Psalm 91

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End of 8th century ivory plaque with Christ treading on the beasts, illustrating verse 13[1]

Psalm 91[2] (Greek numbering: Psalm 90), referred to by its Latin title Qui habitat (after its first line, "Whoso dwelleth under the defence of the Most High"), is known as the Psalm of Protection. As a religious song, this Psalm is commonly invoked in times of hardship. The author of this psalm is unknown.[3] Though the author of this Psalm is unknown and no author is mentioned in the Hebrew text of this Psalm, the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament attributes the Psalm to David. [4]



The apotropaic usage of Psalm 91 is also corroborated by midrash Bamidbar Rabbah 12:3 which recounts the story of Moses’ ascent to the Mount Sinai during which he was assaulted by a band of hostile angels wishing to prevent him from acquiring the Torah. According to the midrash, the patriarch defended himself by singing the words of Psalm 91, the so called “psalm of plagues”. The first two verses are abundant in the divine names: “The one sitting in the cover of Elyon, in the shadow of Shaddai will dwell, says to Yahveh: my refuge and my fortress, my Elohim, I will trust in him.” Moses acknowledged the protective strength of the biblical poem concluding that “by means of his name I shall repel the {demons} and the angels of destruction”.[10]

New Testament[edit]

The devil quotes verses 11 and 12 of this psalm during the temptation of Christ in Matthew 4:6 and Luke 4:10-11.

Western Christianity[edit]

In Western Christianity it is often sung or recited during services of Compline.[11]

In the Revised Common Lectionary (Year C)[12] the psalm is appointed for the first Sunday in Lent, linking it to the temptation of Christ, where the devil quotes this psalm.

In the medieval Western Church it was included in the readings for Good Friday.

Eastern Orthodoxy[edit]

In Eastern Orthodoxy it is used in the prayers of the Sixth Hour, at Great Compline, and also in the Memorial Service for the departed (Pannikhida).

Christ treading on the beasts[edit]

Verse 13, in the King James Version "Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet" was the origin of the iconography of Christ treading on the beasts, seen in the Late Antique period, and revived in Carolingian and Anglo-Saxon art.

Musical settings[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

  • Sinéad O'Connor's debut album The Lion and the Cobra includes a recitation of verses 11 to 13 in Irish by singer Enya on the song "Never Get Old".
  • Canadian metal band Cryptopsy quotes this psalm in the song "The Pestilence That Walketh in Darkness" on their 2005 album Once Was Not.
  • Psalm 91 is known as the Soldier's Psalm. Soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines often carry a wallet-sized copy with them when deployed.
  • Brazilian-American metal band Soulfly covered this psalm in Portuguese on the bonus track "Salmo-91" on their fifth album Dark Ages.
  • Hershel Greene reads the Psalm in Season 3 of AMC's The Walking Dead.
  • The Jerry Garcia Band references verses 5-6 in its song "My Sisters and Brothers."
  • Madonna use this reference to the Virgin Mary (Intro) on her The MDNA Tour on 2012.
  • The Dybbuk box in The Possession film shows a failed Hebrew text that probably related to Psalm 91:8.

Peter, the older son in 'A Christmas Carol, is reading Psalm 91 to Mrs Cratchit and the girls as they prepare for Tiny Tim's funeral, before Bob Cratchit comes in, in the 1951 Alastair Sim version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol.


  1. ^ Favreau, Robert (1991). "Le thème iconographique du lion dans les inscriptions médiévales". Comptes-rendus des séances de l'année - Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres (in French). 135 (3): 613–636. doi:10.3406/crai.1991.15027. Retrieved 2010-03-13. 
  2. ^ Bible Study [1], Psalm 91 - He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High, accessed August 12, 2013.
  3. ^ Spurgeon, Charles H.[2], The Treasury of David, 2001, accessed March 21, 2011.
  4. ^
  5. ^ The Complete Artscroll Siddur page 380
  6. ^ The Complete Artscroll Siddur page 594
  7. ^ The Complete Artscroll Siddur page 290
  8. ^ Belanger, Jeff (November 29, 2003). "Dybbuk - Spiritual Possession and Jewish Folklore". Retrieved April 9, 2015. 
  9. ^ Dennis, Geoffrey. "Jewish Exorcism". Retrieved April 9, 2014. 
  10. ^ Kosior, Wojciech (2016). The Apotropaic Potential of the Name “Shadday” in the Hebrew Bible and the Early Rabbinic Literature. Word in the Cultures of the East sound, language, book. Cracow: Wydawnictwo Libron. pp. 33–51. ISBN 978-83-65705-21-1. 
  11. ^ "An Order for Night Prayer (Compline)". Church of England. Retrieved 2007-12-08. 
  12. ^ The Christian Year: Calendar, Lectionary and Collects. Church House Publishing, Church of England. 1997. ISBN 0-7151-3799-9. 

External links[edit]