Study Guide

Psalm 23 ("The Lord is My Shepherd") Line 4

By David

Line 4

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.

  • Now the psalm turns to a darker note – this part of the psalm is why it's so often read at funerals (and yet not at Thanksgiving, perhaps?).
  • Even though the speaker walks in the shadow of death, he doesn't have any fear because God is there.
  • God's shepherd's rod and staff comfort the speaker. These two things are actually the same thing – a big stick that a shepherd uses to guide the flock.
  • Images of staffs are common in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. You might remember that Moses had a staff that he used to part the waters of the Red Sea. Also, one of the symbols for the Catholic pope is a staff.
  • What is this valley anyway? Is its name "Shadow of Death Valley"? Isn't that somewhere in California? Where do I find it on a map?
  • All kidding aside, a valley is a place surrounded by hills or mountains, which often cast a shadow below. So this is not some pleasant little valley, and those imposing mountains that surround it are symbolic of death. It's a place of danger where many bad things or "evils" could occur.
  • Some people think that the valley is also a symbol of general despair or dark times, as opposed to a specific fear of death.
  • But the speaker has absolute trust that even in a dangerous environment the shepherd will guide him in the right way.
  • You might interpret that the path through the valley is the "path of righteousness."
  • The "yea" at the beginning of the line isn't celebratory – "Valley of Death! Yesss!" In the New Revised Standard Version translation of the Bible, the "yea, though" is translated to "even though."