The Bible


Psalms 23 : The 23rd Psalm

Study the Inner Meaning


1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

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

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

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.

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

6 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.

   Study the Inner Meaning

The Inner Meanings of the 23rd Psalm      

By Rev. Julian Duckworth

Psalm 23 is undoubtedly the most well-known and well-loved of all the psalms, with its illustration of the Lord as our shepherd. The shepherd's care for his sheep is, internally, describing the things that the Lord does for us in our spiritual journey.

As the psalm unfolds we hear about the Lord’s work for us, during states in our lives when we could be unsure and afraid, and of the Lord’s provision for us. Gradually the psalmist confirms his trust in the Lord’s guidance and declares the many blessings the Lord brings.

This psalm of six verses would surely have been known and loved by the Lord during his life in the world. It would have, for him, been a statement of faith in his purpose to overcome evil and glorify his humanity. Jesus, in states where his human heredity was strong in his mind, would have regarded his own divinity as his shepherd, and seen it as his anchor and provider. For us, spiritually, the same parallel applies -- that our faith in the Lord is to be our trust and guide at all times.

The shepherding care in verses 2 and 3 speaks about how the Lord leads us into acquiring new truths that bring heavenly peace and rest for us. Our state is lifted up and we live in goodness because we understand that this is the divine quality that God wishes for us to live by. (See Apocalypse Explained 375 and Arcana Caelestia 3696)

The valley of the shadow of death describes our states of being afraid, and of not seeing the Lord with us, during which our mind can be filled with disturbing and mocking thoughts. But we know that the Lord is there with us nonetheless. The “rod” and “staff” represent the power of the Lord’s truths for us to use; a rod - used actively to guard the sheep - stands for spiritual truths, and a staff is leaned on, representing natural truths or truths to do with life.”
(Apocalypse Explained 727)

With the provision of truth from the Lord, the psalm shifts to the picture of the bounteous table which truth brings to us as our spiritual nourishment and satisfaction. Our head anointed with oil has many associations of being the Lord’s chosen, of being loved and blessed by the Lord, and of how our mind with its understanding receives love and good to make it full of heavenly joy. “My cup runs over” means the unknown extent of the truths of the Word and the blessings of the Lord. (Apocalypse Explained 727)

The final verse is put in terms of our full conviction of being in the Lord for ever and in all the days of our lives. What we experience and say in terms of time and duration spiritually means what is certain, perpetual and to all eternity. The ‘house of the Lord’ is heaven. (Arcana Caelestia 650)

From Swedenborg's Works

Main explanations:

The Inner Meaning of the Prophets and Psalms 273

Other references to this chapter:

Arcana Coelestia 57, 650, 3384, 3696, 4715, 4876, 5120, ...

Apocalypse Revealed 50, 383, 485, 672

References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 71, 220, 375, 482, 662, 727, 960

Related New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:

  Spiritual Topics:

Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Exodus 15:27

Psalms 27:4, 31:4, 34:10, 11, 92:11, 106:8, 109:21

Proverbs 4:11

Isaiah 40:11, 43:2

Jeremiah 31:25

Ezekiel 34:14

John 10:11, 14

Revelation 7:17

Bible Word Meanings

the Lord
The Bible refers to the Lord in many different ways, which from the text seem indistinguishable and interchangeable. Understood in the internal sense, though, there...

The Lord, in the simplest terms, is love itself expressed as wisdom itself. In philosophic terms, love is the Lord's substance and wisdom is His...

The Writings tell us that shepherds represent those who lead and teach others, using knowledge and true ideas to help people reach the goodness of...

'Want of spiritual nourishment,' denotes a lack of knowledge, intelligence, and wisdom.

Everyone knows the phrase "the natural order of things." It means that everything is in its proper place, occupying the niche it is meant to...

The nature of the soul is a deep and complicated topic, but it can be summarized as "spiritual life," who we are in terms of...

"Leading" people in the Bible is, in the inner meaning, about leading people in spiritual things, not natural ones. When it talks about the Lord...

