He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. (Psalm 91:1, KJV)
In this series, we will explore the background and overview of Psalm 91.
We will discuss who wrote it, when it was written, and what it might mean for us today.
Many people have invoked God’s protection and deliverance from danger and calamity by reciting Psalm 91.
Others have recited words from this psalm in their prayers to drive away demons and evil spirits.
Psalm 91 is so well-known that when the devil tempted Christ in the wilderness, he quoted parts of it.
Who Wrote Psalm 91?
Psalm 91 is attributed to Moses because of its content and textual similarity to Psalm 90, its use of Deuteronomic language, and Jewish tradition that upholds Mosaic authorship.
Here is an explanation of how we came to this conclusion.
The psalms were written by various authors. Some of the psalms contain the names of their authors, while others are anonymous.
Due to the absence of attribution, scholars speculate on the authors’ identities. Psalm 91 is unattributed, and there is no way to determine the author’s identity or date of composition with certainty.
This means that Psalm 91 could have been written by any of the Psalms’ numerous anonymous contributors. The Septuagint attributes Psalm 91 to David because it makes reference to a “shield, an arrow, and a fortress,” all of which sound very Davidic.
Nevertheless, many theologians attribute this Psalm to Moses, citing textual evidence such as the use of Deuteronomic language (Deuteronomy 32:11–32). Moses’ authorship is also supported by Jewish tradition, which acknowledges Moses as the author of Psalm 91 in the midrash. In the Journal of Biblical Perspectives in Leadership, Matthew F. Viau expresses his agreement with this viewpoint, writing:
Since it has no title or attribution, there is disagreement among scholars regarding its true author. Jewish scholars have generally attributed the authorship of Psalm 91 to Moses, because this is the last known attribution contained in the historical record. This authorship fits the narrative of Psalm 90-106, due to the nature of its contents.
Although the author of Psalm 91 may never be known, Moses appears to be the most likely candidate. Psalm 91 is attributed to Moses in part due to its linguistic similarities with Psalm 90 (the preceding chapter).
What Are the Various Names Given to Psalm 91?
There are many different names given to Psalm 91. Each name highlights a different aspect of this powerful prayer for protection.
Some call it the “soldier’s psalm” because it is a favorite Psalm of soldiers on the battlefield, who recite it for protection.
For instance, during the Maccabean war, many fighters recited Psalm 91 as a prayer for protection before and during battle.
Others refer to Psalm 91 as a “Prayer for protection,” “song of evil spirits,” and “song of plagues.” This is probably because the Talmud mentions that Psalm 91 was once engraved on amulets that were used to ward off evil spirits and plagues.
And still others know Psalm 91 by its Latin name, “Qui Habitat,” which means “He who inhabits.” No matter what name you choose to call it, Psalm 91 is one of the most beloved and popular psalms in the Bible.
What Is the Setting of Psalm 91?
The imagery and language used in Psalm 91 point to a hostile environment. The mention of an adder, serpent, lion (Psalm 91:13), stone (Psalm 91:12), deadly pestilences (Psalms 91:3,10), immediately transports us to a wilderness setting.
Thus, Psalm 91 is set against the harsh realities of wilderness, war, and disease where neither night nor day brings peace.
Is There Anything We Can Relate To in Psalm 91?
Psalm 91 is a beautiful passage of scripture. It was written by David to describe the protection and care God will provide for those who trust Him. Yet, as we read this psalm, it brings us back to our current world where so many people are living in precarious circumstances.
As God’s people, we also face difficulties in life that make us feel as if we are literally living in the wilderness.
The wilderness setting of Psalm 91 is evocative of the world in which we now live.
We can easily identify with being constantly threatened by war, disease, pestilence, and other threats that seem more life-threatening than ever before on some days.
With all these difficulties facing us there may be times when even night doesn’t bring peace or day does not assure safety from danger.
The psalmist directs our minds from the present difficulties, death, and destruction, to a place where abundant life thrives.
What Is the Message of Psalm 91?
The wilderness threats mentioned in Psalm 91 (pestilence, war, and wild animals) all demonstrate the various methods that God employs to care for and protect His faithful.
The message of Psalm 91 is that God will protect us (His faithful) against anything that might harm us. No matter what comes our way, we can rest in Him knowing that we are safe under His wing.
Whether we’re facing danger or temptation, God is with us and will keep us safe. But as we shall discover in subsequent posts of this psalm series, Psalm 91 does not guarantee us immunity from troubles.
God did not intend for us to use Psalm 91 as a magic ward to ward off problems. The Bible teaches that “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12, KJV).
But in the midst of the persecution God will sustain and protect us for His “graces is sufficient” for us. God’s promise of protection does not imply that we should court trouble. We would be guilty of presumption.
The wilderness can be a scary and dangerous place.
Despite these grim realities of the wilderness, the author portrays God as a “place” where we can find refuge and maintain a peaceful state of mind in the midst of the chaos.
This serene place is none other than God’s very presence, where we can dwell and abide unaffected by the surrounding chaos.
God is our dwelling place, and we can abide under His shadow forever.
When life feels chaotic and out of control, let go and take hold of God’s hand. He will lead you through the wilderness into a place of peace and restoration.
A Prayer of Protection Based on Psalm 91
Dear Lord, I feel as if I'm in the middle of a chaotic wilderness. Everything around me is bleak and hostile, I can hardly maintain my composure. Help me to face my fears and insecurities with courage, knowing that You are watching over me. Amen.