Psalm 23:2 Commentary | Restful Sleep for Full Sheep

Psalm 23:6 Meaning

Psalm 23:2 Text & Translation

בִּנְא֣וֹת דֶּ֭שֶׁא יַרְבִּיצֵ֑נִי עַל־מֵ֖י מְנֻח֣וֹת יְנַהֲלֵֽנִי׃1

In pastures of new green grass He lets me lie down, | by waters of complete rest He guides me (Ps 23:2, AT)

The Grass is Always Green

What do you like to do after eating a filling and delicious meal? If you’re anything like me, it’s the perfect time for a nap!

New green grass ( דֶּשֶׁא | dešeʾ) refers to “new fresh grass (after the rain…” (cf. 2 Sam 23:4).2 Metaphorically speaking, this isn’t the week-old meal we forgot about in the back of the ‘fridge. This is fresh!

Lie down ( רָבַץ | rābaṣ) means to “lie stretched out”.3 Shepherds would have their sheep lie down and rest after they finished grazing4 and were full.5

For example:

Tell me, you whom I love, where you graze your flock and where you rest [rābaṣ] your sheep at midday. (So 1:7 abc, NIV).6

I prefer He lets me lie down instead of He makes me lie down, which can be misleading by implying coercion.7 The shepherd makes the rest of the sheep possible; He is not forcing the sheep take a nap!

Take Me To The Water

Waters of complete rest refers to a resting place by the water.8 Guide (נָהַל | nāhal) means to gently “lead with care”9

The LORD metaphorically leading His people beside water like a shepherd is found elsewhere in Scripture:

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads [nāhal] those that have young. (Is 40:11, NIV; cf. Hos 4:16; Mic 7:14)10

They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat down on them. He who has compassion on them will guide [nāhal] them and lead them beside springs of water. (Is 49:10, NIV).11

Rest ( מְנוּחָה | mĕnûḥâ) is a term associated with the Promised Land,12 protection from enemies, etc.13 Similar to the first verse (Ps 23:1), the psalmist is using vocabulary that recalls the Exodus. For example:

In your unfailing love [חֶסֶד | ḥesed] you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide [nāhal] them to your holy dwelling. (Ex 15:13, NIV)14

So they set out from the mountain of the Lord and traveled for three days. The ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them during those three days to find them a place to rest [mĕnûḥâ] (Num 10:33, NIV).15

But he brought his people out like a flock; he led them like sheep through the wilderness. He guided [nāhal] them safely, so they were unafraid; but the sea engulfed their enemies. And so he brought them to the border of his holy land, to the hill country his right hand had taken. He drove out nations before them and allotted their lands to them as an inheritance; he settled the tribes of Israel in their homes. (Ps 78:52-55, NIV).16

Green pastures and still waters imply rest and refreshment,17 which refresh the soul (cf. Ps 23:3).18

Conclusion

The psalmist sings that the LORD makes it possible to enjoy restful sleep — like a full-stomached nap one takes after a delicious meal. Moreover, the psalmist declares that the LORD gently guides to waters of complete rest — again using vocabulary that recalls the Exodus

For more commentary, please see the Psalm 23 Bible Study page. The full bibliography can be found here, and the slideshow for this study can be viewed and downloaded here.

Sources

  1. Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: With Werkgroep Informatica, Vrije Universiteit Morphology; Bible. O.T. Hebrew. Werkgroep Informatica, Vrije Universiteit. (Logos Bible Software, 2006), Ps 23:2.
  2. NIDOTTE, 999 cf. TWOT, 199; 2 Sam 23:4; TDOT, 308-9
  3. BDB, 918
  4. Waltke, 438
  5. Goldingay, 349
  6. TWOT, 830; Waltke, 438
  7. UBS, 232; cf. Ezek 34:15; Jacobson, 241; Goldingay, 349
  8. HALOT, 600; Goldingay, 350
  9. TWOT, 559 cf. NIDOTTE, 44
  10. TLOT, 1247; cf. TDOT, 88; NIDOTTE, 44; HALOT, 675; Longman, 134; Goldingay, 349; Waltke, 439
  11. HALOT, 675; BDB, 625; Goldingay, 349
  12. TDOT, 284
  13. Jacobson, 241
  14. HALOT, 675; cf. 2 Sam 15:25; Is 33:20; Broyles, 123; Futato, 101; Goldingay, 349; Craigie, 207; Waltke, 439)
  15. Broyles, 10:33; Futato, 101; Kidner, 127; Craigie, 207)
  16. UBS, 231; Goldingay, 350
  17. Wilcock, 86
  18. Goldingay, 350
About @DannyScottonJr 215 Articles
Imperfect Servant ✝📖⛪ | Husband | Princeton U. Alum | M. Div. | Assistant (to the) Pastor | Sound Doctrine & Apologetics @catchforchrist