Who Wrote Psalm 23: Unveiling its Authorship

By Charalampos •  Updated: 04/26/23 •  10 min read

Psalm 23, one of the most well-known and cherished psalms, holds a special place in the hearts of many. Often recited for comfort and inspiration, this psalm has been a source of hope and solace for countless individuals throughout history. But who actually wrote this beloved passage?

Traditionally, Psalm 23 is attributed to King David, a skilled poet, and musician who had a deep understanding of the shepherd’s life, as he himself tended to sheep during his youth. This background, combined with David’s great faith in God, allowed him to compose the psalm’s resonant and meaningful verses.

In this article, we will explore the authorship and background of the Psalm, its themes and messages, and why it is still used by the Church today.

Psalm 23 Background Story

Psalm 23 Background Story

The Book of Psalms is a collection of religious songs, hymns, and prayers found in the Hebrew Bible and the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. It holds significant importance in Orthodox Christianity, as it has played a crucial role in the devotional life of believers over the centuries.

The Psalms express a wide range of human emotions and experiences, and the faithful often finds deep connections with their spiritual journey in this book.

Psalm 23 is one of the most well-known and beloved Psalms, often recited and sung by individuals and congregations alike. Its popularity is due to the profound sense of comfort, hope, and assurance it brings to those who meditate on its words.

Who Wrote Psalm 23 and Under What Circumstances?

Traditionally, King David, the second king of Israel, is attributed as the author of Psalm 23. David was known as a skilled musician, poet, and shepherd before his rise to kingship.

The life experiences and background of David as a shepherd provided him with an intimate understanding of the shepherd-sheep relationship, which he used as a metaphor to express his dependence on God.

However, the authorship of Psalm 23 is a subject of debate among scholars. While many accept the traditional attribution, others propose alternative authors or argue that the psalm could be a compilation of multiple sources.

Despite the ongoing debate, the messages of comfort, protection, and trust in God remain central to the Psalm.

Why King David Wrote Psalm 23?

Assuming King David as the author, Psalm 23 reflects the unique relationship he shared with God.

David’s life was marked by numerous challenges, including fleeing from King Saul, who sought to take his life, and facing adversaries both inside and outside his kingdom. In these difficult moments, David turned to God for refuge, guidance, and sustenance.

The powerful imagery and language of Psalm 23 reveal David’s trust and confidence in God’s ability to shepherd, protect, and care for him throughout his tumultuous life.

The Psalm has continued to speak to believers today, inviting them to find comfort and solace in the divine shepherd.

Why is Psalm 23 important?

Psalm 23 is the Church speaking about Jesus Christ. In speaking about the Lord, the Church recognizes Him as Her Shepherd indicating a close relationship with Him. 

The Psalm has been used extensively in Orthodox Christian worship and liturgy, in the service of preparation for Holy Communion, and as the Prokeimenon in Vespers for Tuesdays.

In moments of grief, fear, and uncertainty, Psalm 23 offers a reminder of God’s unwavering presence and care. Thus, the Psalm has become a source of hope, assurance, and strength for countless believers throughout history and remains an essential part of their spiritual journey.

Psalm 23 Explained Line By Line

the lines of psalm 23 explained

This section will provide a brief, line-by-line analysis of the Psalm, exploring its meanings and connections to believers’ lives today.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

The Psalm opens with “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” This line establishes God as a caring shepherd who provides for the needs of his flock (people). In this role, God is responsible for guiding and protecting, ensuring that no need goes unmet.

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

Here, the imagery of green pastures and still waters represents a sense of peace and tranquility, illustrating the restful environment that God creates for his believers. This imagery also highlights the importance of spiritual nourishment and renewal.

He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

In this line, the Psalm emphasizes God’s role in restoring and healing the soul. It suggests that God’s guidance leads believers along righteous paths for His glory and purpose.

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.

This verse acknowledges the presence of difficulties and danger but also emphasizes God’s protection and comfort during the darkest times. The rod and staff symbolize guidance and discipline, providing comfort and assurance.

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

This line speaks of the provision and abundance that God bestows upon his people, even in the face of adversity. The anointing with oil represents a consecration and blessing, further emphasizing divine protection and favor.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

In this final verse, we can see David’s confidence in God’s unwavering presence and provision, leading to a hope-filled perspective for the future.

In summary, Psalm 23 is a rich and powerful passage that uses symbolism and imagery to illustrate the depth of God’s care for his people. By understanding and applying the message of this Psalm, believers can strengthen their trust in God’s guidance, protection, and provision, finding comfort and hope in his presence.

