Psalms 91


I interpret this psalm, one of great encouragement and hope, differently from others.  It has been suggested that it is a dialogue between David and Solomon with the Lord speaking near the end.  Some think David is speaking in v. 2 to v. 7, then Solomon responds in v. 8 until v. 13.  Then God speaks in the last three verses of the psalm.  Some have also attributed this psalm to Moses, although that view is not favored.  Who ever composed it, I believe it is a monologue by the psalmist directed to either someone he believes to be righteous, or to the nation of Israel.  Be aware that all the second-person pronouns are singular.  In addition, I have translations for some of the verses that differ from the majority of (if not all) other translations.  I’m not referring to different synonyms, but to differences in thrust and meaning.  I’ll point them out as you encounter them.

יֹשֵׁב בְּסֵתֶר עֶלְיוֹן בְּצֵל שַׁדַּי יִתְלוֹנָן׃   91:1

Psal. 91:1   Let anyone abiding in the shelter of the Most High

                             dwell in the shadow of the Almighty.

אֹמַר לַיהוָה מַחְסִי וּמְצוּדָתִי אֱלֹהַי אֶבְטַח־בּוֹ׃   91:2

Psal. 91:2   He says about the Lord,

                              “My Refuge and my Stronghold, my God!

                       I will trust in Him.”

Every one of the bibles I’ve looked at has something like I say or I will say for the first two English words.  However, the Hebrew word (the first in the verse) can be translated two ways, either as first-person imperfect or third-person perfect.  I chose the latter because it made this verse follow the first verse better. 

כִּי הוּא יַצִּילְךָ מִפַּח יָקוּשׁ מִדֶּבֶר הַוּוֹת׃   91:3

Psal. 91:3   When He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler,

                              from the pestilence of calamities,

בְּאֶבְרָתוֹ יָסֶךְ לָךְ וְתַחַת־כְּנָפָיו תֶּחְסֶה צִנָּה וְסֹחֵרָה אֲמִתּוֹ׃   91:4

Psal. 91:4   He will cover you with His pinion,

                              that you can take refuge beneath His wings.

                     His truth is a shield and a buckler.

Regarding vss. 3 and 4, all other translations interpret them as separate thoughts.  The first word in v. 3 is variously translated as for, that, or surely.  An equally good translation is when, which is what I chose, because it makes v. 3 smoothly introductory to v.4.  In addition the last two Hebrew words in v. 3 are generally translated as something like noisome pestilence or deadly pestilence.  But because the next-to-last word is a masculine singular noun while the last word is a feminine plural noun, I refused to translate the last word as an adjective modifying the preceding noun.  Another equally good translation of the two words is pestilence of desires.  While somewhat less appropriate to the context, it offers an intriguing alternative.

לֹא־תִירָא מִפַּחַד לָיְלָה מֵחֵץ יָעוּף יוֹמָם׃   91:5

Psal. 91:5   You need not fear from terror of the night,

                              that the arrow would fly by day,

מִדֶּבֶר בָּאֹפֶל יַהֲלֹךְ מִקֶּטֶב יָשׁוּד צָהֳרָיִם׃   91:6

Psal. 91:6   that in darkness the pestilence would walk,

                              that destruction would ruin by noon.

יִפֹּל מִצִּדְּךָ אֶלֶף וּרְבָבָה מִימִינֶךָ אֵלֶיךָ לֹא יִגָּשׁ׃   91:7

Psal. 91:7   A thousand may fall at your side

                              or ten thousand at your right hand

                      -- it will not come near to you.

רַק בְּעֵינֶיךָ תַבִּיט וְשִׁלֻּמַת רְשָׁעִים תִּרְאֶה׃   91:8

Psal. 91:8   With only your eyes you will observe,

                               and the retribution of the wicked you will see.

Please notice that there is no obvious transition here to indicate that any one else is now speaking.

כִּי־אַתָּה יְהוָה מַחְסִי עֶלְיוֹן שַׂמְתָּ מְעוֹנֶךָ׃   91:9

Psal. 91:9   For you have made the Lord, my Refuge, the Most High, your Habitation.

לֹא־תְאֻנֶּה אֵלֶיךָ רָעָה וְנֶגַע לֹא־יִקְרַב בְּאָהֳלֶךָ׃   91:10

Psal. 91:10   No evil shall come near to you,

                                and no plague shall enter into your tent.

כִּי מַלְאָכָיו יְצַוֶּה־לָּךְ לִשְׁמָרְךָ בְּכָל־דְּרָכֶיךָ׃   91:11

Psal. 91:11   For He will command His angels for you

                                to guard you on all your paths.

עַל־כַּפַּיִם יִשָּׂאוּנְךָ פֶּן־תִּגֹּף בָּאֶבֶן רַגְלֶךָ׃   91:12

Psal. 91:12   On the hands they will carry you,

                                lest you would strike your foot against a stone.

עַל־שַׁחַל וָפֶתֶן תִּדְרֹךְ תִּרְמֹס כְּפִיר וְתַנִּין׃   91:13

Psal. 91:13   You shall tread upon lion and serpent.

                                You shall trample young lion and sea serpent.

כִּי בִי חָשַׁק וַאֲפַלְּטֵהוּ אֲשַׂגְּבֵהוּ כִּי־יָדַע שְׁמִי׃   91:14

Psal. 91:14   “That he longs for Me, so I shall deliver him.

                                 I will set him on high that he knows My name.”

יִקְרָאֵנִי וְאֶעֱנֵהוּ עִמּוֹ־אָנֹכִי בְצָרָה אֲחַלְּצֵהוּ וַאֲכַבְּדֵהוּ׃   91:15

Psal. 91:15   “Let him call Me and I will answer him.

                                 I am with him in trouble;

                        I will rescue him and bring him honor.”

אֹרֶךְ יָמִים אַשְׂבִּיעֵהוּ וְאַרְאֵהוּ בִּישׁוּעָתִי׃   91:16

Psal. 91:16   “I will give him his fill of length of days

                                 and let him look upon My salvation.”

I have interpreted the last three verses as conditional, not absolute.  I did that because I suspect this psalm is directed at Israel, and Israel was not so devoted to the Lord.  Instead of the two occurrences of the preposition that in v. 14, if would have been equally good, and it would more readily reveal the conditional nature of the Lord’s promise.


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