He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. (Psalm 91:1, KJV)
The words of Psalm 91 have echoed through the ages, inspiring people of all walks of life with its message of divine protection and hope. Psalm 91 is a reminder of God’s unwavering faithfulness and a source of comfort and security in times of difficulty and uncertainty. But who wrote Psalm 91? Was it written by King David or someone else? When was it written? And what does it mean in the modern context?
In this and subsequent articles, we will explore the background of psalm 91, who wrote it, when it was written, and what it means to us today.
It is our prayer that through these series of Psalm 91 (follow the links to the other articles on Psalm 91 at the end of this article), we will discover the timeless power of psalm 91 and its continued importance to believers today.
Psalm 91 is one of the most renowned and oft-recited psalms, with many invoking God’s protection and deliverance from danger and calamity through its words. It is so well-known that even the devil himself quoted parts of it when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness. Many people over the centuries have recited its words in their prayers as a way to exorcise or drive away demons and evil spirits.
Who Wrote Psalm 91?
Psalm 91 is traditionally attributed to Moses due to its content and textual similarity to Psalm 90, its use of Deuteronomic language, and various Jewish traditions that uphold Mosaic authorship.
Continue reading to find out how we arrived at this conclusion.
The psalms were written by various authors, some of whom attributed their work while others preferred to remain anonymous. Due to this lack of attribution by some of the authors of the psalms, scholars speculate on the authors’ identities.
The authorship of Psalm 91, like that of many others in the Bible, is unknown, and its composition date cannot be pinpointed with any degree of certainty. This means that Psalm 91 could have been written by any of the many anonymous contributors to the Psalms.
For example, 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 to them.
Nevertheless, many theologians attribute this Psalm to Moses, citing textual evidence such as the use of Deuteronomic language (Deuteronomy 32:11–32) in the psalm.
Jewish tradition, as expressed in the midrash, attributes Psalm 91 authorship to Moses, a view that is supported by the narrative of chapter Psalm 90-106 of Psalm.
In the Journal of Biblical Perspectives in Leadership, Matthew F. Viau agrees with the viewpoint of Mosaic authorship, citing Gillingham’s writing and states that:
Based on the foregoing, we can conclude that, while the author of Psalm 91 may never be known, Moses appears to be the most likely candidate. Psalm 91 is attributed to Moses due to linguistic similarities with Psalm 90 (the preceding chapter).
The title “A Prayer of Moses the Man of God” is often included at the beginning of Psalm 90 in many translations of the Bible. This title was taken from the Septuagint, an ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. It indicates that the psalm is attributed to Moses and it is for this reason scholars ascribe the subsequent psalms (90-106) to him.
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 the 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.
Next Posts in Psalm 91 Message Series:
What Does It Mean to Dwell in the Secret Place of the Most High? | Psalm 91:1 Breakdown
What Is the Meaning of “The Lord Is My Refuge and My Fortress”? | Psalm 91:2 Breakdown
What is the Meaning of the “Snare of the Fowler” and “Noisome Pestilence”? | Psalm 91:3 Breakdown
What is the Meaning of “God Will Cover You and Shield You”? | Psalm 91:4 Breakdown
What Is the Meaning of “Terror by Night” and “Arrow that Flies by Day? Psalm 91:5 Breakdown