Notes on Psalm 91

Blaine Robison, M.A.

Published 28 July 2013; Revised 29 September 2023

Introduction | Psalm 1 | 2 | 19 | 23 | 27 | 37 | 90 | 103 | 139


Scripture:  Unless otherwise indicated Scripture quotations are taken from the NASB Updated Edition (1995). Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions.

Sources: Bibliographic data for sources cited may be found at the end of the psalm. References to the Mishnah and Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Click here for Talmud Abbreviations. Quotations from the Targums are taken from Edward M. Cook, The Psalms Targum: An English Translation (2001).

Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited may be found at the end of the chapter commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Important early Jewish sources include the following:

DSS: the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of Jewish manuscripts of Scripture and sectarian documents found in the Qumran caves. Most of the Qumran MSS belong to the last three centuries B.C. and the first century A.D. Online: DSS Bible.

LXX: The abbreviation "LXX" ("70") stands for the Septuagint, the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, in use among Jews by the mid-2nd century B.C. Online. The LXX also included the Apocrypha, Jewish works produced from 400 B.C. to A.D. 1. Online.

MT: The Masoretic Text is the authoritative Hebrew text of the Tanakh for Rabbinic Judaism. Work on developing a uniform Hebrew Bible began under Rabbi Akiva (2nd c. A.D.), but completed by scholars known as the Masoretes between the 7th and 10th centuries A.D. The oldest extant manuscripts date from the 9th century. Online.

Targums: Aramaic translation of Hebrew Scripture with commentary: Targum Psalms (A.D. 1-600).

Talmud: the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); online at Click here for Talmud abbreviations.

Syntax: Unless otherwise indicated the meaning of Hebrew words is taken from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981). Parsing information for Hebrew words is taken from John Joseph Owens, Analytical Key to the Old Testament (Baker Book House, 1991). Unless otherwise indicated the meaning of Greek words used in the Septuagint (LXX) is from Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich (The University of Chicago Press, 1957). English transliteration of Hebrew words is based on the NASB Exhaustive Concordance.

Special Terms: In order to emphasize the Hebraic and Jewish nature of Scripture I use the terms "Tanakh" (Old Testament) and "Besekh" (New Testament), as well as the terms "Yeshua" (Jesus) and "Messiah" (Christ). This commentary contains the Name of God. If you print it out, please treat it with appropriate respect.


Source: MT; LXX; Targum. Portions of Psalm 91 are found in DSS 4Q84 and the entire psalm in 11Q11.

Superscription. None in the MT. The LXX has ainos ōdę tō David, "a praise song by David," which the ABP translates as "A praise of an ode to David" and NETS translates as "A Laudation. Of an ode. Pertaining to David." The Grk. tō David is in the dative case, but owing to the lack of any preposition in the phrase the dative case should be treated as a instrumental dative of agency; therefore "by David" is more appropriate (Anderson 655). Certainly this was the intention of Jewish translators of the LXX. The Latin Vulgate (405 A.D.) has laus cantici David, "a praise of a canticle of David" although the DRA translates "David" as "for David." However, the Latin grammatical construction is the same as the Greek and should be translated in the same manner.


Rashi, the Medieval Jewish commentator on the Tanakh, attributed authorship of this psalm to Moses. Morris believes it is plausible that the psalm may have originally come from Moses and goes on to say that the psalm has certain themes and terms in common with Psalm 90, as well as indications that the miraculous deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt was in the mind of the author as he wrote (63). Clarke, Coffman, Coke and Spurgeon are also willing to accept Moses as author.

However, the Targum ascribes the psalm to David in verse 2 (Cook). The DSS 11Q11 also attributes the psalm to David. The LXX, Vulgate, Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions all attribute authorship to David (Gill). Of Christian scholars Faussett, Gill and Henry accept Davidic authorship. Alter, Anderson, Broyles, Delitzsch and Kidner offer no definitive opinion on authorship. The lack of consideration by modern scholars of the viewpoint of the ancient versions is surprising. The DSS, LXX and Targum, being the earliest versions and prepared by Jewish scholars, are weighty evidence for David's authorship.

