Psalm 23:1-6

Psalm 23:1-6
Lent A17


A PsalmA of David.B

1 The LordC is my shepherd,D I shall not want.E

Notes on verse 1

A “psalm” = mizmor. From zamar (to make music, make music to praise God; properly, to touch the strings or parts of an instrument, to plan and instrument; music accompanied by voice); may be from zamar (to trim or prune a vine). This word is melody, music, a poem set to notes.
B “David” = david. From the same as dod (beloved, love, uncle); may be from an unused root meaning to boil – so, figuratively, to love or someone you love. This word is beloved one. David, a son of Jesse.
C “Lord” = YHVH. From havah (to become); from hayah (to come to pass, be or become). This is the name of the God of Israel, usually shown as Lord. It is the tetragrammaton – the self-existent and eternal one.
D “shepherd” = ra’ah. To tend a flock, pasture, graze. Thus, shepherd. It can also mean a keeper or companion. Can be used figuratively of a ruler or teacher. Of people, it can mean a flock.
E “want” = chaser. This word means to lack, need, be lacking, decrease, bereave, cause to fail. To lack, want, or lessen. This is not the sense of wanting whatsoever (having every wild fantasy fulfilled), but asserting that I will not be in want or in need of that which is vital.

    He makes me lie downF in greenG pastures;H
he leadsI me beside stillJ waters;

Notes on verse 2

F “makes me lie down” = rabats. To stretch oneself out, lie down, crouch down, fall down, make to rest, sit. To crouch on all four legs, to recline, repose, brood, lurk, rest.
G “green” = deshe. 15x in OT. From dasha (to sprout, shoot, grow green, bring forth, spring). This is grass, a sprout, tender grass, a tender herb.
H “pastures” = naah. 12x in OT. Related to navah (pasture, meadow); from the same as naveh (beautiful, home; the abode of shepherd or flocks; as home, it implies being satisfied or a place that is lovely; can also be used of God/Temple); from navah (home, beautify; to rest as at home; to celebrate with praises). OR it could be from naah (to be comely, befitting; to be at home and so to be pleasant, suitable, beautiful). This word is habitation, house, pleasant place, or pasture.
I “leads” = nahal. 10x in OT. Properly, to run with a sparkle i.e. to flow. To conduct, protect, or sustain. Can specially mean to lead or guide to a watering place – thus, a place of rest or of being refreshed. A gentle leading.
J “still” = menuchah. From manoach (a resting place, a state of rest, quite; implies a settled spot; used figuratively for a home); from nuach (to rest, cease, lay, remain, be quiet; to settle down, to dwell). This is a resting place, rest, comfortable, ease, quiet, still. Being peaceful; figurative for consolation; specially for matrimony; concretely for an abode.

    he restoresK my soul.L
He leadsM me in rightN pathsO
    for his name’sP sake.

Notes on verse 3

K “restores” = shub. To turn back, return – literal and figurative. This verb is the root of teshuvah – the word for repentance in Hebrew.
L “soul” = nephesh. Properly, a creature that breathes, the principle of vitality. So, this is soul, living being, self, desire, passion, appetite, emotion.
M “leads” = nachah. To lead, guide, bring. Can imply to transport as going into exile or as colonists.
N “right” = tsedeq. This is what is right – naturally, morally, or legally. It includes having just weights and measures. Broadly, this is rightness and righteousness, justice and just causes, equity and prosperity.
O “paths” = magal. 16x in OT – 6x for the paths of righteousness or of God, 4x for wicked ways, 3x for the circle of a camp, 2x for tracks or roads, and 1x for human ways. From an unused root meaning to revolve, circular, round. This is a track or a course, literal or figurative
P “name’s” = shem. This is name, renown, fame. It is the mark or memorial of individuality. So, it implies the honor, authority, or character of the one being named.

4 Even though I walk through the darkestQ valley,R
    I fear no evil;S
for you are with me;
    your rodT and your staffU
    they comfortV me.