These days we tend to think of "roads" as smooth swaths of pavement, and judge them by how fast we can drive cars on them....

The word "righteous" has taken on a bit of negative shading in modern language. That may be because we hear it most often as part...

It's easy to see that names are important in the Bible. Jehovah changed Abram and Sarai to Abraham and Sarah, changed Jacob to Israel and...

To walk in the Bible represents living, and usually means living according to the true things taught to us by the Lord -- to "walk...

Shadow of death
'The shadow of death' has respect to the states of people in hell, who are in the falsities of evil.

Fear of the unknown and fear of change are both common ideas, and together cover a broad spectrum of the fears we tend to have...

'Wickedness' signifies evil, and 'iniquity' signifies falsities.

When the Bible talks about someone being comforted or consoled, it generally means that they are being offered ideas that will help bring them to...

Food and drink in the Bible represent the desire to be loving and the understanding of how to be loving, gifts that flow from the...

In most cases, the meaning of "before" is pretty straightforward, both as a way of assessing relative time, and in its use meaning "in someone's...

The head is the part of us that is highest, which means in a representative sense that it is what is closest to the Lord....

Oil – typically olive oil – was an extremely important product in Biblical times, for food preparation, medicinal ointment and for burning in lamps. As...

In regular language, "mercy" means being caring and compassionate toward those who are in poor states. That's a position we are all in relative to...

The basic meaning of "follow" in the Bible is pretty obvious if we consider what it means to "follow the Lord." That obviously doesn't mean...

The expression 'even to this day' or 'today' sometimes appears in the Word, as in Genesis 19:37-38, 22:14, 26:33, 32:32, 35:20, and 47:26. In a...

'Lives' is used in the plural, because of the will and understanding, and because these two lives make one.

Many people were nomadic in Biblical times, especially the times of the Old Testament, and lived in tents that could be struck, moved and re-raised...

house of the
'The house of the prison' denotes the vastation of falsity, and also falsity itself.

A "house" is essentially a container - for a person, for a family, for several families or even for a large group with shared interests...

Videos from the Swedenborg Foundation

The videos shown here are provided courtesy of our friends at the Swedenborg Foundation. You can find out more about them here:

The Meaning of the 23rd Psalm

We explore the comfort, protection, and safety which God promises us on our spiritual journey, especially when we're undergoing spiritual struggles.

Can You Dwell in the House of the Lord?

The Bible talks about dwelling in “the house of the Lord.” But what does that really mean?

How to Get a Home in Heaven - Swedenborg & Life

What are the houses like in heaven? And how do we get one? We explore the spiritual living conditions of the afterlife and how we can work on our heaven house right now.

Resources for parents and teachers

The items listed here are provided courtesy of our friends at the General Church of the New Jerusalem. You can search/browse their whole library at the New Church Vineyard website.

 A Shepherd and His Sheep
Use oil pastels or wax crayons to make a picture of shepherd, then use a sponge (cut into the shape of a lamb) to make little lambs around him.
Project | Ages 7 - 10

 Blessings: Good Tidings of Great Joy
Blessings to say at mealtime.
Activity | Ages over 7

 Blessings: Unto Us a Child Is Born
Blessings to say at mealtime.
Activity | Ages over 7

 Experiencing the Twenty-third Psalm
Explore the meaning of each phrase in Psalm 23, then help children experience it using their five senses.
Activity | Ages up to 10

 Following the Lord Our Shepherd
Use magnets to picture members of a family following the Lord as the shepherd.
Project | Ages up to 10

 Lord Is My Shepherd Diorama
Make a simple diorama to help remember the Lord's unceasing care.
Project | Ages 4 - 10

 Memory Verse: God Meant It for Good
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 Out of the Forest
A story showing how the Lord leads as described in the 23rd Psalm.
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Quotes: The Lord Is My Shepherd
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Rainbow Method of Learning the 23rd Psalm
Use the colors of the rainbow to help you learn the sequence of this psalm. 
Activity | Ages 4 - 10

