What's an Interpretation of Psalm 23?


Quick Answer

Traditional interpretations of Psalm 23 in the Old Testament focus on the imagery of the Lord as a shepherd providing protection and care to his people. Christians specifically interpret the Lord to be Jesus, who frequently portrayed himself as the Good Shepherd in the New Testament.

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Full Answer

Tradition ascribes authorship of Psalm 23 to King David, who was a shepherd himself and was familiar with the job's duties and tools. The psalm begins by picturing the Lord leading the psalmist to green pastures and still waters, symbols of rest, comfort and peace. The psalmist then walks through a valley of death but fears no evil, picturing life as a dangerous journey in which the Lord provides protection and comfort with his rod and staff. These tools were used to guide and rescue sheep rather than to punish them and thus symbolize the shepherd's watchful and ever-present care.

The final part of the psalm describes the psalmist being led to a banquet table and anointed with oil, a symbol of blessing and honor. The presence of the enemies refers to the ultimate triumph of the psalmist in the face of hostility and adversity. All interpretations of this psalm emphasize the hope and rejoicing in the final words as the psalmist expresses his confidence that he will dwell in "the house of the Lord" all the days of his life.

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