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A.M. 2987. B.C. 1017.
It is not certain who was the author of this Psalm, but “the occasion,” says Bishop Patrick, “seems to have been some great pestilence; in which, as in all other dangers, the psalmist commends an humble confidence in God, and ardent love to him, as the best security. Now there is no pestilence,” adds he, “so likely to have given occasion to it, as that in the latter end of David’s reign,” 2 Samuel 24:0 . Poole, with many others, agree with the bishop in this opinion, and not a few suppose that David was the author of the Psalm, although it does not bear his name, the style and matter of it resembling those of several of his Psalms. He here shows,
(1,) The safety of those who put themselves under the divine protection in times of danger, Psalms 91:1 .
(2,) Declares it to be his resolution to do this, Psalms 91:2 .
(3,) Makes various promises to such, Psalms 91:3-13 .
(4,) Introduces God himself as confirming these promises, Psalms 91:14-16 .
Psalms 91:1. He that dwelleth in the secret place, &c. He that makes God his habitation and refuge, as he is called Psalms 91:9, that has recourse to him, and relies on him in his dangers and difficulties; that has access to him, intercourse with him, and worships within the veil, living a life of constant communion with him; shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty He shall not be disappointed of his hope, but shall find a quiet and safe resting- place under the divine care. A shadow, in Scripture, often signifies protection. But there evidently seems to be an allusion to the most holy place in the tabernacle and temple, and to the outstretched wings of the cherubim covering the ark and mercy-seat: see notes on Psalms 27:5; Psalms 32:7. And it is as if the psalmist had said, He shall dwell like the ark in the holy of holies, under the immediate shadow and protection of the Divine Majesty. It is justly observed here by Dr. Horne, that “in all dangers, whether spiritual or corporal, the members of Christ’s mystical body may reflect, with comfort, that they are under the same almighty Protector.”
Psalms 91:2-3. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge Upon that ground I will confidently commit myself and all my affairs to God. Surely he shall deliver thee O thou believing, pious soul, who after my example shalt make God thy refuge, thou shalt partake of the same privilege which I enjoy. From the snare of the fowler Which is laid unseen, and catches the unwary prey on a sudden; and from the noisome pestilence Which, like a fowler’s snare, seizeth men unexpectedly, and holdeth them fast, and commonly delivers them up to death. “This promise,” saith Henry, “protects, 1st, The natural life, and is often fulfilled in our preservation from those dangers which are very threatening, and very near, and yet we ourselves are not apprehensive of them, no more than the bird is of the snare of the fowler. 2d, The spiritual life, which is protected by divine grace from the temptations of Satan, which are as the snares of the fowler, from the contagion of sin, which is the noisome pestilence. He that has given grace to be the glory of the soul, will create a defence upon all that glory.”
Psalms 91:4. He shall cover thee with his feathers shall protect thee with the greatest tenderness and affection, as a hen covers and defends her chickens when they are in any danger. And under his wings shalt thou trust The wings of his overshadowing power and providence; his truth Whereby he is obliged to fulfil all his gracious promises, and among the rest, that of protection in dangers; shall be thy shield and buckler Thy strong and sure defence.
Psalms 91:5-6. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night When evil accidents are most terrible and least avoidable; nor for the arrow Any common and destructive calamity; (for such are commonly called God’s arrows;) that flieth by day Which is the time for shooting arrows. The sense of the verse is, Thou shalt be kept from secret and open mischiefs at all times. Nor for the pestilence, &c. This verse explains the former, and shows what that terror and arrow signify; that walketh in darkness That makes progress and spreads death and desolation in an invisible manner, such as can neither be foreseen nor prevented; nor for the destruction at noon-day That, like a bold enemy, assaults us openly, and though discovered cannot be resisted.
Psalms 91:7. A thousand shall fall at thy side At thy left side, this being opposed to the right hand, immediately mentioned; but it shall not come nigh thee This and such like promises are not to be understood absolutely and universally, as if no truly good man could be cut off by the plague, or by other common calamities, which is confuted both by other plain texts of Scripture, and by unquestionable experience; but with due limitations and conditions; either on man’s part, as, if there be a defect in his faith or obedience; or on God’s part, when God sees death is more for his good than life, as it apparently is, when righteous men are taken away from the evil to come, as is said Isaiah 57:1. In which case, though God doth not give the thing promised, yet he giveth a far greater mercy instead of it, and so fulfils his promise in the best sense, and with most advantage.