Historical Setting

The 18th century scholar John Gill suggests that the psalm was very probably penned by David on occasion of the pestilence which came upon the people, through his numbering of them (2Sam 24:1). According to the Targum the psalm is addressed to Solomon (verse 3). Given the direct address of the psalmist to someone else in the most of the psalm the setting would more likely be David's instruction to Solomon in anticipation of the change in king.


The psalm is usually classified as a psalm of individual trust. The psalm is placed as the second in Book IV of the Psalms.

Usage in the Besekh

Verse 11 is quoted (by Satan) in Matthew 4:6 and Luke 4:10; verse 12 is quoted (by Satan) in Matthew 4:6 and Luke 4:11, and verse 13 is quoted (by Yeshua) in Luke 10:19.

Literary Character

Delitzsch describes the composition of the psalm as an interplay or antiphonal song between three voices: First voice: Verse 1, 3-8, 10-13; Second voice: Verse 2, 9; Third (divine) voice: Verses 14-16. These three voices are identified in the Targum as David (verses 1-8), Solomon (verse 9) and ADONAI (verses 10-16). Alter also identifies three voices: the poet, verse 1, 3-13; the man who trusts in God, verse 2; and God, verses 14-16 (321). However, verses 1-13 with the grammatical voice of direct address would be the psalmist speaking to a human, except that verses 2 and 9 are addressed to God. Verses 14-16 represents God's response.


(1 LXX) A praise song by David.

A praise: Grk. ainos, a praise in the sense of commendation of a hero or deity, here of the God of Israel. song: Grk. ōdę, a song, hymn or ode. by David: Grk. David is one of the most important figures in Israelite history. His name first appears in 1Samuel 16:13 when God sent Samuel to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem to anoint one of his sons as the next king. At that time David was only a shepherd. Yet, from that humble beginning he would eventually (after many difficulties) become the King of Israel at the age of 30 and reign 40 years (2Sam 5:4; 1Chr 3:4). David made a tremendous impact on the nation of Israel.

In the military sphere he broke the power of all the pagan peoples in the land of Canaan and in the civil sphere he made Jerusalem his capital and solidified central authority. Perhaps most important is his accomplishments in the religious sphere. He erected the Tabernacle on Mt. Zion, centralized religion in Jerusalem and established Levitical choirs. He wrote many psalms and 73 psalms are specifically ascribed to him. He was known as the “sweet psalmist of Israel” (2Sam 23:1). Especially important is that he compiled and organized psalms into what we now know as the Book of Psalms (2Chr 29:30).

David was a true worshipper, a man imbued with the Holy Spirit (1Sam 13:14; 16:13; 2Sam 23:2). God chose David to be king because He "sought out for Himself a man after His own heart" (1Sam 13:14). Then, God made a personal and everlasting covenant with him by which God promised that He would establish the throne of David forever, build a house for Himself and send forth a king from the loins of David to rule over his people Israel (2Sam 7:12-14; 23:5; 2Chr 7:18; 13:5; Ps 89:3; Isa 55:3; Jer 33:21).

David's family life is the subject of much analysis and not a little criticism among commentators. He was a polygamist with 8 wives and 10 concubines (2Sam 3:3-5, 13-14; 5:13; 12:7-8, 24; 15:16). The concubines were probably the servants of his wives (2Sam 6:20-22). He had 19 named sons of his wives, besides the sons of his concubines, and one named daughter, although many other daughters were born to him (1Chr 3:1-9; 14:3-7). Thus, his adultery with Bathsheba and conspiracy to kill her husband Uriah was especially egregious (2Sam 12:7-8).

