Psalm 23:1-6

A Psalm of David.

1 The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.

He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord

 Lord (v.1 and 6) = Jehovah

shepherd (v.1) — David metaphorically describes God as a shepherd — a profession with which David was intimately familiar (see 1 Samuel 16:11, 19; 17:20). This metaphor is employed frequently either by or for God throughout the Old Testament (e.g., Genesis 48:15; 49:24; Psalms 28:9; 80:1; Isaiah 40:11) as well as by Christ for Himself (hence another intimation of His deity, since this metaphor is predominantly applied to God in the Old Testament) in the New Testament (in Matthew 26:31; John 10:2ff.; as well as for Christ in Matthew 2:6; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25; 5:4, Revelation 7:17). — Wechsler, page 76.

David begins by describing how God fully provides for the spiritual needs of His sheep, which need, in its most foundational aspect, is typically represented by the notion of “rest” or “being set (by God) at rest.” That such is intended here is indicated by the phrase typically translated “quiet (or ‘still’) waters,” yet which literally means “waters of rest” in which the Hebrew word for “rest” (in the plural for emphasis) is precisely that which is used elsewhere to denote spiritual rest (i.e., salvation, relationship with God; as in Psalm 95:11 with Hebrews 4:1-10) and the verbal form of which is used to denote the ideally intended state of man in to which He “put” Adam in Genesis 2:15. David is not asserting here that God always provides (in this lifetime, at least) for the believer’s physical need, but rather that He will always supply what is necessary fro the believer to move along in the path of righteousness for His name’s sake — i.e., for His glory and consistent with His plan, not necessarily our own. — Wechsler, pages 76-77

paths of righteousness (v.3) —could be translated “right paths”

His name’s sake (v.3) — in harmony with His revealed nature

rod (v.4) — for defense or correction

staff (v.4) — for support

a table … in the presence of my enemies (v.5) — This seems to indicate that God will care for us, even when surrounded by enemies, and they will be unable to prevent it or disturb it.

anoint (v.5) = lit. “make fat” — an indication of abundance

anoint with oil (v.5) — None of my commentaries explained this, so I looked it up on the Internet. I found several sites that state that shepherds would pour oil over sheep’s heads to keep flies from entering the nose and ears. Supposedly, flies could cause sheep so much distress that they would but their heads against rocks to rid themselves of the irritation and cause themselves injuries. In other places, this was said to refer to oils and perfumes that hosts would pour over the heads of honored guests at their table, which in the context of this particular verse seems to make more sense.

It is David’s confidence in the receipt of this future inheritance, guaranteed by God’s unshakable goodness and lovingkindness (v.6), that brings him comfort in this life, regardless of the situation.

lovingkindness (v.6) — specifically denotes the expression of God’s covenant love — i.e., His faithful and continual expression of what si best for those whom He views as His own under the promise of the Abrahamic covenant (see Genesis 12:1-3). — Wechsler, pages 32-33.

follow (v.6) — The paternal aspect of the relationship between the Divine Shepherd and His sheep is underscored by the specific choice of the verb “pursue” (not “follow”) in the clause “goodness and lovingkindness will pursue me” — which is the same verb elsewhere used to describe the active pursuit of one army by another (as in 1 Samuel 17:52). — Wechsler, page 78

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