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Elsewhere in the Bible there are Proverbs that warn, "spare the rod and spoil the child." Evidently the rod in this context is used to chastise, to correct.

When the Psalm mentions "Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me," does the rod have the same meaning - a means of chastisement?

And of course, if it does refer to chastisement, then how to explain the following statement, "they comfort me."?

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3 Answers 3

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Your question is a good one. According to Rashi/Malbim and other traditional bible commentators, the rod and the support are opposites of each other. The rod, as you noted, is a means of chastisement. David takes comfort in both the good and the bad, as they both have come from G-d to his benefit.

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NIV Psalm 23:

1The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

The rod and staff symbolize the shepherd's crook. It is used at times to protect the sheep against predators and at times to chastise or guild the sheep onto the right path. Any chastisement is done in love and for David's good. It comforts him and gives him a sense of security.

How does the rod in the 23rd Psalm relate to David - is it used to punish or chastise him?

Both, and God the shepherd used it in love for David's own good. It was comforting to him because God also used it thirdly to protect David against his enemies.

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First, you need to know that the whole of Psalm 23 is completely, thoroughly and totally mistranslated in the KJV / NIV and the septuagint.

Not just simple mistranslation. Gross mistranslation and total misunderstanding of the Hebrew of the Psalm by your English/Greek translators. Not only are they guilty of syntactic ignorance, they have added concepts not found in the original Hebrew of the Psalm.

Mangling of verse 6 is the worst sin the translators committed against this Psalm.

IF you can bear some dry scriptural analysis of the Psalm, read this posting in my blog: http://rameneutics.avishegnath.net/2014/02/psalm-23-precise-translation.html .

Let me reproduce the part of my blog that concerns your question

Verse 4: כי אתה עמדי

for You are with me
Alternatively, it can be translated as
for You are my uprightness, my withstanding stability, my standup-ness.

Due to absence of vowels,
עמדי
could be either mean
im-adi (with me)

or
amidi (my standing-up)
where עמד = root for stand or located.

Remember the movie The Standup Guys. The LORD is my standing-up-ness.

Verse 4 again: שבטך ומשענתך המה ינחמני

Your sceptre / rod / tribe and your providing-support they comfort-console me.

What many people do not realise (because unfortunately they don't read the Bible in Hebrew), the word שבט could be used to mean a tribe or a rod or a sceptre of leadership. שבט is mostly used in the Bible to mean tribe. Therefore, שבט could mean having a dominant position as a leader.

I want to say, that שבט when used to mean tribe, actually means a column of people. Like in modern English (and Mathematics), a branch is used to denote a division or segment.

שען means a support.
משען is to provide support
משענת is the participle = the providing of support

Therefore a walking stick or a super-grandiose regal looking staff can be called a [משענת]. But in this case, משענת means exactly what it means - G'd providing support.

נחם is to comfort and console.

Your domain / leadership and your providing-support they comfort-console me.

Your assertive leadership and your being a support, they console and assure me.

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  • Unfortunately, the whole KJV (and NIV as well) is populated with mistranslations like those in Psalm 23. The American Standard is better behaved.
    – Cynthia
    Sep 22, 2015 at 12:04
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    Am I downvoted for plagiarizing my own blog? Or for explaining the Hebrew that as you can see is plain and simple , but for curious reasons was not too obvious to your translators. Or because stating the obvious about the (un)reliability of the kjv / niv / Septuagint in a most untactful way. It is quite obvious I have not much confidence or respect for those translations. Sorry for the bad news, and my poor communication skills.
    – Cynthia
    Sep 24, 2015 at 9:33
  • Are you saying that because there are alternate understandings for those words, that they must be those alternate definitions? What about the entire context of vv 1-4 is about a shepherd tending to a flock, and a rod and staff are legitimate tools used by a shepherd?
    – pbarney
    Apr 8, 2021 at 11:47
  • Do you know Hebrew of the tehilim to know there are alternate understanding?
    – Cynthia
    Apr 30, 2021 at 1:57

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