Yet, in spite of his moral failure the Scripture record is highly complimentary of David. During the time of the divided kingdoms there is an oft repeated phrase to describe the good kings of Judah, "He walked before me as David his father walked" (1Kgs 3:3, 14; 11:4, 6, 33, 38; 14:8; 15:3, 5, 11; 2Kgs 14:3; 16:2; 18:3; 22:2). Jeremiah left a simple eulogy of David's life: "David did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the case of Uriah the Hittite" (1Kgs 15:5). The last comment on David's life in the Tanakh is from Ezra who twice refers to David as a "man of God" (2Chr 8:14; Neh 12:24).

David also has a highly favorable standing in the Besekh. The apostles tell the story of Yeshua as the story of the Son of David from His birth (Matt 1:1; Rom 1:3; 2Tim 2:8; Rev 22:16). At least twelve times the apostolic narratives refer to Him as "Son of David." David is cited as a model of behavior (Matt 12:3), identified as a servant of God (Luke 1:69) and regarded as a Spirit-inspired prophet (Mark 12:36; Acts 1:16; 2:34; 4:25; Rom 11:9; Heb 4:7). David thus took his place in the roll call of faithful heroes (Hebrews 11:32). This was "David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfill all my will" (Acts 13:22).

1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

He who dwells: Heb. yashav, Qal active participle, to sit (on a seat or sit down), remain (stay or tarry) or dwell. Some versions make the verb a direct address, "You who dwell" (CJB, MSG, NABRE, NCB, NRSV). in: Heb. bet, prepositional prefix, "in." the shelter: Heb. sether, covering, hiding place or secrecy. BDB associates the word with "hiding place" (712). of the Most High: Heb. Elyon, high or upper in relation to objects or places. As a name for God Elyon first occurs as El Elyon (God Most High) in Genesis 14:18-20 in reference to Melchizedek, the priest of El Elyon. In the Tanakh Elyon occurs 31 times, mostly in Psalms and Daniel and often as a synonym of Elohim and YHVH (e.g. Num 24:16; Ps 7:17; 57:2). The LXX translates Elyon with Grk. hupsistos, a superlative that means being positioned at the uttermost upward point in status, "Most High" as a name for God.

will abide: Heb. lun, Hithpolel imperfect, to lodge, pass the night or abide. in: Heb. bet. the shadow: Heb. tsel, shadow created by something blocking the sunlight, here used figuratively of protection or defense, perhaps of a city wall (BDB 853). of the Almighty: Heb. Shaddai, occurring 48 times in the Tanakh, first appears in Genesis 17:1-2 as El Shaddai. The etymology of the word is uncertain, and ancient writers are divided over its meaning, with second century Jewish translators of Hebrew Scripture into Greek (Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotion) favoring "sufficient" (Grk. ikanos, a quality or extent that is quite enough) and much later Christian scholars favoring "almighty" (BDB 994).

The LXX translates Shaddai with four different words: the generic Grk. theos, God (Gen 17:1; 28:3; 35:11; 43:14; 48:3; 49:25; Ex 6:3; Num 24:4; Isa 13:6; Ezek 1:24; Joel 1:15), epouranios, Heavenly One (Ps 68:14), ikanos, Worthy One (Ruth 1:20-21), and pantokratōr, "almighty" (Job 5:17; 8:5; 11:7; 15:25; 22:17, 25; 23:16; 27:2, 11, 13; 32:8; 33:4; 34:10, 12; 35:13; 37:23). The LXX translates Shaddai in this verse as theou tou ouranou, "God of Heaven."

Stone contends that Shaddai comes from the root noun shad meaning "breast," thus El Shaddai becomes the "One mighty to nourish, satisfy, supply" (34). This meaning stands behind the promise of El Shaddai to give Abraham a long line of descendants. Jacob understood this meaning and prophesied that Shaddai would enable fruitful wombs and milk-filled breasts (Gen 49:25; cf. Ex 3:17; Deut 7:13). Indeed God compared Himself to a nursing mother (Isa 49:15; 66:10-12).

However, this imagined meaning finds no support among Jewish writers. Shaddai is treated here as a parallelism to Elyon.

