I was first drawn to studying Psalms 23 because of its wide use in worship among Christians. Although I have read the book of Psalms since I was a teenager, my most relevant experience with Psalms 23 was when, as a group of theologians, we formed a Bible study group dedicated to studying that particular chapter.
However I was recently inspired to write this article after one of my theology students asked me about the message of Psalms 23.
To address that question I first have to start by discussing, who wrote Psalms 23.
Many people believe that King David wrote Psalms 23. They claim that since he was a once a shepherd, he understood the life of a shepherd and sheep, which significantly feature in this Psalm. Additionally, most bible versions, such as the NKJV, NIV, and ASV, call it a Psalm of David.
In this article, I will discuss when Psalms 23 was written and why it was written. I will also discuss the situation in which it was written.
To learn this and more, continue reading.
When was Psalm 23 written?
Most bible scholars and historians believe that Psalms 23 was written between 1000 BC and 993 BC when David was still the king. Some experts believe King David wrote the Psalms during his last years as a king.
They claim that the Psalm has a nostalgic and tranquil tone that suggests that it points out the memories of God’s greatness throughout his life.
Others say that although it is clear that the Psalm was written when David was the king, it is not possible to know the exact period when he did it.
Therefore, they suggest that the writing period should be between 1090-970 BCE.
Why did David write Psalm 23?
Most theologians suggest that he wrote the Psalms to recount the good things that God had done in his life.
They say that since most of David’s Psalms had a complaint, he wrote this to express his delight and satisfaction with the things that God had done in his life.
Others suggest that he wrote it as a memory of experiences of God’s caring nature. The Bible records that David’s life was filled with major challenges.
For instance, he encountered dangerous wild animals such as lions as a shepherd. He also faced Goliath and the hostile King Saul.
As a king, Absalom, his son, wanted to overthrow him. Therefore, many see Psalms 23 as a nostalgic memory of the challenging experiences God had saved him.
In what situation was Psalm 23 written?
Most people believe that David wrote Psalms 23 in a situation of abundance, victory, and contentment. They point out that David is sure that he will never lack, which speaks of abundance.
They also point out that he is grateful that God enabled him to overcome challenges, as indicated by the phrase “through the shadow of death.”
Others say that he wrote it from a close relationship with God. They view the Psalm as an inspiration from God, where he was revealing Himself to David.
They say that due to David’s closeness to God, He decided to reveal himself as a caring shepherd.
What is the main message of Psalm 23?
Most theologians say that the main message of Psalms 23 is God’s caring, protective, and providing character and the plan he has for His children.
The Psalm compares God to a shepherd who values the sheep. It portrays God as a provider and a protector.
Others see the main message of this Psalm as God’s trustworthiness. They say it portrays God as trustworthy because he does not leave his children even in the most difficult times.
They say that reading the Psalms shows a God we can trust with our lives.
What is the context and background of Psalms 23?
Most people believe that the context and background of Psalms 23 is David’s experience with God over many years.
They say that at this point, David had gone through many challenges in life and had experienced great victory courtesy of the help of God.
They believe that David was speaking from the point of knowing God through many experiences.
Others believe the Psalm is written in the context and background of gratitude near the end of David’s reign and life.
They say it seems like a summation of David’s life-long interaction with God. They claim that the statements that the “Lord is my shepherd” and “he grazes me in green pastures” seem to be conclusions after a lifetime of observation and experience.
What is the meaning of Psalms 23? Line by Line Meaning of Psalms 23
Psalms 23 has six lines, and their meanings are discussed below
It is a metaphor that compares God with a shepherd who does not let the writer lack: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”
God leads the writer where food is abundant: “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.”
God takes care of the writer’s spiritual needs, such as restoration and righteousness: “He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”
God helps the writer through the most difficult times; hence, he cannot fear. God guides and provides comfort: “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.”
God provides during challenging times, even when adversaries are close. God’s favor is beyond enough: “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.”
The writer is confident that God will continue to show him His goodness. The writer commits to remain in God’s presence: “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.”
What type of Psalm is Psalm 23?
Most theologians classify it as an individual Psalm of gratitude. They point out that, in such a Psalm, individuals praise and thank God for his goodness and for delivering them from challenges and calamities.
Others view it as a praise and worship Psalm. They say that the Psalm depicts God as mighty. For instance, he can deliver us from the valley of the shadow of death.
He also can set a table before the eyes of the enemy and is a mighty provider.
How do people interpret Psalms 23?
Some people interpret it as a befitting scripture to read, especially during mourning and funeral services. They interpret it as a comforting Psalm and, hence, appropriate to use on such occasions.
Others interpret it as a thanksgiving scripture. They refer to it when they have achieved victory, especially if they have experienced significant challenges.
As such, they interpret it as a happy Psalm that should remind us of God’s goodness and the battles he has won for his children.
Who is David addressing in Psalm 23?
David is addressing God because in the first verse. He refers to the Lord. In some versions, the first verse is written as Jehovah.
In verse four, he says your Rod and Staff, which means he was addressing the shepherd, the Lord or God.
What are some popular bible commentaries on Psalms 23?
One popular bible commentary on Psalms 23 is Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, which offers significant insight into the meaning of each verse and possible reasons David wrote them.
The commentary shows how David has a revelation of God’s character. Bobby Varghese notes that the commentary does a great job of showing David’s grateful attitude and God’s caring character.
Also, most people use the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, which provides exceptionally detailed commentary on Psalms 23.
This commentary does a great job of exposing David’s confidence in God, even in the future. In doing so, it emphasizes the need to carry an attitude of trust.
Why is Psalm 23 read at funerals?
Most people believe it is read at funerals because it comforts the mourners. They say it proves why people should trust God during difficult times. Most people consider funerals as the valley of the shadow of death mentioned in this Psalm.
Others believe that it provides hope to those who are left. They say that the Psalm indicates that God is still present even in the darkest of times, such as in death.
Despite the present trying times, they view it as an encouragement for a better future.
The Psalmist speaks of the past and present and expresses confidence in God’s care, protection, and love in the future.
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.