Psalm 23

andreaanderegg

Tallahassee, United States

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Psalm 23 portrays God as a good shepherd, feeding (verse 1) and leading (verse 3) his flock. The “rod and staff” (verse 4) are also the implements of a shepherd. Some commentators see the shepherd imagery pervading the entire psalm. It is known that the shepherd is to know each sheep by name, thus when God is given the analogy of a shepherd, he is not only a protector but also the caretaker. God, as the caretaker, leads the sheep to green pasture (verse 2) and still waters (verse 2) because he knows that each of his sheep must be personally led to be fed. Thus, without its Shepherd, the sheep would die either by a predator or of starvation, since sheep are known for their stupidity.

J. Douglas MacMillan argues that verse 5 (“Thou preparest a table before me”) refers to the “old oriental shepherding practice” of using little raised tables to feed sheep.1 Similarly, “Thou anointest my head with oil” may refer to an ancient form of backliner � the oil is poured on wounds, and repels flies. MacMillan also notes that verse 6 (“Goodness and mercy shall follow me”) reminds him of two loyal sheepdogs coming behind the flock.

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