Ps 23:1-6

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Home > The Old Testament > Psalms > Psalm 23
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  • Ps 23:1: I shall not want. The Hebrew word chacer means want, lack or decrease. For example, in Ex 16:18 this same Hebrew word is translated "had no lack." The phrase "I shall not want" could also be translated "I won't lack anything." The idea here is something like--the Lord is the person who will take care of me; I won't go without.
  • Ps 23:4: Valley of the shadow of death. In Jer 2:6 the phrase "shadow of death" seems to refer to the period of wandering in the wilderness after the exodus. In Job 10:21-22, the phrase "the land of darkness and the shadow of death" is used seemingly to convey the threat of death.
  • Ps 23:4: Rod and staff. The Word Biblical Commentary notes that "the Palestinian shepherd normally carried two implements, a club (or rod) to fend off wild beasts and a crook (or staff) to guide and control the sheep."
According to Jer 33:17 it is under the rod of the shepherd that the sheep pass when they are counted. Also note that passing under the rod is used to determine which sheep became the tithe in Lev 27:32. In this sense, it may be that the rod and staff are comforting because they mark those who are set apart (the remnant?) to be saved. In Ezek 20:37 those who pass under the rod become part of the covenant.
  • Ps 23:5: Table is spread. Some have suggested emending שׁלחן, “table,” to שׁלח (“weapon, spear, javelin”), on the basis of dittography (for example, one suggested translation is “thou preparest arms for my defense against my enemies”). The Word Biblical Commentary notes that that this alternate "translation is possible, but the substance of v 5c–d, and the absence of support from the versions, makes such a change from the standard reading of the text unnecessary."
The metaphor seems to switch here (the NET notes "It would be very odd for a sheep to have its head anointed and be served wine." It seems that the imagery being invoked is that of a royal feast being laid out for those whom the Lord sherpherds (cf. Ps 22:26; Ps 78:19; D&C 58:8). The description of this feast starting "in the presence of mine enemies" may be suggesting a sense in which God will comfort and protect those he shepherds in the very hour of their struggle and need, similar to idea conveyed in verse 4 by the phrase "though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death."
From a modern Christian perspective, the table described here might be fruitfully compared to the sacrament table where the wine (water) could be taken as celebratory or symbolically prefiguring a future celebratory feast in heaven. (In this sense, the various feasts and celebrations appointed by God may be symoblized by our modern sacrament; note in particular how wine and strong drink are used in a celebratory manner or positive connotation in Deut 14:26 and Eccl 9:7; also, note the feast in heaven alluded to in Luke 22:30 and 1 Cor 10:21).

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Relation to other scriptures[edit]

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Related scriptures[edit]

Parallel passages[edit]

Text transmission[edit]

Joseph Smith Translation[edit]

The Joseph Smith Translation made changes to the following verses in Psalm __. This list is complete:[1]


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Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves, such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word. In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources are preferable to footnotes.

  1. Wayment, The Complete Joseph Smith Translation of the Old Testament, p. 151-74.

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