Psalm 91

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Psalm 91
"He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High"
Psalm of protection
Ivory from Genoels-Elderen left.JPG
Late 8th century ivory plaque with Christ treading on the beasts, illustrating verse 13. From Genoels-Elderen
(in current-day Belgium).[1]
Other name
  • Psalm 90
  • "Qui habitat"
LanguageHebrew (original)

Psalm 91 is the 91st psalm of the Book of Psalms, beginning in English in the King James Version: "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." In the slightly different numbering system in the Greek Septuagint version of the Bible and in the Latin Vulgate, this psalm is Psalm 90. In Latin, it is known as 'Qui habitat".[2] As a psalm of protection, it is commonly invoked in times of hardship. Though no author is mentioned in the Hebrew text of this psalm, Jewish tradition ascribes it to Moses, with David compiling it in his Book of Psalms. The Septuagint translation attributes it to David.[3]

The psalm is a regular part of Jewish, Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican and other Protestant liturgies. The complete psalm and selected verses have been set to music often, notably by Heinrich Schütz and Felix Mendelssohn, who used verses for his motet Denn er hat seinen Engeln befohlen. The psalm has been paraphrased in hymns.

Background and themes[edit]

The Midrash states that Psalm 91 was composed by Moses on the day he completed the building of the Tabernacle in the desert. The verses describe Moses' own experience entering the Tabernacle and being enveloped by the Divine cloud.[4] Midrash Tehillim and Zohar teach that Moses composed this psalm while ascending into the cloud hovering over Mount Sinai, at which time he recited these words as protection from the angels of destruction.[5]

In Jewish thought, Psalm 91 conveys the themes of God's protection and rescue from danger.[6] The Talmud (Shevu'ot 15b) records opinions calling this psalm the "song of evil spirits" and the "song of plagues" ("shir shel pega'im" and "shir shel nega'im," respectively), for "one who recites it with faith in God will be helped by Him in time of danger".[4] Since the times of the Geonim, this psalm was recited to drive away demons and evil spirits.[7] According to midrashim, the psalm references many types of demons that threaten man, including the "Terror", "Arrow", "Pestilence", and "Destruction" mentioned in verses 5–6.[8] The psalm was written in amulets by both Jews and Christians from the Late Antique period.[9][10] According to the Talmud (Shevu'ot 15b), the subsequent verse, verse 7 ("A thousand shall fall at your side," etc.) is a reference to the demons which would perish upon recitation of this psalm. In the same vein, Psalm 91 was included as one of the "Four Psalms Against Demons" in Dead Sea Scroll 11QapocrPs, the other three psalms being previously unknown, which are thought to have been used by the Qumran community for exorcisms.[11][12]

Modern-day Christians see the psalm as a source of comfort and protection, even in times of suffering.[13]

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.


The psalm is originally written in the Hebrew language. It is is divided into 16 verses.[14]

Hebrew Bible version[edit]

Following is the Hebrew text of Psalm 91:[14]

