Psalm 23

A song for[i] David


The Lord is my shepherd,

I shall not want.

In grassy fields, he makes me lie down.

            Along still waters, he makes me rest[ii].

He restores my soul,

            He leads me in the path of righteousness for his names sake.

Even though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death[iii],

I will not fear evil because you are with me,

Your rod and your staff comfort me.

You have set before me a table in the presence of my enemies,

            You have anointed my head with oil,

            My cup is overflowing.

Surly goodness and mercy[iv] will chase[v] after me all of the days of my life,

            And I will live[vi] in the house of the Lord until the end of time[vii].

[i] The Hebrew phrase מזמור לדוד is most literally translated as “a song for David” and such a phrase in most circumstances would be understood as “a song dedicated to David” or “a song written on behalf of David”; some suggest this an indication of David authorship but this designation is far from certain.

[ii] The verb נהל carries a sense of ‘leading’ or ‘carrying’ with an intent to bring rest.

[iii] There is considerable debate about the etymology of the word צלמות, traditional translations have taken this to be a contraction of צל מות (shadow of death) but some scholars prefer to treat it as a derivative of צלם and prefer a translations like “deep darkness” or “thick darkness”

[iv] Mercy is a translation of the Hebrew חסד (chesed) which is also frequently translated ‘love’, it conveys a sense of companionate interment mercy; it is more than mercy for mercy’s sake.

[v] The Hebrew word רדף most frequently is used in a context where someone is pursuing another i.e. an army that is pursuing those who are fleeing.

[vi] In Hebrew, “to sit” is frequently used idiomatically to denote the place where one lives i.e. “I sat in Bethlehem” would be typically translated as “I lived in Bethlehem”

[vii] The phrase לארך ימים literally means “to the length of days”

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