In Psalm 23, a commonly quoted and often memorized psalm, a question came to me that I've never had before. In past perusing of this psalm, I've always pictured God leading me through green pastures, but recently in verse 2, I notice the phrase, "He makes me to lie down," and I wonder, what did David mean? Does he mean that God will make me by force to lie down in green pastures or does it mean that God made me by design with the need to lie down in green pastures? So, I study.
I don't actually have much experience in studying Hebrew. It seems complex to me, a trite bit intimidating. But I'll attempt to relay what I've come to understand. First off, the Hebrew for to make lay down is rabats and is repeated twice consecutively in Psalm 23:2. Here's what I found online in regards to repeated words in scripture that I found interesting.
In the Jewish understanding of Scripture, there is no such thing as repetition for its own sake. That is, if a word or phrase is repeated, there is something new being conveyed; it is not simply the same thing said over again for emphasis (which can be eliminated without losing anything). Therefore, Jewish scholars search repeating elements more closely to discover what is different between the two (or more) cases, and what God was saying in each occurrence.
Because I'm not a Hebrew scholar, I couldn't see a difference in the two cases, a bit frustrating to me, but maybe God will show me an answer to that later. I did find that rabats is an active verb and causative verb, meaning that God actively causes me to lie down. I am given a cross reference of Ezekiel 34:14-15:
I will feed them in a good pasture, and their grazing ground will be on the mountain heights of Israel. There they will lie down on good grazing ground and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. "I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest," declares the Lord God.I also found Zephaniah 3:13 as a cross reference that was enlightening to me:
The remnant of Israel will do no wrong and tell no lies, nor will a deceitful tongue be found in their mouths, for they will feed and lie down with no one to make them tremble.I am so thankful that God is the Good Shepherd choosing to cause me lie to down not in dark, terrifying valleys but in green pastures (think abundant life to the full) where I can rest with no one to make me tremble. How fitting the David says in verse one, "I shall not want." Neither will I.