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“He restores my soul.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭23:3‬ ‭

How is the soul restored and from what does it need restoring?

(Since there is no attempt to answer the question thus far, I wonder if...)

“Or he will tear my soul like a lion, Dragging me away, while there is none to deliver.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭7:2‬ ‭

...Might shed some light on a soul that is fragmented by beasts and the antidote of their fragmenting is deliverance which in my mind suggests evil/unclean spirits are the cause of the tearing of the soul into pieces. Evidently this has manifestations in the natural realm.

I’m not suggesting this is the only reason a soul might require restoration. Certainly David was heartbroken over many things in his life.

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There is obviously a lot written on Psalm 23, and this verse in particular, so it is not probable that we will completely solve this issue here.

There are two translational (how do we move it into English) and interpretational (how do we understand the concept of this word) questions:

  1. how do you translate and interpret "restore" or "refresh" which comes from the Hebrew verb שוב

  2. how do you translate and interpret "soul" - Hebrew נפש

The Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (TDOT) has 61 pages on שוב alone.

The verb form in this verse is Polel. Timothy Willis notes (Willis, Timothy M. 1987. “A Fresh Look at Psalm 23:3a.” Vetus Testamentum 37 (1): 104–6.)

the Polel indicates a plurality of action.

and he translates this verse

"He gathers me in" or "He herds me in"

Willis notes the similar use of this verb (Polel) in Jeremiah 50:19 where Israel is described as a flock that has been scattered and God is going to gather them back in.

I will restore Israel to his pasture, and he shall feed on Carmel and in Bashan, and his desire shall be satisfied on the hills of Ephraim and in Gilead. Jer. 50:19 (ESV)

This translation for Psalm 23 this would describe the three main responsibilities of a shepherd: food, water, shelter. Willis writes,

this interpretation provides a different understanding of the imagery in Ps. xxiii 3a. The psalmist is not describing the physical or (implied) spiritual result of the nourishing which Yahweh provides for his people…Instead,…tells three things which a shepherd commonly does for his sheep (106).

(obviously, this is open to debate since scholars have debated how to translate this word)

The second difficulty is how we translate and understand the Hebrew נפש for "soul." Our modern understanding is that "soul" is the immaterial part of us that departs the body upon death - hopefully, destined for heaven.

The Hebrew concept - again, according to the the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (TDOT) - for "soul" is much more in line with your "whole person." You are a soul rather than you have a soul. This is why some Bible versions translate נפש as "life" or "strength." Consider the Contemporary English Version (CEV):

and you refresh my life. You are true to your name, and you lead me along the right paths.

נפש has a broad range of meanings and good scholars on all sides of debates don't always agree.

One this for sure - this is an amazing Psalm which has impacted millions over the centuries. However we read it, God's word is bigger than all of us and He can renew, restore, replenish, refresh, or even return our "soul" "strength" or "life."

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  • Midway through I actually felt you were going somewhere with this but I guess not. +1 for the middle only. Mar 6 '20 at 22:48
  • @NihilSineDeo, the answer did go somewhere, but any answer that doesn't depend on doctrines that define "soul" as immortal spirits that temporarily reside within physical bodies is going to end up as a shaggy dog. If "soul" keeps its original meaning as referring to any breathing creature, the answer expected by this question just isn't going to happen. Jun 29 at 19:58
  • It's a valid point that nefesh ("neck"/"breath") can mean "life", "person", or "vitality" just as much, if not much more so, than as the spiritualized "soul" as understood by us Moderns. This is something that a lof of post-Hellenistic exegesis struggles with greatly.
    – Robert
    Jun 30 at 4:42
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“He restores my soul.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭23:3‬ ‭

The NIV has "refreshes my soul" , I believe it is a slightly better rendering.

"He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name's sake."

How is the soul restored and from what does it need restoring?

"He refreshes my soul" When weary, in trouble, sickness, discouraged, or facing opposition because of your believes, God by means of his word refreshes us or refreshes our soul. Christians are encouraged to read part of the scriptures daily and even memorize portions of it, and when in crisis and do not have a bible handy, comforting scriptural thoughts can strengthen you. Recommend reading Psalm 19:7-10

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalms%2019%3A%207-10&version=NASB;NET

And just one step further.

"He guides me along the right paths for his name's sake."

"The right path or the paths of righteousness" are not easy to follow, they are difficult, but they lead to life.Jesus said : "How narrow is the gate and difficult the way that leads to life,[b] and there are few who find it!" (Mat. 7:14 NET)

Paul expressed a similar thought, shortly after being stoned in Lystra and left for dead,he said:"We must enter the Kingdom of God through many persecutions."Acts 14:19-22

Acts 14:19-22(NET Bible)

19 "But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and after winning the crowds over, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, presuming him to be dead. 20 But after the disciples had surrounded him, he got up and went back into the city. On the next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe."

Paul and Barnabas Return to Antioch in Syria

21 After they had proclaimed the good news in that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, to Iconium, and to Antioch. 22 They strengthened[k] the souls of the disciples and encouraged them to continue in the faith, saying, “We must enter the kingdom of God through many persecutions.”

