Shepherd of life
The LORD is my shepherd
A psalm of David.1The LORD is my shepherd.
There’s nothing more I need.
2He lets me rest in green meadows.
He leads me beside calm waters.
3He restores life to my soul.
He leads me up the right trail.
That’s who he is, true to his name.
4When I walk into the valley,
toward the shadows of death,
I won’t be afraid of evil ahead.
You are with me.
Your rod and your staff they comfort me.
5You spread out a meal in front of me
While my enemies stand there and watch.
You honor me, anointing my head with oil fit for a king.
My cup is full and spilling over.
6Of this I’m certain:
Goodness and mercy will stay with me as long as I live.
And I’ll make my home in the house of the LORD forever.
The subtitle wasn’t part of the original psalm. And the possible byline “of David,” isn’t necessarily a byline. The vague phrase could mean the song was written by David, about David, or was inspired by David. Almost half of the psalms are attributed to David in this way, 73 of 150. Ancient Jewish history tells of David playing a lyre and writing songs. For one, he wrote a song of mourning at the battlefield death of King Saul and his sons: “How have the mighty fallen!” (2 Samuel 1:19-27 New American Standard Bible). An ancient Jewish scroll from about the time of Jesus, discovered among the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, reports that David wrote 3,600 songs.
The shepherd’s rod was a small club used to fight off hungry predators. The staff was a long pole with a hooked tip that allowed the shepherd to snag a sheep and pull it back to safety. It also worked as a bigger club and a walking stick.
“Fit for a king” isn’t in the Hebrew text, but it’s implied. Coronation rituals in ancient Israel included pouring oil over the king’s head as a sign of God’s approval (1 Samuel 16:12-13). King’s were known as the Lord’s “anointed one” (1 Samuel 24:10; 2 Chronicles 6:42).
Literally, “length of days.” Some scholars say this refers to a person’s natural life. Others say it refers to life after death, which is why it is recited at deathbeds.
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