The Valley of the Shadow of Death

Psalm 23  •  2 min. read  •  grade level: 10
An inquiry is often raised whether "the valley of the shadow of death" is death, or the world lying in the shadow of it. We believe it is the latter. If it meant death itself, "the valley of death" would have been, it seems to us, the expression used; but "the shadow" of death presents to the mind the idea of danger of death, or of what leads into it, and brings the anticipation or dread of it upon the soul. A comparison of other places where the term is used in the Psalms, makes this plain. In Psalm 44:1919Though thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death. (Psalm 44:19), the remnant of Israel speak of themselves, under the government of God, as "sore broken... in the place of dragons, and covered... with the shadow of death." So again in Psalm 107:1010Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron; (Psalm 107:10) and 14, when "redeemed from the hand of the enemy," they recall the mercy that reached those that sat "in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron," and that when they had cried to Jehovah, "He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death."
From these scriptures it would appear that "the valley of the shadow of death" was, to the psalmist, the path where the gloom and danger of death was especially in question, but where the protection and support of Jehovah were his comfort, so that he feared no evil, as one who would be preserved from death itself. What follows in the Psalm supports this thought.
For the believer now, the world, or rather his pathway through it, is "the valley of the shadow of death." How truly was this so to the blessed Lord! Death's dark shadow ever rested on the path He trod—especially in Gethsemane, where He says, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death." But He tasted death itself in all its bitterness, unprotected and unsupported, on the cross. The shadow of death, where His rod and staff comfort us, is all we can know, for the rest we await His coming, and not death itself.