Psalm 91 Study Notes


91:1 Under the protection (lit “hiding place”) refers to the protection of the sanctuary (27:5; 31:20; 61:4; Jb 40:21). Shadow denotes protection or security (121:5; Is 30:2-3; 49:2; 51:16). The Almighty is a name for God describing his dual roles as nurturer and protector.

91:2 The psalmist’s safety is guaranteed by the Lord’s presence. On my refuge, see note at v. 4.

91:3 Destructive plague shows the psalmist’s fear of physical illness (vv. 5-8).

91:4 The imagery of wings alludes to the cherubim surrounding the ark of the covenant. The Lord covers the psalmist, shutting him off from danger. Wings, a figurative term for “cloak,” denotes protection (17:8; 36:7; 57:1; 61:4; 63:7; Ru 2:12). Compare Is 40:31 for eagle imagery. Those who seek God’s protection will be shielded by his faithfulness.

91:5 On terror of the night, see 121:6.

91:6 The plague includes flood, famine, hail, fire, or anything that threatens livestock and humans. Pestilence is often personified as a demon. The connection in ancient Near Eastern thought between an evil spirit and disease is well attested. The psalmist sought safe haven from thieves, wild animals, persecutors, and sickness—all threats that existed in the darkness.

91:7 If the petitioner were surrounded by illness to which his neighbors succumbed, he would experience preservation at the Lord’s hand.

91:8 Though the psalmist would be spared, he witnessed the Lord’s punishment (lit “repayment, retribution”) of the wicked. God executes judgment in proportion to the measure of evil.

91:9 On refuge, see notes at vv. 1, 4. The Hebrew word for dwelling place implies a remote, protected place (71:3; 90:1).

91:10 The word plague (“infection, hit, infestation”) reinforces the concept of serious physical threat (Lv 13:2; 14:3,32,54).

91:11-12 The Lord’s angels serve as his messengers and agents of his power outside the sanctuary (103:20; Gn 24:7; Heb 1:14). These divine beings have superior power, involving the ability to protect the Lord’s people from harm (Gn 19:10-11; 24:40; Is 63:9; Dn 3:28). On strike . . . a stone, see 121:3,7-8.

91:13 The metaphors of the predatory lion and the poisonous cobra suggest creatures that stalked their prey or hid in wait. In the ancient Near East, gods were often depicted as creatures.

91:14-16 Those who know God’s name are in covenant relationship with him. The Lord delivers, protects, answers, honors, satisfies, and reveals his salvation through the preservation and blessing of Israel (95:7-11).