Psalm 23:5
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(5) Such a sudden transition from the figure of the flock to that of a banquet is characteristic of Hebrew poetry.

Preparesti.e., spreadest or furnishest, the usual phrase (Proverbs 9:2; Isaiah 21:5). (For the same figure of the hospitable host applied to God, see Job 36:16; Isaiah 25:6; and the well-known parables in the New Testament.)

In the presence of mine enemies.—We must imagine the banquet spread on some secure mountain height, in sight of the baffled foe, who look on in harmless spite.

My cup runneth over.—Literally, My cup is abundant drink. Cup, in the sense of portion, has already occurred (Psalm 11:6; Psalm 16:5). The LXX. has, “Thine intoxicating cup, how excellent it is;” Vulg. the same, but with “my” instead of “thy.”

Psalm 23:5. Thou preparest a table before me — Thou furnishest me with plenty and variety of provisions and comforts. In the presence of mine enemies — Who seeing, envying, and fretting at it, are not able to hinder it. Thou anointest my head with oil — Or ointment, as the Syriac and Arabic interpreters render it, namely, with aromatic ointments, which were then used in great feasts. The sense is, Thy comforts delight my soul. See Psalm 45:7. My cup runneth over — Thou hast given me a very plentiful portion, signified by the cup given to the guests by the master of the feast. Thus “another set of images, borrowed from a feast, is introduced to give us ideas of those cordials and comforts prepared to cheer and invigorate the fainting soul; while, surrounded by enemies, it is accomplishing its pilgrimage through life; during which time its sorrows and afflictions are alleviated and sweetened by the joys and consolations of the Holy One; by the feast of a good conscience; by the bread of life; the oil of gladness, and the cup of salvation still full and running over.” — Horne.

23:1-6 Confidence in God's grace and care. - "The Lord is my shepherd." In these words, the believer is taught to express his satisfaction in the care of the great Pastor of the universe, the Redeemer and Preserver of men. With joy he reflects that he has a shepherd, and that shepherd is Jehovah. A flock of sheep, gentle and harmless, feeding in verdant pastures, under the care of a skilful, watchful, and tender shepherd, forms an emblem of believers brought back to the Shepherd of their souls. The greatest abundance is but a dry pasture to a wicked man, who relishes in it only what pleases the senses; but to a godly man, who by faith tastes the goodness of God in all his enjoyments, though he has but little of the world, it is a green pasture. The Lord gives quiet and contentment in the mind, whatever the lot is. Are we blessed with the green pastures of the ordinances, let us not think it enough to pass through them, but let us abide in them. The consolations of the Holy Spirit are the still waters by which the saints are led; the streams which flow from the Fountain of living waters. Those only are led by the still waters of comfort, who walk in the paths of righteousness. The way of duty is the truly pleasant way. The work of righteousness in peace. In these paths we cannot walk, unless. God lead us into them, and lead us on in them. Discontent and distrust proceed from unbelief; an unsteady walk is the consequence: let us then simply trust our Shepherd's care, and hearken to his voice. The valley of the shadow of death may denote the most severe and terrible affliction, or dark dispensation of providence, that the psalmist ever could come under. Between the part of the flock on earth and that which is gone to heaven, death lies like a dark valley that must be passed in going from one to the other. But even in this there are words which lessen the terror. It is but the shadow of death: the shadow of a serpent will not sting, nor the shadow of a sword kill. It is a valley, deep indeed, and dark, and miry; but valleys are often fruitful, and so is death itself fruitful of comforts to God's people. It is a walk through it: they shall not be lost in this valley, but get safe to the mountain on the other side. Death is a king of terrors, but not to the sheep of Christ. When they come to die, God will rebuke the enemy; he will guide them with his rod, and sustain them with his staff. There is enough in the gospel to comfort the saints when dying, and underneath them are the everlasting arms. The Lord's people feast at his table, upon the provisions of his love. Satan and wicked men are not able to destroy their comforts, while they are anointed with the Holy Spirit, and drink of the cup of salvation which is ever full. Past experience teaches believers to trust that the goodness and mercy of God will follow them all the days of their lives, and it is their desire and determination, to seek their happiness in the service of God here, and they hope to enjoy his love for ever in heaven. While here, the Lord can make any situation pleasant, by the anointing of his Spirit and the joys of his salvation. But those that would be satisfied with the blessings of his house, must keep close to the duties of it.Thou preparest a table - The image is now changed, though expressing the general idea which is indicated in the first verse of the psalm, "I shall not want." The evidence or proof of this in the previous verses is, that God was a shepherd, and would provide for him as a shepherd does for his flock; the evidence here is that God had provided a table, or a feast, for him in the very presence of his enemies, and had filled his cup with joy. The word "table" here is synonymous with "feast;" and the meaning is, "thou providest for my wants." There "may" be an allusion here to some particular period of the life of the psalmist, when he was in want, and when he perhaps felt an apprehension that he would perish, and when God had unexpectedly provided for his wants; but it is impossible now to determine to what occasion he thus refers. There were numerous occasions in the life of David which would be well represented by this language, "as if" God had provided a meal for him in the very "presence" of his foes, and in spite of them.

