The Good Shepherd (Part I) | Psalm 23 Bible Study

Psalm 23:6 Meaning

Psalm 23 is likely the most well-known psalm1 of the Psalter — and the most well-known passage in the Bible.2

Though its context is unclear,3 clearly it is a psalm of confidence and trust in the LORD.4

The psalmist likely looks back at what God has done for His people,5 (especially in the (first) Exodus) and trusts that God will continue to be God.

The psalmist’s ultimate desire is not the presents of the LORD, but the presence of the LORD.6

Below, please find links to verse-by-verse commentary with the author’s translation (AT), the main points, the slideshow, and the bibliography.

Verse-by-Verse Commentary

Main Points

First & Second Exodus

Psalm 23 is “intensely personal” but it echoes the corporate experience of Israel as they traveled to the future “house” of the LORD  through the wilderness, after the Exodus7 – the bedrock of Israel’s faith.8

As we’ve discussed in our previous commentary (see above):

  • The LORD led Israel through the mighty waters of the Red Sea, and through the wilderness — like a flock (Ps 77:19-20, 78:52-55 cf. Ps 23:1, 2) to a place of rest (Num 10:33 cf. Ps 23:2)
  • The LORD provided manna and quail in the wilderness; His people did not lack (Ex 16:18, Dt. 2:7; Neh 9:21 cf. Ps 23:1). The LORD brought them into the Promised Land – where they would not lack (Dt 8:6-9 cf. Ps 23:1)
  • After the Exodus, Moses sang that the LORD, in loyal love would guide the people to His holy dwelling (Ex 15:13 cf. Ps 23:2, 6). The LORD led them with a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day (Ex 13:21, etc. cf. Ps 23:3)
  • The wilderness was described as “a land of drought and utter darkness” [i.e., “shadow of death”] (Jer 2:6, NIV cf. Ps 23:4).
  • The LORD shepherded (cf. Ps 23:1) Israel with a staff (cf. Ps 23:4) when they came out of Egypt (Mic 7:14-15).
  • The LORD told Moses, “I will be with you” (Ex 3:12 cf. Dt 2:7; Ps 23:4)

Jesus’ death and resurrection are described as the Second Exodus9 — the bedrock of our faith (cf. 1 Cor 15:14, 17).

In Luke, during the Transfiguration (Lk 9:28-36) , we read:

Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure [ἔξοδος | exhodos], which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. (Lk 9:30-31, NIV)

The Good, Great, Chief Shepherd

In the New Testament, Jesus is often described as our Shepherd (cf. Ps 23:1). For example:

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (Jn 10:11, NIV).10

For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Pet 2:25, NIV).11

And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. (1 Pet 5:4, NIV).12

For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’” (Rev 7:17, NIV cf. Ps 23:2).13

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Heb 13:20-21, NIV).14

Conclusion

The psalmist likely looks back at what all God has done for Him and His people during the First Exodus and sings confidently that God will continue to be God.

We can look back at the Second Exodus (Christ’s death and resurrection) and sing confidently that God will continue to be God.

This is a song of trust in God’s daily bread and daily guidance15 – even in the midst of trouble!16 We can trust God even when faced with hostile circumstances and hostile people.

The LORD is our shepherd. Therefore, He has authority over us humble sheep.17 Moreover, He protects and provides, sustains and secures, guards and guides.

In the words of St. Augustine, “God has made us for Himself, and our souls are restless, until they find rest in Him.” 18 Our ultimate desire should not be God’s presents but God’s presence. 

Psalm 23 is not merely a psalm about dying; it’s a psalm about living!19 We are God’s temple (1 Cor 3:16, 6:19); God is with us — right now!

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Mt 28:20b, NIV;20 cf. Mt 1:23, 18:20)

In response — no matter the situation — we can proclaim with confidence: “You are with me!”21

Slideshow

To download this slideshow as a .PDF, please click here.

