Psalm 23

Psalm 23 is the 23rd psalm of the Book of Psalms, generally known in English by its first verse, in the King James Version, "The Lord is my Shepherd". The Book of Psalms is the third section of the Hebrew Bible,[1] and a book of the Christian Old Testament. In the Greek Septuagint version of the Bible, and in its Latin translation in the Vulgate, this psalm is Psalm 22 in a slightly different numbering system. In Latin, it is known by the incipit, "Dominus reget me".[2]

Psalm 23
"The Lord is my Shepherd"
The Sunday at Home 1880 - Psalm 23.jpg
Illustration from The Sunday at Home, 1880
Other name
  • "Dominus reget me"
Writtenaround 1000 BC
Textattributed to King David
LanguageHebrew (original)

Like many psalms, Psalm 23 is used in both Jewish and Christian liturgies. It has been set to music often. It has been called the best-known of the psalms for its universal theme of trust in God.[3]

TextEdit

Hebrew Bible versionEdit

Following is the Hebrew text of Psalm 23:[4]

Verse Hebrew
1 מִזְמ֥וֹר לְדָוִ֑ד יְהֹוָ֥ה רֹ֜עִ֗י לֹ֣א אֶחְסָֽר
2 בִּנְא֣וֹת דֶּ֖שֶׁא יַרְבִּיצֵ֑נִי עַל־מֵ֖י מְנֻח֣וֹת יְנַֽהֲלֵֽנִי
3 נַפְשִׁ֥י יְשׁוֹבֵ֑ב יַנְחֵ֥נִי בְמַעְגְּלֵי־צֶ֜֗דֶק לְמַ֣עַן שְׁמֽוֹ
4 גַּ֚ם כִּֽי־אֵלֵ֨ךְ בְּגֵ֪יא צַלְמָ֡וֶת לֹא־אִ֘ירָ֚א רָ֗ע כִּי־אַתָּ֥ה עִמָּדִ֑י שִׁבְטְךָ֥ וּ֜מִשְׁעַנְתֶּ֗ךָ הֵ֣מָּה יְנַֽחֲמֻֽנִי
5 תַּֽ֘עֲרֹ֤ךְ לְפָנַ֨י שֻׁלְחָ֗ן נֶ֥גֶד צֹֽרְרָ֑י דִּשַּׁ֖נְתָּ בַשֶּׁ֥מֶן רֹ֜אשִׁ֗י כּוֹסִ֥י רְוָיָֽה
6 אַ֚ךְ ט֣וֹב וָחֶ֣סֶד יִ֖רְדְּפוּנִי כָּל־יְמֵ֣י חַיָּ֑י וְשַׁבְתִּ֖י בְּבֵית־יְ֜הֹוָ֗ה לְאֹ֣רֶךְ יָמִֽים

King James VersionEdit

 
Psalm 23:1-2 in King James Bible of 1611
A Psalm of David.
  1. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
  2. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
  3. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
  4. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
  5. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
  6. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Interpretation of themesEdit

 
Psalm 23 is often referred to as the Shepherd's psalm

The theme of God as a shepherd was common in ancient Israel and Mesopotamia. For example, King Hammurabi, in the conclusion to his famous legal code, wrote: "I am the shepherd who brings well-being and abundant prosperity; my rule is just.... so that the strong might not oppress the weak, and that even the orphan and the widow might be treated with justice."[5] This imagery and language was well known to the community that created the Psalm, and was easily imported into its worship.

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 pastures (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 helplessness without their shepherd.

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.[6] 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.[7]

John Ellinwood argues that in verses 4 and 5 King David acknowledges God's protection in expeditions and in battles. "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies" refers to the sober raucous dinner before major battles. These were raucous in order to demoralize hostiles camped within earshot, and (only) the king ate from a table. "Thou anointest my head with oil" because tomorrow this ceremony might be impossible. After each victory there was no longer a need for sobriety, so "my cup runneth over." The king's lyricist wisely shortened these military verses for balance. Also in Psalm 18 David mentions God's protection in battle.

