The writer of this Psalm is David. The actual time he wrote this Psalm is unknown. But some says it could be the time when Absalom, so desired the kingship of his father David. David, for the safety of his life and his kingship left his home and moved towards Jordan to the place called Jabbok. David having wandered away, found rest in Gilead. According to 2 Samuel 17: 27 and 19: 31-39, says that there was the place was David met the man called Barzillai. Barzillia was a shepherd who kept sheep.
1 Samuel 16: 10-11 says that David was a shepherd before he was called by God through Samuel the prophet, at the house of Jesse. Sheep are animals, from them milk and meat are food. Apparently, David was the king in the land of Israel as at the time, Barzillai regarded him and provided a shelter for the king where he would rest.
Shelter, this could be a place of hide for weather. It could be here that, David sat down and thought about the work of Barzillai as the work of a good shepherd. He reminded himself about his past as a shepherd boy. He may have thought if Barzillai could be of good passion to the sheep, how much more the creator of the Heaven and the earth.
In Psalm 23, it is necessary to explore the mind of the writer David, by knowing how deep he considers God to be. He sees God as a shepherd, as a guide and as well as a provider. Sometimes this Psalm 23 is liturgically used, especially during burial services and also chanted as a song during church services by the choir. This Psalm has being known by most people, who have considered it helpful in times of their trials and temptation. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ is called the good shepherd (John 10:11).
According to the writer of the study Manual, he says that exegesis is the process of using the text to determine what it means, in order to bring out the main interpretation. This was confirmed by Finis Jennings Dake: God's Plan for Man.
However, analysis is the study and breaking down of a text into interpretation.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want: This word shepherd is referred to the Lord Jesus, which is metaphoric statement by saying to us that, our Lord God Almighty cares for His people (John 10: 11).
According to the NIV study Bible, it says that the word 'shepherd' is used for the kings in the ancient, Near East and also in the land of Israel (2 Sam 5:2, Jer 3:15, Isa 44:28, Jer 23:1-4). Our need is supplied. The inner spirit is greater than anything in the outer world. We have a place of security and safety within us.
This verse one, mostly speaks of God's provision to his people as the master guide of the entire world affairs. As the shepherd of his children, He cares for the inner most being of the people in order to see that, the secure a place within him. In John 6: 27, shows how the shepherd is the bread of life and anyone who eat of Him is properly secured.
The New Bible Commentary says that 'His provision is now and always'. God as the shepherd of His people is still promising the entire world for expected hope. In Ezekiel 34:11-16, says that the Lord God, had promised and says as the shepherd, that His going to bring back the scattered flock, though our leaders may fail us, that we must not despair, but we should remember that God is in control and that His promises to us, will one day return and care for His flock.
He is still in control and can transform any miserable situation to produce well for His kingdom. The New Bible Commentary quotes this as 'God being a pasture to His people as well as a just shepherd'. God has been the Shepherd of their sheep, just as He had done for the sake of mankind on the cross. No wonder the writer of the Hebrew in the Life application Study Bible 'called Him the great Shepherd of the Sheep' (Heb 13:20).
He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters:
A good shepherd leads his sheep to green pastures where they may eat and rest, while he watches over them. Our shepherd is loving and a kind father, who is after our Spiritual and physical well being. He leads us through our life experience, that we may become strong and wise, still the shepherd constantly watches over and loves us. Isaiah 14: 30, expresses God's special love over the poor in the land of Israel showing that the Lord is after the good well being of his people.
Our Lord God indeed had felt so sorry over the poverty of His people and that is why He says, according Zephaniah 2: 7 and 3: 13, that the remnant of the house of Judah shall be fed and lay down in green pasture, after He might have restored them from the hands of their enemy. This is the ultimate blessing for God's people, Israel and more broadly the church. The NIV study Bible says that the word 'green pasture is metaphor' which symbolize all that makes life flourish. With assurance of knowing that the Spirit of God is protecting us through the shepherd, who leads us into the good will of our father, assures us not to put fear before our lives. As David says the 'Divine shepherd is leading his people into the green pastures of security.'
