of all surrounding foes; thou anointest my head with the oil of joy at the royal banquet, and with the unction of thy Spirit for vigour and duty. Oh Lord, I will lose my soul in thee, and worship for ever in thy courts.

This is a sublime song to the Lord of hosts, the God of the whole earth. The Latin bible appoints this psalm for the first sabbath, by which it appears that christians followed the jews in a regular course of reading the psalms. The rabbins say, that it was composed on bringing the ark into Zion; and the christian fathers generally turn it as highly prophetic of the glory and exaltation of Christ, and of his church. This psalm, like many others, assumes the character of a dialogue, and appears to have been designed to be recited in parts like the antiphonies in our cathedrals, in which one part of the choir responds to another. This was the practice of the Jews from the earliest times. Moses placed six tribes on mount Gerizim, and six on mount Ebal, to bless and to curse, after the passage of the Jordan. Deuteronomy 27:11. Nehemiah adopted the same practice: Nehemiah 12:31; Nehemiah 12:38. On this occasion two companies probably lined the approach to the tabernacle as the ark advanced, and sang the changes, as in Deuteronomy 23:7-10.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 23". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/psalms-23.html. 1835.
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