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 Genoelselderen
(in present-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 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.

In the slightly different numbering system used in the Greek Septuagint and Latin Vulgate translations of the Bible, this psalm is Psalm 90.

The psalm forms a regular part of Jewish, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican and other Protestant liturgies. The complete psalm and selected verses have often been set to music, 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. The psalm was originally written in the Hebrew language. It is divided into 16 verses.

Hebrew Text[edit]

The following table shows the Hebrew text[3][4] of the Psalm with vowels alongside an English translation based upon the JPS 1917 translation (now in the public domain).

Verse Hebrew text English translation (JPS 1917)
1 יֹ֭שֵׁב בְּסֵ֣תֶר עֶלְי֑וֹן בְּצֵ֥ל שַׁ֝דַּ֗י יִתְלוֹנָֽן׃ O thou that dwellest in the covert of the Most High, And abidest in the shadow of the Almighty;
2 אֹמַ֗ר לַ֭יהֹוָה מַחְסִ֣י וּמְצוּדָתִ֑י אֱ֝לֹהַ֗י אֶבְטַח־בּֽוֹ׃ I will say of the LORD, who is my refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust,
3 כִּ֤י ה֣וּא יַ֭צִּילְךָ מִפַּ֥ח יָק֗וּשׁ מִדֶּ֥בֶר הַוּֽוֹת׃ That He will deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, And from the noisome pestilence.
4 בְּאֶבְרָת֨וֹ ׀ יָ֣סֶךְ לָ֭ךְ וְתַחַת־כְּנָפָ֣יו תֶּחְסֶ֑ה צִנָּ֖ה וְסֹחֵרָ֣ה אֲמִתּֽוֹ׃ He will cover thee with His pinions, And under His wings shalt thou take refuge; His truth is a shield and a buckler.
5 לֹֽא־תִ֭ירָא מִפַּ֣חַד לָ֑יְלָה מֵ֝חֵ֗ץ יָע֥וּף יוֹמָֽם׃ Thou shalt not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flieth by day;
6 מִ֭דֶּבֶר בָּאֹ֣פֶל יַהֲלֹ֑ךְ מִ֝קֶּ֗טֶב יָשׁ֥וּד צׇהֳרָֽיִם׃ Of the pestilence that walketh in darkness, Nor of the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
7 יִפֹּ֤ל מִצִּדְּךָ֨ ׀ אֶ֗לֶף וּרְבָבָ֥ה מִימִינֶ֑ךָ אֵ֝לֶ֗יךָ לֹ֣א יִגָּֽשׁ׃ A thousand may fall at Thy side, And ten thousand at Thy right hand; It shall not come nigh thee.
8 רַ֭ק בְּעֵינֶ֣יךָ תַבִּ֑יט וְשִׁלֻּמַ֖ת רְשָׁעִ֣ים תִּרְאֶֽה׃ Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold, And see the recompense of the wicked.
9 כִּֽי־אַתָּ֣ה יְהֹוָ֣ה מַחְסִ֑י עֶ֝לְי֗וֹן שַׂ֣מְתָּ מְעוֹנֶֽךָ׃ For thou hast made the LORD who is my refuge, Even the Most High, thy habitation.
10 לֹא־תְאֻנֶּ֣ה אֵלֶ֣יךָ רָעָ֑ה וְ֝נֶ֗גַע לֹא־יִקְרַ֥ב בְּאׇהֳלֶֽךָ׃ There shall no evil befall thee, Neither shall any plague come nigh thy tent.
11 כִּ֣י מַ֭לְאָכָיו יְצַוֶּה־לָּ֑ךְ לִ֝שְׁמׇרְךָ֗ בְּכׇל־דְּרָכֶֽיךָ׃ For He will give His angels charge over thee, To keep thee in all thy ways.
12 עַל־כַּפַּ֥יִם יִשָּׂא֑וּנְךָ פֶּן־תִּגֹּ֖ף בָּאֶ֣בֶן רַגְלֶֽךָ׃ They shall bear thee upon their hands, Lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.
13 עַל־שַׁ֣חַל וָפֶ֣תֶן תִּדְרֹ֑ךְ תִּרְמֹ֖ס כְּפִ֣יר וְתַנִּֽין׃ Thou shalt tread upon the lion and asp; The young lion and the serpent shalt thou trample under feet.
14 כִּ֤י בִ֣י חָ֭שַׁק וַאֲפַלְּטֵ֑הוּ אֲ֝שַׂגְּבֵ֗הוּ כִּֽי־יָדַ֥ע שְׁמִֽי׃ '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 יִקְרָאֵ֨נִי ׀ וְֽאֶעֱנֵ֗הוּ עִמּֽוֹ־אָנֹכִ֥י בְצָרָ֑ה אֲ֝חַלְּצֵ֗הוּ וַאֲכַבְּדֵֽהוּ׃ He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him, and bring him to honour.
16 אֹ֣רֶךְ יָ֭מִים אַשְׂבִּיעֵ֑הוּ וְ֝אַרְאֵ֗הוּ בִּישׁוּעָתִֽי׃ {פ‎} With long life will I satisfy him, And make Him to behold My salvation.'

