Psalm 23: Meaning, Origins, Context & Importance

Psalm 23: Meaning, Origins, Context & Importance

What Does Psalm 23 Really Mean

Psalm 23 has over the years inspired a lot of people as it gives hope, assurance and guidance. Many people have sought to draw inspiration from this passage as a source of protection from their enemies. This memorized passage continues to remain universally relevant as it has been acclaimed as a source of comfort to many.

Let’s examine this powerful passage as it will seek to reveal the unconditional love that God has for mankind by constantly meeting their needs, even during their dark valley experiences.

Table of Contents

Who wrote Psalm 23?

Psalm 23 was written by King David who grew up tending sheep as his father was also a Shepherd.  In this Psalm, David expresses his great confidence and delight in the constant protection of a loving God.

What does Psalm 23 KJV (King James Version) say?

Psalm 23 KJV images pictures quotes

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

What does Psalm 23 NIV (New International Version) say?

Psalm 23 NIV images pictures quotes

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,

He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

What does Psalm 23 ESV (English Standard Version) say?

Psalm 23 ESV images pictures quotes

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell the house of the forever.

Why is Psalm 23 so important?

Psalm 23 is important because it is about God's protection. Whether an individual is deeply connected to God, have wandered away from the fold or is seeking comfort in a higher being, this Psalm is normally selected as a passage of hope.

Jesus says in His words that “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

John 10:11. This shows the devoted love and care that Jesus has towards mankind in ensuring their comfort and safety.

Jesus is the good Shepherd and hence, many persons find it quite easy to connect with Psalm 23, as they’re already aware that Jesus is their Shepherd.

What is the meaning of Psalm 23?

The meaning of Psalm 23 is a song of gratitude to a loving God in a painful world. David expresses confidence and trust in the Lord by portraying God as a good “Shepherd” who both guides and blesses them.

God's goodness means that they have nothing to fear: whatever happens to them, God will be with them. Below I will explain in depth the meaning of each verse in Psalm 23.

What is the meaning of 'The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.' Psalm 23:1 esv ?

The meaning of "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want" refers to the Lord as his personal Shepherd. In using this reference, David sees God as one who leads, guides and directs him.

With this assurance in God’s protection, he concludes that his shepherd will also be there for him.

As the tender shepherd, David had the full assurance that all his needs will be supplied and as a result he has placed His total dependence on God.

In Isaiah 40:11, it also gives the reassurance of God’s constant care and protection of His children as it states:

Isaiah 40:11 images pictures quotes

“He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.”

God will always gently shepherd His children amidst the attacks that we encounter daily.

What is the meaning of 'He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.' Psalm 23:2 esv ?

The meaning of 'He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters' is the confidence expressed by someone who has complete trust in the protection of a faithful God. “Green pastures” in our everyday context is usually used in reference to greater or better opportunities.

For David, this analogy is also used to refer to being in a state of abundance, where he will continue to grow and flourish.

Abiding in this state, is also where the ever present peace of God dwells.  

Psalm 46:10 images pictures quotes

God says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10. 

There is joy in stillness and as a Shepherd boy David could relate to the peace he received while he tendered his flock. We can always trust God to fulfill His Divine plan in our lives - we need only to be still.  

What is the meaning of 'He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.' Psalm 23:3 esv ?

He restores my soul, He leads me in paths of rigetousness means that the power of God can refresh, renew, and make him come alive.

Even in the midst of disquiet, this restoration brings forth a well spring of joy, where all worries and stress are eliminated.

This great confidence in God’s care and protection allows him to rest.

A characteristic of sheep is that they like to wander from the fold and the shepherd will sometimes have to climb steep mountain slopes in an effort to save them.

Luke 15:4-5 images pictures quotes

Jesus said in Luke 15:4-5 that Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?  And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders.” 

Sometimes we too are tempted to wander from the fold. No real joy can be found on a path outside of the divine leading of Jesus Christ as a wandering path outside of Him will lead to misery and destruction.

God will always stand ready to welcome us back into His fold. We may turn aside from the truth but God will grant us repentance and restoration.. He will guide us on a plain, safe path where we can enjoy sweet peace and holiness.