Psalms 91:8. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold, &c. Without any terror or danger to thyself, and with a thankful reflection on God’s goodness to thee; and see the reward of the wicked The just recompense of their sins, or the vengeance of God upon them. Observe well, reader, those that preserve their purity in times of general corruption, may trust God with their safety in times of general desolation. When multitudes die around us, though thereby we ought to be awakened to prepare for our own death, yet we ought not to be afraid with any amazement, nor make ourselves subject to bondage, as many do all their lifetime, through fear of death. The sprinkling of blood secured the firstborn of Israel, when thousands fell.
Psalms 91:9-12. Because thou hast made the Most High thy habitation Which is the only ground and reason of that safety here mentioned; there shall no evil befall thee Namely, so as to destroy or really hurt thee. Though affliction befall thee, yet there shall be no real evil in it; for it shall come from the love of God, and shall be sanctified; it shall come, not for thy hurt, but for thy good; and though for the present it be not joyous but grievous, yet, in the end, it shall yield so well that thou thyself shalt own no evil befell thee. Neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling This promise is not made to all that dwell nigh a righteous man, as, suppose, to his children, servants, and neighbours, who may, possibly, be wicked persons, and so strangers from God’s covenant and promises. How far it secures his own person, see on Psalms 91:7. For he shall give his angels charge over thee Those blessed, powerful, and watchful spirits, whom God hath appointed to minister to, and take care of, the heirs of salvation. To keep thee in all thy ways In the whole course of thy life, and in all thy lawful undertakings. They shall bear thee up in their hands Sustain or uphold thee in thy goings, as we do a child or a weakly man, especially in uneven or dangerous paths; lest thou dash thy foot against a stone So as to hurt it, or to cause thee to fall. Satan, it is well known, tempted Christ to cast himself from a pinnacle of the temple upon the presumption of this promise, which he quoted, implying, that angels should guard and support him in all dangers whatever. “But Christ, in answer, at once detected and exposed the sophistry of the grand deceiver, by showing that the promise belonged only to those who fell unavoidably into danger, in the course of duty; such might hope for the help and protection of Heaven; but that he who should wantonly and absurdly throw himself into peril, merely to try whether Providence would bring him out of it, must expect to perish for his pains.’” Horne.
Psalms 91:13. Thou shalt tread upon the lion The lion shall lie prostrate at thy feet, and thou shalt securely put thy feet upon his neck, as the Israelites did upon the necks of the Canaanitish kings, Joshua 10:24. The young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample, &c. By which he figuratively understands all pernicious creatures, though never so strong, and fierce, and subtle, and all sorts of enemies. “The fury and venom of our spiritual enemies,” especially, “are often portrayed by the natural qualities of lions and serpents.” And it is observable, that when the seventy disciples returned to Christ with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject to us through thy name, he answered them in the metaphorical language of this Psalm, Behold I give unto you power to tread on scorpions and serpents, &c. A promise this, which, in part, at least, belongs to all his faithful servants, whom through grace, he makes more than conquerors in all their conflicts with the same adversaries; enabling them to resist the devil, as St. Peter exhorts, steadfast in the faith; or bruising Satan under their feet, as St. Paul expresses it. We have need, however, to pray “for courage to resist the lion’s rage, and wisdom to elude the serpent’s wiles.”
Psalms 91:14-16. Because he hath set his love upon me In the former part of the Psalm the prophet had spoken in his own person; but here God himself is introduced as the speaker, confirming the preceding promises, and giving an account of the reasons of his singular care of all that truly believe and trust in him. Therefore will I deliver him I will abundantly recompense his love with my favour and blessing. I will set him on high In a high and safe place, where no evil can reach him; because he hath known my name With a true and saving knowledge, so as to love me and put his trust in me; God’s name being here, as often elsewhere, put for God himself. He shall call upon me As he knows and loves me, so he will offer up sincere and fervent prayers to me upon all occasions. And I will answer him I will grant his petitions as far as will be for his good and my glory. I will be with him in trouble To keep him from sinking under his burden. With long life Either in this world, when it is expedient for my service, and for his benefit; or, at least, in the next world, where he shall live to eternity, in the blissful sight and enjoyment of me in glory. And show him my salvation Either here or hereafter.
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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 91". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany