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Psalms 23:1 « A Psalm of David. » The LORD [is] my shepherd; I shall not want.
Ver. 1. The Lord is my shepherd ] This psalm may well be called David’s Bucolicon, or pastoral; so daintily hath he struck upon the whole string, through the whole hymn. Est Psalmus honorahilis, saith Aben Ezra; it is a noble psalm written and sung by David; not when he fled into the forest of Hareth, 1 Samuel 22:5 , as some Hebrews will have it (R. Kimchi, R. Solom.); but when, as having overcome all his enemies and settled his kingdom, he enjoyed great peace and quiet, and had one foot as it were upon the battlements of heaven. The Jews at this day use for the most part to repeat this psalm after they are set down to meat (Leo. Modena). God is often in Scripture called the Shepherd of his people, Psalms 80:1 Ezekiel 34:12 ; Eze 34:14-15 Isa 40:11 Joh 10:11 1 Peter 2:25 , although non est ofiicium magis contemptibile quam opilionis, saith R. Jos. Bar. Haman, there is not a more contemptible office than that of a shepherd. Every shepherd was an abomination to the Egyptians. But God disdaineth not to feed his flock, to guide, to govern, to defend them, to handle and heal them, to tend and take care of them; and all this he hath tied himself by covenant to do, Ezekiel 34:25 : well therefore might David confidently conclude,
I shall not want ] Non deficiam, iudigebo, destituar. The wicked in the fulness of his sufficiency is in straits, Job 20:22 . Tantalus-like, he is ever wanting; content he hath none. Contrarily, true piety brings true plenty, and a saint is never to seek of well contenting sufficiency, 1 Timothy 6:6 , for to him, Parva seges satis est. A small crop is enough, And he saith,
Discite quam parvo liceat producers vitam,
Et quantum natura petat, &c.
(Lucan. Pharsi. l. 4).
Psa 23:2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
Ver. 2. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures ] In folds of budding grass, where he feedeth me daily and daintily, plentifully and pleasantly, as among the lilies, Song of Solomon 6:3 ; that is, amidst the ordinances (David here seemeth to resemble powerful and flourishing doctrine to green pastures, and the secret and sweet comforts of the sacraments to the still waters), where I shall not need to bite on the bare ground, but may go in and out, and find pasture, John 10:9 , such as will breed life, and life in more abundance, Joh 10:10 Isaiah 49:10 ; fat pastures he provideth, Ezekiel 34:14 ; and fair cotes, or coverts from the sun’s heat, as the word here used may also be rendered. Confer Song of Solomon 1:6-7 . Virgil saith, it is the office of a good shepherd,
Aestibus in mediis umbrosam exquirere vallem.
He leadeth me (Heb. gently leadeth me) beside the still waters] Heb. waters of rests, Ex quibus diligunt oves bibere, saith Kimchi, such as sheep love to drink of, because void of danger, and yielding a refreshing air. Popish clergymen are called the inhabitants of the sea, Revelation 12:12 , because they set abroad gross, troubled, brackish, and sourish doctrine, which rather bringeth barrenness to their hearers, and gnaweth their entrails, than quencheth their thirst or cooleth their heat (Brightman). The doctrine of the gospel (like the waters of Siloah, Isa 8:6 ), run gently, but taste pleasantly.
Lens fluit Nilus, sed cunctis anmibus extat
Psa 23:3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Ver. 3. He restoreth my soul ] He reduceth me, when like a lost sheep I have gone astray, Psalms 119:176 . A sheep, saith Aristotle, is a foolish and sluggish creature, Et omnium quadrupedum stupidissimum, most apt of anything to wander, though it feel no want, and unablest to return. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib. Swine in a storm run home, and at night will make for the trough; but a sheep can make no shift to save itself from tempests or inundation; there it stands and will perish, if not driven away by the shepherd. Lo, such a silly shiftless thing is man left to himself. But blessed be God for Christ, that best of shepherds, who restoreth the lost soul, and maketh it to return into the right way, giving it rest, and causing it to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness, Luke 1:74 .