Verse Hebrew
1 יֹשֵׁב בְּסֵ֣תֶר עֶלְי֑וֹן בְּצֵ֥ל שַׁ֜דַּ֗י יִתְלוֹנָֽן
2 אֹמַ֗ר לַֽ֖יהֹוָה מַחְסִּ֣י וּמְצֽוּדָתִ֑י אֱ֜לֹהַ֗י אֶבְטַח־בּֽוֹ
3 כִּ֚י ה֣וּא יַ֖צִּֽילְךָ מִפַּ֥ח יָק֗וּשׁ מִדֶּ֥בֶר הַוּֽוֹת
4 בְּאֶבְרָת֨וֹ | יָ֥סֶךְ לָ֗ךְ וְתַ֣חַת כְּנָפָ֣יו תֶּחְסֶּ֑ה צִנָּ֖ה וְסֹֽחֵרָ֣ה אֲמִתּֽוֹ
5 לֹֽא־תִ֖ירָא מִפַּ֣חַד לָ֑יְלָה מֵ֜חֵ֗ץ יָ֘ע֥וּף יוֹמָֽם
6 מִדֶּבֶר בָּאֹ֣פֶל יַֽהֲלֹ֑ךְ מִ֜קֶּ֗טֶב יָ֘שׁ֥וּד צָֽהֳרָֽיִם
7 יִפֹּ֚ל מִצִּדְּךָ֨ | אֶ֗לֶף וּרְבָבָ֥ה מִֽימִינֶ֑ךָ אֵ֜לֶ֗יךָ לֹ֣א יִגָּֽשׁ
8 רַק בְּעֵינֶ֣יךָ תַבִּ֑יט וְשִׁלֻּמַ֖ת רְשָׁעִ֣ים תִּרְאֶֽה
9 כִּֽי־אַתָּ֣ה יְהֹוָ֣ה מַחְסִּ֑י עֶ֜לְי֗וֹן שַׂ֣מְתָּ מְעוֹנֶֽךָ
10 לֹֽא־תְאֻנֶּ֣ה אֵלֶ֣יךָ רָעָ֑ה וְ֜נֶ֗גַע לֹֽא־יִקְרַ֥ב בְּאָֽהֳלֶֽךָ
11 כִּ֣י מַ֖לְאָכָיו יְצַוֶּה־לָּ֑ךְ לִ֜שְׁמָרְךָ֗ בְּכָל־דְּרָכֶֽיךָ
12 עַל־כַּפַּ֥יִם יִשָּׂא֑וּנְךָ פֶּן־תִּגֹּ֖ף בָּאֶ֣בֶן רַגְלֶֽךָ
13 עַל־שַׁ֣חַל וָפֶ֣תֶן תִּדְרֹ֑ךְ תִּ֜רְמֹ֗ס כְּפִ֣יר וְתַנִּֽין
14 כִּ֚י בִ֣י חָ֖שַׁק וַֽאֲפַלְּטֵ֑הוּ אֲ֜שַׂגְּבֵ֗הוּ כִּֽי־יָ֘דַ֥ע שְׁמִֽי
15 יִקְרָאֵ֨נִי | וְֽאֶֽעֱנֵ֗הוּ עִמּֽוֹ־אָֽנֹכִ֥י בְצָרָ֑ה אֲ֜חַלְּצֵ֗הוּ וַֽאֲכַבְּדֵֽהוּ
16 אֹ֣רֶךְ יָ֖מִים אַשְׂבִּיעֵ֑הוּ וְ֜אַרְאֵ֗הוּ בִּישֽׁוּעָתִֽי

King James Version[edit]

  1. He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
  2. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.
  3. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.
  4. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
  5. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;
  6. Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
  7. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.
  8. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.
  9. Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;
  10. There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.
  11. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
  12. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.
  13. Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.
  14. 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.
  15. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.
  16. With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation.



Psalm 91 is prominent in Jewish liturgy and ritual. It is recited during the Pesukei Dezimra in the Shabbat, Yom Tov, and Hoshana Rabbah morning services.[4] It is also recited after the evening prayer on Motza'ei Shabbat[15][16] and during the nightly Bedtime Shema.[16][17] In each of these prayers, verse 16 is said twice.[18] According to Machzor Vitry, the verse is doubled to complete the spelling of a name of God.[19]

Psalm 91 is recited seven times during a burial ceremony. As the casket bearers approach the grave, they stop every few feet, repeating the psalm. In the case of the burial of a woman, the casket bearers do not stop the procession, but they do repeat the psalm seven times.[20]

Verse 11 of the psalm is recited after the liturgical poem Shalom Aleichem at the Friday night meal.[16]

Psalm 91 is often recited as a prayer for protection.[21] Some say it before embarking on a journey.[16][22]

New Testament[edit]

Western Christianity[edit]

In Western Christianity it is often sung or recited during services of Compline.[24] The psalm forms part of the Benedictine rite of the daily evening prayer Compline.[25] After the Reform of the Roman Breviary by Pope Pius X it was only used on Sundays and Solemnities. In the Liturgy of the Hours it is part of Compline on the eve of Sunday and Solemnities.

In the Revised Common Lectionary (Year C)[26] 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).

Musical settings[edit]


The 1972 hymn in German, "Wer unterm Schutz des Höchsten steht", is a paraphrase of Psalm 91.


Polish composer Józef Elsner set the three last verses of this psalm as an offertorium Quoniam in me speravit, Op.30 (published ca.1829).[27]

Michael Joncas loosely based his hymn "On Eagle's Wings" on Psalm 91.[28]


In popular culture[edit]

US military staffers hold a packet containing a camouflage bandana imprinted with Psalm 91 at the National Day of Prayer breakfast at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, May 2010

Psalm 91 is known as the Soldier's Psalm or Soldier's Prayer.[30] Camouflage bandanas imprinted with the psalm are often distributed to US troops.[30][31][32]

Sinéad O'Connor's debut album The Lion and the Cobra includes a recitation of verses 11–13 in Irish by singer Enya on the song "Never Get Old".[33]

Canadian metal band Cryptopsy references verses 5–8 of the psalm in their song "The Pestilence That Walketh in Darkness" on their 2005 album Once Was Not.[34]

Brazilian-American metal band Soulfly recited the psalm in Portuguese on the bonus track "Salmo-91" on their fifth album Dark Ages.[35]

The Jerry Garcia Band quotes verses 5–6 in its song "My Sisters and Brothers".

