Psalm 23 …your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 23

In Psalm 23 many people equate His rod with discipline. This doesn’t fit the context of the Psalm. Would He make them lie down in green pastures and lead them beside quiet waters and then beat them with a rod?

Verse 4 says: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me.” (NRSV) A rod of discipline wouldn’t make sense in this context.

God does discipline us as Hebrews 12:5-11 describes. But verse 11 says “Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time,”. When we are in the darkest valley, our Shepherd upholds us and comforts us.

Here are a collection of quotes from commentators.

William Barclay from Jesus As They Saw Him:

He [the shepherd] had his rod and his staff. The staff was a long crooked stick. Always the shepherd walked with it in his hand, and, when a sheep showed signs of straying, he would stretch out and pull it back with the crook. He carried the rod at his belt. It was a stout piece of wood, perhaps three feet long, with a lump of wood the size of an orange at one end of it. With this the shepherd fought the battles of the flock, using it to drive off wild beasts and to defend the flock against the robbers who would steal the sheep.

John Gill:

thy rod and thy staff they comfort me; not the rod of afflictions and chastisements, which is the sense of some Jewish as well as Christian interpreters; though these are in love, and the saints have often much consolation under them; but these are designed by the valley of the shadow of death, and cannot have a place here, but rather the rod of the word, called the rod of Christ’s strength, and the staff of the promises and the provisions of God’s house, the whole staff and stay of bread and water, which are sure unto the saints, and refresh and comfort them. The Targum interprets the rod and staff of the word and law of God; and those interpreters who explain the rod of afflictions, yet by the staff understand the law; and Jarchi expounds it, of the mercy of God in the remission of sin, in which the psalmist trusted: the allusion is to the shepherd’s crook or staff, as in other places; see Micah 7:14; which was made use of for the telling and numbering of the sheep, Lev. 27:32; and it is no small comfort to the sheep of Christ that they have passed under his rod, who has told them, and that they are all numbered by him; not only their persons, but the very hairs of their head; and that they are under his care and protection: the shepherd with his rod, staff, or crook, directs the sheep where to go, pushes forward those that are behind, and fetches back those that go astray; as well as drives away dogs, wolves, bears, etc. that would make a prey of the flock; and of such use is the word of God, attended with the power of Christ and his Spirit; it points out the path of faith, truth, and holiness, the saints should walk in; it urges and stirs up those that are negligent to the discharge of their duty, and is the means of reclaiming backsliders, and of preserving the flock from the ravenous wolves of false teachers: in a word, the presence, power, and protection of Christ, in and by is Gospel and ordinances, are what are here intended, and which are the comfort and safety of his people, in the worst of times and cases.

Adam Clarke:

Thy rod and thy staff – שבטך shibtecha, thy scepter, rod, ensign of a tribe, staff of office; for so שבט shebet signifies in Scripture. And thy staff, ומשענתך umishantecha, thy prop or support. The former may signify the shepherd’s crook; the latter, some sort of rest or support, similar to our camp stool, which the shepherds might carry with them as an occasional seat, when the earth was too wet to be sat on with safety. With the rod or crook the shepherd could defend his sheep, and with it lay hold of their horns or legs to pull them out of thickets, boys, pits, or waters.We are not to suppose that by the rod correction is meant: there is no idea of this kind either in the text, or in the original word; nor has it this meaning in any part of Scripture. Besides, correction and chastisement do not comfort; they are not, at least for the present, joyous, but grievous; nor can any person look forward to them with comfort. They abuse the text who paraphrase rod correction, etc.

Thomas Tymme from The Treasury of David:

“For thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Is God’s “staff” waxen so weak, that we dare not now lean too much thereon, lest it should break? or is he now such a changeling, that he will not be with us in our trouble according to his promise? Will he not give us this “staff” to stay us by, and reach us his hand to hold us up, as he hath been wont to do? No doubt but that he will be most ready in all extremity to help, according to his promise. The Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, saith thus; Fear not, for I will defend thee,” etc. Isaiah 43.

46 Responses to “Psalm 23 …your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

  1. 1 Jason Elder

    Excellent Blog. I’ve been reading along and just wanted to say hi. I will be reading more of your posts in the future.

    – Jason.

  2. 2 Scripture Zealot

    Hi. Thanks for the comment.

  3. 3 Brant

    Cool blog!

    I agree that in this context, it wouldn’t be beautiful poetry to say, “And He breaketh my leg sometimes with that rod…”

    That said, I imagine the instruments had multiple purposes. Heck, a good stick still does.

  4. 4 Scripture Zealot

    Brant, thanks and thanks for stopping by.

    Brant is from Kamp Krusty.


