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Psalm 91

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Security for the One who Trusts in the Lord
No MT Intro
Safety of Abiding in the Presence of God Meditation on God as the Protector of the Faithful God Our Protector Under God's Protection
91:1-4 91:1-2 91:1-6 91:1-6 91:1-2
  91:3-6     91:3-4
91:5-10       91:5-6
  91:7-8 91:7-8 91:7-8 91:7-9
  91:9-10 91:9-10 91:9-13  
        91:10-11
91:11-13 91:11-13 91:11-13    
        91:12-13
91:14-16 91:14-16 91:14-16 91:14-16 91:14-16

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. Introduction

1. This is a wonderful Psalm describing God's protection of and presence with His faithful followers (cf. Psalm 16; 23; 62; 121).

2. Often the Psalms speak of the nation of Israel (cf. Psalm 90), but this one is individualized (singular "you").

3. The truths of Ps. 91:1-8 are paralleled by Ps. 91:9-13. God's care and provision are repeated for emphasis and then God Himself speaks in Ps. 91:14-16.

B. Names of Deity used in Psalm 91 (see Special Topic: Names for Deity).

1. Most High (Elyon, BDB 751, KB 832), Ps. 91:1a - descriptive title most often used in poetry

2. Almighty (Shaddai, BDB 994), Ps. 91:1b, 9b, used mostly in Genesis and Job; only twice in Psalms; 68:14 and here - patriarchal name for God (cf. Exod. 6:30; possibly from the Hebrew root "to be strong," NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 401)

3. Lord (YHWH, BDB 217), Ps. 91:2a, 9a - the covenant name for Deity, first used in Gen. 2:4; it is from the Hebrew verb "to be" (cf. Exod. 3:14); the rabbis say it describes Deity as Savior, Redeemer

4. God (Elyon, BDB 43), Ps. 91:2b - this is the general name for Deity in the ANE, El; in Gen. 1:1, the plural form, Elohim is used; the rabbis say this describes God as creator, sustainer, and provider of all life on earth

C. This Psalm is dominated by imperfects (28), which denote continuing actions of our God on behalf of the faithful followers.

The two perfects of Ps. 91:14 denote the settled, intimate relationship between God and His faithful followers. The imagery is from married life (cf. Isa. 54:5; Hos. 2:19; Eph. 5:25).

1. "cleave" - cf. Gen. 2:24

2. "know" - Gen. 4:1,17,25; 24:16; 38:26

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 91:1-4
 1He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
 Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
 2I will say to the Lord, "My refuge and my fortress,
 My God, in whom I trust!"
 3For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper
 And from the deadly pestilence.
 4He will cover you with His pinions,
 And under His wings you may seek refuge;
 His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

91:1-4 This strophe uses several names/titles for Deity (see Contextual Insights, B) and several metaphors to describe His care and protection.

1. shelter - Ps. 27:5; 31:20, which denotes the temple, cf. Ps. 27:5; 31:20; 32:7; 61:4

2. shadow - see Special Topic: Shadow as a Metaphor for Protection and Care

3. refuge - see note online at Ps. 5:11

4. fortress - Ps. 18:2; 31:3; 71:3; 144:2; Jer. 16:19

Psalm 91:4 alludes to #2, 3,4 above

The One in whom faithful followers trust (BDB 105, KB 120, Qal imperfect; see note online at Ps. 4:5).

1. delivers them from the snare of the trapper (cf. Ps. 124:7)

2. delivers them from the deadly pestilence (cf. Ps. 91:6; possibly demonic, cf. Hab. 3:5 and Special Topic: The Demonic in the OT)

3. will cover them with His wings (cf. Ps. 36:7; 57:1; 63:7)

4. His faithfulness (see Special Topic: Believe, Trust, Faith and Faithfulness in the OT) is

a. a shield (cf. Ps. 35:2)

b. a bulwark or (RSV) buckler (both military terms, this word [BDB 695, KB 750] is found only here in the OT; NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 243)

This is a beautiful and powerful strophe of Deity's character and actions on behalf of His people.

91:1 "shadow of the Almighty" This can refer to

1. the wings of the cherubim over the ark (i.e., covenant protection, cf. Exod. 25:17-22)

2. the wings of a protective mother bird (cf. Ps. 17:8; 36:7 57:1; 61:4; 53:7; 91:4; and Matt. 23:27)

3. protection from the burning heat of the sun (cf. Ps. 121:5; Isa. 25:4; 32:2)

 

91:2 "in whom I trust" This is the key to a covenant relationship with God (cf. Ps. 4:5; 25:2; 56:4).

91:3 "pestilence" The basic root is דבר (BDB 182-184), which has several usages.