English translation (King James Version)[5][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.

Verse 2[edit]

I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust".[6]

Kirkpatrick notes that the use of the first person in this verse and the first part of verse 9, followed in each case by the second person, is "somewhat perplexing". Many commentators argue that the text is corrupt and amend it. Kirkpartick argues that "The two occurrences of the first person mutually support one another. If the interpretation suggested above is adopted [that the text is addressed to Israel], Psalm 91:1-2 [and] Psalm 91:9a will be the profession of the Psalmist’s faith, on the strength of which he addresses to Israel the comforting words of Psalm 91:3 ff. [and] Psalm 91:9b ff."[7]

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: "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty". [8] 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.[9]

In Jewish thought, Psalm 91 conveys the themes of God's protection and rescue from danger.[10] 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".[8] Since the times of the Geonim, this psalm was recited to drive away demons and evil spirits.[11] 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.[12] The psalm was written in amulets by both Jews and Christians from the Late Antique period.[13][14] 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.[15][16]

Modern-day Christians see the psalm as a source of comfort and protection, even in times of suffering.[7] Commentator Alexander Kirkpatrick holds that

This exquisite Psalm may no doubt simply describe the security of the godly man under Jehovah’s protection amid the perils of his journey through life. But it gains in point and force if it is regarded as addressed to Israel in a crisis of its history.[7]

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.



Psalm 91 is prominent in Jewish liturgy and ritual. It is recited during the Pesukei Dezimra in the Shabbat, Yom Tov, and - in many communities - on Hoshana Rabbah morning services.[8] It is also recited after the evening prayer on Motza'ei Shabbat[17][18] and during the nightly Bedtime Shema.[18][19] In each of these prayers, verse 16 is said twice.[20] According to Machzor Vitry, the verse is doubled to complete the spelling of a name of God.[21]

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.

Verse 11 of the psalm is recited after the liturgical poem Shalom Aleichem at the Friday night meal.[18]

Psalm 91 is often recited as a prayer for protection.[22] Some say it before embarking on a journey.[18][23]

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. "On Eagle's Wings" is a hymn composed by Michael Joncas in 1979, loosely based on this psalm.[27]


Dmitry Bortniansky set Psalm 91 as Concerto No. 21 of his Choruses in Old Church Slavonic, Zhyvyi v pomoshshi Vyshnjago ("He That Dwelleth"). Felix Mendelssohn composed an eight-part motet based on verse 11 in German, Denn er hat seinen Engeln befohlen, and included it in his 1846 oratorio Elijah. Movement 9 of Benjamin Britten's The Company of Heaven, a major choral composition with soloists and orchestra first aired in 1937, sets verses 1, 9–13 for a cappella choir. with the densest vocal texture within the work for eight voices.[28]

Polish composer Józef Elsner set the three last verses of as an offertorio, Quoniam in me speravit, Op.30, published c. 1829.[29]

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. ^ "Psalms – Chapter 91". Mechon Mamre.
  4. ^ "Psalms 91 - JPS 1917".
  5. ^ Psalm 91 KJV
  6. ^ Psalm 91:2: New King James Version
  7. ^ a b c d e Kirkpatrick, A. F. (1901). The Book of Psalms: with Introduction and Notes. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. Vol. Books IV & V: Psalms XC–CL. Cambridge: At the University Press. p. 839. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  8. ^ a b c Scherman 2003, p. 380.
  9. ^ Kaplan 1990, p. 187.
  10. ^ Morrison, Chanan (2017). "Psalm 91: Dwelling on High". Rav Kook Torah. Retrieved September 15, 2018.
  11. ^ Matt 2004, p. 103.
  12. ^ "Demons & Demonology". Jewish Virtual Library. 2008. Retrieved May 17, 2022.
  13. ^ Kraus 2009, p. 139.
  14. ^ Schiffman 1992, p. 39.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ Evans, Craig A. (February 2010). Holman QuickSource Guide to the Dead Sea Scrolls. B&H Publishing Group. p. 316. ISBN 9780805448528.
  17. ^ Scherman 2003, p. 594.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ Scherman 2003, p. 290.
  20. ^ Scherman 2003, pp. 382, 596.
  21. ^ Horowitz 1923, p. 114.
  22. ^ "Protection". DailyTehillim. Archived from the original on December 14, 2018. Retrieved September 15, 2018.
  23. ^ Reif 2004, p. 1948.
  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. ^ Dela Cruz, Darlene J.M. (December 30, 2013). "Response to 'On Eagle's Wings' over the years humbling for composer". Catholic News Service.
  28. ^ The Company of Heaven (in German). Darmstädter Kantorei. 2000.
  29. ^ See IMSLP work page
  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.


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