 Ribbon Bookmark to Embroider
Embroider a satin ribbon with the words: "The Lord is my Shepherd" and pictures of a shepherd's staff and a little lamb.
Project | Ages over 7

 Shepherd and His Sheep Diorama
Project | Ages 7 - 17

 Talking with Your Child About the Twenty-Third Psalm
Article | Ages over 18

 The Good Shepherd
Worship Talk | Ages 4 - 7

 The Good Shepherd
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

 The Lord Is My Shepherd
The Lord with His flock all around Him.
Coloring Page | All Ages

 The Lord Is My Shepherd
Print and display this lovely poster of the Twenty-third Psalm with an illustrative color border.
Picture | Ages over 7

 The Lord Is My Shepherd
"The teaching that the Lord is our Shepherd is a powerful and comforting one. The relationship between the sheep and their shepherd involves a sense of trust and security.
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Lord Is Our Shepherd
Color picture of the Lord our Shepherd.
Picture | Ages up to 14

 The Lord’s Rod and Staff
This family talk explains what the Lord's rod and staff are in our lives, and how He uses them to comfort us. 
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Shepherd Rescuing His Sheep
Project | Ages 11 - 17

 The Stream of Providence Game
This game is about the Lord leading us toward His heavenly sheepfold. 
Activity | Ages 11 - 14

 The Twenty-third Psalm
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Twenty-third Psalm Book
Illustrate the literal meaning of the psalm or its application to life. 
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 The Twenty-third Psalm Calligraphy with Illustrations
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 Twenty Third Psalm
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

 Two Roads
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

 Understanding the Twenty-third Psalm
An outline showing parts of the Psalm 23 with suggestions for explaining them to children.
Activity | Ages 4 - 10



The 23rd Psalm


By Mr. Brian P. David

The Lord as Shepherd, by Nana Schnarr

The 23rd Psalm is one of the best-known and most-loved literary works in the world, and it may well be the best poem ever written. It is also a fine example of the power of figurative language: We read deep things into the vision of ourselves as sheep, led to green pastures and good water by a kind shepherd. It’s empowering to feel the confidence to go fearlessly into the valley of the shadow of death, and to feel the love and caring of a table prepared by the Lord and a cup so full it overflows.

What people don’t know, however, is that this language actually has precise internal meanings, and that when we see them there is an even deeper beauty in the poem. That’s because what it actually describes is the path to heaven, and the fierce desire the Lord has to lead us there.

The first step is to let the Lord be our shepherd – to accept His teaching and His leadership. The green pastures and the still waters represent the things He will teach us for the journey. Then He begins working inside is, setting our spiritual lives in order, so that we desire to do what’s good and to love one another. That’s represented by restoring our souls and leading us in the paths of righteousness.

But we will still face challenges. We still live external lives, out in the world, and we are subject to desires that arise in those externals, in our bodily lives. That’s the valley of the shadow of death. But the rod and staff represent truth from the Lord on both external and internal levels, ideas that can defend us against those desires.

And if we keep following, the Lord will prepare a table for us – a place inside us that he can fill with love (the anointing oil) and wisdom (the overflowing cup). Thus transformed, we can enter heaven, with love for others (“goodness”) and love from the Lord (“mercy”) and can love and be loved to eternity.

One of many beautiful things about this is the fact that it is the Lord who really does all the work. In the whole text, the only action taken by the sheep is walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Other than that, they follow the Lord, trust the Lord, accept the blessings of the Lord. And that is really true! In external states (in the valley) we might seem to be doing the work ourselves, but internally, spiritually, we simply need to give ourselves to the Lord and let Him bless us.

The underlying idea here is that the Lord created us so that He could love us, in loving us wants us to be happy, knows that our greatest happiness will come from being conjoined to Him in heaven, and Himself wants nothing more than to be conjoined to us. So everything He does, in every moment of every day for every person on the face of the planet, is centered on the goal of getting that person to heaven. He wants each and every one of us in heaven more than we are capable of imagining. We just need to cooperate.