  5. 5 Virginia

    My mother passed away on Oct 6, 2008.  I was finally able to go to the cemetery and open my heart and let the floodgates of tears open wide.  My mother was a good Christian woman most of her life and she loved to tell others about the bible, but most of all she made sure she told her children about the Lord.  She would say things about what the bible says and I would listen.
    When I stood at the foot of her grave, after 46 years of having my mother in my life, I was crying my heart out as I looked from the foot of her grave to make sure her flowers looked in place and pretty.  A cousin of ours made a small white cross with her name on it — and I as I was crying I immediately stopped and noticed her name … it was like the world stopped for a moment and there was no sound.  I looked at the spelling of my mother’s name and it hit me.  DOROTHY … the first three letters and the last three letters spelled thy rod.  As I looked down, Psalms 23 entered my mind, and there it was “Thy Rod”.  After read this site, and this ….
    “and it is no small comfort to the sheep of Christ that they have passed under his rod, who has told them, and that they are all numbered by him; not only their persons, but the very hairs of their head; and that they are under his care and protection: the shepherd with his rod, staff, or crook, directs the sheep where to go, pushes forward those that are behind, and fetches back those that go astray; as well as drives away dogs, wolves, bears, etc. that would make a prey of the flock; and of such use is the word of God, attended with the power of Christ and his Spirit; it points out the path of faith, truth, and holiness, the saints should walk in; it urges and stirs up those that are negligent to the discharge of their duty, and is the means of reclaiming backsliders, and of preserving the flock from the ravenous wolves of false teachers: in a word, the presence, power, and protection of Christ, in and by is Gospel and ordinances, are what are here intended, and which are the comfort and safety of his people, in the worst of times and cases.”

    I knew my mother was the angel I always believed her to be.  She was the rod of our family, and she did try to keep the flock together, and she was a Christian right up to her last breath of life.  I loved my mother very much and I miss her with all my heart, but my mother is in heaven, and I know this with all my heart now.

    Thank you, God, for the mother you gave me!

  6. 6 Marcus

    Thank you for providing clarity.  This insight has blessed me at this time of my life.  Thank you very much.

  7. 7 Doyle McNeil

    I also would like to say that the Rod and Staff was also a leaning post, a place of rest during a shepherds travels and a place of comfort even while standing. The Holy Spirit which is the greatest gift provided to us by Jesus Christ provides comfort to us always. Jesus is the true rod and staff; however, he left us a comforter (Rod & Staff) in the Holy Spirit.

  8. 8 Scripture Zealot

    Thank you Doyle. Very nice insight.

  9. 9 David Perry

    I am the new youth leader at my church.I want to thank you for your help on what the rod was.

  10. 10 Scripture Zealot

    You’re welcome David.

  11. 11 Donna

    Your comments are helpful.
    I want to know if rod and staff in the Psalms 23 passage are two things. I know that are often synonymous.
    However, in this passage is says… Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. The grammar would indicate that two things are being talked about. The word “they” refers to pluralizaton. What do you think?

  12. 12 Scripture Zealot

    Hi Donna,
    See the quote by William Barclay. He speaks about that.

  13. 13 Sherell

    I was told that the rod was also used as a blessing/miracle marker. I was told that the rod was marked everytime God made a way, provided a blessing or performed a miracle. That makes sense to me as far as it being a comfort – to remember what God has already done and that He has always provided time and time again…Is there any truth to this? Is there scripture to back it?

  14. 14 Scripture Zealot

    Sherrell, I haven’t heard anything like that but I’m not an expert on the OT (or the NT). I wouldn’t think that’s what the rod in Ps 23 means but the principle is certainly something that would be good for us to keep track of to build our faith.

  15. 15 Michael

    Jesus as King and High Priest came in the order of Melchezedek. Can the rod be related to a sign of his authority as king and staff as a high priest? Some Bishops also carry a a saff with hook during procession. Good bless you.

  16. 16 Scripture Zealot

    I suppose that may be viable. I don’t think it’s a popular idea but I’m not one to have any authority on the matter.

  17. 17 Felecia

    Hello. In Psalm 23 does rod/staff mean anything particular? Its just a question we suppose to find the answer for bible study.

  18. 18 Scripture Zealot

    Hi Felecia. I addressed it as well as I know in the post.

  19. 19 Phil D

    The rod is a weapon for defending the flock against robbers both man and beast. Having tools and skills of defense of your tribe is one of the oldest acts of Godliness. It’s also what the second amendment is about in America. Why did God use David and his simple little weapon to slay the giant? Why didn’t God just turn Goliath into a pillar of salt or have the ground swallow him up? I believe God wants us to be our own defenders while seeking his guidance in the use of that power.

