As promised, here is my personal take on Psalm 23:5:

In the Baal epic, there is a text that I believe puts Psalm 23:5 in perspective. It tells of a bloody battle between Anat and a whole bunch of warriors. Here is the summary of my interpretation of the text. (Most of this appears in my retelling of the Baal epic on this site. The version below uses transliteration of the Ugaritic text. B‘l is Baal and ‘nt is Anat):

B‘l’s sister ‘nt was having fun in the valley. “She fights the people of the se[a]-shore, strikes the populace of the su[n]rise. Under her, like balls, are hea[ds,] above her, like locusts1, hands, like locusts, heaps of warrior-hands. She fixes heads to her back, fastens hands to her belt. Knee-deep she glea[n]s in warrior-blood, neck-deep in the gor[e] of soldiers.”2
‘nt then went back home, but she hasn’t had her fill of war.
"She arranges chairs for the soldiery, arranges tables for hosts, footstools for heroes. Hard she fights and looks about, battling Anat surveys. Her innards swell with laughter, her heart fills with joy, Anat’s innards with victory. Knee-deep she gleans in warrior-blood, neck-deep in the gore of soldiers, until sated with fighting in the house, with battling between the tables. Warrior-blood is wiped [from] the house, oil of peace is poured in a bowl."3
In this text, ‘nt begins her battle in a valley (reminiscent of the "Valley of the Shadow of Death," גיא צלמוות). She then prepares a tables for armies (“thou preparest a table for me in the presence of my enemies”). Are these armies her foes, or could they actually be her allies? At the beginning of this part of the story, in line 4, she “meets youths.” Although these could be the enemies she encounters in the lines that follow, the language suggests a more amiable meeting. Are the armies for whom the tables are prepared these same youths? If so, it could be that she is preparing them a meal “in the presence of their enemies,” and that a conflict breaks out right there in the dining hall. Finally, the “oil of peace” reminds us of “thou anointest my head with oil.” For the time being this interpretation cannot be adopted as more than a working hypothesis.
What is so significant about this text, in my opinion, is that it shifts the focus of our interpretation of Psalm 23:5 from a portrayal of provision and plenty to one of ritual militarization. So C. S. Lewis’ complaint about the uncharitable attitudes towards enemies loses its teeth. The text is not about showing off all of the good things we have to eat. It’s about getting ready for an imminent battle.
Obviously, there are still scores of ethical questions that remain with such an interpretation. The reading that I am proposing does not iron out all of the difficulties. It probably actually raises some more. (Among others: how is it that such a pagan text has had such a profound influence on a passage of inspired Scripture?). But I believe that having more information about the cultural context that texts like Psalm 23:5 were written in can help the Bible interpreter attack those ethical questions with more precision and skill.
1 Because they are flying off of their arms above her head like a swarm of locusts.
2 CAT 1.3, col. II, lines 7-15. Translation is from Simon Parker, “Ugaritic Narrative Poetry.”
3 CAT 1.3, col. II, lines 20-32.
Ain't Anat a sweet-heart?
6/30/2011 02:41:02 am

I realize I am writing this a year late, but what if verse 5 is actually just a continuation of the Shepherd/Sheep metaphor, and the table that the sheep eats at is actually a pasture? Then the focus remains on the provision of protection from the Shepherd to the sheep (from the many enemies that would want to devour the sheep - cougars (the animal, not the older lady type), bears, wildcats, thieves, etc.).

Your consideration for context is right on, but do you have the right context? Is it possible that all we need to know is that David, the author, was a shepherd as a boy, and knew what it took to really care for his sheep? Maybe, then, as he looked back over his life and all the ways that God provided for him, he likened it to a Shepherd and Sheep.

consider this

Your thoughts?

8/1/2012 10:58:43 am

Nice of me coming here,i was learn a lot from here. That is really amazing dear buddy keep it up. Really looking forward to read more.

8/1/2012 11:02:07 am

Happy to find a nice article. That is really amazing.I am happy to tell you that your article is awesome, I undeniably will undoubtedly revisit.


Leave a Reply.