In the 23rd Psalm (Greek numbering: Psalm 22) in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, the writer (David) describes God as his Shepherd. The text, beloved by Jews and Christians alike, is often alluded to in popular media and has been set to music.
Shepherd theme 
Psalm 23 portrays God as a good shepherd, feeding (verse 1) and leading (verse 3) his flock. The "rod and staff" (verse 4) are also the implements of a shepherd. Some commentators see the shepherd imagery pervading the entire psalm.
J. Douglas MacMillan argues that verse 5 ("Thou preparest a table before me") refers to the "old oriental shepherding practice" of using little raised tables to feed sheep. Similarly, "Thou anointest my head with oil" may refer to an ancient form of backliner – the oil is poured on wounds, and repels flies. MacMillan also notes that verse 6 ("Goodness and mercy shall follow me") reminds him of two loyal sheepdogs coming behind the flock.
In Jewish tradition 
Psalm 23 is traditionally sung by Jews in Hebrew at the third Shabbat meal on Saturday afternoon. It is also sung during the Yizkor service. Sephardic and some Hassidic Jews also sing during Friday afternoon services and as part of the Sabbath night and day meals. It is read at a cemetery funeral service instead of the traditional prayer during Jewish holidays.
In Christian tradition 
For Christians the image of God as a shepherd evokes connections not only with David but with Jesus, described as "the Good Shepherd" in the Gospel of John. The phrase about "the valley of the shadow of death" is often taken as an allusion to the eternal life given by Jesus.
The Reformation inspired widespread efforts in western Europe to make biblical texts available in vernacular languages. One of the most popular early English versions was the Geneva Bible (1557). The most widely recognized version of the psalm in English today is undoubtedly the one drawn from the King James Bible (1611).
The psalm is a popular passage for memorization and is often used in sermons.
Metrical versions 
An early metrical version of the psalm in English was made in 1565 by Thomas Sternhold. Other metrical versions to emerge from the Reformation include those from The Bay Psalm Book (1640) and a version influenced by Sternholm published in the Scottish Psalter (1650). The latter version is still encountered, with modernized spelling, in many Protestant hymns. Other notable metrical versions include those by George Herbert, Philip Sidney, and Isaac Watts.
A traditional pairing puts a metrical version of the psalm with the hymn tune Crimond, which is generally attributed to Jessie Seymour Irvine. This version, with its opening words "The Lord's My Shepherd", is probably the best-known amongst English-speaking congregations. Other melodies, such as Brother James' Air or Amazing Grace, are also used. Other tunes sometimes used include Belmont, Evan, Martyrdom, Orlington, and Wiltshire.
Use in funerals 
In the twentieth century, Psalm 23 became particularly associated with funeral liturgies in the English-speaking world, and films with funeral scenes often depict a graveside recitation of the psalm. Official liturgies of English-speaking churches were slow to adopt this practice, though. The Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England has only psalms 39 and 90 in its order for the burial of the dead, and in the Episcopal Church in the United States, Psalm 23 was not used for funerals until the 1928 revision of the prayer book.
Musical settings 
Liturgical and classical 
- Johann Sebastian Bach, Cantata No.112 Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt, BWV 112
- James Leith Macbeth Bain—hymn tune Brother James' Air
- Lennox Berkeley Op. 91, No. 1 (1975)
- Leonard Bernstein—Chichester Psalms (Hebrew, in Part 2, together with Psalm 2)
- Anton Bruckner—Psalm 22 Der Herr regieret mich WAB 34 (circa 1852)
- Paul Creston—Psalm XXIII (1945)
- Herbert Howells—Hymnus Paradisi
- Jessie Seymour Irvine—hymn tune Crimond
- Albert Hay Malotte
- Clément Marot (Latin)
- Kirke Mechem
- George Rochberg
- Miklós Rózsa
- John Rutter—Requiem
- Franz Schubert—version by Moses Mendelssohn (German)
- Randall Thompson
- Virgil Thomson
- Ralph Vaughan Williams
- Charles Villiers Stanford—"The Lord is my Shepherd" (1886)
- Alexander Zemlinsky Op. 14, (1910) for chorus and orchestra.