Bibliography

  • Bratcher, Robert G., and William David Reyburn. A Translator’s Handbook on the Book of Psalms. UBS Handbook Series. New York: United Bible Societies, 1991. [UBS]
  • Botterweck, G. Johannes, Helmer Ringgren, and Heinz-Josef Fabry, eds. Translated by John T. Willis, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, David E. Green, and Douglas W. Stott. Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977–2012. [TDOT]
  • Briggs, Charles A., and Emilie Grace Briggs. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Psalms. International Critical Commentary. New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1906–1907.
  • Broyles, Craig C. Psalms. Edited by W. Ward Gasque, Robert L. Hubbard Jr., and Robert K. Johnston. Understanding the Bible Commentary Series. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2012.
  • Brown, Francis, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs. Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977. [BDB]
  • Clines, David J. A., ed. The Dictionary of Classical Hebrew. Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press; Sheffield Phoenix Press, 1993–2011.
  • Craigie, Peter C. Psalms 1–50. 2nd ed. Vol. 19. Word Biblical Commentary. Nashville, TN: Nelson Reference & Electronic, 2004.
  • Davis, Barry C. in Burge, Gary M., and Andrew E. Hill, eds. The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2012.
  • Futato, Mark D. “The Book of Psalms.” In Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 7: The Book of Psalms, The Book of Proverbs. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2009.
  • Gesenius, Wilhelm, and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles. Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003.
  • Goldingay, John. Baker Commentary on the Old Testament: Psalms 1–41. Edited by Tremper Longman III. Vol. 1. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006.
  • Harris, R. Laird, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, eds. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Chicago: Moody Press, 1999. [TWOT]
  • Jacobson, Rolf A., and Beth Tanner. “Book One of the Psalter: Psalms 1–41.” In The Book of Psalms, Kidner, Derek. Psaledited by E. J. Young, R. K. Harrison, and Robert L. Hubbard Jr. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014.
  • Jenni, Ernst, and Claus Westermann. Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1997. [TLOT]
  • Kidner, Derek. Psalms 1–72: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 15. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973.
  • Koehler, Ludwig, Walter Baumgartner, M. E. J. Richardson, and Johann Jakob Stamm. The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000.
  • Kraus, Hans-Joachim. A Continental Commentary: Psalms 1–59. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1993.
  • Longman, Tremper, III. Psalms: An Introduction and Commentary. Edited by David G. Firth. Vol. 15–16. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2014.
  • Matthews, Victor Harold, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament. Electronic ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000.
  • Motyer, J. A. “The Psalms.” In New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, edited by D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, and G. J. Wenham, 4th ed., 485–583. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.
  • Ryken, Leland, Jim Wilhoit, Tremper Longman, Colin Duriez, Douglas Penney, and Daniel G. Reid. Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000.
  • VanGemeren, Willem, ed. New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997. [NIDOTTE]
  • Waltke, Bruce K., James M. Houston, and Erika Moore. The Psalms as Christian Worship: A Historical Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010.
  • Walton, John H. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary (Old Testament): The Minor Prophets, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs. Vol. 5. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009.
  • Wilcock, Michael. The Message of Psalms: Songs for the People of God. Edited by J. A. Motyer. The Bible Speaks Today. Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2001.

Sources

  1. Jacobson, 238; Longman, 134; Craigie, 208
  2. Futato, 103
  3. Goldingay 346; Craigie, 205
  4. Longman, 133; Jacobson, 238; Goldingay, 345; Craigie, 205-6
  5. Wilcock, 87; Craigie, 206
  6. cf. Futato, 102; Kidner, 127; Jacobson, 244
  7. Broyles, 124-5 cf. Goldingay, 349
  8. Craigie, 205
  9. “Indeed, when Jesus speaks of his resurrection, he speaks of leading an exodus (Lk 9:31).”

    Leland Ryken et al., Dictionary of Biblical Imagery (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 254.

  10. Wilcock, 87; Futato, 103; cf. Lk 15:4-7; Longman, 137; Jacobson, 245; Craigie, 209; Waltke, 445; Kraus, 309
  11. Craigie, 209
  12. Wilcock, 87; Waltke, 445
  13. Wilcock, 87; Waltke, 439
  14. Wilcock, 87; Waltke, 445
  15. Futato, 102
  16. Longman, 137
  17. cf. Craigie, 209
  18. Futato, 102 from Confessions, 1.1
  19. Goldingay, 353
  20. Jacobson, 243
  21. Jacobson, 246
About @DannyScottonJr 241 Articles
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