2 I will say of ADONAI, "My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!"

I will say: Heb. amar, Qal imperfect, to utter or say something, perhaps here as spoken in the heart to God. Alter translates as present tense, "I say," as does the NJPS. The LXX changes the first person verb to third person singular. ABP and NETS translate the LXX with "He will say," but Alter translates the LXX more literally as "He says" (321). of: Heb. lamedh, prep. prefix, "with regards to." ADONAI: Heb. YHVH (Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey), the tetragrammaton of the God of Israel, referred to in Judaism as either ADONAI (Lord) or Hashem (the Name). YHVH dominates in the Tanakh, first occurring in Genesis 2:4. While not reflected in Bible translations YHVH is not a title or a word for a deity, but the personal name of the God of Israel (Ex 3:15; 2Chr 14:11; Isa 42:8).

YHVH is translated in the LXX with Kurios, which generally means one in control through possession and may be rendered as lord, master or owner. YHVH first occurs on the lips of Eve (Gen 4:1), but the first time God identified Himself as YHVH was to Abraham, "I am ADONAI [Heb. YHVH] who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it" (Gen 15:7). God next identified Himself as YHVH to Moses (Ex 6:2). The importance of these private revelations is that YHVH is the covenant-making, covenant-keeping God of Israel. See my article The Blessed Name for more discussion on this subject.

My refuge: Heb. machaseh, refuge or shelter, in the sense of a place to hide from danger. and my fortress: Heb. metsudah, a fastness, a stronghold. The term could be an allusion to the City of David, which had originally been a Jebusite stronghold. In David's mind the city of Jerusalem symbolized the strength and security of God. Taken together "refuge" and "fortress" with the first person suffix ("my") function as synonyms for the name of God that follows. My God: Heb. Elohim, God, a plural intensive noun first used in Genesis 1:1. Scripture is clear that Elohim is YHVH (Deut 4:35, 39; 7:9; 1Kgs 8:60; 18:39). In the LXX Elohim is rendered with Grk. theos, God, over 2300 times. Unlike the deities of polytheistic cultures Elohim is the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, Creator and ruler of the universe.

in whom I trust: Heb. batach, Qal imperfect, to trust. Batach expresses that sense of well-being and security which results from having something or someone in whom to place confidence (TWOT, I, 101). God is that someone worthy of unreserved trust. It is significant that the LXX never translates batach with pisteuō ("believe in" or "trust"), but with elpizō, "to hope." The book of Psalms has the largest number of occurrences for batach (50 out of a total of 181), all consistently expressive of the values of trust in God. They also make the point that the cause for hope is not in one's merit with God or in some quid pro quo arrangement, but only because of God's chesed, his unswerving loyalty, his gracious kindness (TWOT, I, 102).

3 For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence.

For it is He who delivers you: Heb. natsal, Hiphal imperfect, to snatch away or deliver. The "you" suffix to the verb is singular, denoting someone the psalm is addressing. Owens translates the opening phrase as "for he will deliver you." from the snare: Heb. pach, a bird trap. of the trapper: Heb. yaqush, a fowler or trapper. and from the deadly: Heb. havvah, desire, chasm or destruction, here as an adjective it means 'destructive.' Alter translates as "disastrous." pestilence: Heb. deber, plague or pestilence. The Hebrew term does not refer to an infectious disease as the English word implies. The term occurs for the ten divine judgments imposed on Egypt (Ex 5:3; 9:3, 15; Ps 78:50), potential future judgment on Israel for disobedience (Lev 26:25; Deut 28:21; Jer 14:12; Ezek 5:12; Hos 13:14; Amos 4:10) and in the story of the pestilence imposed on Israel because of David's folly in numbering the people (2Sam 24:13-15). In all these passages the LXX translates deber with thanatos, "death," which emphasizes the result of the judgment rather than its form.

Spurgeon, in accepting Mosaic authorship for the psalm, writes, "If David's pen was used in giving us this matchless ode, we cannot believe as some do that he thus commemorated the plague which devastated Jerusalem on account of his numbering the people. For him, then, to sing of himself as seeing "the reward of the wicked" would be clean contrary to his declaration, "I have sinned, but these sheep, what have they done?" [2Sam 24:17]; and the absence of any allusion to the sacrifice upon Zion could not be in any way accounted for, since David's repentance would inevitably have led him to dwell upon the atoning sacrifice and the sprinkling of blood by the hyssop."

However, in this verse the LXX uses tarachos, a commotion, disturbance or trouble. The Jewish authors of the LXX, believing in Davidic authorship, chose a word that would not connect the promise to the plagues on Egypt. In fact, David does not allude to any historical event, although he experienced God's personal deliverance from the pestilence that resulted from his numbering the people. David simply affirms God as the source for deliverance or protection in the midst of divine judgments.

4 He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

David employs a zoomorphism to describe God. He will cover: Heb. sakak, Hiphal imperfect, to overshadow, screen or cover in the sense of protection. you with His pinions: pl. of Heb. ebrah, pinion or wing of a bird, probably a large bird as an ostrich (Job 39:13) or eagle (Deut 32:11). and under His wings: pl. Heb. kanaph, wing, generally of a bird. However, the word is also used of the wings of the cherubim (Ex 25:20; Ezek 1:6-7) and seraphim (Isa 6:2). you may seek refuge: Heb. chasah, Qal imperfect, to seek refuge, shelter or protection (cf. Ruth 2:12). Owens translates as "you will find refuge." The allusion draws on the behavior of birds to hide their chicks beneath their wings. David then switches from depicting God as a large bird to equipment used by a warrior. His faithfulness: Heb. emeth, firmness, faithfulness or reliableness. Alter translates as "His truth" (322).

is a shield: Heb. tsinnah, a large shield covering the entire body (cf. 1Sam 17:7, 41; 1Kgs 10:16). and bulwark: Heb. socherah, buckler, generally a protective device for soldiers in hand to hand combat. The term occurs only in this verse of the Tanakh. The typical shield was a hard object, generally made of metal, but also leather or wood, and came in all sizes and shapes. A buckler is described as a small rounded shield which was carried in the hand or worn on the arm (HBD). Both types of shields serve as metaphors of God's faithfulness. God stands between the man of God and hostile forces to prevent penetration by the weapons of the enemy. When Paul exhorted the Ephesian congregation to take up the "shield of faith" in order to extinguish the flaming arrows of Satan (Eph 6:16), he meant the shield of faithfulness.

5 You will not be afraid of the terror by night, or of the arrow that flies by day;

You will not be afraid: Heb. yare, Qal imperfect,, to fear or be afraid because of some threat. of the terror: Heb. pachad, dread, often terrifying. by night: Heb. ophel, darkness of night or the gloom of the underworld. or of the arrow: Heb. chets, an offensive missile made from wood and launched by a bow. that flies: Heb. uph, Qal imperfect, to fly away to a distance as a capability of birds, but used here figuratively of the trajectory of an arrow as it leaves the bow for its target. The arrow was a feared weapon of attack for all nations and in Scripture the bow frequently symbolizes the ability of nations to wage war (Ps 18:34; 46:9; Jer 49:35; 51:56; Ezek 39:3; Hos 1:5; 2:18; Zech 9:10; Rev 6:2). Ancient armies had three basic tactical weapons: ground infantry, mounted infantry (also called cavalry) and archers. Arrows were a form of artillery, and, like artillery in modern warfare, were used to precede a ground attack or cavalry charge. Bowmen could inflict heavy casualties and limit losses to their own infantry in hand to hand fighting.

by day: Heb. yom, day or daylight. Yom is generally used in Scripture as a specific division of time denoting the daytime portion of a 24-hour day (Gen 1:5) or a complete solar/lunar cycle of 24 hours (Ex 2:13). Here yom is set in contrast to night and reflects the common practice in ancient times of conducting battles in the daytime.

