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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Psalms 23

Introduction

A Psalm of David.

It is not clear at what particular date or to what occasion this psalm is to be assigned, but its tone of experience and historic reminiscence carries us forward to David’s later life. The imagery belongs to the familiar scenes of his youth, when, amidst the desert mountains of Judah, he tended his father’s flocks. The psalm is a thanksgiving for the abounding grace of God, which is set forth under two metaphors, the one taken from shepherd life, (Psalms 23:1-4,) the other, (Psalms 23:5,) from the custom of the most liberal hospitality known to the age. The whole concludes with an assurance of the continuance of these mercies. Psalms 23:6

Verse 1

1. The Lord is my shepherd One of the most endearing and comprehensive titles known to an Asiatic nomad. Our Saviour enumerates the duties of a shepherd to be “feeding the little lambs,” “tending, or taking care of the flock,” and “feeding the sheep.” See notes on John 10:0 and John 21:15-17.

I shall not want The shepherd anticipates and cares for every need. “The phrase comprehends not only a negation of penury, but an abundance of all things.” Phillips.

Verse 2

2. Green pastures Pastures of budding or tender grass. The word desheh denotes the tender shoots, (Deuteronomy 32:2; Deuteronomy 2:0 Samuel 33:4,) as distinguished from ripe grass, which is expressed by another word. Hence, delicious and luxuriant pasture.

To lie down That is, for rest in the heat of the day. “Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon.” Sol. Song of Solomon 1:7. For this booths were often constructed. Genesis 33:7. Grazing and resting on rich meadow bottoms convey to the shepherd a high idea of ease and plenty.

Still waters Waters of rest or quietness, as opposed to the noisy, turbulent mountain torrent. Either living fountains or gently flowing streams. Isaiah 49:10; Revelation 7:17

Verse 3

3. He restoreth my soul He bringeth back my soul, as a sheep that had strayed. Mat 18:12-13 ; 1 Peter 2:25. The word for “restoreth” means, to return, bring back, or, figuratively, convert. At this time of David’s life he could praise the restoring care and grace of God. Of all animals the sheep is least able to defend itself, either by resistance or flight, is most given to wander away; and has the least sagacity in finding its way back to the fold.

Paths of righteousness Right paths are opposed to intricate and unsafe ways, (Lamentations 3:9-11,) and to ways of disobedience and perversity. Psalms 125:5; Proverbs 2:15.

For his name’s sake For his own sake, the glory of his attributes, and the moral effect of his dispensations to man not for the merit or rectitude of the creature.

Verse 4

4. Shadow of death Being so near to death that its shadow falls over him. “For he is not far from the substance who has come up with the shadow.” Bythner. The “valley of the shadow of death,” seems to have been suggested by those deep mountain gorges through which David was sometimes obliged to lead his flocks, though at the hazard of death from the wild beasts, who made the caves therein abounding their shelter. When the walks of duty lie along through dangers which fall around like death shadows, then I will not fear evil. Such confidence has he in his Shepherd. But the “shadow of death” may also mean the darkness of sheol, or region of the dead, as Job 10:21-22; and this gives an outlook of confident hope upon the dying hour and the future life. This entire psalm must be understood, not of the providential life of David only, but of his spiritual life and relations as well.

Rod and… staff The emblems at once of the office of the shepherd and his protection of the sheep.

Verse 5

5. Thou preparest a table The figure changes. To prepare a table for one, is, in oriental custom, a mark of favour and friendship. Here the psalmist describes the ceremony observed in the entertainment of a distinguished guest, in the bountiful provisions of the table, the overflowing cup, and the anointing the head with oil. God had prepared this banquet for David as a mark of special honour and favour, and this in the presence of his enemies, who looked on but were not invited to partake. This was David’s answer to those who, in his affliction, had said, “There is no help for him in God;” “God hath forsaken him.” Psalms 3:2; Psalms 71:11

Verse 6

6. Goodness and mercy From a retrospect of God’s faithful love and care, David gathers assurance of perpetual “goodness and mercy.”

Dwell in the house of the Lord for ever Hebrew, for length of days; for days without number. In Psalms 24:4, by another form of speech, he says, “All the days of my life.”

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 23". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/psalms-23.html. 1874-1909.