Friday, August 8, 2008

Sheep Eat From Tables and Drink From Cups?

Have you ever studied a topic with more variations than the 23rd Psalm?
I have been trying to recall one of the many different interpretations which I much prefer over many others for its imagery. Even with such tools as the internet, I have not been able to find any information to support my favorite 23rd Psalm expository. Without a reference, I have decided to give to you what I am able to remember of it. And, if you happen to locate a source that appears to represent what I am relaying to you, will you please post the source in the comment section?

Psalm 23:5:
5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

When I read or hear scripture, I often catch ambiguities that I just can not allow to go without being understood. So, much of what I write reflects my curiosity. I can imagine that the 23rd Psalm takes on so many interpretations for such reasons as my curiosity. I mean, how does one ‘prepare a table’ for sheep or provide a sheep with a ‘cup’ to drink from?

As I recall a particular expository on the 23rd Psalm, the minister spoke of sheep defending the entire flock by expelling an ill sheep. It appears that the motive is to prevent illness from being spread within the fold. So, for the sickened lamb, it is difficult to find rest for recuperating.

Now, Jesus, He refers to himself as the “Good Shepherd”. I guess there were bad shepherds. Some studying on this subject indicated that a shepherd’s ability was weighed by the appearance of his flock. You see, at times, a flock would be comprised of many sheep from many individual households. An entire town would entrust their sheep to hired shepherds.

So, the ‘good shepherd’ would spot the ill fallen sheep and protect it from the flock by preparing a “table”.

The “table” consisted of a choice plot of vegetation. The shepherd would lead the ill sheep to and cause it to lie down to graze. To create boundaries for preventing other sheep from invading the choice plot, the shepherd would surround the ill sheep on four sides with objects the sheep would be leery of, or they simply recognized and respected. These objects were the shepherd’s cloak, the staff, and the club. On the open end, the shepherd himself would lie down and close the perimeter around the ill sheep.

The latter part of this verse describes a “cup” running over. As if to say there is plenty. The minister giving this sermon told of a trough that would have been hewed out of soft sand stone. Water in the trough would become warm under the heat of the sun. So, the shepherd would continue to flow cool water into the trough, providing an overflowing ‘cup’ of cool, hydration until the sheep had been quenched.

To say this is the absolute definition of the “table” and “cup” would fall short of validation. However, I see the probability of this verse being defined accurately in the above statements by virtue of logic. And, as I love to evaluate Biblical imagery according to customs, I think the imagery in verse 5 can be logically reasoned with, even if I do not have any references to support the expository.


Dave T. said...

James, thanks for stopping by my blog at the other day.

As far as Psalm 23:5 I think you might be taking the sheep picture too far. The table is simply God's reward in a way that puts us over our enemies. I think the entire Psalm has a very spiritual sense, and this verse specifically speaks to our position in the spiritual realm. The head with oil is clearly the Holy Spirit and the cup the new covenant. Don't be afraid to look past the surface picture and see Christ and the church in the Psalms. dt

Tamela's Place said...

This is really some good stuff. I have heard many sermons on Psalm 23. But I have never heard this interpretation of it. How the good shepherd protects and cares for the ill sheep is really awesome. And to think that is exactly how Jesus our Good Shepherd cares for and protects us. I really enjoyed this Jim. Good job God bless you and Amen!

jeleasure said...

Thanks Dave,
I actually do look past the 'surface pictures'. I enjoy such things as metephorical speaking and customs which create a familiar picture to those of the era.
The 23rd Psalm is a picture of one being cared for in the imagery of a shepherd caring for a sheep. And yes, I can see the New Covenant being expressed in the imagery of a cup. However, 'cup' is also symbolism for judgement, as well.

jeleasure said...

Thanks Tamela,
I just wanted to present a different approach to the Psalm. The Bible is vast in application. As long as we continue to see Christ at the center of the message, I'm sure God does not object to our inquiries and our sometimes, simple understanding.

Vicki said...

Imagery is valuable to aid us in comprehending the truth. Is there truth in the habits of the Good Shepherd to prepare special food and water for the sick sheep? Does He protect and apply ointment?

If we stop at the imagery and not apply it to our own lives, we've missed out. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, continues to heal my wounds. He protects me when no one else does. He feeds me with the Word, and offers Living Waters for my dry and weary soul.

This is one of the oldest poems in Western civilization. (Job is older.) And probably is the most famous.

We are all lost and hurting sheep. By the way, sheep are among the most stupid animals. Isn't it wonderful that intelligence is not a primary factor to follow and to accept the love Our Shepherd offers.

jeleasure said...

It is wonderful that we don't need a head full of knowledge to be cared for by "The Good Shepherd".
Thanks for the comments.
When are you going to resume work on your blog?

thekingpin68 said...

Did my comment get censored?

Sorry Jim, I received no other comment from you on my present article, but Blogger has had problems lately. Please repost.:)

I am just back from 5 hours of driving and searching.

My Mom needed a new computer and so we bought a new one today, and she receives this one. I therefore need to unhook and clean off her current computer, set up this computer up in her room and add the wireless router card, and finally set up my new upgrade computer. Needless to say I am busy this weekend with three computers.


jeleasure said...

Good luck with that.
I can't remember all that I commented on in the Cause and Causation article. I basically had some question.
I may ask again.

preacherman said...

Wonderful post of course. I wanted let you know that Brian McLaren is going to be speaking at the ACU Lectures/Summit this year. I am sorry I didn't have him on the schedule I think he finally agree and I know it is going to be a great time for all emerging ministers.

God bless you brother and hope you have a wonderful day!

jeleasure said...

Thanks again Preacherman.
I live to find some of the coolest stuff in the Bible to report.