5 The Lord is the host at a banquet (cf. Isa 25:6–8) prepared for his child. The “table” is laden with food and drink. Before entering into the banquet hall, the host would anoint the honored guest with oil (45:7; 92:10; 133:2; Am 6:6; Lk 7:46) made by adding perfumes to olive oil. The “cup” symbolizes the gracious and beneficent manner of entertainment. The overflowing cup pictures the Lord as giving the best to his child. It symbolizes the care and provision of God, previously represented by “green pastures” and “quiet waters.” Moreover, the Lord vindicates his servant “in the presence of [his] enemies,” expressing both the adversities of life itself as well as God’s demonstration of his love toward his own. In the presence of God, the fragrance of his rewards (“oil”) and the bounty of his provision (“cup”) make one forget troubles and tears. His is “the cup of salvation” (116:13) that pertains to both body and spirit.
God as host in this life (v. 5)
David affirms that God’s provisions for his guests are both constant and abundant.
The constancy of God’s provisions means that God’s people have them in every situation and circumstance. We have already noted that the saints of God have enemies in the hour of death. They have them all through life as well. These enemies are the world, the flesh and the devil.
Knowing about these enemies, David here subjects God’s care to what we might call the ultimate test. He asserts that God’s care cannot be negated or destroyed by these fierce enemies. David sees himself sitting at a banquet table while they gather all around. While they threaten and snarl, he feasts. Such is the care of God!
David emphasizes the abundance of God’s care in these terms:
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
It was customary in those days to receive a guest by anointing him with fragrant perfume and with a cup filled with a choice wine. In this way, the host indicated that nothing was to be considered too good for his guest.
David declares that God’s care surpasses even this. His head had been anointed, and his cup was overflowing.
Such care compelled David to say:
Surely goodness and mercy
shall follow me
All the days of my life; …
God’s goodness is that disposition which causes him actively to seek the wellbeing of his creature. His mercy is that quality that inclines him to relieve misery. Because he had seen so very much of God’s faithful care in every conceivable situation, David knew he could count on God’s goodness and mercy every step of the way.
23:5 In the meantime, the Shepherd prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies. On the table are spread all the spiritual blessings which He purchased for us with His precious blood. The table pictures everything that is ours in Christ. Though surrounded by enemies, we enjoy these blessings in peace and security.
J. H. Jowett illustrates:
Eastern hospitality guarantees the security of the guest. “All the hallowed sanctions of hospitality gather around him for his defense. He is taken into the tent, food is placed before him, while his evaded pursuers stand frowningly at the door.”
He also anoints our heads with oil. Shepherds anoint the heads of their sheep to soothe the scratches and wounds. For priests the anointing oil speaks of consecration to their work. For kings the anointing oil is associated with coronation. Every believer is anointed with the Holy Spirit the moment he receives the Savior. This anointing guarantees him the teaching ministry of God the Spirit.
When we think of all the riches of grace which we have in Christ Jesus, we burst forth with the grateful acknowledgment, “My cup runs over!”
His love has no limit,
His grace has no measure,
His power has no boundary known unto men:
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.
—Annie Johnson Flint
23:5a table before me: God’s provision is so luxurious, it is as though He has prepared a banquet. anoint: Typically an honored guest in the ancient Middle East was anointed with olive oil that contained perfumes. My cup: God’s provision is as abundant as the wine offered to a guest by a generous host. The lavish treatment of the guest is indicative of the loving care of God for His people.
The Lord as Provider (23:5)
23:5. In this verse the scene changes to a banquet hall where a gracious host provides lavish hospitality. Under this imagery the psalmist rejoiced in the Lord’s provision. What was comforting to David was that this was in the presence of his enemies. Despite impending danger, the Lord spread out a table for him, that is, God provided for him.
The image of anointing the head with oil, which was refreshing and soothing, harmonizes with the concept of a gracious host welcoming someone into his home. In view of the table and the oil David knew that his lot in life (his cup) was abundant blessing from the Lord.
 VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, pp. 255–256). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Ellsworth, R. (2006). Opening up Psalms (pp. 50–52). Leominster: Day One Publications.
 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 581). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 664). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.
 Ross, A. P. (1985). Psalms. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 812). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.