- Garnet Silk—"Splashing Dashing" from the album Give I Strength
- Jonathan Elias—"Forgiveness" from the album The Prayer Cycle
- Duke Ellington—album Black, Brown and Beige with Mahalia Jackson, 1958
- Keith Green—"The Lord is My Shepherd" from the album Songs For The Shepherd
- Howard Goodall—theme to The Vicar of Dibley, later covered by Katherine Jenkins and The Choirboys
- Group 1 Crew—"Forgive Me" from the album Group 1 Crew
- Christopher Wallace (The Notorious B.I.G.)—"You're Nobody (Til Somebody Kills You)" from the album Life After Death
- Bobby McFerrin—"The 23rd Psalm" from the album Medicine Music
- Dennis Brown—"Here I Come" from the album Wolves and Leopards
- E Nomine—"Psalm 23" from the album Das Testament
- Dave Cousins—"Lay Down" from the album Bursting at the Seams, 1972
- Pink Floyd—"Sheep" from the album Animals, 1977
- Peter Tosh—"Jah Guide" from the album Equal Rights, 1977
- Patti Smith Group—"Privilege (Set Me Free)" from the album Easter, 1978
- Marillion—"Forgotten Sons" from the album Script for a Jester's Tear, 1983
- U2—"Love Rescue Me" from the album Rattle and Hum, 1988
- Christian Death - Psalm (Maggot's Lair) from album Path of Sorrows, 1993
- Coolio feat. L.V.—"Gangsta's Paradise", 1995
- Colin Mawby—recording with Charlotte Church, 1998
- Marilyn Manson—"In The Shadow Of The Valley Of Death" from the album Holy Wood, 2000
- Dan Nichols—"Psalm 23" from the album Be Strong, 2001
- Lucinda Williams—"Atonement" from the album World Without Tears, 2003
- Megadeth—"Shadow of Deth" from the album The System Has Failed, 2004
- OverClocked Remix—"Beneath the Surface (Aquatic Ambiance)" from Kong in Concert, 2004
- Jon Foreman—"The House of God Forever" from the album Summer (Jon Foreman EP) and compilation Limbs and Branches, 2008
- The Offspring—"Hammerhead" from the album Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace, 2008
- Tupac Shakur-"So Many Tears" from the album Me Against The World, 1995
- Cissy Houston, (Whitney Houston's mother)—"The Lord is My Shepherd" from the "The Preacher's Wife: Original Soundtrack Album", 1996
- Kanye West-"Jesus Walks" from the album The College Dropout
- India.Arie, MC Lyte-"Psalms 23" from the album Testimony: Vol. 2, Love & Politics
- Nas & Damian Marley - "Strong Will Continue" from the album 'Distant Relatives, 2010
- Hollywood Undead - "Hear Me Now" from the album American Tragedy, 2011
- Hybrid 2808 - "Psalm 23" from the album Hybrid 2808, 2012
- Letter 7 - "Fear no Evil" from the album "Salt of the Earth" 2007
- Ky-mani Marley - "Lord is My Shepherd" from the album "The Journey" 1999
- Venom- "Welcome To Hell" from the album "Welcome To Hell" 1981
- Swift Manouver - "Melancholy" from the album "Beast Is At It's Best" 2011
Use in media 
- In the 1951 film David and Bathsheba.
- At the end of the 1973 film The Wicker Man, Howie shouts out Psalm 23, as he is being engulfed in flames.
- In the 1980 David Lynch film The Elephant Man, Merrick recites Psalm 23, revealing his intelligence.
- In the 1983 film "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence", the prisoners sing Psalm 23 as Jack Celliers (played by David Bowie) is buried in sand.
- Craig Bartlett's 1988 clay animation short Arnold Escapes from Church shows how a young boy's imagination might interpret the words of Psalm 23. The congregation's reading mixed text from at least two translations, probably the KJV and the NIV.
