|"The Lord is my Shepherd"|
Illustration from The Sunday at Home, 1880
|Written||around 1000 BCE|
|Text||attributed to King David|
Psalm 23 is the 23rd psalm of the Book of Psalms, generally known in English by its first verse, in the King James Version, "The Lord is my Shepherd". The Book of Psalms is the third section of the Hebrew Bible, and a book of the Christian Old Testament. In the Greek Septuagint version of the Bible, and in its Latin translation in the Vulgate, this psalm is Psalm 22 in a slightly different numbering system. In Latin, it is known as "Dominus reget me et nihil mihi deerit".
Like all psalms, Psalm 23 was used in worship by the ancient Hebrews. The writer describes God as his shepherd, in the role of protector and provider. The psalm is read, recited and sung by Jews and Christians. It has been called the best-known of the psalms for its universal theme of trust in God.
Hebrew Bible version
Following is the Hebrew text and English translation of Psalm 23:
|1||מִזְמ֥וֹר לְדָוִ֑ד יְהֹוָ֥ה רֹ֜עִ֗י לֹ֣א אֶחְסָֽר||A song of David. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.|
|2||בִּנְא֣וֹת דֶּ֖שֶׁא יַרְבִּיצֵ֑נִי עַל־מֵ֖י מְנֻח֣וֹת יְנַֽהֲלֵֽנִי||He causes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters.|
|3||נַפְשִׁ֥י יְשׁוֹבֵ֑ב יַנְחֵ֥נִי בְמַעְגְּלֵי־צֶ֜֗דֶק לְמַ֣עַן שְׁמֽוֹ||He restores my soul; He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake.|
|4||גַּ֚ם כִּֽי־אֵלֵ֨ךְ בְּגֵ֪יא צַלְמָ֡וֶת לֹא־אִ֘ירָ֚א רָ֗ע כִּי־אַתָּ֥ה עִמָּדִ֑י שִׁבְטְךָ֥ וּ֜מִשְׁעַנְתֶּ֗ךָ הֵ֣מָּה יְנַֽחֲמֻֽנִי||Even when I walk in the valley of darkness, I will fear no evil for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff-they comfort me.|
|5||תַּֽ֘עֲרֹ֤ךְ לְפָנַ֨י | שֻׁלְחָ֗ן נֶ֥גֶד צֹֽרְרָ֑י דִּשַּׁ֖נְתָּ בַשֶּׁ֥מֶן רֹ֜אשִׁ֗י כּוֹסִ֥י רְוָיָֽה||You set a table before me in the presence of my adversaries; You anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows.|
|6||אַ֚ךְ ט֣וֹב וָחֶ֣סֶד יִ֖רְדְּפוּנִי כָּל־יְמֵ֣י חַיָּ֑י וְשַׁבְתִּ֖י בְּבֵית־יְ֜הֹוָ֗ה לְאֹ֣רֶךְ יָמִֽים||May only goodness and kindness pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for length of days.|
Uses in Judaism
- Psalm 23 is traditionally sung during the third Shabbat meal.
- Psalm 23 is commonly recited in the presence of a deceased person, such as by those keeping watch over the body before burial, and at the funeral service itself.
Uses in Christian tradition
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For Christians the image of God as a shepherd evokes connections not only with David but with Jesus, described as "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.
An early metrical version of the psalm in English was made in 1565 by Thomas Sternhold. Other metrical versions to emerge from the Protestant 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 metrical version of the psalm is traditionally sung to the hymn tune Crimond, 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.
The theme of God as a shepherd was common in ancient Israel and Mesopotamia. For example, King Hammurabi, in the conclusion to his famous legal code, wrote: "I am the shepherd who brings well-being and abundant prosperity; my rule is just.... so that the strong might not oppress the weak, and that even the orphan and the widow might be treated with justice." This imagery and language was well known to the community that created the Psalm, and was easily imported into its worship.
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. It is known that the shepherd is to know each sheep by name, thus when God is given the analogy of a shepherd, he is not only a protector but also the caretaker. God, as the caretaker, leads the sheep to green pastures (verse 2) and still waters (verse 2) because he knows that each of his sheep must be personally led to be fed. Thus, without its Shepherd, the sheep would die either by a predator or of starvation, since sheep are known for their helplessness without their shepherd.
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.