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness ] Or, in plain, smooth, easy paths, or sheep tracks, wherein I may walk unweariably, unblameably, without cessation or cespitation. The ways of sin are craggy, crooked, full of error and terror, leading to those precipices that tend to destruction. From such stand off, saith Christ to his sheep, who are all rational, and will be ruled by him, John 10:1-17
For his name’s sake] i.e. Of his free grace, and for his mere mercy’s sake. Otherwise he would never do us any of these good offices, but let us alone to perish in our own corruptions.
Psa 23:4 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.
Ver. 4. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death ] In the most dark and dangerous places, where there is Luctus ubique, pavor, et plurima mortis imago, those dark places full of cruelty, Psalms 74:20 , where wolves wait for me. Though I walk (not step) through (not cross) the valley (not a dark entry only) of the shadow of death (the darkest side of it, death in its most hideous and horrid representations), I will not fear; for I fear God, and have him by the hand; I must needs be tutus sub umbraleonis, safe by his side, and under his safeguard. If God be for us, who can be against us?
For thou art with me ] Hence my security. See a promise answerable to it, John 10:28 . Christ is not to lose any of his sheep, John 17:12 . Having therefore this ark of God’s covenant in our eyes, let us cheerfully pass the waters of Jordan, to take possession of the promised land. Cur timeat hominem homo, in sinu Dei positus? saith a Father.
Thy rod and thy staff ] He pursueth the former allegory; shepherds, in driving their flocks, have a rod or wand in their hands, wherewith they now and then strike them; and a staff or sheep hook on their necks, wherewith they catch and rule them. Of Christ’s rods and staves, see Zechariah 11:7 , &c.; foolish shepherds have only foreipes et mulctram, Zechariah 11:15 . R. Solomon by rod here understandeth afflictions, by staff support under them, a good use and a good issue.
They comfort me ] God’s rod, like Aaron’s, blossometh; and, like Jonathan’s, it hath honey at the end of it.
Psa 23:5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Ver. 5. Thou preparest a table before ] Here he makes use of another metaphor from a liberal feast maker, or (as some will have it) from a most kind father, making provision for his dearly beloved child: so did God for David, both in regard to temporals and spirituals. God had given him (as he doth all his people) all things richly to enjoy, all things needful for life and godliness, the upper and nether springs, the blessings of the right hand and of the left, bona throni, et bona scabelli, as Austin phraseth it. Now, outward prosperity, when it followeth close walking with God, is very sweet; as the cipher when it followeth the figure addeth to the number, though it be nothing in itself. David’s table was laden with God’s creatures, and did even sweat with variety of them. God had let down to him, as afterwards he did to Peter, a vessel with all manner of beasts of the earth and fowls of the air in it, Acts 10:12 . This he is very sensible of and thankful for, as a singular favour.
In the presence of mine enemies ] i.e. In sight and spite of them, hostibus videntibus et ringentibus. God doth good to his people, maugre the malice of earth and of hell.
Thou anointest my head with oil ] A piece of entertainment common in those times and among that people, Luke 7:36-38 , to show the greater respect to their guests. And although this is not every good man’s case in temporal respects, yet at the word and sacraments God anointeth his guests with the oil of gladness.
My cup runneth over ] He had not only a fulness of abundance, but of redundancy. Those that have this happiness must carry their cup upright, and see that it overflow into their poor brethren’s emptier vessels.
Psa 23:6 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.
Ver. 6. Surely goodness and mercy, &c. ] Utique bonitas et beneficentia, or, as Tremellius hath it, Nihil nisi bonum et benignitas, Nothing but goodness and lovingkindness, &c. This is his good assurance of God’s favour for the future, grounded upon God’s promise; whereby he was well assured that mercy should follow him, though he should be so foolish as to run from it; like as the sun, going down, followeth the passenger that goeth eastward, with his beams.
And I will dwell, &c. ] Devoted to his fear, I will stick to him in life, in death, and after death. Apprehensions of mercy in God must work resolutions of obedience in us.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Psalms 23". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25