Study Guide

Psalm 23 ("The Lord is My Shepherd") Religion

By David


How you read Psalm 23 depends in part on what religious perspective you approach it with. Christians are likely to emphasize the connections between the Lord in the psalm and Christ of the Gospels. In the New Testament, Christ is compared to both a lamb and a shepherd, pointing back to the pastoral analogy in this psalm. Jews will read the Lord simply as Yahweh, the same deity who spoke to Moses through the burning bush and assisted Abraham, the patriarch of Israel. Those who don't ascribe to the Judeo-Christian tradition can simply admire the beautiful poetry and the elucidation of the virtues of humility and gratitude, which have their place in a secular context, too.

Questions About Religion

  1. Where are some places in the poem where an interpretation might depend on your religious background?
  2. From the Christian perspective, would you necessarily connect the idea of the "Lord" as shepherd to the description of Jesus as a shepherd from the Gospel of John?
  3. From the Jewish perspective, how does the depiction of God as a comforting guide compare to other depictions of Yahweh in the scriptures?
  4. What religious function does Psalm 23 (and the psalms more broadly) serve?

Chew on This

Psalm 23 may seem to show only the merciful and comforting side of God, but the poem's imagery alludes to the importance of punishment and correction, as well.

Psalm 23 is by itself largely free of theological content and ideas – it only becomes theologically significant when read in the context of other texts and concepts from specific religious traditions.

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