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...

lord
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...

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

restoreth
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...

soul
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...

leadeth
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...

paths
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....

righteousness
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...

name
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...

walk
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
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...

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

comfort
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...

table
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...

before
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...

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

mercy
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...

follow
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...

days
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...

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

dwell
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.

house
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: swedenborg.com.


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

Commentary

 

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 #4489

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)      

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4489. 'Will these not be ours?' means that these two kinds of goods and truths would be alike and take the same form. This becomes clear from the train of thought, the essence of which is that the goods and truths of the Most Ancient Church, which in some measure still remained in existence among Hamor and Shechem and their families, would accord with the goods and truths which came from the Ancient Church and existed among the descendants of Jacob. For the observances which were established among the descendants of Jacob were nothing other than external things which represented and meant the internal things of the Most Ancient Church. 'Will these not be ours?' - or, Would they not belong to them? - means that they would be alike and take the same form.

[2] But let an example illustrate this matter. The altar on which they used to offer sacrifice was the chief representative of the Lord, 921, 2777, 2811. The altar was also for that reason fundamental to the worship in the Ancient Church that was called the Hebrew Church, and therefore every single thing that went into the construction of the altar was representative, such as its dimensions - its height, breadth, and length - its stones, its network of bronze, its horns; and so was the fire which was kept burning on it perpetually; and above all the sacrifices and burnt offerings. What they represented were the truths and goods which are the Lord's and which come from the Lord. These were the internal things of worship which, because they were represented in that external object, were alike and took the same form as the truths and goods of the Most Ancient Church. Its dimensions - its height, breadth, and length - meant in general the good, the truth, and the holiness from these, see 650, 1613, 3433, 3434, 4482. 'Its stones' meant in particular those truths that are more basic, 1298, 3720. 'The bronze' from which the network around the altar was made meant natural good, 425, 1551. 'The horns' meant the power of truth that springs from good, 2832. 'The fire' on the altar meant love, 934. 'The sacrifices and burnt offerings' meant celestial and spiritual things, according to their various kinds, 922, 1823, 2180, 2805, 2807, 2830, 3519. From all this it becomes clear that internal things were to be contained within external ones, and that internally the two sets of goods and truths would be alike. The same applies to all other external aspects of worship.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 3433-3434)


[3] But those who belonged to the Most Ancient Church had no interest in those external things because they were internal people, and the Lord flowed in by an internal way existing with them and taught them what was good. To them the variations and differences of good were truths, and from this they knew what every single thing in the world represented in the Lord's kingdom; for the whole world or whole natural order is a theatre representative of the Lord's kingdom, 2758, 3483. Those however who belonged to the Ancient Church were not internal people but external, as a consequence of which the Lord was not able with them to flow in by an internal way and teach them what was good, only by an external way. At first He flowed in and taught them by means of such things as were representatives and meaningful signs, from which the representative Church arose, and later on by means of matters of doctrine concerning good and truth which were so represented and meant, from which the Christian Church arose. In essence the Christian Church is identical so far as its internal form is concerned with the representative Church, but the representatives and meaningful signs of the latter were done away with after the Lord came into the world, for the reason that every single thing represented Him Himself and as a consequence the things of His kingdom, for these are derived from Him and are so to speak the Lord Himself.

[4] But the difference between the Most Ancient Church and the Christian Church is as great as that between the bright light of the sun by day and the inferior light of the moon or stars by night. For seeing goods by the internal or earlier way is like seeing in the daytime by the bright light of the sun, whereas seeing by the external or later way is like seeing in the night by the inferior light of the moon or stars. The difference was almost the same between the Most Ancient Church and the Ancient, except that those who belonged to the Christian Church could have dwelt in fuller light if they had acknowledged internal things, that is, if they had believed and practiced the truths and goods which the Lord taught. The actual good is the same in both, but the difference between them is that one sees that good in brightness, the other in obscurity. Those who see in brightness see countless arcana almost as angels in heaven do and also feel an affection for those which they see, whereas those who see in obscurity see scarcely anything that is free from doubt, and the things they do see mingle themselves with the shades of night, that is, with falsities. Nor can they inwardly feel any affection for them. Now because the good is the same in both, so also as a consequence is the truth; and this is why the words 'will these not be ours?' mean that the two sets of goods and truths would be alike and take the same form. For as stated already, Hamor and Shechem were part of the remnants of the Most Ancient Church, while the descendants of Jacob belonged to the Ancient Church called the Hebrew Church, though they were interested only in the external things of that Church. But the fact that Hamor and Shechem his son committed an enormous sin by accepting circumcision will be seen below in 4493.

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   Study this Passage
From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

Arcana Coelestia 4493, 4541, 8623, 8935, 8940, 9229, 9388, 9395, 9954

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 121, 221, 247


References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 324, 329, 375, 443


   Swedenborg Research Tools


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


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