1. word (cf. LXX of Ps. 91:3)

2. speaking (cf. Jer. 5:13)

3. pestilence (cf. Exod. 5:3; 9:15; Num. 14:12; Lev. 26:25; Deut. 28:21; Ps. 78:50)

4. pasture (cf. Micah 2:12)

5. bee or bee sting (NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 916)

Because of Ps. 91:5-6 #3 fits the context and parallelism best.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 91:5-10
 5You will not be afraid of the terror by night,
 Or of the arrow that flies by day;
 6Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
 Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.
 7A thousand may fall at your side
 And ten thousand at your right hand,
 But it shall not approach you.
 8You will only look on with your eyes
 And see the recompense of the wicked.
 9For you have made the Lord, my refuge,
 Even the Most High, your dwelling place.
 10No evil will befall you,
 Nor will any plague come near your tent.

91:5-10 This strophe continues the imagery of Ps. 91:1-4, esp. "the deadly pestilence" of Ps. 91:3b, which is expanded in Ps. 91:5-6, 10, while the military imagery of Ps. 91:4c is expanded in Ps. 91:7-8.

91:5-6 These things were viewed by the rabbis as elements of the demonic (cf. Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 5, p. 1523). Notice (1) it walks, Ps. 91:6 and (2) the "it" of Ps. 91:7. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE DEMONIC IN THE OLD TESTAMENT.

91:7 This is a hyperbolic expression using military imagery of the believer's personal care, provided by his covenant God.

91:8 As God's people are subject to the attack of the wicked, they will also be an observer of their judgment (cf. Ps. 37:34; 54:7; 58:10).

▣ "the recompense" This form of the basic root (BDB 1024) is found only here in the OT. Similar forms are found in Deut. 32:35; Isa. 59:18 (twice).

91:9-10 This is parallel to Ps. 91:1-2, while Ps. 91:10 is parallel to Ps. 91:5-7.

91:9 This verse in Hebrew seems to first address God (i.e., O YHWH) in line a and then makes a statement directed to a faithful follower who made Him his dwelling place. There are several places this type of mixing of persons occurs. The UBS Handbook (p. 801) suggests that in

1. Ps. 91:1, a priest is speaking

2. Ps. 91:2, the worshiper

3. Ps. 91:3-8, a priest again

4. Ps. 91:9a, the worshiper

5. Ps. 91:9b, the priest again

6. Ps. 91:14-16, God speaks

This solves some of the person problems but raises other grammatical issues. The Hebrew language often changes persons, even gender, for no apparent reason.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 91:11-13
 11For He will give His angels charge concerning you,
 To guard you in all your ways.
 12They will bear you up in their hands, 
 That you do not strike your foot against a stone.
 13You will tread upon the lion and cobra,
 The young lion and the serpent you will trample down.

91:11-12 These verses are quoted by Satan in Jesus' temptation experience in the wilderness (cf. Matt. 4:6; Luke 4:10-11). The promise of God's care must not be proof texted into a presumptuous demand. Believers do suffer (cf. Job; Psalm 72 versus Deuteronomy 27-28; and Rom. 8:28-30 versus 8:31-39).

91:11 "His angels" This may be the OT background (note Exod. 23:20) to Matt. 18:10; Luke 4:10-11 (LXX) and Acts 12:15 of the concept of "guardian angels." Also note, if you combine Heb. 1:14 with Ps. 103:21, there seems to be a connection.

▣ "To guard you in all your ways" This is a wonderful promise for those who trust in God and flee to His care. However, this is also a biblical hyperbole. We live in a fallen, evil world. Believers do face trials, sickness, temptation, etc. (cf. Matt. 5:10-12; John 15:18-21; 16:1-3; 17:14; Acts 14:22; Rom. 5:3-4; 8:17; 2 Cor. 4:16-18; 6:3-10; 11:23-30; Phil. 1:29; 1 Thess. 3:3; 2 Tim. 3:12; James 1:2-4; 1 Pet. 3:14; 4:12-16; Rev. 11:7; 13:7).

91:13 This links the previous promises historically to the wilderness wandering period or it may be figurative language for the problems humans face in a fallen world (cf. Ps. 58:3-5; Luke 10:19).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 91:14-16
 14"Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;
 I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.
 15He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;
 I will be with him in trouble;
 I will rescue him and honor him.
 16With a long life I will satisfy him
 And let him see My salvation."

91:14-16 God speaks and thereby sets up an "if. . .then" covenant blessing relationship (cf. Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-30).

God (then)  Believer (if) God's Blessings

1. deliver him love (lit. "cleave to") God (perfect) be with him in time of trouble

2. set him on high knows God's name (perfect) rescue him

3. answer him calls upon God (perfect) honor him (cf. John 12:26

a. with long life

b. behold God's salvation

 

91:14 "know" See Special Topic: Know.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Explain the OT images of shelter, shadow, refuge/fortress.

2. List and define the names for God.

3. Does Ps. 91:5-7 speak of the demonic, warfare, or sickness?

4. Why does Ps. 91:9-10 repeat the thoughts of Ps. 91:1-2?

5. How did the devil inappropriately use this Psalm in speaking to Jesus?

6. Does this Psalm promise that true believers will never have problems?

7. Explain the concept of "name" in relation to Ps. 91:14-15.