Before me - For me. It is spread in my presence, and for me.

In the presence of mine enemies - That is, in spite of them, or so that they could not prevent it. They were compelled to look on and see how God provided for him. It was manifest that this was from God; it was a proof of the divine favor; it furnished an assurance that he who had done this would never leave him to want. The friends of God are made to triumph in the very presence of their foes. Their enemies are compelled to see how He interposes in their behalf, how He provides for them, and how He defends them. Their final triumph in the day of judgment will be in the very presence of all their assembled enemies, for in their very presence He will pronounce the sentence which will make their eternal happiness sure, Matthew 25:31-36.

Thou anointest my head with oil - Margin, as in Hebrew, "makest fat." That is, thou dost pour oil on my head so abundantly that it seems to be made fat with it. The expression indicates abundance. The allusion is to the custom of anointing the head on festival occasions, as an indication of prosperity and rejoicing (see Matthew 6:17, note; Luke 7:46, note), and the whole is indicative of the divine favor, of prosperity, and of joy.

My cup runneth over - It is not merely "full;" it runs over. This, too, indicates abundance; and from the abundance of the favors thus bestowed, the psalmist infers that God would always provide for him, and that He would never leave him to want.

5, 6. Another figure expresses God's provided care.

a table—or, "food," anointing

oil—the symbol of gladness, and the overflowing

cup—which represents abundance—are prepared for the child of God, who may feast in spite of his enemies, confident that this favor will ever attend him. This beautiful Psalm most admirably sets before us, in its chief figure, that of a shepherd, the gentle, kind, and sure care extended to God's people, who, as a shepherd, both rules and feeds them. The closing verse shows that the blessings mentioned are spiritual.

Thou furnishest me with plenty and variety of provisions and comforts,

mine enemies seeing, and envying, and fretting at it, but not being able to hinder it.

With oil; or, ointment, as the Syriac and Arabic interpreters render it; with aromatical ointments, which were then used at great feasts, Psalm 92:10 Amos 6:6 Matthew 6:17 Luke 7:38. The sense is, Thy comforts delight my soul: compare Psalm 45:7.

My cup runneth over; thou hast given me a very plentiful portion, signified by the cup given to the guests by the master of the feast.

Thou preparest a table before me,.... In a providential way granting a sufficiency, and even an affluence of temporal good things; the providence of God lays and spreads a table for his people in the wilderness, and sets them down at it, and bids them welcome to it; see Psalm 78:19; and in a way of grace, the Lord making large provisions in his house for them, called the goodness and fatness of his house, and a feast of fat things; and under the Gospel dispensation, the table of the Lord, on which are set his flesh and blood for faith to feed upon; see Proverbs 9:2; and also in heaven, the joys of which are compared to a feast, and the enjoyment of them to sitting at a table, and which are prepared by the Lord for his people, from the foundation of the world; and of which they have some foresight and foretaste in this world; see Luke 22:30; and all this

in the presence of my enemies; they seeing and envying the outward prosperity of the saints, whenever they enjoy it, and their liberty of worshipping God, hearing his word, and attending on his ordinances, none making them afraid; as they will see, and envy, and be distressed at a more glorious state of the church yet to come, Revelation 11:12; and even, as it should seem from the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the glory and happiness of the saints in the other world will be seen, or by some way or other known, by wicked men; which will be an affliction to them, and an aggravation of their misery; though here it seems chiefly to regard the present life. Some have thought there is an allusion to princes, who, having conquered others, eat and feast at a well spread table in the presence of the conquered, and they being under it; see Judges 1:7;

thou anointest my head with oil; giving him an abundance of good things, not only for necessity, but for pleasure and delight; especially pouring out largely upon him the oil of gladness, the Spirit of God and his graces, the anointing which teaches all things, and filling him with spiritual joy and comfort; for this refers not to the anointing of David with material oil for the kingdom, by Samuel, while Saul was living, or by the men of Judah, and afterwards by all the tribes of Israel, when Saul was dead. The allusion is to the custom of the eastern countries, at feasts, to anoint the heads of the guests with oil; see Ecclesiastes 9:7. It was usual to anoint the head, as well as other parts of the body, on certain occasions; hence that of Propertius (y): and in the times before Homer (z) it was usual both to wash and anoint before meals, and not the head only, but the feet also; which, though Pliny (a) represents as luxurious, was in use in Christ's time, Luke 7:38; and spoken of as an ancient custom by Aristophanes (b) his Scholiast for daughters to anoint the feet of their parents after they had washed them; which may serve to illustrate the passage in the Gospel; see Ecclesiastes 9:8;

my cup runneth over; denoting an affluence of temporal good things, and especially of spiritual ones, which was David's case. Such who are blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ, to whom the grace of the Lord has been exceeding abundant, and the Lord himself is the portion of their cup, their cup may be said to run over indeed.