“For His name’s sake” is not on our own merit but by the redemptive power of the Holy Spirit who will enable us to dwell in His goodness and faithfulness.


What is the meaning of 'Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.'  Psalm 23:4 esv ?

The meaning of 'Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.'

Is the absence of fear that David is expressing in this verse speaks to the unwavering faith and confidence that he has in God’s protection.

Throughout life’s journey, there are sometimes dark situations, but with the assurance of God’s abiding presence, even in death David can face any pitfalls with as he is conscious that the protection of God will always hover over Him. 

Rod and staff were used to guide and defend the flock of sheep. As a Shepherd, these tools were essential in taking care of the flock and in the same way; the bible is an important book that should be utilized in providing guidance in our lives.

God’s word should be read daily to keep us on the right path. Reading the word brings peace and comfort in times of distress and fear.

Psalms 46:1 images pictures quotes

David also mentioned in Psalms 46:1 that God is our refuge and strength,  an ever-present help in trouble.”

This reiterated his trust in a loving Savior who will be always be there to lessen any fear, doubt or worry that His children might experience. The Lord will always bring peace to a troubled or confused mind.  

With God as your shepherd, you have nothing to fear as the Shepherd will guide you with His rod and protect you with His staff of defence.

What is the meaning of 'You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.' Psalm 23:5 esv ?

The meaning of 'You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.' is David now affirms his confidence in God’s providential care.

In this verse, David mentioned a table, alluding to the prosperity that God will grant His children when they choose to trust Him. As the table is spread with many varieties, he described that even his enemies will look on in envy when they witness God’s goodness in his life.

In highlighting that his cup will not just be filled but running over, shows the abundant blessings of God’s favour in his life. 

In this verse, the use of oil as an anointing is used by the Psalmist to explain to us that the Holy Spirit will be sent by God to protect and preserve us.

Oil is also used in scripture as a panacea of healing as recorded in Mark 6:13 which states “they drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.”

God will also prepare your table of blessings and will also give you unspeakable joy, comfort and healing, if you only trust in Him.

What is the meaning of 'Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell the house of the forever.'  Psalm 23:6 esv ?

'Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell the house of the forever.' means that in concluding, David now asserts that God’s goodness and mercy will forever follow him as long as he lives.

With this great confidence in God’s continued favour in his life; no form of opposition of fear will shatter his faith in God’s ability to meet his needs.

David knows that the Shepherd will always provide guidance as he outpours his amazing love and mercy.

This adoration of praise in God’s goodness was also restated in Psalm 31:19 when David says;

How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.

David also regard it an awesome privilege to worship God in the Holy sanctuary.

He continue to look forward with great joy and anticipation to that glorious day when he will spend eternity with God in that heavenly bliss where he will dwell with his shepherd forever.

What is the central metaphor of Psalm 23?

The central metaphor in Psalms 23 is the use of the relationship between the Shepherd and the sheep.

The shepherd represents God and the sheep represents his people. God will always lead and guide his people to “greener pastures” where they will be protected from the attacks of the enemy.

God, the Shepherd will pour out his oil of abundance on His children as He waits to garner them in His heavenly fold where no form of evil can dwell.

Why is Psalms 23 used at funerals?

Psalms 23 is a popular passage used at many funerals and memorials. It’s assurance of God’s protection has sought to bring comfort to many as they look forward to “dwell in the house of the Lord forever”.

With this hope in the resurrection, Christians believe that the dead who died in the Lord will one day live and reign with God, the good Shepherd, eternally.

What is the Psalm 23 song?

Psalm 23 is a happy song used in praise and adoration proclaiming God’s goodness. It highlights the trust and confidence that the singer has in God.

As the song is selected for church or small gathering, it brings joy to the singer and gives hope to the listeners who need encouragement and assurance.

In this Psalm, the singer praise God for His goodness and for delivering them from the evil threats.

The Psalms 23 singer praises God as the good shepherd who will safely lead them though countless of situations and for this David also proclaimed that we should:

“.Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.” Psalms 98:1

You can continue to trust God as your personal Shepherd. When you place your trust in Him, he will grant you enormous blessings.

You can delight in God’s goodness as you seek guidance in His word. God will always shelter you, guide you and lead you gently into His fold of safety.