Madonna references Psalm 91 in "Virgin Mary (Intro)" on her 2012 The MDNA Tour.[36]


  1. ^ Favreau, Roberto (1991). "Le thème iconographique du lion dans les inscriptions médiévales". Comptes rendus des séances de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres (in French). 135 (3): 613–36. doi:10.3406/crai.1991.15027. Retrieved 2010-03-13.
  2. ^ Parallel Latin/English Psalter / Psalmus 90 (91) Archived 2017-05-07 at the Wayback Machine. Medievalist.
  3. ^ "Psalm 91:1 (LXX)". Blue letter Bible.
  4. ^ a b c Scherman 2003, p. 380.
  5. ^ Kaplan 1990, p. 187.
  6. ^ Morrison, Chanan (2017). "Psalm 91: Dwelling on High". Rav Kook Torah. Retrieved September 15, 2018.
  7. ^ Matt 2004, p. 103.
  8. ^ "Jewish Concepts: Demons & Demonology". Jewish Virtual Library. 2008. Retrieved September 15, 2018.
  9. ^ Kraus 2009, p. 139.
  10. ^ Schiffman 1992, p. 39.
  11. ^ VanderKam, James (July 10, 2005). The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Their Significance for Understanding the Bible, Judaism, Jesus, and Christianity. Bloomsbury Academic. p. 122. ISBN 9780567084682. Retrieved 10 June 2020.
  12. ^ Evans, Craig A. (February 2010). Holman QuickSource Guide to the Dead Sea Scrolls. B&H Publishing Group. p. 316. ISBN 9780805448528.
  13. ^ "God the Protector (Psalm 91)". 2018. Retrieved September 15, 2018.
  14. ^ a b "Tehillim - Psalms - Chapter 91". 2019. Retrieved January 26, 2019.
  15. ^ Scherman 2003, p. 594.
  16. ^ a b c d Brauner, Reuven (2013). "Shimush Pesukim: Comprehensive Index to Liturgical and Ceremonial Uses of Biblical Verses and Passages" (PDF) (2nd ed.). p. 43.
  17. ^ Scherman 2003, p. 290.
  18. ^ Scherman 2003, pp. 382, 596.
  19. ^ Horowitz 1923, p. 114.
  20. ^ Goldstein, Zalman (2018). "The Jewish Burial". Retrieved September 15, 2018.
  21. ^ "Protection". DailyTehillim. Retrieved September 15, 2018.
  22. ^ Reif 2004, p. 1948.
  23. ^ a b Kirkpatrick, A. F. (1901). The Book of Psalms: with Introduction and Notes. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. Books IV & V: Psalms XC–CL. Cambridge: At the University Press. p. 839. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  24. ^ "An Order for Night Prayer (Compline)". Church of England. Archived from the original on 2007-12-14. Retrieved 2007-12-08.
  25. ^ "St. Benedict's Psalmody". University of Toronto. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  26. ^ The Christian Year: Calendar, Lectionary and Collects. Church House Publishing, Church of England. 1997. ISBN 0-7151-3799-9.
  27. ^ See IMSLP work page
  28. ^ Dela Cruz, Darlene J.M. (December 30, 2013). "Response to 'On Eagle's Wings' over the years humbling for composer". CatholicPhilly. Retrieved September 15, 2018.
  29. ^ "Persuasive Music". The Wee Flea. 30 May 2018. Retrieved September 15, 2018.
  30. ^ a b Homan, John D. (January 28, 2005). "'Soldier's Prayer': Heartfelt bandanas presented to local troops". Southern Illinoisian. Retrieved September 15, 2018.
  31. ^ "Protection and comfort wrapped up in a bandana". Orange County Register. March 7, 2007. Retrieved September 15, 2018.
  32. ^ Ruth 2012, p. 105.
  33. ^ "Never Get Old lyrics". Bells Irish Lyrics. 2018. Retrieved September 15, 2018.
  34. ^ "Once Was Not Reviews". The Metal Archives. Retrieved September 15, 2018.
  35. ^ Day, Tom (August 3, 2006). "Interview – Soulfly". Musicomh. Retrieved September 15, 2018.
  36. ^ "Madonna – MDNA World Tour". Discogs. 2018. Retrieved September 13, 2018.


External links[edit]