Any good commentaries on Ps 23's background?

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mike | Forum Activity | Posted: Fri, Feb 20 2015 10:15 AM

Need Ps 23 background commentaries & not devotional. Any ideas?

Posts 790
Lew Worthington | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Feb 20 2015 11:02 AM

This is a tough question to answer because of several reasons. First, many commentators note how difficult it is to determine the social background and specific occasion of individual psalms. (In a sense, this is ironically unfortunate since many psalms stand as independent units and we cannot glean much background information from a specific psalm's immediate surrounding context.) Furthermore, many of the literary units that introduce the psalms (e.g., "A Psalm of David") are formulaic and may indicate something other than the actual setting. Second, and as a corollary to the first point, since there's not much background information to be had for each specific psalm, most commentaries treat these matters in an introductory section. These introductory sections often treat background in a very general way and may not be much help for a specific psalm. Third, and as a second corollary to the first point, commentators are often left formulating theories based on general observations rather than specific textual indications found within specific psalms.

Thus, I've often found the general introductory information more important and helpful than background information related to specific psalms. In this regard, one would do well to consult the seminal work of Sigmund Mowinckel or Hermann Gunkel. Modern commentaries that I've found enlightening are those in the Anchor Yale Bible, the International Critical Commentary, or even the Word Biblical Commentary. I'm eager to see what the commentary in the New International Commentary on the Old Testament has to say, but I haven't the dollars in my budget for it at the present time. There are other top-notch scholars I'd love to read on the matter, but this isn't a bad place to start.

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Allen Browne | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Feb 20 2015 2:57 PM

mike:
Need Ps 23 background commentaries & not devotional. Any ideas?

Mike, do you have a copy of James Pritchard's classic, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (Princeton, 1969)? If so, run a search on that resource for shepherd. Apart from some discussion about actual shepherds, you'll find quite a few references to Mesopotamian gods as the shepherds of their people, and consequently to kings claiming to be shepherds of their people. Given that the Psalm is attributed to David (so the I in verse 1 is understood as Davidic), that might give you some background.

Jacob has used this metaphor too in his blessing of the Joseph tribes (Gen 48, 49), and that does show up in the Psalms (80).

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R. Mansfield | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Feb 20 2015 3:00 PM

mike:

Need Ps 23 background commentaries & not devotional. Any ideas?

ZIBBCOT

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mike | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Feb 20 2015 5:40 PM

R. Mansfield:

mike:

Need Ps 23 background commentaries & not devotional. Any ideas?

ZIBBCOT

Can you give me samples from Ps 23? Price is too high if I just want the Psalms.

Posts 1829
mike | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Feb 20 2015 5:43 PM

Allen Browne:

mike:
Need Ps 23 background commentaries & not devotional. Any ideas?

Mike, do you have a copy of James Pritchard's classic, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (Princeton, 1969)?

Yes, I will try now. Thanks

Posts 490
R. Mansfield | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Feb 20 2015 5:56 PM

mike:

Can you give me samples from Ps 23? Price is too high if I just want the Psalms.

Here's the commentary (with footnotes) from v. 5

Anoint … with oil (23:5). Olive oil could be used to treat dry or cracked skin, and so it was a sign of hospitality to offer oil to visitors. A text from an Aramaic-speaking community in Egypt (related culturally to Jews; ca. 300 B.C.) uses the word for oil to speak of invigorating an old man.129 In a diplomatic letter from Assurbanipal (ca. 650 B.C.) to vassal tribes in Arabia, he boasts of his good treatment of them: “The king of Assyria, your lord, put oil on you and turned his friendly face towards you.”130 Thus, the psalmist is refreshed by being in God’s hospitable presence.

129.     COS, 1:99:317. Compare this to the metaphor of oil pleasing the skin of a god in COS, 1.179:574, line 124, or oil used medically in COS, 1:485.

130.     Parpola and Watanabe, Neo-Assyrian Treaties and Loyalty Oaths, no. 10 lines 8-11.

 

Hilber, John W. “Psalms.” In The Minor Prophets, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, vol. 5 of Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Old Testament, edited by John H. Walton, 316-464. Accordance electronic edition, version 1.6. 5 vols. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009.

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Ted Weis | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Feb 21 2015 4:13 PM

The best background information on Psalm 23 I discovered came from an old gentlemen who told me, "David had two jobs in his life. He was a shepherd and a king. In verses 1-4 God is portrayed as a shepherd and a king in verses 5-6."

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