(References: The Apocalypse Explained 375 [34], 727 [2]; The Inner Meaning of the Prophets and Psalms 273)

The Bible


John 10:11

Study the Inner Meaning


11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

   Study the Inner Meaning

Explanation of John 10      

By Rev. John Clowes M.A.

Explaining the Inner Meaning of John 10

Verse 10:1. The Lord in his Divine Humanity teaches, that whoever does not approach him in that humanity, by faith and love, destroys in himself the goods of faith by falsities, and thus seeks to establish his own merit.

Verse 10:2. Whereas all they, who by faith and love approach him in his humanity, cherish and keep alive in themselves those goods.

Verse 10:3. Therefore their interiors are opened to the life of heaven, and they obey the divine precepts, and are gifted with heaven according to the good of love and faith, and are led of the Lord, and not of themselves.

Verses 10:4, 5. And in all their operations they have respect to the Lord, and acknowledge the divinity of his humanity, because they obey his precepts, and shun all false principles, as not being in agreement with their love.

Verses 10:6, 7, 8. That this teaching is not understood by the men of the perverted church, therefore they are expressly taught again, that the only entrance to the life of heaven is through the Lord's Divine Humanity, and that all who exalt themselves above that Humanity, destroy in themselves the life of heaven, and are opposed to all heavenly good.

Verse 10:9. Whereas they, who by faith and love acknowledge the Lord in his Divine Humanity, are made partakers of his good and truth in every state of life both internal and external.

Verse 10:10. For as evil and false principles deprive good and truth of their proper life, so the Lord in his Divine Humanity was manifested for the purpose of communicating heavenly life to every good and truth, and this in a greater fullness than had ever been before experienced.

Verse 10:11. Therefore the Lord teaches and leads to all truth, whilst by temptation combats, through his own proper power, he unites his divinity to his humanity.

Verses 10:12, 13. Whereas they, who seek their own glory in what they do, having no regard to the good of others, fall in temptations, and are deprived of all heavenly good, inasmuch as they look more at recompense than at that good.

Verse 10:14. But the Lord in his Divine Humanity imparts heavenly good, acknowledging all who receive that good, as his children, and being reciprocally acknowledged by them as their Father.

Verse 10:15. In like manner as the divinity acknowledges the humanity, and the humanity reciprocally acknowledges the divinity, and by enduring temptations unites itself with the divinity.

Verse 10:16. Thus effecting the salvation of the spiritual, or those who are in the good of faith, and who, through the Lord's Divine Humanity will make one with the celestial, or those who are in the good of love.

Verses 10:17, 18. For by temptations, inmost and plenary union of the divinity with the humanity, and of the humanity with the divinity, was effected until the humanity became divine.

Verses 10:19, 20, 21. That these truths effect a work of judgement in the perverted church, by separating those, who reject and blaspheme the Lord's humanity, from those who acknowledge its divine power manifested in the restoration of the understanding of truth.

Verses 10:22, 23. So that some in the church are in the warmth of heavenly affection and life, whilst others are in the warmth of infernal affection and life, and the Lord in his humanity was instilling introductory truths of wisdom.

Verses 10:24, 25. On which occasion, an apparently ardent desire is kindled in the perverted church, to know the truth respecting the Lord's humanity, and they are instructed, that the truth has been declared to them, but they did not receive it, which truth is, that the operation of the Lord's humanity proved it to be derived from the divinity.

Verses 10:26, 27. This truth however they did not admit, because they were not principled in good, for all they, who are principled in good receive the doctrine of the Lord's Divine Humanity, and are acknowledged by that Humanity, and are obedient to its guidance.

Verses 10:28, 29, 30. They receive also from that humanity the life of heavenly love, and are never separated from it, because there is no power which is able to separate them, since the divine good, by which they are drawn to the Divine Humanity, is above every other power, and one with that humanity.