Psalm 23 Different Versions Explained

Different Versions of psalm 23

In this section, we will provide an overview of the different translations of Psalm 23 and their significance. We will compare the King James Version (KJV), New International Version (NIV), and English Standard Version (ESV) to understand how different translations can impact the interpretation of the Psalm.

Meaning of Psalm 23 KJV (King James Version)

The King James Version of Psalm 23 is known for its elegant language and recognizable phrasing. In this translation, certain words and phrases have become iconic, such as “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want”.

 The King James Version has heavily influenced the interpretation of the Psalm, giving it a sense of grandeur and timelessness.

Meaning of Psalm 23 NIV (New International Version)

The New International Version of Psalm 23 presents the text in a more modern and accessible language.

The NIV maintains the core meaning of the Psalm, but with updated phrasing, such as “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing”.

This translation, by making the language more relatable to contemporary readers, may have a different impact on the interpretation of the Psalm.

Meaning of Psalm 23 ESV (English Standard Version)

The English Standard Version of Psalm 23 is another modern translation that aims to be precise and accurate in its rendering.

In the ESV, the phrasing is “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want”.

The ESV’s emphasis on accuracy and clarity potentially offers readers a more in-depth understanding of the various layers of meaning present in the Psalm.

While each translation of Psalm 23 offers its unique perspective, the core message remains consistent across all versions: The Lord is a loving and caring shepherd who guides and protects His people through all circumstances.

Why is Psalms 23 Used At Funerals?

psalm 23 on tombstone

Psalm 23 is commonly read at funerals and memorial services due to its comforting nature for Christians. The themes of eternal rest, peace, and comfort are dominant throughout the six short verses, offering hope and encouragement to those who are grieving.

From a historical and cultural perspective, Psalm 23 has long been considered a key piece of funeral liturgy in religious traditions. Its use in funerary practices can be traced back to ancient times, reflecting the deeply rooted connection between the text and the rituals surrounding death and mourning.

The themes of comfort and guidance present in the text offer solace to mourners as they face the loss of a loved one. With phrases such as “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,” the psalmist expresses the assurance of God’s support and protection during difficult times.

This can bring hope and strength to those grappling with grief and loss.

The Psalm That is Used in The Orthodox Funeral

In the Orthodox Church, Psalm 119:12 is used as a prelude to the “Funeral Evlogetaria,” a set of hymns of praise that are sung during the service. The verse reads, “Blessed are You, O Lord, teach me Your statutes.” It is believed that this verse serves as a reminder of the importance of God’s teachings and commandments, which guide believers in life and in death.

How to Explain Psalm 23 to a Child

Teaching children the meaning of Psalm 23 can help them better understand faith and spirituality. To make it accessible to children, consider breaking down the language and imagery used in Psalm.

Start by telling them that a man named David wrote Psalm 23, and he used a simple analogy of a shepherd and sheep to explain the relationship between God and His people. Explain that God is like a shepherd, and we are like the sheep, always cared for and protected by Him.

To illustrate this concept, you may use the following points:

In teaching Psalm 23 to children, it’s essential to emphasize the themes of comfort, protection, and care that are especially relevant to their lives and experiences. Explain that just like a shepherd looks after his sheep and keeps them safe, God watches over us and protects us from harm. This can help children feel secure in God’s love and develop a strong foundation for their faith.

Finally, encourage children to memorize and recite Psalm 23 to remember that God is their loving shepherd who always watches and cares for them. By understanding and connecting with the message of the Psalm, children can find comfort in God’s constant presence and deep, abiding love.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the question of who wrote Psalm 23 comes down to the denomination you believe in. In Orthodoxy, King David is the sole writer of Psalms and is seen as the author of Psalm 23.

Its words have offered comfort, guidance, and hope to people of all faiths for centuries, and its themes of trust, protection, and restoration continue to resonate with the human experience today.

As you reflect on the mystery and majesty of this ancient text, we invite you to deepen your prayer life with our free praying cheat sheet.

This resource offers practical tips and guidance for developing a more meaningful and authentic prayer practice, drawing on the wisdom of scripture and the insights of spiritual leaders throughout history.


Charalampos is an Orthodox Christian who wants to help others learn about Christianity. His main goal is to help people understand the Bible and how to apply its teachings in their everyday lives. He also enjoys spending time with his family, playing sports, and hiking.

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