What Is Thy Rod and Thy Staff?

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Hi P____,

Thank you for your question. You ask:

Here is the verse to which you are referring:

Psa 23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

It always helps when striving to understand God’s Word, to know what those words mean, and to see how they are used in scripture.

God’s “rod” is a “rod of correction”. Here are a few instances where this particular word you ask about is used. In the Hebrew this word is ‘shebet’ appears: and His “staff” is “the staff of [ his] bread”.

Exo 21:20 And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod [ shebet], and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished.
Job 9:34 Let him [ God] take his rod [ shebet] away from me, and let not his fear terrify me:
Psa 89:32 Then will I visit their transgression with the rod [ shebet], and their iniquity with stripes.
Pro 22:15 Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child [“Adam, the son of God”,
Luk 3:38]; but the rod [ shebet] of correction shall drive it far from him.
2Sa 7:14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod [ shebet] of men, and with the stripes of the children of men:
Lev 26:26 And when I have broken the staff [ Hebrew – matteh, mattah] of your bread, ten women shall bake your bread in one oven, and they shall deliver you your bread again by weight: and ye shall eat, and not be satisfied.
Num 13:23 And they came unto the brook of Eshcol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bare it between two upon a staff [ Hebrew – matteh, mattah]; and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs.
Psa 110:1 A Psalm of David. The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
Psa 110:2 The LORD shall send the rod [ Hebrew – matteh, mattah] of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.

It is important to know that both these Hebrew words, ‘shebet’, which is the word ‘rod’ in this verse of Psalms you inquire of, and the word ‘meteh’, or ‘metaw’, translated as ‘staff’ in Psa 23:4, are both most often translated as ‘tribes’ and ‘tribe’, respectively.

Here are the KJC entries for both. We will begin with ‘shebet’.:

H7626 she bet Total KJV Occurrences: 190

tribes, 84 Gen_49:16, Gen_49:28, Exo_24:4, Exo_28:21, Exo_39:14, Num_36:2-3 (2), Deu_1:13, Deu_1:15 (2), Deu_5:23, Deu_12:5, Deu_12:14, Deu_16:18, Deu_18:5, Deu_29:10, Deu_29:21, Deu_31:28, Deu_33:5, Jos_3:12, Jos_4:5, Jos_4:8, Jos_7:14, Jos_7:16, Jos_11:23, Jos_13:7 (2), Jos_18:2, Jos_21:16, Jos_23:4, Jdg_20:1-2 (3), Jdg_20:10, Jdg_20:12, Jdg_21:5, Jdg_21:8, Jdg_21:15, 1Sa_2:28, 1Sa_9:21, 1Sa_10:19-20 (2), 1Sa_15:17, 2Sa_5:1, 2Sa_7:7, 2Sa_15:2, 2Sa_15:10, 2Sa_19:9, 2Sa_20:14, 2Sa_24:2, 1Ki_8:16, 1Ki_11:31-32 (2), 1Ki_11:35, 1Ki_14:21, 1Ki_18:31, 2Ki_21:7, 1Ch_27:16, 1Ch_27:22, 1Ch_28:1, 1Ch_29:6, 2Ch_6:5, 2Ch_11:16, 2Ch_12:13, 2Ch_33:7, Psa_78:55, Psa_105:37, Psa_122:4 (2), Isa_19:13, Isa_49:6, Isa_63:17, Eze_37:19, Eze_45:8, Eze_47:13, Eze_47:21-22 (2), Eze_48:1, Eze_48:19, Eze_48:23, Eze_48:29, Eze_48:31, Hos_5:9, Zec_9:1

tribe, 57 Num_4:18, Num_18:2, Num_32:33, Deu_1:23, Deu_3:13, Deu_10:8, Deu_18:1, Deu_29:8, Deu_29:18, Jos_3:12 (2), Jos_4:2, Jos_4:4, Jos_4:12, Jos_7:14, Jos_7:16, Jos_13:6-7 (2), Jos_13:14, Jos_13:29, Jos_13:33, Jos_18:4, Jos_22:7 (2), Jos_22:9-11 (3), Jos_22:13, Jos_22:15, Jos_22:21, Jdg_18:1, Jdg_18:19, Jdg_18:30, Jdg_20:12, Jdg_21:3, Jdg_21:6, Jdg_21:17, Jdg_21:24, 1Sa_9:21, 1Sa_10:20-21 (2), 1Ki_11:13, 1Ki_11:32, 1Ki_11:36, 1Ki_12:20-21 (2), 2Ki_17:18, 1Ch_5:18, 1Ch_5:23, 1Ch_5:26, 1Ch_12:37, 1Ch_23:14, 1Ch_26:32, 1Ch_27:20, Psa_78:67-68 (2), Eze_47:23

rod, 34 Exo_21:20, Lev_27:32, 2Sa_7:14, Job_9:34, Psa_2:9 (2), Psa_23:4, Psa_74:2, Psa_89:32, Psa_125:3, Pro_10:13, Pro_13:24, Pro_22:8, Pro_22:15, Pro_23:13-14 (2), Pro_26:3, Pro_29:15, Isa_10:4-5 (2), Isa_10:15, Isa_10:24, Isa_11:4, Isa_14:29, Isa_28:27, Isa_30:31, Jer_10:16, Jer_51:19, Lam_3:1, Eze_20:37, Eze_21:10, Eze_21:13, Mic_5:1, Mic_7:14

sceptre, 9 Gen_49:10, Num_24:17, Psa_45:6 (2), Isa_14:5, Eze_19:14, Amo_1:5, Amo_1:8, Zec_10:11

staff, 2 2Sa_23:21, 1Ch_11:23

correction, 1 Job_37:13

darts, 1 2Sa_18:14 ,

pen, 1 Jdg_5:14 (2)

sceptres, 1 Eze_19:11

Out of 190 entries, 141 are either ‘tribes’ – the plural, or ‘tribe’ – the singular. Yet it is also obvious by the entries quoted above, that this word means more than just a tribe or tribes. It also has to do with correction, discipline and rulership. For example:

