Praisesong Twenty three – Translation of the Song

23.1   A Song by David.
Adonai is my shepherd; I am without want.
23.2  In lush pastures He lays me down; by calm waters He leads me.
23.3 My soul He revives; He guides me in righteous paths for the praise of His name.
23.4 Even when I walk through the valley, darkly shadowed, I fear no harm, for
You stand with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
23.5 You will prepare a table before me, in my tormentors’ full view.
You enriched my head with oil; my cup, overflowing.
23.6 Only goodness and compassion will pursue me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of Adonai for all the length of my days.

Notes on Translation, Psalm 23:

v. 1 – 4: the verbs translated here in present tense actually mean, in Hebrew, action that is on-going and continual.

v. 1: the noun, translated here as “want”, has the same root in Hebrew as the verb “reduce”. The similarilarity emphasizes that the singer not only lacks nothing but that he is also certain nothing that he already possesses will be taken from him.

v. 2: the translation is commonly “green pastures”; the Hebrew, however, makes no mention of “green”. The meaning, nonetheless, is of lushness, of pastures abundantly grassy.

v. 3: the implication is that God’s pathways are composed of both righteousness and justice.

v. 3: the translation is commonly “for His name’s sake”. The Hebrew reads simply “for His name”. The implication, however, is that God’s guidance and protection will evoke praise.

v. 4: death is not explicitly mentioned in the Hebrew; it is implied by the connotations of darkness and of shadows. Jewish oral tradition makes a distinction between the written and the spoken Hebrew words, צַלְמוּת , צַלְמָוֶת. The spoken, צַלְמָוֶת, means “death”, but the written, צַלְמוּת, means “shadows”. Because the written Biblical Hebrew lacks signs for vowels, both meanings are understood.

v. 4: the literal Hebrew is “I fear no [nothing] bad”.

v. 4: “You are with me” is the common translation. The Hebrew, עִמָּדִי, is a unique form of the verb and suggests God’s full presence. The unusual addition of the letter דל”ת to the verb עִמִּי gives the verb the same root as that of the verb “to stand”, עִמָּדִי. The entire phrase is the first time in the first 4 verses that the Hebrew verb is in the simple present tense.

v. 5: only kings and high priests would have been “anointed” with oil — the common mistranslation of the verb דִּשַּׁנְתָּ.

v. 6: the Hebrew verb for “dwell”, יָשַׁבְתִּ, has the same letters as “return to”, שַׁבְתִּי.

These translations are by Rabbi Maccabi and Dr. Rosenberg. The translations are as close to the literal Hebrew as possible.
Click here to study “Literary analysis of Psalm 23”

Sing & Learn: click here to hear a song composed for Psalm 23

King James Psalms 23 Translation:

[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.

Sing & Learn: hear a song composed from Psalm 23