Matthew Poole's Commentary
He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.THE ARGUMENT.
The penman of this Psalm is uncertain. The occasion of it seems to have been that great pestilence recorded 2 Samuel 24
The psalmist representeth the state of the godly, Psalm 91:1,2. Their safety, and place of habitation, Psalm 91:3-10. Comfortable promises of God’s preserving them, Psalm 91:11, of his support and salvation, Psalm 91:12-16.
The secret place; or, hiding-place. He that makes God his habitation and refuge, as he is called below, Psalm 91:9, resorting to him, and relying upon him in his dangers and difficulties, shall not be disappointed of his hope, but shall find a quiet and safe repose under the Divine protection. A
shadow in Scripture phrase commonly signifies protection. See Genesis 19:8 Judges 9:15 Psalm 17:8, &c.
I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.Upon that ground I will confidently commit myself and all my affairs to God.
Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.O thou believing, pious soul, who after my example shalt make God thy refuge, thou shalt partake of the same privilege which I enjoy.
He shall deliver thee from the pestilence, which like a fowler’s snare taketh men suddenly and unexpectedly, and holdeth them fast, and commonly delivers them up to death.
He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.His truth; whereby he is obliged to fulfil all his gracious promises, and, amongst the rest, that of protection in dangers.
Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;By night, when evil accidents are most terrible and least avoidable.
The arrow; the pestilence, or any such common and destructive calamity; for such are frequently called God’s arrows, as Dent. Deu 32:23,42 La 3:12,13, &c.
By day, which is the time for shooting of arrows. The sense of the verse is, He shall be kept from secret and open mischiefs at all times.
Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.This verse explains the former, and showeth what that terror and arrow signifies.
That walketh; that spreadeth, or maketh progress.
In darkness; either invisibly, so as we can neither foresee nor prevent it; or rather, by night, as Psalm 91:5.
That wasteth at noon-day; that like a bold enemy assaults us openly, and though discovered cannot be resisted.
A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.At thy side; at thy left side, because this is opposed to the right side here following. See the like ellipsis Numbers 9:16 Psalm 84:11.
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 other common calamities, which is confitted 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 that death is more for his good than life, as it apparently is when righteous men axe 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. As, if one man should solemnly promise to another to give him his daily food every day, he not only might, but ought, notwithstanding this promise, to deny and withdraw this food, when his body is so distempered, that in the judgment of the wisest physicians the taking of his food would evidently endanger his life.
Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.Thou shalt behold, without any terror or danger to thyself, and with a delightful and thankful reflection upon God’s goodness to thee. The reward of the wicked; the just recompence of their sins, or the vengeance of God upon them.
Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;Or, as the words lie in the Hebrew, and others render them, Because thou, O Lord, are my refuge, thou, O my soul, (which is easily understood out of the foregoing words, and to which David oft suddenly turneth his speech,) hast made the Most High thine habitation; which is the only ground and reason of that safety last mentioned. As for the variation of persons, that he sometimes speaketh to and of others, and sometimes to and of himself, nothing is more frequent in this book; nor doth it make any alteration in the sense.
There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.To wit, so as to destroy thee, as the next verse limits and expounds it. For surely this promise is not made to all that dwell nigh to his children and servants, who may possibly be wicked men, and so strangers from God’s covenant and promises. How far this secures his own person, See Poole "Psalm 91:7".
For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.His angels; those blessed, and powerful, and watchful spirits whom God hath appointed to mind the affairs of this lower world, and to take care of the heirs of salvation, Hebrews 1:14.
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, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.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. Or, shall carry thee aloft, as upon eagles’ wings, when it shall be needful for thee.
Lest thou dash thy foot against a stone; so as to hurt thy foot, or to cause thee to fall.
Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.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 dragon; by which he synecdochically understands all pernicious creatures, though never so strong, and fierce, and subtle, and all sorts of enemies.
Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.This and the two following verses are the words of God, whom the psalmist here, as oft elsewhere, introduceth as giving an account of the reasons of God’s singular care of all believing or pious persons.
I will deliver him; I will abundantly recompense his love with my favour and blessing.
On high; in a high and safe place, where no evil can reach him.
Hath known my name, with a true and saving knowledge, so as to love me and put his trust in me. God’s name is here put for God himself, as it is also Deu 28:58 Psalm 20:1 105:1.
He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.He shall call upon me, to wit, in trouble, which is expressed in the following clause. As he knoweth and loveth me, so he will offer up sincere and fervent prayers to me upon all occasions.
I will be with him in trouble, to keep him from sinking under his burden.
With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.With long life will I satisfy him; 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 God in glory.
Show him my salvation, either here or hereafter.