šēḇet [and] miš‘eneṯ
Today we discover a twofold provision of the Shepherd that is rooted in the simplicity of ancient sheepherding. Psa_23:4 assures us, “Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
While there are times when these two words are a little difficult to differentiate—in some contexts perhaps even interchangeable—there is little problem in the present context. Rod is šēḇet (H7626), which is used in a variety of ways in the OT: a crude weapon (2Sa_23:21, staff), a threshing tool (Isa_28:27, rod), the shaft of a spear (2Sa_18:14, “darts”), and an instrument of discipline (Pro_13:24; Pro_22:15; Pro_29:15, rod). It is also used to refer to a tool to collect and count sheep (Lev_27:32; Eze_20:37).
Staff, then, is miš‘eneṯ (H4938), which refers to a “staff, pole, or support,” such as a cane or crutch (Exo_21:19; Zec_8:4). It is also a symbol of authority, such as a ruler’s scepter (Num_21:18) or the prophet’s staff (2Ki_4:29). Regarding the shepherd, this brings to mind the familiar image of the staff with a crook at the top used to rescue a sheep from a cliff or gully.
This provides us with the complete picture. As we journey through “the valley of the shadow of death,” it is with the rod the Shepherd protects us from the predators that attack and it is with the staff He rescues us from other perils that befall. That is why David says, in short, it is in this there is complete “comfort.” Just the sight of these “shepherd’s tools,” in fact, is a comfort; just knowing they are there ready for use is enough to calm our concerns. While much of the world’s so-called “comfort” comes from syrupy sentimentality, psychobabble, and philosophical clichés—into which even many Christians have been lured—the Shepherd provides true comfort by His very presence though His Word.
Dear Christian Friend, are you trusting in the Shepherd and His “tools” to safely protect and rescue you as you walk daily through life’s dangerous valley?
Scriptures for Study: What is the source of our comfort in Psa_119:50 (also Rom_15:4)?