6 Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.

Of the pestilence: Heb. deber. See the note on verse 3 above. The LXX translates deber here with Grk. pragmatos, a thing. The LXX views deber in this verse as something substantive that constitutes a threat. that stalks: Heb. halak, Qal imperfect, to go, come or walk. in darkness: Heb. ophel, darkness of night, no doubt alluding to its use in the previous verse. or of the destruction: Heb. qeteb, destruction, here caused by pestilence. that lays waste: Heb. shud, Qal imperfect, to waste in the sense of to devastate. at noon: Heb. tsohar, midday, noon.

7 A thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, But it shall not approach you.

A thousand: Heb. eleph, thousand, a cardinal number, ten times 100. may fall: Heb. naphal, Qal imperfect, to fall or lie. The death of a thousand soldiers in battle was not an unusual occurrence in ancient warfare. Similarly, thousands died in a number of divinely imposed judgments. at your side: Heb. tsad, side, generally in reference to human anatomy. NJPS and Voice translate as "left side" to indicate the opposite of the next directional reference. and ten thousand: Heb. rebabah, multitude, myriad, or ten thousand. The LXX translates with murias, which means ten thousand. at your right hand: Heb. yamin, the right hand as a portion of human anatomy, but also figuratively of the right side. but it shall not approach you: Heb. nagash, Qal imperfect, come near, draw near or approach. David knew very well the horror of battle in which hundreds and thousands were killed and yet he survived.

8 You will only look on with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.

You will only look: Heb. nabat, Hiphal imperfect, to look or behold. The Hiphal form emphasizes causation, a deliberative action by the person. on with your eyes: pl. of Heb. ayin, eye, the organ of sight. and see: Heb. ra'ah, Qal imperfect, to apprehend visually, to see. the recompense: Heb. shillumah, requital, retribution. This term occurs only here in Scripture. of the wicked: Heb. rasha, wicked or criminal, which may mean (1) one guilty of crime, deserving punishment; (2) guilty of hostility to God or his people; or (3) guilty of sin, against either God or man

9 For you have made ADONAI, my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place.

For you have made: Heb. sum, Qal perfect, to put, place or set. ADONAI: Heb. YHVH, the personal name of the God of Israel. See verse 2 above. my refuge: Heb. Heb. machaseh, refuge or shelter. See the note on verse 2 above. even the Most High: Heb. Elyon. See verse 1 above. your dwelling place: Heb. ma'on, dwelling, habitation, here used figuratively of a refuge. ADONAI has always been the abode of all God's people.

10 No evil will befall you, nor will any plague come near your tent.

No evil: Heb. ra, evil as a moral quality or bad in the sense of adversity or something unpleasant. Alter has "harm." will befall you: Heb. anah, Pual imperfect, be allowed to meet, be sent. nor will any plague: Heb. nega, stroke, plague or mark. BDB interprets its use here as a metaphor, especially of a disease, regarded as sent by a divine chastisement (619). Owens translates as "scourge." Alter has "affliction." The word is used in Exodus 11:1 to refer to the death of the Egyptian firstborn. come near: Heb. qarab, Qal imperfect, to come near or approach. your tent: Heb. ohel, tent of a nomad, but figuratively of dwelling or habitation.

11 For He will command His angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.

For He will command: Heb. tsavah, Piel impf., to lay charge (upon), give charge (to), command, order. His angels: pl. of Heb. malak, messenger, whether human or heavenly. In the Tanakh the term is used of one sent with a message (Gen 32:4), a prophet (Isa 42:19), a priest (Mal 2:7) or a supra-natural messenger of God (Gen 19:1). The LXX renders malak with aggelos. The decision to translate malak as "angel" or simply "messenger" relies primarily on the context. The term is used here of celestial beings. See my article The Host of Heaven.

charge: Heb. tsavah, Piel imperfect, to lay charge upon, to give charge to, to command or order. concerning you: lit. "of you." to guard: Heb. shamar, Qal infinitive, to keep, watch, preserve or protect. you in all your ways: pl. of Heb. derek, way, road, distance, or journey in a literal sense; here figurative of course of life, or action, undertakings. This verse is quoted by Satan to Yeshua in the wilderness temptation (Matt 4:6; Luke 4:10).

12 They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone.

They will bear you up: Heb. nasa, Qal imperfect, to lift, carry or take. in their hands: pl. of Heb. yad, the hand, a part of the human body, here used figuratively of being carried in the arms. that you do not strike: Heb. nagaph, Qal imperfect, to strike or smite, causing a serious injury. your foot: Heb. regel, a human foot. against a stone. The literal sense of the verb is "bump against," which particularly alludes to the rocky landscape of the Judean hills (Alter 323). This verse is quoted by Satan to Yeshua in the wilderness temptation (Matt 4:6; Luke 4:11), to which Yeshua replied, "It is written, you shall not put the Lord Your God to the test."

13 You will tread upon the lion and cobra, the young lion and the serpent you will trample down.

These creatures were a threat to travelers in ancient times. You will tread upon: Heb. darak, Qal imperfect, to tread upon. the lion: Heb. shachal, lion, which occurs only 8 times in the Tanakh. While modern taxonomy recognizes at least seven subspecies of lion, the biblical term makes no such distinction. The lion is one of the most frequently mentioned animals in the Tanakh, for which eight different Hebrew words are used (see “The Lion,” JVL). and cobra: Heb. pethen, a venomous serpent, perhaps cobra. The term occurs only 6 times in the Tanakh. Here pethen introduces a parallelism with "serpent."

the young lion: Heb. kephir, a young lion. The term occurs 35 times in the Tanakh, often in a figurative sense of princes, young warriors or bloodthirsty enemies. and the serpent: Heb. tannin, serpent, dragon or sea monster. The term occurs 15 times in the Tanakh and commentators treat the term in this verse as a synonym of cobra, referring to a venomous snake, as it means in Exodus 7:9-12. On the other hand we should consider that in the LXX the Heb. word tannin is translated with Grk. drakōn, which means dragon, serpent, monster or sea monster (e.g., Deut 32:33; Job 7:12; 26:13; Ps 74:13; 148:7; Lam 4:3; Ezek 29:3; 32:2; Amos 9:3; Jer 51:34) (TWOT 2:976).

The first use of tannin is in Genesis 1:21 where they are described as “great,” no doubt referring to their size. It was probably the enormous size of these ancient monsters (now called dinosaurs), as well as their power and intimidation, that prompted the use of tannin or tannim as a figurative term for Israel’s most powerful opponents (e.g., Egypt, Isa 51:9 and Babylon, Jer 51:34). In any event the fact that both the tannin and the pethen were dangerous animals, there is no evidence to suggest they were the same size. David's usage probably intends tannin as a much larger animal.

you will trample down: Heb ramas, Qal imperfect, to trample down. The verbs actually occur together in the verse: "on the lion and the adder you will tread, you will trample the young lion and the serpent" (Owens). "Trample" adds force to "tread." This verse is alluded to in Yeshua's statement to his disciples, "Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you" (Luke 10:19). David knew by his experience with Goliath that the size of an opponent did not matter when he had the help of the God of Israel.

14 "Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.

Because he has loved Me: Heb. chashaq, Qal perfect, to be attached to, to love. Owens translates the opening clause, "because to me He cleaves in love." therefore I will deliver him: Heb. palat, Piel imperfect, to escape, to bring into security. I will set him securely on high: Heb. sagab, to be inaccessibly high. Owens translates as "I will protect him." because he has known: Heb. yada, Qal perfect, to know. The verb refers to a personal, even intimate knowledge, of something. My name: Heb. shem, a name, that is, a word or a combination of words by which a person, place, or thing is designated, called, or known; also the reputation of a particular kind given by common opinion. To know God's name is to know Him personally or to know His reputation as a faithful covenant-keeping God.

