Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Psalms 23

By Joseph Benson


Verse 1
Psalms 23:1. The Lord is my shepherd — He hath showed himself to be so by his gracious providences toward me; and he hath kindly taken upon himself that office, and condescended to stand in that relation to me, having entered into covenant with me, and thereby engaged to rule, feed, and preserve, and heal me, and do all for me that shepherds do, or are under an obligation of doing for their flocks. David himself had been a shepherd, and, doubtless, well understood, and had carefully performed his duty, as such, to his flock. He knew by experience the cares and tender affections of a good shepherd toward his sheep, and was not unmindful what need they had of a shepherd, and what advantage it was to them to have one that was skilful and faithful. By this, therefore, he illustrates God’s care of his people, and by this he strengthens his own faith and confidence in him, and assists the faith and confidence of every pious reader. For he that is the Shepherd of Israel, of the whole church in general, Psalms 80:1, is the shepherd of every particular believer; the meanest is not below his cognizance. He gathers even the lambs with his arm, Isaiah 40:11; nay, and carries them in his bosom. He takes them into the fold of his church, and then takes care of them: he protects and provides for them with more care and constancy than any shepherd can his sheep. If God be to us a shepherd, we must be to him as sheep, inoffensive, meek, and quiet, silent before the shearers; “nay,” says Henry, “before the butcher too;” useful and sociable, we must know the shepherd’s voice, and follow him. I shall not want — Namely, any thing that is really necessary for me, either for this life, or for the next. But foolish men may think many things to be necessary for them, which the all-wise God knows to be, not only unnecessary, but hurtful, and therefore mercifully denies what men ignorantly desire to their hurt.

Verse 2
Psalms 23:2. He maketh me to lie down — Not only to feed, but to rest, and enjoy tranquillity, peace, and safety; in green pastures — Where there are both delight and plenty. “The loveliest image afforded by the natural world is here represented to the imagination; that of a flock feeding in verdant meadows, and reposing in quietness by the rivers of water running gently through them. It is selected to convey an idea of the provision made for the souls as well as bodies of men by His goodness who openeth his hand and filleth all things living with plenteousness.” — Horne. He leadeth me — Lest I should wander and perish, Hebrew, ינהלני, jenahaleeni, He leadeth me, commode et leniter, says Buxtorf, fitly and gently; accommodating himself to my infirmities, as shepherds do to their sheep; beside — Or, to the still waters, Hebrew, מי מנוכת, mee menuchoth, waters of rests, or refreshments: quiet and gentle waters, running in small and shallow channels, which are opposed to great rivers, which both affright the sheep with their great noise, and expose them to be carried away by their swift and violent streams, while they are drinking at them. Such is the difference between the gentle waters of the sanctuary, the waters of Shiloah that go softly, and the rapid, muddy, and noisy torrents and overflowing floods of worldly and carnal enjoyments. God provides for his people, not only food and rest, but refreshment also, and pleasure. The waters by and to which he leads them afford them both a pleasant prospect and many a cooling and refreshing draught, when they are thirsty and weary. The consolations of God, the joys of the Holy Ghost, are those still waters by which the saints are led, streams which flow from the fountain of living waters, and make glad the city of our God.

Verse 3
Psalms 23:3. He restoreth my soul — Hebrew, נפשׁי ישׁובב, naphshi jeshobeb, my soul he bringeth, or, will bring back, namely, from its errors or wanderings. No creature is more ready to go astray than a sheep, or more at a loss to find its way back. And all we like sheep have gone astray, and are still too prone so to do; to leave the right way of truth and duty, and to turn aside into by-paths. But when God shows us our errors, gives us repentance, and brings us back to our duty again, he restores our souls; and if he did not do so, we would wander endlessly and be undone. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness — In the plain, straight, and safe paths, in which the sheep of the Lord’s pasture are neither hurt, nor wearied, nor in danger of wandering. By his word and his providence he directs me to the right ways of truth and holiness, and by his Spirit he inclines and enables me to choose those ways, and to continue to walk therein; for his name’s sake — Not for any merit in me, but merely for the demonstration and glory of his mercy, faithfulness, and goodness.