John Ellinwood argues that in verses 4 and 5 King David acknowledges God's protection in expeditions and in battles. "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies" refers to the sober raucous dinner before major battles. These were raucous in order to demoralize hostiles camped within earshot, and (only) the king ate from a table. "Thou anointest my head with oil" because tomorrow this ceremony might be impossible. After each victory there was no longer a need for sobriety, so "my cup runneth over." The king's lyricist wisely shortened these military verses for balance. Also in Psalm 18 David mentions God's protection in battle. .
The first verse of the Psalm ascribes authorship to King David, said in the Hebrew Scriptures to have been a field shepherd himself as a youth. However, some scholars do not believe that David could have written any of the Psalms.
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 (c. 1852)
- Noah Creshevsky – Psalm XXIII (2003)
- Paul Creston – Psalm XXIII (1945)
- Herbert Howells – Hymnus Paradisi
- Jessie Seymour Irvine – hymn tune Crimond
- Albert Hay Malotte
- Clément Marot (Latin)
- George Rochberg
- Miklós Rózsa
- Edmund Rubbra – Three Psalms, op.61 (no.2)
- John Rutter – The Lord is my Shepherd (1978), included in his Requiem (1985)
- Franz Schubert – version by Moses Mendelssohn (German)
- Randall Thompson
- Ralph Vaughan Williams
- Charles Villiers Stanford – "The Lord is my Shepherd" (1886)
- Alexander Zemlinsky Op. 14, (1910) for chorus and orchestra
- Antonín Dvořák, verses 1–4, No. 4 of his Biblical Songs (1894)
- Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach – Gam Ki Elech b'Gey Tzalmavet Lo Irah Rah Ki Atah Imadi. גם כי אלך 
- 1958: Duke Ellington – "Part VI" from Black, Brown and Beige with Mahalia Jackson
- 1966: The Moody Blues – "23rd Psalm" from the album The Magnificent Moodies deLuxe Edition (not released until 2014)
- 1966: Ed Ames – "My Cup Runneth Over" RCA Victor single from the Musical Production "I Do!, I Do!"
- 1972: Dave Cousins – "Lay Down" from the album Bursting at the Seams
- 1975: Pluggy Satchmo – "Pslam 23" 7" single
- 1977: Dennis Brown – "Here I Come" from the album Wolf & Leopards
- 1977: Peter Tosh – "Jah Guide" from the album Equal Rights
- 1977: Pink Floyd – "Sheep" from the album Animals
- 1978: Patti Smith Group – "Privilege (Set Me Free)" from the album Easter
- 1980: The Grateful Dead – "Alabama Getaway" from the album Go to Heaven
- 1981: Venom – "Welcome To Hell" from the album Welcome to Hell
- 1982: Keith Green – "The Lord is My Shepherd" from the album Songs for the Shepherd
- 1983: Marillion – "Forgotten Sons" from the album Script for a Jester's Tear
- 1985: Judy Collins – "The Lord is my Shepherd" from the album Amazing Grace
- 1988: Diamanda Galás – "The Lord is my Shepherd" from the album You Must Be Certain of the Devil
- 1988: U2 – "Love Rescue Me" from the album Rattle and Hum
- 1989: Lil' Louis – "Blackout" from the album From The Mind Of Lil Louis
- 1990: Bobby McFerrin – "The 23rd Psalm" from the album Medicine Music
- 1993: Alpha Blondy – "Psaume 23" from the album Jerusalem
- 1993: Christian Death – Psalm (Maggot's Lair) from album Path of Sorrows
- 1993: Midnight Oil – "In the Valley" from album Earth and Sun and Moon
- 1994: Howard Goodall – theme to The Vicar of Dibley, later covered by Katherine Jenkins and The Choirboys
- 1995: Coolio feat. L.V. – "Gangsta's Paradise"
- 1995: Michael W. Smith - "As It Is In Heaven" from I'll Lead You Home
- 1995: Tupac Shakur – "So Many Tears" from the album Me Against The World
- 1996: Cissy Houston, (Whitney Houston's mother) – "The Lord is My Shepherd" from The Preacher's Wife: Original Soundtrack Album
- 1996: Staind “Four Walls” from the album Tormented
- 1997: Christopher Wallace (The Notorious B.I.G.) – "You're Nobody ('Til Somebody Kills You)" from the album Life After Death
- 1998: Colin Mawby – recording with Charlotte Church
- 1998: Kathy Troccoli - "Psalm 23" from Corner of Eden
- 1999: E Nomine – "Psalm 23" from the album Das Testament
- 1999: Jonathan Elias – "Forgiveness" from the album The Prayer Cycle
