Psalm 91 Summary Handout
Security for the one who trusts, loves, and knows Yahweh
The anonymous writer penned this psalm about Yahweh’s protection and blessing for those who know him, love him, and trust him during times of intense danger, destruction, and even fears of the unknown.
The psalmist (LXX names David) testifies that he (the I section) takes shelter in the Most High, and will live under the protection of the Almighty, identified as Yahweh (LORD) and God. He is the psalmist’s refuge and fortress whom he trusts (Psalm 91.1-2). The writer then addresses others (the you section) proclaiming that Yahweh delivers from personal traps set for you and from disease. His faithfulness is your shield. You need not fear attacks that come at night or in the day, need not fear disease, or even death that is all around you. You will understand that the destruction is retribution on the wicked, and it will not harm you because the LORD is your refuge and dwelling place (Psalm 91.5-10). The LORD will command his angels to guard you, and in fact you will come through as victors (Psalm 91.11-13). The LORD speaks the last section. He clearly promises that the person who loves him and knows him well has the privilege of deliverance, security, prayer, answered prayer, encouragement, rescue, honor, life, and will experience the LORD’S deliverance (Psalm 91.14-16).
- Psalm 91.1-2. The psalmist testifies that the LORD God is his refuge and fortress in whom he trusts.
- Psalm 91.3-10. The psalmist applies this truth to you who trust the LORD God by proclaiming that you need not fear plots, attacks, disease, destruction, or death around you.
- Psalm 91.11-13. The LORD appoints his angels to guard you who trust him.
- Psalm 91.14-16. Benediction: The psalmist directs his inspired benediction from the LORD to those who love and know him.
(I have identified some Hebrew words by Strong’s numbers for those who want to do further study)
- Psalm 91.1-2. The psalmist testifies that the LORD God is his refuge and fortress in whom he trusts.
- Psalm 91.1. The Psalmist identifies someone (he who), what he chooses to do (dwells in the shelter of the Most High), and the result (will abide in the shadow of the Almighty). The point is that this is in the presence of God, whether the sanctuary, the temple, or wherever this person may be. The Most High and the Almighty refer to Yahweh LORD (Psalm 91.2,9). The verb dwell (יָשַׁב yashab qal participle, to sit, remain, live dwell, Strong 3427) indicates an action, one remains there. The shelter (סֵ֫תֶר sether, Strong 5643) refers to a hiding place, covering. The verb abide (לוּן lun Strong 3885) is parallel and emphasizes lodging or passing the night. A person makes a decision to stay somewhere. The place is protected by God. Who would not want to stay there?
- Psalm 91.2. The choice is expressed. He calls Yahweh my refuge (מַחְסֶה machseh, Strong 4268, see Isaiah 4.6, Jeremiah 17.17) and my fortress (מְצוּדָה metsudah, Strong 4686, 2 Samuel 5.7, Psalm 31.3). Both of these words bring up the idea of an impregnable place of safety. The second line addresses God, and indicates deliberate faith (בָּטַח batach, Strong 982, qal perfect 1 singular. to trust, to be full of confidence). This is faith in a trustworthy person.
- Psalm 91.3-10. The psalmist applies this truth to you who trust the LORD God by proclaiming that you need not fear plots, attacks, disease, destruction, or death around you. Exodus 15.22-27 has the bitter water incident in which the Israelites grumbled against the LORD. He told them that if they listen and obey him he would protect them from the diseases that he put on the Egyptians. The main point of this section seems similar; if you make LORD Yahweh your refuge by faith, he will deliver you.
- Psalm 91.3. We have two illustrations of dangers from which God delivers those who dwell and abide in his protection. The snare is a bird trap (Psalm 141.9; Ecclesiastes 9.12). The psalmist speaks of plots, hidden dangers, compromises, or anything that we do not expect or suspect which harms us. Pestilence refers to disease, plague. Most passages speak of disease. Second Samuel 24.13,15 records that God brought three days of plague on Israel because David took a census. Both the bird trap and plague indicate great danger and destruction that one has trouble avoiding. If believers are affected by the snare or pestilence God will deliver them.
- Psalm 91.4. God actively protects the one who trusts him. The illustration is of a bird protecting its young. We go there for our refuge or place of safety and protection. The second line emphasizes God’s faithfulness (אֱמֶת emet, truth, faithfulness, Strong 571. See the other studies on God’s faithfulness). To say that God is faithful means that he is true to his nature and to his word. He will act according to His nature. God will fulfill or do what He said He would do. He is dependable. We can always rely on Him. God faithfulness is a shield and buckler or bulwark around him. The key to this is God’s faithfulness. We depend on people to do what they say, but if their character is questionable, they may or may not do as they say.
- Psalm 91.5-6. The idea is that there is no need to fear. Terror by night is the unknown and unexpected attack, probably armed attacks in the night (Song of Solomon 3.8). The arrow by day indicates armed attack in the daylight hours. There is no need to fear these attacks because we are protected by God and he is faithful. This is especially important for people in warring areas, but also seems to include any kind of physical attack. Remember about whom the psalmist is speaking—those who dwell in the LORD’S shelter, who trust on God (Psalm 91.1-2).