  20. 20 Bob

    Thanks , the rod and staff has always been an excuse to beat people , Jesus made a comment on the wicked servant who was found drunken and beating the other servants…. My thoughts also go to Aaron’s rod that not only budded , but produced fruit ( almonds that is). In the context it was proof for confirmation , I know , but in the wider sense it also signified the rod was used to produce fruit from God.
    I am reminded also of the time in the wilderness when Moses was to strike the rock once , yet he did it in an angry manner and did it twice ( for he himself was angry at the people, and got rebuked for that .. again my thoughts were that it appears that he did it in anger so most likely he hit it hard … and the other thing is that the intention was to just barely tap the Rock , like a person would gently tap you on the shoulder to get your attention.
    my thoughts.

  21. 21 Bob

    about the rod being used for miracles … I am not sure of it as a marker … however , the red sea was parted by use fo the rod being held up , as well as at the Rock in the wilderness …
    There was a staff with a snake on it as well.

  22. 22 Karen

    Enjoyed the posts of John and William, in-fact everyone. I agree the staff used for the shepard to steer the sheep in the right direction when they wonder off of the rigth path and the rod used to defend of anything or anyone that would cause harm to the sheep. The Shepard provided protection and direction. OH! I LOVE HIM SOOOOOOOO MUCH. Jesus keep leading and guiding me lest I stray.

    Much Love to you all,

    Pastor K.

  23. 23 Scripture Zealot

    Thank you for stopping by and for the confirmation Karen.

  24. 24 Schedule

    Maybe you should change the webpage subject Psalm 23 …your rod and your staff, they comfort me | Scripture Zealot to something more catching for your blog post you write. I loved the blog post yet.

  25. 25 Yen Cheng Sheng

    The explanation of the rod is very useful. Indeed why would the shepherd make the sheep lie down in green pastures and lead them in quiet waters and beat them with a rod. Rod remind us of discipline. Spare the rod and spoil the child.

  26. 26 Scripture Zealot

    Yes Yen (sorry if Sheng is your first name, I’m not sure about that). The way you say it sounds funny, and I don’t think there would be that type of humor in the Psalm! Thanks for commenting.

  27. 27 Esse Quam Videri

    I have always felt that the Shepard’s rod was for fighting off the enemy. If I were a sheep and the Shepard was taking the flock out to field and the Shepard forgot his rod how do you think I would feel? Unprotected. But knowing he had it and was willing to use it to fight for my life I would feel: comforted.

  28. 28 Scripture Zealot

    Thanks for the comment Esse.

  29. 29 Gaylyn

    Our fisrt response when it comes to disapline seems to be fear and smacking. That in my opinion is not what God wants. He would not beat us but he disaplines us in love.Not by beatings but by firm and clear instructions and appropiate consequences for failure to obey.

  30. 30 Scripture Zealot

    Thanks Gaylyn. I agree.

  31. 31 David

    I do believe the rod and the staff does mean discipline; in the context of what father does not discipline his son but if he loves him he will discipline him in between times.Pro 34:24
    As far as the meaning in Psalm 23 is concerned children are often times referred to in relation it as being part of flock
    and if they are loved then they are protected, and disciplined. Without these three things they are subject to the attack of wolves, bears, and lions. These enemies are mentioned in the life of David the shepard.

  32. 32 Anthony

    Thy rod and thy staff comfort me has to do with being remade. I am the cornerstone he said. Its kind of like imagining a house that has been set incorrectly in its foundation. We come to understand that is true. We give ourselves over to the process of renewing our minds, by resetting our being according to his correctness, doing the work of correction. When your house is straight and on a solid and true foundation your literal connection to the Most High will bring forth his blessing. God loves us.

  33. 33 Julie

    Thank you for you blog post. I love to chew over this Psalm and you have helped me in seeing Christ more clearly today. It is comforting to know that we are always safe in his hand. We are safe from harm, not necessarily from hurt. But no one can snatch us out of the Father’s hand (John 10). I have been led by the Holy Spirit to pray for those in the body who are persecuted for his name around the world. This Psalm, and more specifically, this concept of his protection is very powerful and comforting when thinking about all of our faith family who are in chains, beaten or oppressed. They may suffer hurt by the hands of men, but they are completely safe from harm because the Good Shepherd is with them at all times. God bless you.

  34. 34 Scripture Zealot

    Very nice Julie. Thank you for commenting.

  35. 35 Race Runner

    I read this and am reminded of how many of us get stuck on particulars. The word of God is both living and active. If you need protection, then the rod is a rod of protection. If you need guidance the rod then becomes a goad. The staff is used for pulling, the rod is for pushing. Every tool has it’s purpose.  

