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State The Meaning Of Psalm 23 By Exegesis Religion Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Religion
Wordcount: 1672 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The aim of this assignment is to state the meaning of Psalm 23 by exegesis and analysing it. Exegesis comes from a Greek word that means to guide out, It is the process of going to the text to determine what it means, and to “draw out” the correct interpretation. [1] 


The psalm is poetry and is transformed into simple metaphors employing that it is God who is the shepherd. The metaphor of the Shepherd in found in verse 1 of the psalm, ‘the Lord is my Shepherd’. King David of Israel is said to have written at least half of the psalms within the book of the Old Testament as well as this one. [2] David found it appropriate to write this psalm because he was a shepherd, and describes his work as a shepherd protecting caring and delivering the sheep from all form of attack. In addition to this David relates the work of the shepherd to the work of God (1.Sam 17: 34-37).

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The Hebrew word for shepherding is translated ‘feeding’. Sheep are completely dependent on the shepherd for provision, guidance, and protection. The shepherd takes care of the sheep, he even carried weak lambs in their arms (Isa.40:11) they led the sheep’s to pasture and water protecting them from wild animals and dangerous places. They also guard their flocks at night whether in the open (Luke 2:8) or in sheepfolds. [3] Shepherds come to designate not only a person who herded sheep but also kings (2 Sam. 5:2). Later Israel prophets referred to Israel’s leaders as shepherds. Some New Testament references used a shepherd and the sheep to illustrate Christ’s relationship to His followers who referred to Him as the great Shepherd of the sheep (Heb.13:20). Jesus also spoke of himself as “the good shepherd” who knew His sheep and would lay down His life for them (John 10:7-18).

Verse 1- 4

The opening of the first four verses establishes the dominant theme for the psalm as a whole and contains a metaphor; where by in verse one the ‘Lord is called Shepherd’ and the ‘Psalmist is a sheep’ belonging to His flock. The psalmist used a simple language for the use of the shepherd metaphor, which can be understood by all living in a world where land was dotted with sheep and shepherds. The distinctiveness in the opening words of this psalm lies in the use of the pronoun, “my shepherd” which gives a personal association with the shepherd. The fact that the Lord is his shepherd the psalmist can say “I shall not wan,” here the psalmist is saying as long as the Lord is my shepherd I shall lack for nothing, this recall God’s provision for His people during their forty years travelling through the wilderness as Moses stated in (Deut. 2:7), ‘you have lacked nothing’.

In verse two the psalmist paints a scene of abundant life in three descriptive statements each speaking of the shepherd in the third person and employing and imperfect verb form. All three images emphasize the shepherd’s role as provider. First of all the psalmist says, “He makes me lie down in green pastures,” secondly “He leads me beside still waters”. The palmist speaks in confidence of the Lord’s guidance and provision. As the shepherd leads his sheep in pleasant places full of all the necessities of life, green pastures of grass experiencing plenty, quiet peaceful stream which provides water for drinking. Grass and water are the sheep’s source of life, and the shepherd knows how to find them both and leads the hungry, thirsty sheep to them.

Within verse three he writes, “He restores my soul” “He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake”. He chooses the right paths that are right with him, making sense to him. In this He acts for His name’s sake, in accordance with His revealed character. Paths of righteousness take on the meaning of a way of life fulfil God’s expectation for his follower. The sheep are not left to their own devices but are led by the shepherd to take the “right path”, that is the one that gets the sheep where he need to go. The shepherd (God) acts in a way that reveal and confirms his character and nature. To have a name is to bear a good reputation, the shepherd (God) acts to benefit of the sheep, in a way that is consistent with the nature His name reveals.

In verse four the palmist says, “Even 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”. Here the psalmist moves to a description of fearful threat he purposefully emphasise the danger and threat that confront the flock. Shadow of death is really deepest darkness which includes the darkness of death, but in these experiences the “he” of (v1-3) becomes the “you”, significant of closer person touch, and the leader (v2) comes alongside (with me). The darker the shadow the closer the Lord! The psalmist’s confidence rests in the fact even in the shadow of death itself, he need fear no evil, confidence is found in God’s protection described in the metaphor as the shepherd’s “rod and staff”. The rod possibly signifies protection; and the staff, possibly support. According to Craigie the Palestinian shepherd normally carried two implements, a cub or rod to fend of wild beasts and a crook or staff to guide and control sheep. [4] Despite the oppressive and threatening setting the psalmist sheep is unafraid. The psalmist reasons for fear fade in the presence of the shepherd (God).

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Verse 5 – 6

From verse five the metaphor changes to that of a host and his guest, the role of the shepherd no longer dominates. God is no longer seen as a shepherd but assumes the role as a host, preparing a table with food and drink, and anointing the head of the visitor. The psalmist is no longer a sheep but a person; who is honoured by God in the presence of the enemy. [5] The picture is one of the realisations of ultimate communion with God.

Verse five says, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies,” You anoint my head with oil my cup overflows. The word table continues the metaphor and is to be understood as God spreading a table, a banquet celebrating God’s provision and protection. One can assume from this that the psalmist had endured affliction in the past at the hand of enemies and had risen above the affliction in confidence, and as he anticipates the future, he has no illusions; there would still be enemies, but God’s provisions would come even in the present of those enemies. The anointing of the head with oil is the custom of hospitality by a gracious host or to an anointed king; in (Luke 7:44-46) Simon’s failure not to do so was recognised as a deliberate insult to Jesus; the overflowing cup which the psalmist drank from is a symbol of the host’s generosity. To sit at God’s table is to enjoy fellowship and communion with Him, and to do so in the presence of your enemies is to have a special relationship with Him, receiving blessings and protection under His care while the enemy looks on, powerless to do you harm.

The psalm gives closure in verse six as the psalmist says, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,” “And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever”. This goodness and love will continue as long as life last and beyond. The psalmist looks forward in confidence to dwelling in the house of God for ever. In regard to the ‘house of the Lord’ (the temple), this places the psalm in the context of worship, it gives an example of a hyperbole which is an exaggeration to make a point, the psalmist is not going to move into the temple to live the rest of his days. He means that he will spend the rest of his days in the presence of God in worship and praise remaining always in His caring and effective presence. To dwell with God is an image of eternal security and ongoing relationship. God offer the hope necessary to sustain through rough times, remembrance of the past and anticipation of the future, provides the necessity to bind the two halves of psalm 23 together.


The psalmist expression is one of confidence dependence and trust. God is presented not only as a shepherd who guides, protects, and leads you of the right path, but also as host who provides in the mist of life. In verse 2-3 he shows the shepherd leading his “sheep” into abundant life, verse 4 shows show the shepherd providing for His “sheep” with secure life. Verse 5 shifts and the shepherd shows God blessing on the trusting faithful, verse 6 ends with the expression of confidence. As the Lord is the good shepherd, so we are his sheep, not frightened, passive animals, but obedient followers, wise enough to follow one who will lead us in the right place and in the right way. This psalm does not focus on the animal-like qualities of sheep but on the discipleship qualities of those who follow. When you recognise the good shepherd, follow him! The psalm inspired us, comfort us, correct us and God is seen as a caring shepherd, and a dependable guide and host.


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