Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Psalms 91

By Joseph Benson


Verse 1
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.”

Verse 2-3
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.”

Verse 4
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.

Verse 5-6
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.

Verse 7
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.

Verse 8
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.

Verses 9-12
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.

Verse 13
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.”

Verses 14-16
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.


Book Navigation Title Page Table of Contents Argument Introduction ► Chapter 1 ► Chapter 2 ► Chapter 3 ► Chapter 4 ► Chapter 5 ► Chapter 6 ► Chapter 7 ► Chapter 8 ► Chapter 9 ► Chapter 10 ► Chapter 11 ► Chapter 12 ► Chapter 13 ► Chapter 14 ► Chapter 15 ► Chapter 16 ► Chapter 17 ► Chapter 18 ► Chapter 19 ► Chapter 20 ► Chapter 21 ► Chapter 22 ► Chapter 23 ► Chapter 24 ► Chapter 25 ► Chapter 26 ► Chapter 27 ► Chapter 28 ► Chapter 29 ► Chapter 30 ► Chapter 31 ► Chapter 32 ► Chapter 33 ► Chapter 34 ► Chapter 35 ► Chapter 36 ► Chapter 37 ► Chapter 38 ► Chapter 39 ► Chapter 40 ► Chapter 41 ► Chapter 42 ► Chapter 43 ► Chapter 44 ► Chapter 45 ► Chapter 46 ► Chapter 47 ► Chapter 48 ► Chapter 49 ► Chapter 50 ► Chapter 51 ► Chapter 52 ► Chapter 53 ► Chapter 54 ► Chapter 55 ► Chapter 56 ► Chapter 57 ► Chapter 58 ► Chapter 59 ► Chapter 60 ► Chapter 61 ► Chapter 62 ► Chapter 63 ► Chapter 64 ► Chapter 65 ► Chapter 66 ► Chapter 67 ► Chapter 68 ► Chapter 69 ► Chapter 70 ► Chapter 71 ► Chapter 72 ► Chapter 73 ► Chapter 74 ► Chapter 75 ► Chapter 76 ► Chapter 77 ► Chapter 78 ► Chapter 79 ► Chapter 80 ► Chapter 81 ► Chapter 82 ► Chapter 83 ► Chapter 84 ► Chapter 85 ► Chapter 86 ► Chapter 87 ► Chapter 88 ► Chapter 89 ► Chapter 90 ► Chapter 91 ► Chapter 92 ► Chapter 93 ► Chapter 94 ► Chapter 95 ► Chapter 96 ► Chapter 97 ► Chapter 98 ► Chapter 99 ► Chapter 100 ► Chapter 101 ► Chapter 102 ► Chapter 103 ► Chapter 104 ► Chapter 105 ► Chapter 106 ► Chapter 107 ► Chapter 108 ► Chapter 109 ► Chapter 110 ► Chapter 111 ► Chapter 112 ► Chapter 113 ► Chapter 114 ► Chapter 115 ► Chapter 116 ► Chapter 117 ► Chapter 118 ► Chapter 119 ► Chapter 120 ► Chapter 121 ► Chapter 122 ► Chapter 123 ► Chapter 124 ► Chapter 125 ► Chapter 126 ► Chapter 127 ► Chapter 128 ► Chapter 129 ► Chapter 130 ► Chapter 131 ► Chapter 132 ► Chapter 133 ► Chapter 134 ► Chapter 135 ► Chapter 136 ► Chapter 137 ► Chapter 138 ► Chapter 139 ► Chapter 140 ► Chapter 141 ► Chapter 142 ► Chapter 143 ► Chapter 144 ► Chapter 145 ► Chapter 146 ► Chapter 147 ► Chapter 148 ► Chapter 149 ► Chapter 150