    For those that write that no one enjoys correction, then you truly don’t have that great of a relationship with God. If I hurt the relationship between my father and myself, then I enjoy finding ways to improve upon that.

    An Example would be when I came with a group to play cards at an outing one time. I was not enjoying myself because the rules were not that clear and I was not winning as much as I thought I could. It was when someone used a rod against me and said “Your problem is that you came here to play cards, the rest of us came to hang out.” It was not until someone loved me enough to use the rod, was I then able to enjoy myself once again. 

    Just because it is a rod doesn’t mean you have to get beat with it. A gentle tap of persuasion can goad a person in the right direction. It is when one kicks against the goad that greater force must be applied.

  36. 36 Vicky

    I believe a rod was also used sometimes to mark the flock. Each one would pass by and the Shepard would mark them with a particular dye. Shepard’s would often gather together in a valley and this was a help. This would relate to verses that speak of separating the sheep from the goats, to marking the doorways with the blood, to many other Scriptures. We pass under His rod and are marked by the blood that flows from the Rod.

  37. 37 Henry

    Here is a little bit diferent analogy of rod. I have worked with boys for many years. While sitting around a camp fire setting. I have always been amazed at the first thing a boy will do is grab a stick whether it be in tne day or night. I think we find comfort in being able to securely hold onto things that have comfort. I also remember when I was a kid and now I still find comfort in a long stick as I am walking through the woods. I am comforted by the rods ability to secure my footing clear the way and if I had to defend myself from the things that could do me harm. My understanding gets me into trouble every time so if I will trust in his staff his Rod I will always be comforted and I will win every time. My footing will be secure and stedfast. Remember its his Rod and his staff. He can do much more with the Rod and Staff than we can even imagine. If I lean not to my own understanding in other words lean on him his staff. He will derect my path. I choose to lean on Him. His Rod no matter what the situation comforts me. I need comfort and I can find it in his Rod and staff now and forever. Thank you God

  38. 38 Scripture Zealot

    Thanks for the comment.

    Sorry I was late in approving it. The blog was down because the site went over bandwidth. Need to change web hosts.

  39. 39 Martin

    Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me seems to convey “Thy word and thy HolySpirit they comfort me”

    (Readers International version)John 6:63 The Holy Spirit gives life. The body means nothing at all. The words I have spoken to you are from the Spirit. They give life.

  40. 40 Stephen

    These were not “punishing” instruments per se, I do not believe. It is followed immediately by “they comfort me”. The rod is related to in Hebrews, to signify Justice, with the staff. Hebrews relates back to this Psalm at least twice, Hebrews 1211 All chastening seemeth for the present to be not joyous but grievous; yet afterward it yieldeth peaceable fruit unto them that have been exercised thereby, even the fruit of righteousness. (leadeth in paths of righeousness)Rod and staff I see as being the Justice of Knowledge and Wisdom (body of Christ, Bread) ..or more, Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek; tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand. And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed (Exod. 17:9, 11) Behold the Lord Jehovah Zebaoth doth take away from Jerusalem staff and stay, the whole staff of bread, and the whole staff of water (Isa. 3:1);Grieve, all ye circuits of Moab, and say, How is the staff of strength broken, the staff of beauty (Jer. 48:17); the staff of strength denotes power from good, and the staff of beauty power from truth. In this light, they represent the sacrament of Communion…perhaps it was a spiritual foreshadowing, unbeknownst to the writer himself, Isaiah. The rod being conviction of the Holy Spirit. I see no correlation to physical discipline anywhere within this Psalm of Praise, which contradicts a Psalm in and of itself.

  41. 41 Scripture Zealot

    This is what I’m saying. Thanks for elaborating.

  42. 42 horseman

    Good insights. However, I think that correction and discipline can be leading one into quiet and comfort. When it is a person’s inward soul that is the cause, correction accomplishes what the passage says. When I needed it, my own father and mother’s discipline indeed led me into comfort. To see it this one must look at the bigger picture.

  43. 43 Roxy

    Thank you for ALL of the posts. They were very insightful. I especially would like to Thank Virginia for her loving and giving comments concerning her mom Dorothy. WOW, I’m glad your moms’ name was able to be used as a ROD to COMFORT you.

  44. 44 Beverly

    Thy Rod (the word) that he left to guide us, his staff (the Holy Spirit ) is our protection . Thats my spirit interpretation ?

  45. 45 Scripture Zealot

    Hi Beverly. Could you tell me what that’s based on? I haven’t heard that one.

  46. 46 larry

    Passing under the rod, what does it mean. It is something David would do?

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