Verses 10:31, 32, 33. That they, who are of the perverted church, oppose the above divine truths with falsities, and being questioned why they thus set themselves against the operation of the divine good, they reply, that they do not oppose the divine good, but the blasphemous idea that humanity can be divine.

Verses 10:34, 35, 36. But this humanity on the contrary teaches, that there is no blasphemy in calling itself divine, since the Holy Word, which is eternal truth, ascribes divinity to those who receive it, and therefore divinity ought more especially to be ascribed to that humanity which proceeded from it, and which is it.

Verses 10:37, 38. And the humanity ought to be judged from its operation, since if its operation be divine, it is a manifest proof that it has reciprocal union with the divine good.

Verse 10:39. That this reasoning is not apprehended by those who are of the perverted church, and therefore they again seek to destroy the Lord's humanity, but in vain.

Verses 10:40, 41, 42. For the Lord in his humanity applies himself to the Gentiles, who are principled in introductory truths, and amongst them he establishes his church, being received by them with affection, and with faith, not grounded in miraculous testimony, but in the love of truth for its own sake.

From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 8002, 8906, 10132, 10794

True Christian Religion 131, 300, 538

References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 695, 750, 1154

Scriptural Confirmations 14, 88

Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Psalms 23:1

Isaiah 40:11, 53:12

Ezekiel 34:11, 16

Zechariah 13:7

Resources for parents and teachers

The items listed here are provided courtesy of our friends at the General Church of the New Jerusalem. You can search/browse their whole library at the New Church Vineyard website.

 Building Our Faith
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

 For Reflection: Other Sheep
In John 10:16, Jesus talked about “other sheep.” What are some ways we can reach out to people whose lives we touch?)
Activity | Ages over 14

 Gentle Leading
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 I Have Come that You Might Have Life
Illustrated poster: "I have come that you may have life, and that you may have it more abundantly" from John 10:10. The Lord's creation is filled with abundance and variety to bring us joy.
Picture | Ages over 7

 Memory Verse: The Lord Is My Shepherd
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 Other Sheep
This journal activity can help us reflect on ways that we can help the Lord by reaching out to people whose lives we touch.
Activity | Ages over 15

 Prayers for Teens and Adults: The Good Shepherd
Activity | Ages 15 - 17

 Reflect on Abundance
Activity | Ages over 15

 Sheepfold Collage
The sheepfold is a protected place for the sheep to gather at night. The shepherd counts the sheep when they enter the sheepfold to make sure that all the sheep are safely within. Make a picture showing the Lord standing at the door of the sheepfold.
Project | Ages up to 6

 Shepherd and His Sheep Diorama
Project | Ages 7 - 17

 Shepherds, Hirelings, Sheep
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Good Shepherd
A New Church Bible story explanation for teaching Sunday school. Includes lesson materials for Primary (3-8 years), Junior (9-11 years), Intermediate (12-14 years), Senior (15-17 years) and Adults.
Teaching Support | Ages over 3

 The Good Shepherd
Family lessons provide a worship talk and a variety of activities for children and teens..
Religion Lesson | Ages 4 - 17

 The Good Shepherd
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

 The Good Shepherd
In saying He was the Good Shepherd Jesus proclaimed Himself the shepherd of Israel--God Himself in human form.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 The Good Shepherd (3-5 years)
Project | Ages 4 - 6

 The Good Shepherd (6-8 years)
Project | Ages 7 - 10

 The Good Shepherd (9-11 years)
Project | Ages 11 - 14

 The Greatest Gift
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 The Lord Is My Shepherd
"The teaching that the Lord is our Shepherd is a powerful and comforting one. The relationship between the sheep and their shepherd involves a sense of trust and security.
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Lord, the Good Shepherd
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Shepherds Visit
The Word is the story of ourselves. What are our "sheep", "shepherds", and the miracle of the Lord's birth in our lives?
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Worms and Butterflies
Did you know that the Psalms of David foretell the events of the Lord’s life, His thoughts, and His feelings? This article looks at how Psalm 22 allows us to glimpse what went on in the days before the Lord was put to death. 
Article | Ages 7 - 14