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
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:

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...

The meaning of "leading" people in the Bible is pretty straightforward, though obviously it is about leading people in spiritual things, not natural ones. When...

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:

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)

From Swedenborg's Works


Arcana Coelestia #10137

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)      

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10137. 'And a drink offering of a quarter of a hin of wine' means spiritual truth, the amount needed for a joining together. This is clear from the meaning of 'wine' as truth, dealt with in 1071, 1798, 6377, at this point spiritual truth answering to the spiritual good derived from celestial good, meant by 'fine flour mixed with oil', dealt with immediately above in 10136 (where good is the subject in the Word, so too is truth, and indeed the truth belonging to the same class as the good. This is so because every single thing in heaven and also in the world has connection with good or with truth, and with both if it is to have any real existence, since good without truth is not good and truth without good is not truth, see the places referred to in 9263, 9314. This explains why when a minchah, which consisted of bread, was offered, so was a drink offering, which consisted of wine, in much the same way as in the Holy Supper. So it is that 'a drink offering of wine' is used here to mean the truth that answers to the good meant by a minchah, dealt with immediately above); and from the meaning of 'a quarter of a hin' as the amount needed for a joining together, dealt with immediately above in 10136.

[2] Everyone may see that not merely bread and wine should be understood by a minchah, which consisted of bread, and a drink offering, which consisted of wine, but something that belongs to the Church and to heaven, thus spiritual and celestial things, which are heaven's and the Church's. If this had not been so what would have been the point of putting the bread and wine on the fire on the altar? How could this have been pleasing to Jehovah, or how could it have been, as it says, an odour of rest to Him? How could it have expiated a person? Anyone who thinks reverently about the Word cannot imagine how an action so earthly could be pleasing to Jehovah unless something Divine on a deeper, more internal level was contained in it. The person who believes that the Word is Divine and spiritual throughout ought to believe completely that every detail there has some heavenly arcanum concealed within it. But the reason why no one up to now has known just where such an arcanum lies is that no one has known that an internal sense, which is spiritual and Divine, exists within every detail there. Nor has anyone known that angels are present with each person, perceiving his thoughts and understanding the Word in a spiritual manner when he reads it; that then through them a holy influence from the Lord reaches him; and that therefore through those angels heaven is linked to the person, to whom the Lord is linked by means of the heavens. It is for this reason that the kind of Word just described has been given to mankind, that Word being the sole means by which the Lord can provide for his salvation.

[3] The fact that 'minchah', consisting of bread, means the good of love and that 'drink offering', consisting of wine, means the good of faith, and that this is what the angels see in them, becomes clear from all those places in the Word which make reference to a minchah or a drink offering, such as these verses in Joel,

The minchah has been cut off, and the drink offering, from the house of Jehovah; the priests have been mourning, the ministers of Jehovah. The field has been devastated, the land has been mourning because the grain has been devastated, the new wine has dried up, the oil languishes. The vine has dried up and the fig tree languishes. Wail, O ministers of the altar, because the minchah and the drink offering have been withheld from the house of your God. For the day of Jehovah is near, and comes as destruction from Shaddai. Joel 1:9-15.

This refers to the final period of the Church, when the good of love and truth of faith are not present there any longer, meant by 'the day of Jehovah is near, and comes as destruction from Shaddai'.

[4] From this it is evident that by the minchah and drink offering which have been cut off from the house of Jehovah, the field which has been devastated, the land which mourns, the grain which too has been devastated, the new wine which has dried up, the oil which languishes, and the vine and fig which do so, such things as belong to the Church and to heaven are meant. It is the internal sense however that shows what it is they mean. From that sense it is evident that 'the field' means the Church as regards its reception of truth, see 3766, 4982, 7502, 7571, 9295; 'the land' the Church as regards [its reception of] good, see the places referred to in 9325; 'the grain' all the good that the Church has, 5295, 5410, 5959; 'the new wine' all the truth that the Church has, 3580; 'the oil' the good of love, 4582, 4638, 9780; 'the vine' the spiritual Church's interior good, 5113, 6376, 9277; and 'the fig' its exterior good, 217, 4231, 5113. From all this it is evident that 'the minchah' and 'the drink offering' mean worship springing from the good of love and from the good of faith.

[5] In Malachi,

I will not accept a minchah from your hands. For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, great is the name of Jehovah among the nations; and in every place [there will be] incense, offered to My name, and a pure minchah. Malachi 1:10-11.

It is evident that a minchah should not be understood here either by 'a minchah', nor incense by 'incense', since the subject is the Church among the gentile nations, among whom there was no minchah. For it says, 'From the rising of the sun to its setting, great is the name of Jehovah among the nations; and in every place [there will be] a pure minchah and incense', 'incense' meaning adoration springing from the good of faith, see 9475.

[6] Something similar occurs in David,

My prayers are acceptable, [as] incense before You, the lifting up of my hands, [as] the evening minchah. Psalms 141:2.

'The evening minchah' means the good of love in the external man.

[7] In Isaiah,

You inflamed yourselves among the gods under every green tree. You have also poured out a drink offering to them; you have presented a gift 1 . You offer the king a gift in oil, and multiply your perfumes; and you debase yourself even to hell. Isaiah 57:5-6, 9.

This refers to worship based on evils and falsities which come from hell. 'The gods' in the internal sense are falsities, for although those who worshipped other gods called them by name, nevertheless falsities arising from evils were what they worshipped. Regarding the gods of the foreigner in the Word, that falsities are meant by them, see 4402(end), 8941. '[Every] green tree' means every perception, recognition, and corroboration of falsity, 2722, 2972, 4552, 7692, 'green' implying a sensory apprehension, 7691. 'Inflaming oneself' means worship that is passionate, for 'the fire' that causes such fervour is love in both senses, 5215, 6832, 7575. 'Pouring out a drink offering' is worship springing from the falsities of evil; 'offering the king a gift in oil' is the worship of Satan springing from evils, 'a gift in oil' being a minchah, and 'multiplying perfumes' is multiplying offerings of incense, by which acts of adoration are meant, 9475. Therefore it also says that he debases himself even to hell.

