New Defender's Study Bible Notes
23:1 my shepherd. The shepherd of this best-loved psalm is, of course, the Lord Jesus Christ (John 10:11-16, 27-30). In addition to the incomparable message of the psalm (there is no greater chapter in the Bible on the believer’s security), there are remarkable internal structures helping to denote its divine inspiration. For example, note the following pattern of references to the Shepherd:
One reference to “the LORD” in Psalm 23:1.
Two references to “He” in Psalm 23:2.
Three references to “He” in Psalm 23:3.
Three references to “Thou” in Psalm 23:4.
Two references to “Thou” in Psalm 23:5.
One reference to “the LORD” in Psalm 23:6.
23:2 still waters. These are not stagnant waters, but “still waters”—that is, turbulent waters made still at His command (Mark 4:39).
23:3 my soul. There are seventeen occurrences of the first person pronoun (I, me, etc.) in these six verses, all bespeaking the absolute confidence of the “sheep” in his “good shepherd.” Similarly, the word “sheep” is used seventeen times in the great New Testament parable of the sheep and the shepherd (John 10:1-30), again speaking of the sheep’s perfect security in the shepherd’s care. On the significance of the number seventeen as associated with our security in Christ, see note on John 21:11.
23:3 leadeth me. The Hebrew words for “leadeth” in Psalm 23:2-3 are different. The connotation of the first is “guideth me,” of the second “constraineth me.”
23:4 shadow of death. This is not death, but the near danger of death. The phrase “shadow of death” occurs ten times in the book of Job (first in Job 3:5), four times in the Psalms, and four times in the prophetical books. The last occurrence is in Amos 5:8: “[He] turneth the shadow of death into the morning.”
23:4 comfort me. The application of the rod and the staff to the wandering sheep brings “comfort” in the sense of “causing repentance.” The same word is translated both ways. Note Hebrews 12:11.
23:5 cup runneth over. Ancient wells in Israel have been found with “cups” for the sheep, into which the shepherd would scoop up water from the well.
23:6 house of the LORD. The “house of the LORD” means the household of God—that is, God’s family. Compare Ephesians 5:19-22.
23:6 for ever. The sheep is safe with the good shepherd both in time and in eternity. The six verses of the psalm, capped with the magnificent assurance of Psalm 23:6, correlate with the six uses of “shepherd” in John 10 and the six references in other books of the New Testament to Christ as our shepherd.