15 "He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble ; I will rescue him and honor him.

David points out that in response to a cry for help God responds in three ways. He will call upon Me: Heb. qara, Qal imperfect, to call or cry, here in the sense of entreaty of God. The imperfect tense implies the continuation of calling. and I will answer him: Heb. anah, Qal imperfect, to answer or respond. I will be with him in trouble: Heb. tsarah, straits or distress. I will rescue him: Heb. chalats, Piel imperfect, rescue or deliver. and honor him: Heb. kabad, Piel imperfect, make honorable, honour, glorify.

16 "With a long life I will satisfy him and let him see My salvation."

With a long: Heb. orek, length. life: pl. of Heb. yom, day, lit. "length of days." I will satisfy him: Heb. saba, Hiphal imperfect, to be sated, satisfied or surfeited. Only God can truly satisfy the human soul. and let him see: Heb. ra'ah, Hiphal imperfect. See the note on verse 8 above. The verb speaks of an actual experience and not just an intellectual understanding. My salvation: Heb. yeshu'ah, fem. noun, welfare, prosperity, salvation, deliverance, or victory. BDB explains the usage here as salvation by God, primarily from external evils, but with an added spiritual idea (447). Yeshua is a contraction of the Hebrew name Y’hoshua, which means “YHVH is salvation" (BDB 221).

Yeshua has the same Hebrew root as yoshia (“He will save”) and is also the masculine form of the Hebrew word yeshu‘ah, ("salvation”) (BDB 221, Stern 4). Both Yeshua ("Jeshua") and Y’hoshua ("Joshua") were common names and rendered in the LXX as Ięsous. The name of Yeshua was given to six men in the Tanakh and translated as "Jeshua" in English versions, four of whom were of the tribe of Levi (1Chr 24:11; 31:15; Ezra 2:6, 40; 3:2-9; Neh 3:19; 8:7) (Barker 182).

Works Cited

ABP: Charles Van der Pool, The Apostolic Bible Polyglot (An interlinear Septuagint, LXX, with English translation) The Apostolic Press, 2006. Psalm 91 online.

Alter: Robert Alter, The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary. W.W. Norton & Co., 2007.

Anderson: A.A. Anderson, Psalms 73-150. The New Century Bible Commentary. Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1972.

Barker: William P. Barker, Everyone In the Bible. Fleming H. Revell Co., 1966.

Broyles: Craig C. Broyles, Psalms. New International Biblical Commentary. Hendrickson Publishers, 1999.

Clarke: Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Holy Bible (1826). Ed. Ralph Earle. Baker Book House, 1967. Also online.

Coffman: James Burton Coffman (1905-2006), Psalms. Commentaries on the Bible. Online

Coke: Thomas Coke (1747-1814), Psalms. Commentary on the Holy Bible. 6 vols. Online.

Cook: Edward M. Cook, The Psalms Targum: An English Translation. 2001. Online.

Delitzsch: Franz Delitzsch, Psalms. Commentary on the Old Testament (C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, 1866-1891), Vol. 5. Hendrickson Publishers, 2006.

Faussett: A.R. Faussett, The Book of Psalms. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown, 1871) Online.

Gill: John Gill (1697-1771), Exposition of the Entire Bible. Online here.

Henry: Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on the Whole Bible. Hendrickson Pub., 1991. Online.

HBD: Holman Bible Dictionary. Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1991.

JE: Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906. Online.

Kidner: Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2009.

Morris: Henry M. Morris, Sampling the Psalms: A Scientific & Devotional Study of Selected Psalms. Master Books, 1991.

Rashi: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaqi (1040-1105), Commentary on the Tanakh. Online.

Spurgeon: Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David. Charles Spurgeon Commentary on the Bible, 1885. Online.

Stone: Nathan Stone, Names of God. Moody Press, 1944.

TWOT: R. Laird Harris, ed., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. 2 Vols. Moody Press, 1980.

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