Notes on verse 4

Q “darkest” = tsalmaveth. 18x in OT -10x in Job, 4x in Psalms, 1x in Isaiah, 2x in Jer, and 1x in Amos. From tsel (shadow, shelter, shade, defense, protection; literal or figurative); from tsalal (to be or grow dark; to shade as twilight or an opaque object; shadowing) + maveth (death, be deadly, the dead – their place or state; figurative for pestilence and ruin); from muth (to die, crying, put to death, destroyer). This word is a death-like shadow or a shadow that is very dark. It can mean the grave or, figuratively, calamity.
R “valley” = gay. May be related to gevah (pride, confidence, exaltation, lifting up); from ga’ah (to rise up, grow up, increase, be risen, triumph; figurative for being majestic). This is a valley – a gorge with lofty sides that is narrow. This doesn’t reefer to a gully or winter-torrent.
S “evil” = ra’. From ra’a’ (afflict, to be evil, bad; properly, to spoil – literally by breaking to pieces; figuratively to make or be good for nothing; so, bad physically, socially, or morally). This is adversity, bad, evil, affliction, distress. It includes natural or moral evil, mischief, sorrow, or wretchedness. Basically, this is a word to describe something that isn’t as it should be: a sin, a natural disaster, a disfigurement, trouble, etc.
T “rod” = shebet. A rod, staff, club, scepter, tribe, correction, dart. Comes from a root that probably means to branch off. Literally, this is a stick used for ruling, walking, punishing, fight, or writing. Figuratively, this refers to a clan.
U “staff” = mish’enah. 12x in OT. From mish’en (stay, support, staff; figurative for protector or sustenance); from sha’an (to lean, support oneself, lie, rely, rest on). This is staff, support, walking stick.
V “comfort” = nacham. Properly, to sigh or breathe strongly. By implication, to be sorry is a favorable sense. Can also mean pity, console, or rue. In a negative sense, it can be to avenge oneself (if you take consolation in that). This is the same word used in Isaiah 40 “comfort, comfort….”

You prepareW a tableX before meY
    in the presence of my enemies;Z
you anointAA my head with oil;
    my cupBB overflows.CC

Notes on verse 5

W “prepare” = arak. To arrange or set in order, to set the battle, compare, direct, equal, esteem, estimate. To set in a row or put in order.
X “table” = shulchan. This is a table as spread out. It implies a meal.
Y “before me” = panim. Literally “before my face.”
Z “enemies” = tsarar. Adversary, to bind, tie up, be restricted, narrow, scant, cramped. To be in affliction, besiege. To cramp literally or figuratively. So, enemies or those that impinge on us or restrict us in any sense.
AA “anoint” = dashen. 11x in OT. Related to deshen (fatness, ashes of fat). This is to be fat, grow fat, accept, take away ashes from, anoint. Figuratively, it means to satisfy.
BB “cup” = kos. From an unused root that means to hold together. This word means a cup or a small owl. The cup as a container. Also refers to an unclean bird – probably an owl because its eyes look like cups.
CC “overflows” = revayah. 2x in OT – my cup overflows & Psalm 66:12 you have brought us out into a spacious place [literally, a place of abundance]. From ravah (to be saturated, drink one’s fill, bathe, make drunk, abundantly satisfy, soak, water abundantly; to slake the thirst – something used of satisfying other appetites). This is saturation, abundance, overflowing, satisfaction, wealthy.

Surely goodnessDD and mercyEE shall followFF me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwellGG in the house of the Lord
    my whole life long.HH

Notes on verse 6

DD “goodness” = tob. From tob (to be pleasing or good; to be, do, or make good in the widest sense). So, this is beautiful, pleasant, agreeable, and good.
EE “mercy” = chesed. From chasad (merciful; to be good, king, show oneself to be merciful; properly, to bow the neck in courtesy to an equal – so to be kind or gracious). This is favor, goodness, kindness, good deed, loving kindness, merciful kindness, pity, reproach. When used of humans towards God, it means piety.
FF “follow” = radaph. To run after – usually with hostile intent. Means to pursue, chase, persecute, put to flight, follow after, hunt. Also used figuratively of time passing.
GG “dwell” = yashab. To sit, remain, dwell, continue, endure, establish. Properly, to sit down as to judge, to sit in ambush, to sit in quite; implies dwelling, remaining. Causatively, it can mean to settle or settle down (marry).
HH “whole life long” = orek + yom. Literally “the length of days.”

Image Credit: “Caer Caradoc Walk 10/07 (bb3)” by Ted and Jen.

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