The first verse of the Psalm ascribes authorship to King David, said in the Hebrew Scriptures to have been a field shepherd himself as a youth. However, some scholars do not agree with this attributed authorship, and hypothesize various other possibilities, commonly dating it to the post-exilic period.[8]

Taken together, Psalm 22, 23 and 24, is seen by some as shepherd psalms, where the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep as suffering servant and king.[9]

Uses in JudaismEdit

Psalm 23 is traditionally sung during the third Shabbat meal [10][11] as well as before first and second in some of the Jewish communities. It is also commonly recited in the presence of a deceased person, such as by those keeping watch over the body before burial, and at the funeral service itself.[12][13]

Uses in Christian traditionEdit

 
Eastman Johnson's 1863 painting The Lord is My Shepherd, depicting a devout man reading a Bible

For Christians the image of God as a shepherd evokes connections not only with David but with Jesus, described as "Good Shepherd" in the Gospel of John. The phrase about "the valley of the shadow of death" is often taken as an allusion to the eternal life given by Jesus.

Orthodox Christians typically include this Psalm in the prayers of preparation for receiving the Eucharist.

The Reformation inspired widespread efforts in western Europe to make biblical texts available in vernacular languages. One of the most popular early English versions was the Geneva Bible (1557). The most widely recognized version of the psalm in English today is undoubtedly the one drawn from the King James Bible (1611).

In the Roman Catholic Church, this psalm is sung as a responsorial in Masses for the dead.

The psalm is a popular passage for memorization and is often used in sermons.

Use in funeralsEdit

In the twentieth century, Psalm 23 became particularly associated with funeral liturgies in the English-speaking world, and films with funeral scenes often depict a graveside recitation of the psalm. Official liturgies of English-speaking churches were slow to adopt this practice, though. The Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England has only Psalms 39 and 90 in its order for the burial of the dead, and in the Episcopal Church in the United States, Psalm 23 was not used for funerals until the 1928 revision of the prayer book.

Musical settingsEdit

Metrical versionsEdit

In Christianity, a number of paraphrased versions of Psalm 23 emerged after the Protestant Reformation in the form of Metrical psalms — poetic versions that could be set to hymn tunes. An early metrical version of the psalm in English was made in 1565 by Thomas Sternhold. Other notable metrical versions to emerge from this period include those from The Bay Psalm Book (1640),[14] the Sidney Psalms by Philip Sidney, and settings by George Herbert and Isaac Watts.[14]

One of the best known metrical versions of Psalm 23 is the Christian hymn, "The Lord's my Shepherd", a translation first published in the 1650 Scottish Psalter.[15] Although widely attributed to the English Parliamentarian Francis Rous, the text was the result of significant editing by a translating committee in the 1640s before publication.[16] The hymn is one of the most popular hymns amongst English-speaking congregations today, and it is traditionally sung to the hymn tune Crimond, generally attributed to Jessie Seymour Irvine.[17][18] Other melodies, such as Brother James' Air or Amazing Grace, Belmont, Evan, Martyrdom, Orlington, and Wiltshire may also used.[19]

Another popular Christian hymn to be based on Psalm 23 is "The King of Love My Shepherd Is" by Henry Baker (1868).[20]

Sternhold and Hopkins (1628)[21] Bay Psalm Book (1640)[22] Rous Psalter (1643)[23] The Scottish Psalter (1650)[24]

The Lord is only my support,
and he that doth me feed;
How can I then lack any thing,
whereof I stand in need?

The Lord to me a shepherd is,
want therefore shall not I.
He in the folds of tender-grass,
doth cause me down to lie.

My Shepherd is the Living Lord
And He that doth me feed
How can I then lack anything
whereof I stand in need?

The Lord's my Shepherd, I'll not want;
he makes me down to lie
in pastures green; he leadeth me
the quiet waters by.

