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Nathan Stitt

What a beautiful translation.

I wonder how many syllables you allow for יהוה and whether that affected your translation of those two lines. Also, if you were to read the English orally how would you pronounce יהוה in this context? If you've blogged on this somewhere else before I'll be happy to read it.


Hi Nathan,

יהוה was a two syllable word in ancient Hebrew, probably pronounced Yah-weh. Earlier, and perhaps at the time of composition of this psalm: Yah-wi. In that case the psalm began:

Yah-wi ro-i

A nice example of internal end rhyme, part of a sequence of final "ee" rhymes throughout the first strophe, and here and again throughout the psalm.

Phil Sumpter

"as befits his name."

If you don't mind me asking, what does this mean exactly?

As for a broader context, I wonder what significance it is that the Psalm is a "Psalm of David," one amonst psalms of David.

And concerning the final strophe,how does the reference to the Lord's temple symbolise his care on the journey? I find it interesting that the temple is a common motif in this Psalm group, with Pss 15 and 24 being Temple entrance psalms (this psalms are corner Psalms of a sub-grouping, according to Hossfeld/Zenger). The temple is the goal of the Psalmists yearnings, the place where he will find security, peace and the Lord's presence. It's also the source of the Lord's protection.

That's how I remember it anyway.


Hi Phil,

regarding the expression rendered by NPSV with "as befits his name," which seem felicitous to me, see further Moshe Held, "Hebrew ma'gal," in JANES 6 (1974) p. 111, note 41 [available online}. The key comparative passages are Ps 31:4 and 143:11, to which Held adds an Akkadian text I haven't looked at. But Held references an article I haven't seen by H. L. Ginsberg which finds the phrase in Psalm 23 problematic. Bottom line: more investigation is required.

I think Childs was onto something with respect to the attribution of at least some Psalms, including Psalm 23, to David: it is a midrashic embedment of the psalm into David's biography.

I agree with you that the last strophe doesn't refer per se to God's care for the psalmist in the temple.

Abe Bird

May I suggest small changes in your translation?


יהוה is my shepherd,
I shall not be lacking.
In grassy meadows he lets me lie,
on quiet streams he will guide me.
my spirit he will revive.
He will lead me along the righteous circles
For the sake of his name.

Were I to walk through a dark valley,
I would fear no evil,
for you are with me,
your rod and your lean –
they will comforted me.

You spread a table before me
against my foes.
You moisten my head with oil,
my cup overflows.
Only goodness and kindness will pursue me
all the days of my life,
In my siting in the house of יהוה
many days in length.

Your comment about the non-safe era at the times of King David is too exaggerated. When the Psalms were written by kink David as believed, the kingdom of the house of David was already stable and firm and the controversy with the Philistines in Shfelat Yehuda was almost over. The ways to Jerusalem were safe and open.
I see the song as the individual believer praying to and trusting in God against any personal difficulties that might break the faith of a person. This song is kind of expressing non-depended belief in God in times the person has the all good in his life. The message is that when you reach a high status and safety in your life don't forget God and don't remember to call him only when you're down.


Thanks, Abe,

for revising my translation. Your changes open the Psalm to the way many people have the read the Psalm for millennia. For example, by translating 'righteous circles' rather than 'right paths,' the shepherd-sheep metaphor is left behind and the language is placed in the context of moral conflict.

Whether or not David wrote this psalm, and whether or not le-David at the top of a Psalm was originally meant to imply that, are sticky wickets. The temple, course, had not yet been built. It is probable in my view that le-David before a Psalm originally meant a "of David['s collection]," designed for use of the Davidide king. At some point, however, particular psalms - not this one - were associated with particular moments in David's life. If so, the scope of the original was restricted in so doing, but also opened up to new readings.



Could you give a little more of your thinking on your choice of וְשִׁבְתִּי over the MT?

I note your footnotes, but would like some more comment. I tend to prefer the way that Clines handles this (with the sense of returning to בְּבֵית יְהוָה).

I think he makes a good point regarding the better fit of this reading with the imagery: "if the sheep metaphor is still in play, the controlling image is of the sheep being led from one pasture to another--the process of annual transhumance, which will recur again and again. And that matches well the depiction of the pilgrim en route to the temple for the annual festival. And on the level of the language itself, it does not make much sense for anyone except a cult functionary to speak of 'living' in the temple" (Clines, David J. A., "Translating Psalm 23," in Reflection and Refraction: Studies in Biblical Historiography in Honour of A. Graeme Auld (ed. Robert Rezetko, Timothy H. Lim and W. Brian Aucker; Leiden: Brill, 2007), 67-80.