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  • ישׁובב to turn back, to return, to restore, to go back. Refresh seems the least common rending. The word שׁוּב out of over 1300 uses is used for refresh just once. Very uncommon rending. I believe your posting does address the question but only on the surface. שׁוּב Carries a deeper meaning than refresh. So it’s what you said and more. Especially when considering how David describes some of the damage inflicted on his soul. It doesn’t seem like he could just sleep it off and be refreshed in the morning, which is what refresh seems to imply when I read refresh in contrast to restore. +1 Mar 6 '20 at 17:52
  • Nihi Sine Deo . Thanks, certainly more could be said , David prayed: "The Lord is my Shepherd.2 (Psalm 23:1) David was an experience shepherd(1 Samuel 17:34-36) and protect his sheep. David's sheep trusted their shepherd implicitly. But in relation to Jehovah, he himself was a sheep. Since David felt secure in God’s loving care, he could say: “The Lord is my Shepherd.” I am sure you enjoy this feeling of security under the Great Shepherd, Jehovah God? Mar 6 '20 at 21:58
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When I become addicted to, say, alcohol, and because of this lose my previous joyful air, conditioned by my previous interests in beautiful and good things (literature; poetry; company of good and virtuous friends; practicing virtues together with them etc.), my soul can be said to be damaged, but when I overcome the mentioned damaging passion and return to my former virtuous ways, it can be said to be "restored" or even "re-created" (Psalm 50(51):10).

But human falledness is so deep, we cannot do it only through our own efforts, but only with a help of God; that's why the prophet addresses Him to restore in him the soul, i.e. to heal it from damaging passions.

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  • Thank you for your response +1, makes a lot of sense. Doesn’t quite deal with the details of how this happens which is what I’m really trying to understand or the mechanics of it all but I know God delivers and having being delivered of two very powerful addictions myself supernaturally and instantaneously, I know the joy of being restored and made whole again. (I’m guessing there should be a comma between air and conditioned in the first paragraph because otherwise it’s very difficult to understand what you mean). Be blessed of God. Mar 7 '20 at 12:49
  • @NihilSineDeo Thanks for reading my comment and for +ing it. Yes, comma should be there of course, I will insert it there, thanks! Mar 7 '20 at 13:08
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In Tehillim (Psalms) 23, King David is emphasizing that HaShem is the Shepard of His flock, Israel. This Tehillim is about King David's flight from King Shaul (Saul), hence the reference to the "valley of the shadow of death" in verse 23.4. For an explanation of this Tehillim, watch Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. Rashi relates that while King David was "Hiding in the dry Judean forest of Hereth, and on the brink of death without food or drink, he was miraculously saved by G‑d, who nourished him with a taste of the World to Come." As a Shepard, He restores the individual sheep's soul from wandering on stray paths. Here, King David is saying that, although HaShem is the Shepard of the whole flock of Israel, He watches over and restores each individual soul (sheep) to the right path! The word y'shovav is rooted in the word shev "to return" which implies a turning around, as it were, or a return to the Shepard. 23.3a is forward looking, as the yud is a prefix to the root shv and has a future tense connecting 23.3a with 23.3b: "He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His Name's sake." Here, King David is saying that the Shepard's honor is the reason the soul of the sheep is restored. It is the honor of the Shepard that is at stake. The Shepard made a promise to Avraham that his descendants would come out of Mitzrayim (Egypt) "with great substance" and the Shepard kept His word (promise). King David says as much when he writes in this Tehillim, "I lack nothing." Rashi further relates that King David "alludes to how G‑d provided for the Jews’ every need throughout their 40-year sojourn in the desert, and to how they will sing when G‑d returns them to our Holy Land; David sings, not just for himself, but for every Jew."

the polel "shovav" drops the 2nd radical, repeating the 3rd radical (with a double consonant) having a vowel change....

As one posting (S. Broberg) points out, "Shov" this verb (Polel) in Jeremiah 50:19 where Israel is described as a flock that has been scattered and G-D is going to gather them back in.

I will restore Israel to his pasture, and he shall feed on Carmel and in Bashan, and his desire shall be satisfied on the hills of Ephraim and in Gilead. Jer. 50:19 (ESV)

In fact, the polel verb ... 4th conjugation in Arabic is "restored" as in Jeremiah 50.19. See Zephaniah 3.20 and compare Devarim (Deuteronomy) 30.1-10 verses 2, 8, and 10 (ve'shavta, and thashuv): "At that time will I bring you in, And at that time will I gather you; For I will make you to be a name and a praise Among all the peoples of the earth, When I turn your captivity before your eyes, Saith the L-RD." (בְּשׁוּבִי אֶת-שְׁבוּתֵיכֶם)

Since this flock is scattered and is restored to the Shepard, the Psalmist writes in Tehillim (126) B'Shuv HaShem eeth shivath Tzion and "Shuvah HaShem eeth shevithanu, ka'afiqim ba'neegeed." When HaShem will return the captivity of Tzion,...." and, "Return our captivity like springs in the desert!" Finally, HaShem promises to appoint one Shepard, King David over His flock: "therefore will I save My flock, and they shall no more be a prey; and I will judge between cattle and cattle. And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even My servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd. And I the L-RD will be their G-D, and My servant David prince among them; I the L-RD have spoken." Y'kezkel (Ezekiel) 34.22-24.

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Titus 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

1 Corinthians 15:31 I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.

Our soul is regenerated and restored daily. We are a new person again and again.

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