- Psalm 91.7. Disease and destruction causing thousands to die is all around you, but will not get near you (נָגַשׁ nagash, approach, come near, qal impf 3ms, Strong 5066). This amplifies verse 6, and possible also verse 5. The LORD, the refuge and fortress, shield and bulwark, protects you.
- Psalm 91.8. This destruction and death around you are Yahweh’s judgment on the wicked (רָשָׁע the guilty, transgressor, wicked Strong 7563), not on you. Recompense (שִׁלֻּמָה shillumah, Strong 8011) refers to retribution or pay back. Apparently, God works in war, epidemics, and what people call natural disasters to judge the wicked.
- Psalm 91.9. The first line is the psalmist’s testimony. “For you Yahweh my (psalmist) refuge; The second line “You (the people addressed in Psalm 91.5-10) made the Most High your dwelling place.” It seems that the psalmist has put in a statement of his faith in the first line, then resumes speaking of those who trust Yahweh in the second line. The LXX reads the same as the Hebrew. Refuge is the same word as in Psalm 91.2. See note at end for Hebrew and Greek.
- Psalm 91.10. Those who make Yahweh their refuge and trust him will be protected. This is similar to Exodus 12.23 where those who believed Yaweh’s word through Moses about the death angel were spared. Evil and plague in 91.10 are parallel and refer to the disasters in Psalm 91.5-8.
- Psalm 91.11-13. The LORD appoints his angels to guard you who trust him. Kidner calls this miraculous protection (Kidner, Psalms 73-150, p333). Angels interact with people (with Jacob, Genesis 32.1; help believers, Hebrews 1.14; Acts 12.7; 27.23; rolled the stone at Jesus’ grave and announced his resurrection, Matthew 28.1-78; and others).
- Psalm 91.11. Yahweh LORD is the subject. He commands (צָוָה tsavah to command, order, Strong 6680) his angels to guard and protect you (the person of verses 1-2). The angels guard wherever and whatever you do, “in all your ways.”
- Psalm 91.12-13. Angels give protection against the many unsuspected dangers and accidents, “strike your foot against a stone.” The “lion and cobra” and “young lion and serpent” could represent any enemy, possibly in nature and people. Whatever the exact meaning is, God’s angels protect those trusting him in very dangerous conditions.
- Psalm 91.14-16. The psalmist directs his inspired benediction from the LORD to those who love and know him. These are the ones who dwell in, abide under, and trust Yahweh God (Psalm 91.1-2). ”The trust that invites the LORD’S protection has already been compared to our taking shelter under his roof” (Kidner, Psalms 75-150, 333-334). In this benediction a believer has loved, has known, and will call. The LORD promises to do eight things: deliver, make safe, answer, will be with, rescue, honor, satisfy, and let him see the deliverance.
- Psalm 91.14. There is a “because he…I will” sequence. “He has loved me” and “he has known me” show a close relationship with Yahweh. The LORD 1. will deliver (פָּלַט palat bring to safety, Strong 6403) this believer and 2. make him safe (שׂגב sagab make inaccessible, protect, Strong 7682). Because “he loved me” (חָשַׁק chashaq, to love, be attached to; KJV translation is better, “set his love,” Strong 2836) places extreme value and attachment. “Has known my name” (יָדַע yada` to know, Strong 3045) indicates knowledge of, and with “my name” means knowledge of his person and what he does, which of, course, is based on God’s Revelation. The LORD responds to our love and relationship with him.
- Psalm 91.15-16. When we are in trouble, what do we do? We call upon the person we love and know, “he will call upon me, and I will answer.” Call stresses prayerful dependence and communication. 3. Yahweh God will answer the prayer. He will also 4. be with him (comfort, encourage) when in trouble, 5. rescue him from danger, 6. honor him (either in this life or in eternity, 7. satisfy with God’s blessings, and 8. let him see the deliverance Yahweh is giving.
So what for us?
- In time of personal attacks, war, epidemics, and unknown fears, place yourself by a conscious choice made in faith under the shelter and shadow of Yahweh Most High God, our refuge and fortress (“in whom I trust”).
- The LORD is faithful, and his faithfulness is our shield. To say that God is faithful means that God is true to his nature and to his word. He will act according to His nature. God will fulfill or do what He said He would do. He is dependable. We can always rely on Him.
- Nothing can break through him to reach us unless the LORD has a specific reason for that and then that too will be blessing.
- The LORD directs his angels to guard us. When and where we do not know, but they are on duty when needed.
- The benediction calls us to love him, know him, and call upon him.
- The benediction promises that LORD will treat us a honored friends: deliver us, make us safe, answer our plea, stay right with us when in trouble, even rescue us, satisfy us with long days, and point out his salvation. And, for those who seem to miss some of these in life, they experience them after physical death.
- Compare Matthew 22.28-30 and Romans 8.28-39.
Note Psalm 91.9. “For you Yahweh my (psalmist) refuge; כִּֽי־אַתָּ֣ה יְהוָ֣ה מַחְסִ֑י . The second line “You (the people addressed in Psalm 91.5-10) made the Most High your dwelling place,”
עֶ֝לְי֗וֹן שַׂ֣מְתָּ מְעוֹנֶֽךָ׃. LXX ὅτι σύ, κύριε, ἡ ἐλπίς μου, τὸν ὕψιστον ἔθου καταφυγήν σου.