Verse 4
Psalms 23:4. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death — Through a dark and dismal valley, full of terrors and dangers, as this phrase signifies, Job 24:17; Psalms 44:19; Jeremiah 2:6; that is, though I am in peril of death, though in the midst of dangers, deep as a valley, dark as a shadow, and dreadful as death itself: or rather, though I am under the arrests of death, and have received the sentence of death within myself, and have every reason to look upon myself as a dying man: I will fear no evil — I will not give way to my fears, but will confidently rely upon the word and promise of God, persuaded that his grace shall be sufficient for me, and that he will make even death itself work for my good. Observe, reader, a child of God may meet the messengers of death, and receive its summons, with a holy security and serenity of mind. He may bid it defiance, and say with Paul, O death where is thy sting? For thou art with me — Here is the ground of a true Christian’s confidence when in the valley of the shadow of death, God is with him, and his presence inspires him with confidence and comfort, hope and joy. It affords him light amidst the darkness of the valley, and life in the death of it. Thy rod and thy staff — Thy word and thy Spirit; comfort me — His gospel is the rod of his strength, and there is enough in that to comfort the saints, both while they live, even in their greatest troubles, and also when they are dying. And his Spirit is the Comforter himself, and where he is, support and comfort cannot be wanting. His rod of chastisement and correction also ministers to the comfort of his people, and much more his staff of support, his upholding grace, which, under all their trials, and even in their last and greatest trial, is sufficient for them. Or the rod may signify his pastoral care, and inspection of the flock, (alluding to the shepherd’s crook, or rod, under which the sheep passed when they were counted, Leviticus 27:32,) and the staff, the defence, and protection afforded them, the shepherd with his staff being wont to defend his sheep from the dogs and wolves that would worry them. Or, as others interpret the words, the rod here, in allusion to the rod of Moses, may be considered as an emblem of power, especially as the word שׁבשׂ, shebet, here translated rod, often signifies a sceptre, or some other ensign of authority. And the word translated staff, משׁענה, mishgneneh, properly signifies what a person leans upon for support. Thus interpreted, the clause means, The sceptre of thy kingdom, or thy power protects me, and thy support upholds me, and so both minister to my comfort.

Verse 5
Psalms 23:5. Thou preparest a table before me — Thou furnishest me with plenty and variety of provisions and comforts. In the presence of mine enemies — Who seeing, envying, and fretting at it, are not able to hinder it. Thou anointest my head with oil — Or ointment, as the Syriac and Arabic interpreters render it, namely, with aromatic ointments, which were then used in great feasts. The sense is, Thy comforts delight my soul. See Psalms 45:7. My cup runneth over — Thou hast given me a very plentiful portion, signified by the cup given to the guests by the master of the feast. Thus “another set of images, borrowed from a feast, is introduced to give us ideas of those cordials and comforts prepared to cheer and invigorate the fainting soul; while, surrounded by enemies, it is accomplishing its pilgrimage through life; during which time its sorrows and afflictions are alleviated and sweetened by the joys and consolations of the Holy One; by the feast of a good conscience; by the bread of life; the oil of gladness, and the cup of salvation still full and running over.” — Horne.

Verse 6
Psalms 23:6. Surely goodness and mercy — That is, God’s favour, and the blessed and comfortable effects of it; shall follow me — Hebrew, ירדפוני, jirdepuni, shall pursue me, by which emphatical expression he signifies God’s wonderful freeness and readiness to do good to his people, and that his blessings not only prevent us, but even pursue them who flee from them, or that they follow us in our journey through life, as the water out of the rock followed the camp of Israel through the wilderness. All the days of my life — From the former instances of God’s favour to him, he justly concludes that he would continue to show him favour in a similar way; for nothing can separate us from the love of God, if we do not separate ourselves from it: and the experience we have had of his goodness and mercy, already so often vouchsafed, naturally tends to beget an assurance of their being continued to the end. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever — Whereas I have formerly been driven from God’s house, I rest assured that I shall now constantly enjoy that blessed privilege of worshipping and enjoying God in his sanctuary, which I prize more than all my dominions. David’s words here, however, look still further, even to a perfection of bliss in a future state: as if he had said, The divine goodness and mercy having followed me all the days of my life, when that is ended, I shall remove to a better world, to dwell in the house of the Lord for ever, the house of my heavenly Father, in which there are many mansions, where the church of God will constitute one fold, under one shepherd, “the fold into which no enemy enters, and from which no friend departs; where the servants of God rest from all their labours, and see a period to all their sorrows; where the voice of praise and thanksgiving is heard continually; where all the faithful, from Adam to his last-born son, shall meet together, to behold the face of Jesus, and to be blessed with the vision of the Almighty; where they shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more, neither shall the sun light on them, or any heat. But the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and lead them to living fountains of waters, Revelation 7:16-17.” — Horne.