- In the graphic adventure game Gold Rush!, originally released by Sierra Entertainment in 1988, the main character Jerrod Wilson is given a clue about his brother's whereabouts in the bible verse Psalm 23.
- It set to music as the theme tune of The Vicar of Dibley (1994).
- In the 1997 film Titanic it is recited while the ship is sinking.
- In the 1997 film Paradise Road, the WWII story of a group of European women held prisoner in a Japanese concentration camp on Sumatra, the missionary Margaret, played by Pauline Collins, recites the King James version as she dies in the arms of Adrienne Pargiter, played by Glenn Close.
- In the 1999 film Deep Blue Sea, the character Preacher (played by LL Cool J) recites a slightly modified version of this Psalm while attempting a rather risky plan.
In the 2001 spanish horror film Dagon (directed by Stuart Gordon and based on the stories of HP Lovecraft) the old tramp Ezequiel (played by Francisco Rabal) reads the Psalm 23 and the priest of Dagon galls him alive.
- In the 2002 film We Were Soldiers, "The Valley of the Shadow of Death" is referenced multiple times.
- In the 2004 film Van Helsing, the creature of Dr. Frankenstein recites parts of the psalm when brought to the vampires' Masquerade Ball.
- In the 2005 film Jarhead, Jamie Foxx's character recites the verse, but with his twist.
- In the 2005 survival horror videogame Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, the captain of the USS Urania commits suicide after reading the psalm.
- In episode 2.10 "The 23rd psalm" (2005-'06) of the ABC series Lost, Mr. Eko recites the psalm when the plane with the drugs and his brother is burning.
- In episode 2.12 "Fire + Water" (2005-'06) of the ABC series Lost, Mr. Eko recites the King James version of the psalm while baptizing Claire and her son Aaron.
- The song "The House of God, Forever" from Jon Foreman's 2008 EP, Summer is an adapted, version of Psalm 23, put to music.
- In the 2009 film Terminator: Salvation, verse 4 is read by a preacher to Marcus Wright, before the latter is executed via lethal injection.
- In the 2010 film The Book of Eli, Denzel Washington's character recites the Psalm.
- In the 2010 film True Grit, Mattie, the narrator, recites part of the psalm.
- In episode 7 "Revelations" of the 2011 series "Hell on Wheels" Cullen Bohannon and Elam Ferguson recite the psalm as a prayer over the dead and as they ride off into the sunset.
- In the 2011 film War Horse, a British soldier recites the beginning of the Psalm whilst crossing no-man's land.
- The psalm is used as the titles for the Psalm 23 Mysteries by Debbie Viguié
Other notable uses 
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Verses from Psalm 23 have been used following widely-perceived tragic events: three prominent examples include the recital of the psalm in Todd Beamer's phone call made in Flight 93 during the September 11th attacks, the 9/11 Address to the Nation and Whitney Houston's funeral.
- J. Douglas MacMillan, The Lord of Shepherd. (Bryntirion: Evangelical Press of Wales, 1988), 78.
- MacMillan, 82
- Smith Creek Music: 'Psalms Compared: Psalm 23', retrieved 2007-08-05. (no public access!)
- Scottish Psalter and Paraphrases at CCEL
- "Crimond". Center for Church Music - Songs & Hymns. Retrieved 2008-10-07.
-  Cyberhymnal
- BBC h2g2 Psalm 23
- Together with Psalm 43 and Psalm 150 in an a capella setting for mixed chorus written in 1954. Dixon, Joan (1992). George Rochberg: A Bio-Bibliographic Guide to His Life and Works. Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press, p. 175.
- The Miklós Rózsa Society Website
- Blotner, Linda Solow (1983). The Boston Composers Project: A Bibliography of Contemporary Music. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, p. 547.
- "Settings of: Psalm 23". ChoralNet. Retrieved 2012-02-25.
- . Novello & Co Ltd. #NOV290116. Missing or empty
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- Hebrew text, translation, transliteration, recorded melodies from The Zemirot Database
- Tehillim - Psalm 23 (Judaica Press) translation with Rashi's commentary.
- Psalm 23 recited in Hebrew