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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 91

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

Introduction

Psalms 91:0

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASBNKJVNRSVTEVNJB
Security for the One who Trusts in the LordNo MT IntroSafety of Abiding in the Presence of GodMeditation on God as the Protector of the FaithfulGod Our ProtectorUnder God's Protection
Psalms 91:1-4Psalms 91:1-2Psalms 91:1-6Psalms 91:1-6Psalms 91:1-2
Psalms 91:3-6 Psalms 91:3-4
Psalms 91:5-10 Psalms 91:5-6
Psalms 91:7-8Psalms 91:7-8Psalms 91:7-8Psalms 91:7-9
Psalms 91:9-10Psalms 91:9-10Psalms 91:9-13
Psalms 91:10-11
Psalms 91:11-13Psalms 91:11-13Psalms 91:11-13
Psalms 91:12-13
Psalms 91:14-16Psalms 91:14-16Psalms 91:14-16Psalms 91:14-16Psalms 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. Psalms 16:0; Psalms 23:0; Psalms 62:0; Psalms 121:0).

2. Often the Psalms speak of the nation of Israel (cf. Psalms 90:0), but this one is individualized (singular “you”).

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

B. Names of Deity used in Psalms 91:0 (see Special Topic: Names for Deity).

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

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

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

4. God (Elyon, BDB 43), Psalms 91:2; Psalms 91:2b - this is the general name for Deity in the ANE, El; in Genesis 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 Psalms 91:14 denote the settled, intimate relationship between God and His faithful followers. The imagery is from married life (cf. Isaiah 54:5; Hosea 2:19; Ephesians 5:25).

1. “cleave” - cf. Genesis 2:24

2. “know” - Genesis 4:1, Genesis 4:17, Genesis 4:25; Genesis 24:16; Genesis 38:26

Verses 1-4

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 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.

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

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

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

4. fortress - Psalms 18:2; Psalms 31:3; Psalms 71:3; Psalms 144:2; Jeremiah 16:19

Psalms 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 Psalms 4:5).

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

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

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

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

a. a shield (cf. Psalms 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.

Psalms 91:1 “shadow of the Almighty” This can refer to

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

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

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

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

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

1. word (cf. LXX of Psalms 91:3)

2. speaking (cf. Jeremiah 5:13)

3. pestilence (cf. Exodus 5:3; Exodus 9:15; Numbers 14:12; Leviticus 26:25; Deuteronomy 28:21; Psalms 78:50)

4. pasture (cf. Micah 2:12)

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

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

Verses 5-10

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 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.

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

Psalms 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, Psalms 91:6 and (2) the “it” of Psalms 91:7. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE DEMONIC IN THE OLD TESTAMENT.

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

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

“the recompense” This form of the basic root (BDB 1024) is found only here in the OT. Similar forms are found in Deuteronomy 32:35; Isaiah 59:18 (twice).

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

Psalms 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

Psalms 91:1. Psalms 91:1, a priest is speaking

Psalms 91:2. Psalms 91:2, the worshiper

Psalms 91:3. Psalms 91:3-8, a priest again

Psalms 91:4. Psalms 91:9a, the worshiper

Psalms 91:5. Psalms 91:9b, the priest again

6. Psalms 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.

Verses 11-13

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 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.

Psalms 91:11-12 These verses are quoted by Satan in Jesus' temptation experience in the wilderness (cf. Matthew 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; Psalms 72:0 versus Deuteronomy 27-28; and Romans 8:28-30 versus Romans 8:31-39).

Psalms 91:11 “His angels” This may be the OT background (note Exodus 23:20) to Matthew 18:10; Luke 4:10-11 (LXX) and Acts 12:15 of the concept of “guardian angels.” Also note, if you combine Hebrews 1:14 with Psalms 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. Matthew 5:10-12; John 15:18-21; John 16:1-3; John 17:14; Acts 14:22; Romans 5:3-4; Romans 8:17; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 2 Corinthians 6:3-10; 2 Corinthians 11:23-30; Philippians 1:29; 1 Thessalonians 3:3; 2 Timothy 3:12; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 3:14; 1 Peter 4:12-16; Revelation 11:7; Revelation 13:7).

Psalms 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. Psalms 58:3-5; Luke 10:19).

Verses 14-16

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 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.”

Psalms 91:14-16 God speaks and thereby sets up an “if. . .then” covenant blessing relationship (cf. Leviticus 26:0; 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

Psalms 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 Psalms 91:5-7 speak of the demonic, warfare, or sickness?

4. Why does Psalms 91:9-10 repeat the thoughts of Psalms 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 Psalms 91:14-15.

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Psalms 91". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/psalms-91.html. 2021.
 
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