Book Navigation Title Page Table of Contents Argument Introduction ► Chapter 1 ► Chapter 2 ► Chapter 3 ► Chapter 4 ► Chapter 5 ► Chapter 6 ► Chapter 7 ► Chapter 8 ► Chapter 9 ► Chapter 10 ► Chapter 11 ► Chapter 12 ► Chapter 13 ► Chapter 14 ► Chapter 15 ► Chapter 16 ► Chapter 17 ► Chapter 18 ► Chapter 19 ► Chapter 20 ► Chapter 21 ► Chapter 22 ► Chapter 23 ► Chapter 24 ► Chapter 25 ► Chapter 26 ► Chapter 27 ► Chapter 28 ► Chapter 29 ► Chapter 30 ► Chapter 31 ► Chapter 32 ► Chapter 33 ► Chapter 34 ► Chapter 35 ► Chapter 36 ► Chapter 37 ► Chapter 38 ► Chapter 39 ► Chapter 40 ► Chapter 41 ► Chapter 42 ► Chapter 43 ► Chapter 44 ► Chapter 45 ► Chapter 46 ► Chapter 47 ► Chapter 48 ► Chapter 49 ► Chapter 50 ► Chapter 51 ► Chapter 52 ► Chapter 53 ► Chapter 54 ► Chapter 55 ► Chapter 56 ► Chapter 57 ► Chapter 58 ► Chapter 59 ► Chapter 60 ► Chapter 61 ► Chapter 62 ► Chapter 63 ► Chapter 64 ► Chapter 65 ► Chapter 66 ► Chapter 67 ► Chapter 68 ► Chapter 69 ► Chapter 70 ► Chapter 71 ► Chapter 72 ► Chapter 73 ► Chapter 74 ► Chapter 75 ► Chapter 76 ► Chapter 77 ► Chapter 78 ► Chapter 79 ► Chapter 80 ► Chapter 81 ► Chapter 82 ► Chapter 83 ► Chapter 84 ► Chapter 85 ► Chapter 86 ► Chapter 87 ► Chapter 88 ► Chapter 89 ► Chapter 90 ► Chapter 91 ► Chapter 92 ► Chapter 93 ► Chapter 94 ► Chapter 95 ► Chapter 96 ► Chapter 97 ► Chapter 98 ► Chapter 99 ► Chapter 100 ► Chapter 101 ► Chapter 102 ► Chapter 103 ► Chapter 104 ► Chapter 105 ► Chapter 106 ► Chapter 107 ► Chapter 108 ► Chapter 109 ► Chapter 110 ► Chapter 111 ► Chapter 112 ► Chapter 113 ► Chapter 114 ► Chapter 115 ► Chapter 116 ► Chapter 117 ► Chapter 118 ► Chapter 119 ► Chapter 120 ► Chapter 121 ► Chapter 122 ► Chapter 123 ► Chapter 124 ► Chapter 125 ► Chapter 126 ► Chapter 127 ► Chapter 128 ► Chapter 129 ► Chapter 130 ► Chapter 131 ► Chapter 132 ► Chapter 133 ► Chapter 134 ► Chapter 135 ► Chapter 136 ► Chapter 137 ► Chapter 138 ► Chapter 139 ► Chapter 140 ► Chapter 141 ► Chapter 142 ► Chapter 143 ► Chapter 144 ► Chapter 145 ► Chapter 146 ► Chapter 147 ► Chapter 148 ► Chapter 149 ► Chapter 150