Psalm 23’s “Rod and Staff”
In breakout section today we were looking at Psalm 23. I continue to appreciate the way the psalm uses the implements of v. 4 as a double image. The “rod/mace and staff” have a two-fold character, in the ancient Near East being both the implements of a shepherd and those of royalty. The club/mace (שׁבט) is a weapon for attacking predatory beasts, while the staff ( משׁענת) is an instrument of guidance and a walking stick. In the image above, the shepherd on the right leads his flock with a club in his left hand and a staff over his right shoulder (third millennium cylinder seal from Uruk). Superimposed on the left is a Tut statue with golden mace in the right hand and golden staff in the left hand (cf. Gen 49:10). As Richard W. Corney has argued, v. 4 of Psalm 23 is a hinge verse, in which the herder of the first half of the psalm begins to become the royal host of the second half of poem. The psalm finds its unity in the superimposed identity of the Lord God as shepherd-king.