Liturgical and classicalEdit

SongsEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Mazor 2011, p. 589.
  2. ^ Parallel Latin/English Psalter / Psalmus 22 (23) medievalist.net
  3. ^ Heller, Rebbetzin Tziporah (3 August 2002). "The Lord is My Shepherd". Aish.com. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
  4. ^ "Tehillim – Psalms – Chapter 23". Chabad.org. 2018. Retrieved 29 June 2018.
  5. ^ "Hammurabi's Code, circa 1780BC". history.hanover.edu. Retrieved 2017-12-12.
  6. ^ J. Douglas MacMillan, The Lord of Shepherd. (Bryntirion: Evangelical Press of Wales, 1988), 78.
  7. ^ J. Douglas MacMillan, The Lord of Shepherd. (Bryntirion: Evangelical Press of Wales, 1988), 82.
  8. ^ Morgenstern, Julian (March 1946). "Psalm 23". Journal of Biblical Literature. 65 (1): 13–24. doi:10.2307/3262214. JSTOR 3262214.
  9. ^ http://www.plymouthbrethren.org/article/6484
  10. ^ Abramowitz, Rabbi Jack (2018). "Possibly the Most Famous Psalm of All". Orthodox Union. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
  11. ^ Jungreis, Rebbetzin Esther (18 April 2011). "The Tragic Vacuum (Part Four)". The Jewish Press. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
  12. ^ Olitzky, Kerry M.; Raphael, Marc Lee; Raphael, Marc (2000). An Encyclopedia of American Synagogue Ritual. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 188. ISBN 0313308144.
  13. ^ Lamm, Maurice. "Jewish Funeral Service & Eulogy". Chabad.org. Retrieved 29 June 2018.
  14. ^ a b "'Psalms Compared: Psalm 23', retrieved 2007-08-05. (no public access!)". Smith Creek Music. 2007-01-17. Archived from the original on 2015-03-22. Retrieved 2014-03-12.
  15. ^ Scottish Psalter and Paraphrases Archived 2006-11-16 at the Wayback Machine at CCEL
  16. ^ Petersen, Randy (2014). Be Still, My Soul: The Inspiring Stories behind 175 of the Most-Loved Hymns. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. ISBN 978-1-4143-8842-7. Retrieved 3 June 2020.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  17. ^ "Crimond". Center for Church Music – Songs & Hymns. Retrieved 2008-10-07.
  18. ^ Ewan, Elizabeth L.; Innes, Sue; Reynolds, Sian; Pipes, Rose (2007). Biographical Dictionary of ScottishWomen. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 978-0-7486-2660-1. Retrieved 3 June 2020.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  19. ^ http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/l/m/lmysheph.htm[dead link]
  20. ^ Famous Hymns and Their Authors. Hodder and Stoughton. 1903. p. 178. Retrieved 17 June 2020.
  21. ^ "Psalm 23, Sternhold and Hopkins". www.cgmusic.org. Retrieved 17 June 2020.
  22. ^ "Psalm 23 · Bay Psalm Book · Scriptures (goodbooksfree.com)". goodbooksfree.com. 2020. Retrieved 17 June 2020.
  23. ^ "Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary Handbook". dokumen.tips. Worship Committee of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Retrieved 3 June 2020.
  24. ^ "The Lord's My Shepherd". Hymnary.org. Retrieved 17 June 2020.
  25. ^ Itzhak Perlman and Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot perform Ben-Zion Shenker's Mizmor leDavid(YouTube).
  26. ^ Together with Psalm 43 and Psalm 150 in an a capella setting for mixed chorus written in 1954. Dixon, Joan (1992). George Rochberg: A Bio-Bibliographic Guide to His Life and Works. Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press, p. 175.
  27. ^ The Miklós Rózsa Society Website[dead link]
  28. ^ School of Music, Theatre & Dance (University of Michigan) Publications. School of Music, University of Michigan. 1880. Retrieved 17 June 2020.
  29. ^ #NOV290116. Novello & Co Ltd.
  30. ^ Blotner, Linda Solow (1983). The Boston Composers Project: A Bibliography of Contemporary Music. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, p. 547.
  31. ^ "Settings of: Psalm 23". ChoralNet. Retrieved 2012-02-25.
  32. ^ Gem Ki Elech 1(YouTube).

BibliographyEdit

  • Mazor, Lea (2011). Berlin, Adele; Grossman, Maxine (eds.). Book of Psalms. The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-973004-9.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

External linksEdit