We have power of choice and thinking, just as we chose to abide in peace with our God. The truth is that by faith we acknowledged and accept the truth of our life, which is vital and satisfying that our future fulfills the divine purpose of our life. In the green pastures of spiritual life through which we travel, the body is nourished as well as the soul. The spirit of wisdom within guides us to eat the best foods for our body. Food is spiritual substance in the form of nourishment and we are renewed, strengthened and revitalized by the food that we give to our body.
Thoughts of peace, joy and approval accompany the food we eat in order to nourish our soul as well as our body. The shepherd gives us good food for our mind and body which builds a strong unified temple in which the Spirit loves to dwell. As the sheep rest and relax in the cool green pastures, so we rest and relax in the Spirit. The shepherd leads His sheep beside the still waters, so that they may drink in safety. He leads us so that we might drink deeply of the truth of life and all the while we are protected and safe in His care.
He restores my soul: he guides me in paths of righteousness, for his name's sake. When we allow God to guide us in his ways, we seem to look like new babies born at the moment of their life. This verse opened our mind to accept the Shepherd as the only one who restores and revives our soul as well as a righteous guide who follows his law judiciously. According to Psalm 19: 7, says His law is perfect and converting souls, Which means the law makes us wise, enlightens our knowledge, warns us, rewards us and allows our heart to rejoices in the presence of God. This also follows Ruth who allowed her Mother in law to rejoice before her, only that Ruth allowed herself to be guided by the love of God, (Ru 4: 15). The New Bible Commentary says, the principle behind this, is that 'God chooses righteousness for us only for his name's sake.'
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil. Thou art me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. In the introduction, we saw David's mind by saying the shepherd is a guide, which means that God is there always to protect his people no matter what. The loving presence of the Spirit of God unites us in love. It is mostly, actively when misunderstanding and hurt feelings had wished to separate us from our loved ones, the valleys may look very dark. This is what David called at the moment of the dark valley, 'thy rod and staff protects me'. The verses 5 and 6 summarize the culture of the middle Easter, on how they protect their guests. God guides us whenever our enemy surrounded us. This psalm, reminds us that all believers will dwell with God. God, the good shepherd and the chief host, promised to protect us throughout our life and to bring us into His house forever.
In the mind set of this psalm 23, prayer seems to be the thought of the writer. However, in the early Jewish culture and tradition the priests made psalm 23 a traditional song. Both in their songs and liturgical services which also appear during their funeral service and the writer of this psalm cleared our eyes to see the in depth of his mind by airing to us to know that God is a proper guide, who had designed to lead us into His righteous home.
The writer tells us that in him we will lack nothing, as long as we speak of him, the good shepherd. That provision, shelter, protection and green pastures of life is readily assured for them that believed in him, in his everlasting home.
- Carson D. A., France R.T., Motyer J.A., Wenham G. J., New Bible Commentary, (Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, UK: 2002).
- Gibbs B. Carl, Hermeneutics: (Global University, Springfield, MI: 2004).
- Dake, Finis Jennings. God's plan For Man.( Dake Publishing, Inc. Lawrenceville Georgia, 200).
- Fee, Gordon D. Stuart Douglas, How to Read The Bible For All Its Worth. (Michigan, Zondervan:1999).
- Harper, Collins, English Dictionary and Thesaurus, (Harper Collins Publishers, Glasgow, UK: 2006).
- King, James Version. Life application Study Bible. (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois, 1989).
- NIV, Study Bible, (UK. Zondervan: 2008).
- Carl B. Gibbs, Hermeneutics, (Global University, Springfield, MI: 2004), 21.
- Finis J. Dake, God's Plan For Man: ( Dake Publishing, Inc. Lawrenceville, Georgia, 2001), 40.
- Collins, English Dictionary and Thesaurus: (Harper Collins Publishers, Glasgow,UK: 2006), 29-30.
- The NIV, Study Bible, (UK, Zondervan: 2008), 790.
- Carson D.A., France R.T., Motyer J.A., Wenham G. J., New Bible Commentary, (Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, UK: 2002), 500.
- New Bible Commentary, 739.
- King James Version, Life application Study Bible, ( Tyndale Publishers, Inc. Illinois, 1989), 2179.
- The NIV, Study Bible , p 796.
- New Bible Commentary, 500.