Hi Karyn,

I haven't read Clines' article, but four things come to mind.

(1) With the complement בְּבֵית יְהוָה,
the verb shuv is unexpected. One would have expected 'el, 'ad, he-locale, perhaps 'al, but not "in."

(2) Is Ps 27 understood by Clines to be worded in such a way that its language is suitable on the lips on a cultic functionary, and no one else? If so, he's out on a limb.

(3) Note the verbs used in the entrance liturgies (Ps 15:2). gur and shakan + b + locus of worship.

(4) Does any major translation try to translate MT as is? So far as I can see, they all silently emend MT (a reprehensible procedure). How does Clines translate?



Good points. Clines' article seeks to (in his words)

"consider some twenty points in the psalm where our usual English translations offer us less than satisfactory renderings, comparing some fourteen of the standard English versions of the psalm with their Hebrew original."
I do not adhere to all his preferences, but I do think his article is helpful in drawing attention to some possibilities that are often not even considered because we are so familiar with the text that we "know" what it should be. We usually have our first year Hebrew students (third semester) work through Psalm 23 precisely because they are so familiar with English translations of it. The exercise ends up being a great opportunity for discussion.

Clines' translation:
Yahweh is a shepherd to me;
therefore there is nothing I lack.
In grassy pastures he lets me lie, chewing the cud;
down to quiet waters he leads me;
he revives my life;
he leads me by the right paths--
all to uphold his repute.
Even when I walk through a dark valley,
I fear no harm, for you are with me;
your crook and your staff are my reassurance.
You spread a banquet before me even if enemies surround me;
you anoint my head with oil
abundance is my lot.
Such goodness and constancy shall surely be my companions as long as I live,
and I shall journey again to Yahweh's house for many days to come.

Clearly, not the poet that you are!

Abe Bird

Hi JohnFH, Karyn and all;
I tend not to explain the song as describing pilgrimage voyage but rather as a voyage of human or a nation through their life. As you said the temple wasn't yet built at that time and the people of Israel didn't yet come three times a year to fast before the house of God (Ha-Mishkan). I tend, as many scholars do, to explain the song as describing both the personal picture of king David as the practical leader of Israel and as the collective view of the relationship between God and the people of Israel.

King David made a move from being a shepherd to being a king; the people of Israel completed the process of moving from wondering and living divided within tribes and becoming a united nation.
At the same time God as a shepherd leads the people of Israel as sheep in grassy meadows and to drink from quiet streams.

Lives of nations and humans go on on circles of life, circles of the planet and the globus, circles of years and seasons, circles of days, although the one and the individual goes on strait and direct path, from the above you can see the path as goes in circles (relativity works here either). While walking in the path of God, yet it is may be dangerous – privately and nationally – as going "through a dark valley", but God still protecting us.

"Your rod" means the guidance stick that the leader holds in his hand while leads the nation (as Moses did in the exodus and other European kings especially while judging. And of course, as the shepherd does while guiding his sheep).
'Rod' is a sign of governing, guiding, controlling the sheep, the people. One might even beats the sheep if the sheep goes through the unpaved, undirected, illegitimate path as people can be punished by the king, the law and God.

As for the opening of the chapter: "Mizmor le-David" translated verbally: "A Song to David" and the meaning is "A Song of David" , a song that David wrote/sang.

וְשַׁבְתִּי בְּבֵית-יְהוָה: Ve-Savti Be-Beit יְהוָה. The usual meaning of "Ve-Savti" is "And I have been sited" in the house of God. This comes from the verb (He/past) "Yashav" and (I/past) "Yashavti" - sat down. In a poetic form one can pull out the "Ya" and still it means the same. And it makes a simple sense of one who believes in God and dwells safely under his guidance in the house of believers.

But there is another explanation to that verb: "Shav" means also "He came back". Those who want to homiletic interpretate the meaning, use to explain that righteous people always come back to sit under God guidance.

It is very fantastic that the "coming back" of the people to its land is said "Shvut" (noun). The Israeli "law of return" is called: "Chok Ha-Shvut". General saying for village/town is : "Yeshuv" (noun) – a place where people are sitting together one near the others. "Yeshiva" (noun and continuous verb) means: "sitting".

And there is some medieval Hebrew expression "Be-shuva Va-Nahat" which means:
"In Quiet and pleasantly".




it is always a pleasure to hear Psalm 23 interpreted against the background of David's life story. As soon as the psalm became a part of a national psalter, furthermore, it also became, and rightly so, a mirror in which readers saw the story of their own life, and that of the nation.

As for the last expression you mention, I happen to know it by heart. It comes from Isa 30:15.

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