The Meanings of Pinions, Wings, Shield, and Buckler in Psalm 91:4
He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler (Psalm 91:4, ESV)
At some point in our lives, we have all felt fearful, exposed, and vulnerable. During those times, nothing appears to be holding together in our lives, and we naturally feel isolated.
Psalm 91 is a reminder that we are not alone in our struggle.
In this post, we will examine Psalm 91:4, which is God’s promise to cover and shield us in times of adversity.
In Psalm 91:4, the psalmist employs two metaphors to demonstrate God’s faithfulness. The first metaphor is animate, while the second is inanimate.
In the first instance, the psalmist compares God to an eagle mother who cares for and protects her young. In the second instance, the psalmist represents God as a shield and an impregnable wall.
The Avian Imagery of Psalm 91:4
In Psalm 91:4, the psalmist employs avian imagery to express his trust in God’s protection. This is not the first time God is compared to a bird.
There are several other instances where biblical writers compare God to a bird. In the book of Deuteronomy, for example, Moses compares God to an eagle:
"As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings" (Deuteronomy 32:11, KJV).
Moses further records in the book of Exodus,
"Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself” (Ex 19:4).
Other passages where writers compare God to an eagle include Ruth 2:12, Psalm 17:8, Psalm 57:1, and Matthew 23:37.
To the psalmist, God is a mother bird. If God is an eagle mother, then the psalmist must be an eaglet. The psalmist imagines himself as an eaglet in the wilderness, defenceless and vulnerable.
The two main wilderness threats are the fowler’s snare and the pestilence (Psalm 91:3).
The wilderness threat may include other predators.
The psalmist writes, “He will cover you with his pinions, and you will find refuge under his wings.”
The psalmist’s words express trust in God’s protection and care in the face of adversity. But what exactly does this phrase mean?
He will Cover You With His Pinions
The phrase “He will cover you with His pinions” refers to the wings of an eagle. It is also possible that the phrase refers to the cherubs’ wing cover above the ark of the covenant. Either way, the pinions cover metaphor alludes to God’s love and care.
What is the meaning of “He will cover you with his pinions”? It means God will protect and care for us in the same way a mother bird does for her young. This also implies that, like the eaglets, we must place our trust in God for our security and safety. This indicates that we have a personal relationship with God.
Under His Wings You Will Find Refuge
In Psalm 91:4, the psalmist utilizes a repeat and expand literary pattern. The writer expresses a concept in one statement or phrase, then repeats and expands on it in the next. The phrase “under His wings you will find refuge,” is a good example.
The psalmist repeats and expands this phrase to “He will cover you with His pinions.” Thus, the two phrases have the same meaning, but the second adds additional information.
What does “under His wings you will find refuge” mean? It means we can be certain of God’s love, care, and protection. It also means that we can rely on God for sustenance in a hostile environment.
When a young bird is lonely, cold, or feels threatened, it seeks refuge under its mother’s wings. The young bird finds comfort, security, and stability under its mother’s wings. In the same way, God’s people are to seek refuge under God’s wings in times of peace or adversity.
His Faithfulness is a Shield and Buckler
The psalmist here reminds us that we can bank on God’s faithfulness. God is faithful, dependable, and trustworthy. God’s “faithfulness” is a shield and buckler.
The words “shield” and “buckler” are military terms. A shield is a type of body armor used in warfare. In Biblical times, the quality of a shield was critical to the success of an army. Without a shield, a soldier was vulnerable to the arrows and swords of the enemy.
As a result, the ancients made their shields from the best metals available at the time. Armies invested on shields that could withstand a variety of weapons.
A “buckler” or “rampart” was a defensive wall built to ward off invading troops. The psalmist likens God to a protective wall that shields His people from their enemies.
Thus, the phrase “His faithfulness is a shield and buckler” refers to God’s dependability and faithfulness in protecting His own.
God protects His children in the same way that a “shield and buckler” protects troops from fatal combat injuries. So, the “shield and buckler” represent God’s unwavering commitment to protect His people.
Psalm 91:4 reminds us that we are helpless without God’s protective cover, shield, and buckler. Outside of God’s protective wings, there is no security.
We expose ourselves to the enemy of our souls when we turn our backs on God. God’s presence in our lives provides true protection against the enemy’s attack.
The message of Psalm 91:4 is that nothing can harm us as long as God is our protector and defender. God will protect us from those who would stifle our success, growth, and development.
The Lord will not abandon us in our hour of need. God will cover and shield us. God wants us to experience His presence and protection in our lives.