[8]From these considerations it becomes clear that 'a minchah', which consisted of bread, and 'a drink offering', which consisted of wine, mean things such as belong to the Church and to heaven, namely heavenly food and drink, in the same way as the bread and wine in the Holy Supper do - for the reason given above, that heaven may join itself to a person through the Word, consequently that the Lord may do so through heaven by means of the Word. Since the Divine presence in the Word consists in such things it nourishes the minds not only of people in the world but also of angels and causes heaven and the world to be one.

[9] From this it also becomes clear that all the things without exception which have been stated and commanded in the Word regarding the minchah and drink offering, or bread and wine, contain Divine arcana within them. This is so for example with the requirement that a minchah should consist of fine flour which had oil and also frankincense on it, that it should be altogether salted, and that it should be unleavened or without yeast. Then there is the requirement that there was to be one set of proportions for the mixture when a lamb was sacrificed, another when it was a ram, another when it was a young bull, and yet another in guilt- and sin-sacrifices, while the proportions in other sacrifices were different again. The proportion of wine in the drink offering varied in a similar way. Unless these specific requirements had embodied the arcana of heaven no such things would ever have been commanded in connection with the various forms of worship.

[10] To enable these different requirements to be seen alongside one another, let them be set out here in their own order, as contained in the eucharistic sacrifices and burnt offerings, in Numbers 15:4-12; 28:9-12, 20-21, 28-29; 29:3-4, 9-10, 14-15, 18, 21, 24, 27, 30, 33, 37,

For each lamb there was a minchah consisting of one tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with a quarter of a hin of oil; and the wine for the drink offering was a quarter of a hin.

For each ram there was a minchah consisting of two tenths [of an ephah] of fine flour, and a third of a hin of oil; and a third of a hin of wine for the drink offering.

For each young bull there was a minchah consisting of three tenths [of an ephah] of fine flour mixed with oil, a half of a hin; and half of a hin of wine for the drink offering.

The reason why the proportions of fine flour, oil, and wine for a lamb should be different from those for a ram or for a young bull was that a lamb meant the inmost good of innocence, a ram the middle good of innocence, and a young bull the lowest or external good of innocence. For there are three heavens - the inmost, the middle, and the lowest - and therefore also there are three degrees of the good of innocence. The increase of it from first to last is meant by the increase in the proportions of fine flour, oil, and wine. It should be remembered that the good of innocence is the very soul of heaven, because that good alone is the recipient of the love, charity, and faith which constitute the heavens.

'A lamb' means the inmost good of innocence, see 3994, 10132.

'A ram' means the middle or interior good of innocence, 10042.

'A young bull' means the lowest or external good of innocence, 9391, 9990.

(References: Numbers 28:10-12, 28:10-29, 29:3-37)

[11] In sacrifices for thanksgiving (confessio) however there was a minchah consisting of unleavened cakes mixed with oil, unleavened wafers anointed with oil, cakes made of fried flour and mixed with oil, and in addition leavened bread cakes, Leviticus 7:11-12; and in guilt- and sin-sacrifices there was a minchah consisting of a tenth of an ephah of fine flour, but without oil or frankincense on top of it, Leviticus 5:11. The reason why no oil or frankincense should be put on top of the minchah composing a sin- or guilt-sacrifice was that 'oil' is a sign of the good of love and 'frankincense' a sign of the truth which goes with that good, and a sin- or a guilt-sacrifice is a sign of purification and expiation from evils and the falsities arising from them, which therefore were not to be mingled with good or the truth springing from it.

[12] In addition to these there were the minchah of Aaron and his sons on the day they were going to be anointed, see Leviticus 6:20-22; the minchah of the firstfruits of the harvest, Leviticus 2:14-15; 23:10, 12-13, 17; the minchah of the Nazirite, Numbers 6:13-21]; the minchah of jealousy, Numbers 5:11-31]; the minchah of one cleansed from leprosy, Leviticus 14:1-32]; and also the minchah baked in an oven, the minchah prepared in a pan, and the minchah cooked in a pot, Leviticus 2:4-7. There was was to be no yeast in a minchah, nor any honey; and the minchah had to be fully salted, Leviticus 2:11, 13. The reason why there should be no yeast in a minchah, nor any honey, was that in the spiritual sense 'yeast' means falsity arising from evil, and 'honey' external delight very much mixed with the delight belonging to love of the world, which also causes fermentation in heavenly forms of good and truths and subsequent disintegration of them. And the reason why they should be fully salted was that 'salt' was a sign of truth desiring good and so joining the two together.

'Yeast' means falsity arising from evil, see 2342, 7906, 8051, 9992.

'Honey' means external delight, thus such delight belonging to love in both senses, 5620.

'Salt' means truth desiring good, 9207.


1. literally, you have caused a gift to go up/ascend


(References: Exodus 29:40; Leviticus 2:3-7, 2:10-12, 2:10-11, 6:13-15, 14, 14:1; Numbers 5, 5:1, 6, 6:1)

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   Study this Passage
From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

Arcana Coelestia 10140, 10177, 10206, 10207, 10262

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 218, 221

References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 242, 324, 329, 513, 619

   Swedenborg Research Tools

Related New Christian Commentary

Thanks to the Swedenborg Society for the permission to use this translation.