(y) "Terque lavet nostras spica cilissa comas", l. 4. eleg. 6. v. 74. (z) Iliad. 10. v. 577, 578. Odyss. l. 3. v. 466. & l. 8. v. 454. & l. 10. v. 450. (a) Nat. Hist. l. 13. c. 3.((b) Vespes, p. 473, 516, 517.

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

(e) Even though his enemies sought to destroy him, yet God delivers him, and deals most liberally with him in spite of them.

(f) As was the manner of great feasts.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
5. in the presence of mine enemies] Or, adversaries, as in Psalm 6:7. The mark of favour is public and unmistakable.

thou anointest] R.V., thou hast anointed. The reference is to the unguents and perfumes which were the regular accompaniment of an Oriental banquet (Amos 6:6; Psalm 45:7; Psalm 92:10), not to the regal anointing, for which a different word is used.

my cup &c.] See note on Psalm 16:5 : and cp. Psalm 36:8, Psalm 66:12, note.

Jehovah is no stubborn host, like the Pharisee (Luke 7:46); He provides for the joys as well as the necessities of life (John 2:1-11); His guests shall be of a cheerful countenance and a gladsome heart (Psalm 104:15).

5, 6. The figure is changed. Jehovah is now described as the host who bountifully entertains the Psalmist at his table, and provides him with a lodging in his own house, as Oriental monarchs entertained those to whom they wished to shew special favour. See Genesis 43:16; 2 Samuel 9:7 ff; 2 Samuel 19:33; 1 Kings 4:27.

Verse 5. - Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. Another transition. The danger of death is past. David reverts to the thought of the tranquil, happy, joyous time which God has vouchsafed to grant him. He has "adversaries," indeed, but they are powerless to effect anything against hint They have to look on with ill-concealed annoyance at his prosperity, to see his table amply spread; his condition such as men generally envy; his wealth typified by abundant oil - thou anointest (or, makest fat, marginal rendering) my head with oil - great, his whole life full to overflowing with blessedness. My cup runneth over, he declares - is not only full to the brim, but runs over the brim - an expressive metaphor, indicative of a state of bliss rarely experienced in this life. Psalm 23:5Rod and staff are here not so much those of the pilgrim, which would be a confusing transition to a different figure, but those of Jahve, the Shepherd (שׁבט, as in Micah 7:14, and in connection with it, cf. Numbers 21:18, משׁענת as the filling up of the picture), as the means of guidance and defence. The one rod, which the shepherd holds up to guide the flock, and upon which he leans and anxiously watches over the flock, has assumed a double form in the conception of the idea. This rod and staff in the hand of God comfort him, i.e., preserve to him the feeling of security, and therefore a cheerful spirit. Even when he passes through a valley dark and gloomy as the shadow of death, where surprises and calamities of every kind threaten him, he hears no misfortune. The lxx narrows the figure, rendering בגיא according to the Aramaic בּגוא, Daniel 3:25, ἐν μέσῳ. The noun צלמות, which occurs in this passage for the first time in the Old Testament literature, is originally not a compound word; but being formed from a verb צלם, Arab. ḏlm (root צל, Arab. ḏl), to overshadow, darken, after the form עבדוּת, but pronounced צלמות (cf. חצרמות, Hadra-môt equals the court of death, בּצלאל in-God's-shadow), it signifies the shadow of death as an epithet of the most fearful darkness, as of Hades, Job 10:21., but also of a shaft of a mine, Job 28:3, and more especially of darkness such as makes itself felt in a wild, uninhabited desert, Jeremiah 2:6.

After the figure of the shepherd fades away in Psalm 23:4, that of the host appears. His enemies must look quietly on (נגד as in Psalm 31:20), without being able to do anything, and see how Jahve provides bountifully for His guest, anoints him with sweet perfumes as at a joyous and magnificent banquet (Psalm 92:11), and fills his cup to excess. What is meant thereby, is not necessarily only blessings of a spiritual kind. The king fleeing before Absolom and forsaken by the mass of his people was, with his army, even outwardly in danger of being destroyed by want; it is, therefore, even an abundance of daily bread streaming in upon them, as in 2 Samuel 17:27-29, that is meant; but even this, spiritually regarded, as a gift from heaven, and so that the satisfying, refreshing and quickening is only the outside phase of simultaneous inward experiences.

(Note: In the mouth of the New Testament saint, especially on the dies viridium, it is the table of the Lord's supper, as Apollinaris also hints when he applied to it the epithet ῥιγεδανῶν βρίθουσαν, horrendorum onustam.)

The future תּערך is followed, according to the customary return to the perfect ground-form, by דּשּׁנתּ, which has, none the less, the signification of a present. And in the closing assertion, כּוסי, my cup, is metonymically equivalent to the contents of my cup. This is רויה, a fulness satiating even to excess.

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