“Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death” – On Psalm 23

A Psalm of David.

“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.” (Psalm 23:1-6)

Tradition holds that Psalm 23 was scribed by King David sometime around 1000 BC. In it, David begins by acknowledging his need for guidance as he yearns for a shepherd. The world is evil, akin to the ‘valley in the shadow of death,’ but the Lord offers comfort.

This song is written in the first-person, providing an example to its listeners not of perfection, but rather flaw, fallibility, and complexity. It suggests a deep desire to be pious, honest, and whole – a deep human yearning to feel whole.

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