Psalm 23


commentary, sermon aids and bible versions

About psalm 23

Psalm 23 is the best known and most popular of all the psalms. It is attributed to King David (as many of the psalms are) and is thought to be written towards the end of his life. The psalm is loved by Jews and Christians alike, speaking as it does of God's protection and care. Both traditions use this scripture as a hymn. For the Jews, psalm 23 is used as a focus for the third meal in the Shabbat, (the Sabbath rest) and on other religious occassions such as in the Yizkor (prayers of rememberance). The Christian church has two or three popular melodies that set the psalm to music. The most popular is set to the "Crimond" tune, another being the melody also used in John Newton's "Amazing Grace". This bible passage is often used at funerals, speaking as it does of God's protection in the face of death (v 4).


Psalm 23 film

a reading of this famous psalm of David, with beautiful images of nature:-



more films like this at prayerscapes


Psalm 23 Summary


Psalm 23 may be divided into two sections. The first explores the image of God as Shepherd, guiding and caring for his sheep. This theme is reflected in the New Testament, where Jesus is seen to be the Good Shepherd of the flock (John 10:1-21). In the second section David is invited to partake in a meal - and the Lord God is the host of this extravagant banquet.


An Interpretation of Psalm 23


The first section of this Psalm concerns the Lord as Shepherd of His sheep, and reveals God's care of David (and the Lord's followers) in three important ways:-

1. As supplier of needs

2. As leader and guide

3. As a guardian


1. As supplier of needs - Psalm 23 verse 1-3. Notice David's testimony in the first sentence "I lack nothing" (Ps 23:1, NIV). He then develops this image of how God has provided for him:-

(a) He has rested in "green pastures" - this probably refers to new grass. Sheep need plenty of grass to feed from, and once they have eaten, they "lie down" content to rest.

(b) David has been led to "quiet waters" - this is probably not a stream but a well-spring with fresh water to drink from. So David has been given food, rest and water from the Lord - the essential components of life and well-being.

2. As leader and guide - Psalm 23:3. David confesses that the Lord is his guide - an idea that is developed elsewhere in the psalms. For example, Psalm 119:101 (NIV) "I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word" and a little later in this psalm (verse 105) "Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path". Notice the link in both psalms between "right paths" (Psalm 23:3) and God's guidance. If the sheep keep following the shepherd's leading, they are safe. Once they stray off, they risk danger and destruction.

3. As a guardian (Psalm 23 verse 4, CEV) "I may walk through valleys as dark as death, but I won't be afraid. You are with me, and your shepherd's rod makes me feel safe". David testifies that even in his darkest and most dangerous hours, God has never abandoned him. We see this as a promise to the Jews in the Old Testament (for example, Isaiah 43:2 NIV) "When you pass through the waters,
   I will be with you" and to Christians in the New Testament "lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world". (Math 28:20, ASV) Indeed, Christ personifies himself as the "Good Shepherd" who would lay down his life for his sheep (John 10:14).


The second section of Psalm 23 is a celebration. David has been invited to an extravagant banquet where the Lord is his host. Here there is a shift in David's thinking - in the first section of the psalm, God has provided for his needs. In the second section, there is an abundance of provision and blessing, with an overflowing cup and a great feast (Psalm 23:5). Although these verses concern David's earthly life, there is also a glimpse into eternity "and I will live forever in your house, LORD". (Ps 23:6, CEV) Here there are also parallels with the words of Jesus concerning his disciples ultimate heavenly destination - "My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?" (John 14:2)


Psalm 23 Commentary

The majority of this site is devoted to exploring the meaning of psalm 23. Here you'll find a short study on the psalm by John Calvin, exploring the thanksgiving nature of David's writing. Matthew Henry looks at the meaning of psalm through the imagery that is used - the Lord as shepherd of his flock, and abiding in His green pastures. This is taken from his concise commentary on the bible. Below this in the navigation on the left are a further four pages from the work of Matthew Henry, covering such subjects as the Lord as "The Divine Shepherd" and His perpetual mercy. Alexander MacClaren's exposition of psalm 23 considers that the first section of the scripture may be divided into three parts - rest, work and sorrow, and the section (about the meal) also covers similiar themes, but in a more intensified and heavenly way. The site also features an extensive exposition of the psalm by Charles Spurgeon, divided into six sections (one of each verse). Spurgeon covers topics from the verses of Psalm 23 such as "I shall not want" and "For thou art with me". Also in this section there is an analysis of the psalm by Adam Clarke with verse-by-verse bible notes covering such topics as "The Lord is my Shepherd" and "He restorth my soul".

Psalm 23

click on linked text for analysis or commentary

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.


(King James Version of the Holy Bible)



Psalm 23 Bible Versions


Psalm 23 is often read at funerals, and "The Lord's My Shepherd" hymn is a popular choice on these occassions, speaking as it does of the Lord's protection and care in the "shadow of death". If you're looking for the hymn music to psalm 23 - "The Lord's My Shepherd", then this page contains the lyrics to the hymn, as well as several different links to free score and music versions of the song, including the most popular melody setting ("Crimond"). This site also offers a downloadable mp3 version of this bible passage with a reading of the scripture from the NIV and CEV and a meditative sung response.


There is a page with resources for helping children to learn psalm 23, with an animation, links to sunday school lessons and a version of the psalm for children. There's also a number of other versions of the psalm, from the American Standard, the text from Websters Bible, the words from Young's Literal Translation, the World English Bible, and the King James Version. There's also an easy reading version of psalm 23 from the Bible in Basic English. If you need a version of this scripture in a different language, then there's also pages on the psalm in german, spanish, french and chinese. There's also a version in latin (taken from the Vulgate) and another version of the psalm in hebrew (with an english translation by the side). Finally, there's a page with futher useful online resources about psalm 23.