Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
&c.] Which designs not a state of spiritual darkness and ignorance, as sitting in the shadow of death sometimes does, since the psalmist cannot be supposed to be at this time or after in such a condition; see ( Isaiah 9:2 ) ( Matthew 4:13 Matthew 4:16 ) ( Luke 1:79 ) ; nor desertion or the hidings of God's face, which is sometimes the case of the people of God, and was the case of the psalmist at times; but now he expressly says the Lord was with him; but rather, since the grave is called the land of the shadow of death, and the distresses persons are usually in, under apprehensions of immediate death, are called the terrors of the shadow of death; see ( Job 10:21 Job 10:22 ) ( 38:17 ) ( 24:17 ) ; the case supposed is, that should his soul draw nigh to the grave, and the sorrows of death compass him about, and he should be upon the brink and borders of eternity, he should be fearless of evil, and sing, "O death! where is thy sting? O grave! where is thy victory?" ( 1 Corinthians 15:55 ) , though it seems best of all to interpret it of the most severe and terrible affliction or dark dispensation of Providence it could be thought he should ever come under, ( Psalms 44:19 ) ( Psalms 107:10 Psalms 107:14 ) ( Jeremiah 13:16 ) . The Targum interprets it of captivity, and Jarchi and Kimchi of the wilderness of Ziph, in which David was when pursued by Saul; and the latter also, together with Ben Melech, of the grave, and of a place of danger and of distress, which is like unto the grave, that is, a place of darkness; and Aben Ezra of some grievous calamity, which God had decreed to bring into the world. Suidas F23 interprets this phrase of danger leading to death; afflictions attend the people of God in this life; there is a continued series of them, so that they may be said to walk in them; these are the way in which they walk heaven, and through which they enter the kingdom; for though they continue long, and one affliction comes after another, yet there will be an end at last; they will walk and wade through them, and come out of great tribulations; and in the midst of such dark dispensations, comparable to a dark and gloomy valley, covered with the shadow of death, the psalmist intimates what would be the inward disposition of his mind, and what his conduct and behaviour:
I will fear no evil;
neither the evil one Satan, who is the wolf that comes to the flock to kill and to destroy, and the roaring lion that seeks whom he may devour, since the Lord was his shepherd, and on his side: nor evil men, who kill the body and can do no more, ( Psalms 27:1-3 ) ; nor any evil thing, the worst calamity that could befall him, since everything of this kind is determined by God, and comes not without his knowledge and will, and works for good, and cannot separate from the love of Christ; see ( Psalms 46:1-4 ) ;
for thou [art] with me;
sheep are timorous creatures, and so are Christ's people; but when he the shepherd is them, to sympathize with them under all their afflictions, to revive and comfort them with the cordials of his love and promises of his grace, to bear them up and support them with his mighty arm of power, to teach and instruct them by every providence, and sanctify all unto them; their fears are driven away, and they pass through the dark valley, the deep waters, and fiery trials, with courage and cheerfulness; see ( Isaiah 41:10 ) ( Isaiah 43:1 Isaiah 43:2 ) ;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me;
not the rod of afflictions and chastisements, which is the sense of some Jewish F24 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 ) ( Zechariah 11:7 ) ; which was made use of for the telling and numbering of the sheep, ( Leviticus 27:32 ) ( Jeremiah 33:13 ) ( Ezekiel 20:37 ) ; 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 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.
F23 In voce (skia) .
F24 Shirhashirim Rabba, fol. 9. 2. Jarchi & Kimchi in loc.