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The Lord Is My Shepherd

Psalm 23 for the Life of the Church

series: Touchstone Texts

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Academy of Parish Clergy 2022 Top Five Reference Book

There are few biblical texts more familiar to Christians than Psalm 23: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want . . ." It is one of the Bible's most popular passages, retaining a special place in ministry and giving hope to the burdened.

Internationally recognized Old Testament scholar Richard Briggs helps readers understand the power and vision of Psalm 23. He offers a close word-by-word and phrase-by-phrase reading of this classic and beloved text, showing how it can speak afresh to the life of the church today. Briggs explores the reception of Psalm 23 down through the ages, covers background issues, and examines the ways the psalm addresses practical issues such as stress, death, enemies, and hope. The book helps reconnect the Christian church to the Old Testament, making it perfect for sermon preparation and small group study.

The Touchstone Texts series addresses key Bible passages, making high-quality biblical scholarship accessible to the church. The series editor is Stephen B. Chapman, Duke Divinity School.

Series Preface
1. Introduction: On Attending to Psalm 23
2. The World behind Psalm 23: Background
3. The World in Psalm 23: Exegesis
4. The World in Front of Psalm 23: Ministry
5. Conclusion: Hearing and Preaching Psalm 23 Today
Appendix: Notes on Psalm 23 in Hebrew


"Briggs offers a fresh study of this beloved and familiar psalm, but even more, he uses it as a key to open the gate into the vast garden of biblical interpretation, which has been much tended from ancient times to the present. He is the best kind of guide; his deep and wide knowledge, engaging style, and genuine faith are both eye-opening and edifying for readers who share his interest, even if they do not share his expertise."

Ellen Davis, Amos Ragan Kearns Distinguished Professor of Bible and Practical Theology, Duke Divinity School

"A whole book on one little psalm? But this is no ordinary psalm, and Richard Briggs is no ordinary interpreter. He writes thoughtfully, he is always interesting, he reads widely, and he manages to share the fruit of his reading without letting it get in the way. He is a fine match for this short, profound, provocative psalm. Anyone who reads this book will learn a lot about Psalm 23 and will be driven to think a lot about interpretation."

John Goldingay, senior professor of Old Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Many of us have loved Psalm 23 for more years than we can remember. This small volume not only surveys the land of biblical scholarship, mining for treasure, but allows the psalm to sing us a song for today. Gently calling us back to a rich vision of biblical preaching, which is sometimes clouded in today's church, the author's exploration of the world behind, within, and in front of the text enriches our understanding and quenches our thirst for the one whose goodness and mercy pursue us all our days. Overfamiliarity can threaten our reception of such texts. I wholeheartedly commend this book to any individual or small group seeking to deepen their appreciation for this psalm. It provides fresh resources for our pilgrimage, whatever the stage of our journey."

Sophie Jelley, Bishop of Doncaster

"In this fresh exploration of Psalm 23, Briggs deftly demonstrates that for the church the most interesting and promising paths through this famous psalm not only begin with the text but continually return to it."

David J. Shepherd, associate professor of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Trinity College Dublin

"There is no such thing as a tired text. Texts do not get tired; readers get tired. Sometimes, although we'd be loath to admit it in public, we get tired of 'the same old text.' What new thing could possibly be said about Psalm 23 after all these years? Surely nothing. But that--as Richard Briggs contends so convincingly--is not the point. We do not need a 'new' thing, a new way to read and understand this psalm. The ancient text is as alive, vibrant, colorful, meaningful, metaphorical, complex, challenging, comforting, and simply beautiful as it has always been. It still speaks meaningfully, and each generation needs to hear its voice afresh for their life and context. Briggs helps us do just that. This thoroughly engaging journey in Psalm 23 takes us through critical readings and reflective exegesis before landing in the realms of how this ancient, well-known, and much-loved poem might speak to the twenty-first-century reader. You'll be glad you took the trip--I certainly am. Read and enjoy."

Jamie Grant, vice principal (academic), Highland Theological College, University of the Highlands and Islands

"The waters of Psalm 23 are still, but very deep. This book will help any reader who wants to experience those depths more fully. Richard Briggs's exploration offers a richness of insight about meanings and experiences of this psalm. The book does not just help the reader encounter Psalm 23 as a single piece of Israelite hymnody; it offers thoughts that are beneficial for reading the Psalter as a whole. The reader is encouraged to listen for the voice of the psalmist and to explore how this voice has spoken across the centuries and how it can speak to us today. Thoughtful and scholarly but also accessible, this book will greatly benefit preachers and teachers and also any Christian who wants to dive deep into this touchstone text."

Jenni Williams, vicar of St. Matthew with St. Luke Oxford; former tutor in Old Testament, Wycliffe Hall Oxford

The Author

  1. Richard S. Briggs

    Richard S. Briggs

    Richard S. Briggs (PhD, University of Nottingham) is lecturer in Old Testament and director of biblical studies at Cranmer Hall, St. John's College, Durham University. He is an ordained minister in the Church of England, where he serves as prior of...

    Continue reading about Richard S. Briggs


Academy of Parish Clergy 2022 Top Five Reference Book

"In a book that is well suited for seminary classrooms or parish study, Richard Briggs . . . explores the good shepherd image within his theologically and pastorally oriented exegesis of this most beloved of texts. The 23rd Psalm, Briggs shows, helps personalize the figure of a divine good shepherd and inspires trust in God's loving providence."

J. Scott Jackson,

The Christian Century