Gen 49:10 The sceptre [ Hebrew – shebet] shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.
Job 37:13 He causeth it to come, whether for correction [ Hebrew – shebet] , or for his land, or for mercy.

Now ‘matteh’ or ‘mattah’:

H4294 / mat t eh / mat t a h Total KJV Occurrences: 248

tribe, 162 Exo_31:2, Exo_31:6, Exo_35:30, Exo_35:34, Exo_38:22-23 (2), Lev_24:11, Num 1 (15), Num_2:5, Num_2:7, Num_2:12, Num_2:14, Num_2:20, Num_2:22, Num_2:27, Num_2:29, Num_3:6, Num_7:12, Num_10:15-16 (2), Num_10:19-20 (2), Num_10:23-24 (2), Num_10:26-27 (2), Num_18:2, Num_31:4-6 (3), Num_36:9 (12), Num_36:12, Jos_7:1, Jos_7:18, Jos_13:15, Jos_13:24, Jos_13:29, Jos_14:2-3 (2), Jos_15:1, Jos_15:20-21 (2), Jos_16:8, Jos_17:1, Jos_18:11, Jos_18:21, Jos_19:1, Jos_19:8, Jos_19:23-24 (2), Jos_19:31, Jos_19:39-40 (2), Jos_19:48, Jos_20:8, Jos 21 (25), (3), Jos_22:1, 1Ki_7:14, 1Ch 6 (22), 1Ch_12:31

rod, 42 Exo_4:2, Exo_4:4, Exo_4:17, Exo_4:20, Exo_7:9-10 (2), Exo_7:12 (2), Exo_7:15, Exo_7:17, Exo_7:19-20 (2), Exo_8:5, Exo_8:16-17 (2), Exo_9:23, Exo_10:13, Exo_14:16, Exo_17:5, Exo_17:9, Num_17:2-3 (4), Num_17:5-6 (3), Num_17:8-10 (3), Num_20:8-9 (2), Num_20:11, 1Sa_14:27, 1Sa_14:43, Psa_110:2, Isa_10:26, Eze_7:10-11 (2), Eze_19:14 (2), Mic_6:9

tribes, 20 Num_1:16, Num_7:2, Num_26:55, Num_30:1, Num_31:4, Num_32:28, Num_33:54, Num_34:13, Num_34:15, Num_36:9, Jos_14:1-4 (4), Jos_19:51, Jos_21:1, Jos_22:14, 1Ki_8:1, 2Ch_5:2, Hab_3:9

staff, 15 Gen_38:18, Lev_26:25-26 (2), Psa_105:16, Isa_10:4-5 (2), Isa_10:15, Isa_10:24, Isa_14:5, Isa_28:27, Isa_30:32, Jer_48:17, Eze_5:16 (2), Eze_14:13

rods, 8 Exo_7:12, Num_17:2, Num_17:6-7 (3), Num_17:9, Eze_19:11-12 (2)

staves, 1 Hab_3:14

Again, there are 248 entries, and out of those 182 are either tribes or tribe. But this word too, obviously carries with it the meaning of correction and rulership.

Psa 110:2 The LORD shall send the rod [ Hebrew – matteh, mattah] of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.
Eze 7:10 Behold the day, behold, it is come: the morning is gone forth; the rod [ Hebrew – matteh, mattah] hath blossomed, pride hath budded.
Eze 7:11 Violence is risen up into a rod [ Hebrew – matteh, mattah] of wickedness: none of them shall remain, nor of their multitude, nor of any of theirs: neither shall there be wailing for them.

This verse In Eze 37:10 demonstrates the negative use of this word, showing that pride and wickedness must first rule over us, before God’s rod and His staff can rule over us and comfort us. So God’s rod and His staff, like the cows and the corn of Pharaoh’s dream, are really one and the same thing.

Gen 41:26 The seven good kine are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years: the dream is one.

God’s rod and His staff are His sovereign work of all things in our lives, good and evil, being used by God to correct and to chasten us “to forsake ungodliness and worldly lusts and to live godly lives in this present world” (Tit 2:11-12). Read this link for the purpose and function of God’s chastening grace within the life of every man:

http:// www. iswasandwillbe. co/ The_ Difference_ Between_ What_ Grace_ Is_ And_ What_ Grace_ Does. php

I hope this answers your question “What does ‘Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me’ mean”? When God uses His rod and His staff to comfort us, He does so by correcting and disciplining us as any loving and comforting father worth his salt would do. That is exactly what we are told our Lord does for us and to us.

Here is the same message as it appears in the New Testament:

Heb 12:6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

Your brother in the Christ,


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