- 1999: Ky-mani Marley – "Lord is My Shepherd" from the album The Journey
- 2000: Marilyn Manson – "In The Shadow Of The Valley Of Death" from the album Holy Wood
- 2001: Dan Nichols – "Psalm 23" from the album Be Strong
- 2002: Boards of Canada – "From One Source All Things Depend" from the album Geogaddi
- 2003: Lucinda Williams – "Atonement" from the album World Without Tears
- 2004: Kanye West – "Jesus Walks" from the album The College Dropout
- 2004: Megadeth – "Shadow of Deth" from the album The System Has Failed
- 2004: OverClocked Remix – "Beneath the Surface (Aquatic Ambiance)" from Kong in Concert
- 2005: Ministry (band) - "No W (Redux)" from Rantology
- 2007: Group 1 Crew – "Forgive Me" from the album Group 1 Crew
- 2007: Dream Theater – "In The Presence Of Enemies Part 2" from the album Systematic Chaos
- 2008: Jon Foreman – "The House of God, Forever" from the EP, Summer
- 2008: The Offspring – "Hammerhead" from the album Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace
- 2009: India.Arie, MC Lyte – "Psalms 23" from the album Testimony: Vol. 2, Love & Politics
- 2009: Rick Ross – "Valley of Death" from the album Deeper Than Rap
- 2010: Nas & Damian Marley – "Strong Will Continue" from the album Distant Relatives
- 2011: Hollywood Undead – "Hear Me Now" from the album American Tragedy
- 2012: Shawn James – "Through the Valley"
- 2013: Australian singer songwriter Paul Kelly from the album Poems For Funerals
- Mazor 2011, p. 589.
- Parallel Latin/English Psalter / Psalmus 22 (23) medievalist.net
- Heller, Rebbetzin Tziporah (3 August 2002). "The Lord is My Shepherd". Aish.com. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
- "Tehillim - Psalms - Chapter 23". Chabad.org. 2018. Retrieved 29 June 2018.
- Abramowitz, Rabbi Jack (2018). "Possibly the Most Famous Psalm of All". Orthodox Union. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
- Jungreis, Rebbetzin Esther (18 April 2011). "The Tragic Vacuum (Part Four)". The Jewish Press. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
- Olitzky, Kerry M.; Raphael, Marc Lee; Raphael, Marc (2000). An Encyclopedia of American Synagogue Ritual. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 188. ISBN 0313308144.
- Lamm, Maurice. "Jewish Funeral Service & Eulogy". Chabad.org. Retrieved 29 June 2018.
- "'Psalms Compared: Psalm 23', retrieved 2007-08-05. (no public access!)". Smith Creek Music. 2007-01-17. Retrieved 2014-03-12.
- Scottish Psalter and Paraphrases Archived 2006-11-16 at the Wayback Machine at CCEL
- "Crimond". Center for Church Music - Songs & Hymns. Retrieved 2008-10-07.
- [dead link]
- "Hammurabi's Code, circa 1780BC". history.hanover.edu. Retrieved 2017-12-12.
- J. Douglas MacMillan, The Lord of Shepherd. (Bryntirion: Evangelical Press of Wales, 1988), 78.
- J. Douglas MacMillan, The Lord of Shepherd. (Bryntirion: Evangelical Press of Wales, 1988), 82.
- "BBC h2g2 Psalm 23". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-03-12.
- 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[dead link]
- 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.
- #NOV290116. Novello & Co Ltd.
- Gem Ki Elech 1(YouTube).
- Mazor, Lea (2011). Berlin, Adele; Grossman, Maxine, eds. Book of Psalms. The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-973004-9.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Psalm 23.|
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Pieces with text from Psalm 23: Scores at the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP)
- Psalm 23: Free scores at the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)
- Psalm 23 in Parallel English (JPS translation) and Hebrew
- Text of Psalm 23 according to the 1928 Psalter
- The LORD is my shepherd; / there is nothing I lack. text and footnotes, usccb.org Unites States Conference of Catholic Bishops
- Psalm 23:1 introduction and text, biblestudytools.com
- Psalm 23 – The LORD Is My Shepherd and My Host enduringword.com
- Psalm 23 / Refrain: I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. Church of England
- Psalm 23 at biblegateway.com
- Hymns for Psalm 23 hymnary.org
- 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
- on YouTube, sung in English