The Hebrew title for the book of Psalms is called Tehillim, meaning "songs of praise." Individual psalms are referred to as Mizmorim: Mizmor Aleph (Psalm 1), Mizmor Bet (Psalm 2), and so on. Mizmor Kaf Gimmel (Psalm 23) is one of the most comforting and well-known of all of the Tehillim, revealing the middot (attributes) of God as the Good Shepherd.
Mizmor le-David. Adonai Ro'i, lo echsar
Adonai Ro'i – "The LORD my shepherd," hearkens to Gen 49:24, where God is described as , "The Shepherd, the Rock of Israel." If God is Israel's Shepherd, then His followers are (tzon mar'ito) - the sheep of His pasture (Psalm 100:3). Note that the word "shepherd" is thought to derive from (re'a), meaning friend.
Lo echsar - "I shall not lack," hearkens to Gen 22:14, where God is called (Adonai Yireh), "The LORD will Provide (or will see)." Since the LORD is our Shepherd, we will not lack His provision. God will see and fully understand our needs.
Menuchah means rest, quietness, and derives from (nachat), from which the name (noach, meaning "rest") comes. The phrase 'al-mei menuchot refers to "still" or "comforting" waters. (elohei khol-nechamah), the "God of all comfort" is the term the Apostle Paul uses in 2 Cor 1:3.
This image reminds us that God is (Adonai Shalom), the "God of peace" (Judges 6:24).
The word yeshoveiv ("He restoreth") comes from (shuv), which means "to turn or return," and is the root of the word (teshuvah), meaning turning back to God through repentance. As the Good Shepherd, , (ha-ro'eh ha-tov), the LORD gives calls His sheep back to the right path. Ultimately, this turning of the soul is healing, and evokes the Name of God (Adonai Rof'ekha - The LORD your Healer (Ex 15:26)).
The phrase ve-ma'gelei-tzedek uses the construct form of (ma'gal), a sort of track or entrenchment created by cattle being driven by a shepherd. Ma'gelei tzedek suggests that the Good Shepherd leads His sheep to tracks or pathways for His Name sake. Note further that this evokes the Name of God (Adonai Tzidkeinu), the LORD our Righteousness (Jer 23:6, 33:16).
Even though we might walk within be-gei tzalmavet, a death-like valley of shrouded darkness, God's sheep can say, lo-'ira ra, "I will fear no evil," since the LORD is (Adonai Tzeva'ot), the LORD of the armies of heaven, who is always present as (Adonai Shammah), the "God who is there" (Ezekiel 48:35).
The Good Shepherd's rod (shevet) and staff (mish'enet) comforts (nacham, indicating consolation over sorrow) His sheep. Like verse 2, (elohei khol-nechamah), the "God of all comfort" is suggested (2 Cor 1:3).
The LORD honors His followers by setting a shulchan - - or table in front of their enemies (i.e., those who cause the followers of the LORD tzuris, or grief). This image suggests the idea of (Adonai nissi), the LORD my banner (or the LORD my miracle. The Hebrew word (nes) was a triangular banner of an army unit or tribe. Nes also can refer to a miracle, as in nes gadol hayah sham, "a great miracle occurred there."
The phrase (dashanti va-shemen roshi) means "you fatten my head with oil." Since fat animals were considered the healthiest, and fat was regarded as the best part of the sacrifice (Psalm 20:3), the head of the follower of the LORD is said to be "anointed with oil" as a poetic description of the blessing of God. The overflowing cup also suggests the image of (Adonai Yireh), "The LORD will Provide."
Goodness (tov) and unfailing love (chesed) are said to "pursue me" (yirdefuni) all the days of my life. The verb used here, (radaf), means to run after, to track (as a hunter might track his prey), to pursue and take captive, suggesting that the Good Shepherd is relentless in His care and love for His sheep. God will haunt His followers with the truth of His goodness and unfailing love all the days of their lives. Yielding to the love of God causes you to return to the "house of the LORD" (the verb ve-shavti comes from (shuv), which means "to turn or return," and is the root of the word (teshuvah).
The first part of Shelosh Esrei Middot (Ex. 34:6), the listing of the thirteen attributes (middot) of God's mercy, reads: (Adonai, Adonai, El Rachum ve-chanun, Erekh apayim, ve-rav-chesed ve-emet), "The LORD, the LORD God of compassion and grace, slow to anger, and abundant in love and truth."Psalm 23 is a picture of what these attributes of mercy mean to those who follow the LORD and are under His care.
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.