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91. Psalm 91

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

2I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.

3Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.

4He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

5Thou 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.

7A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.

8Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.

9Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;

10There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

11For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

12They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

13Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.

14Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.

15He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.

16With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.

13. Thou shalt walk over the lion and asp. The same truth is here expressed in different words. He had already spoken of the obstacles which Satan throws in our course under the figure of a stone. Now he speaks of the formidable troubles to which we are exposed in the world under the figures of the asp, lion, young lion, and dragon So long as we are here we may be truly said to walk amongst wild beasts, and such as threaten us with destruction. And in this case what would become of us did not God promise to make us victorious over the manifold evils which everywhere impend us? None who seriously considers the temptations to which he is liable will wonder that the Psalmist, with the view of removing apprehension from the minds of the Lord’s people, should have adopted the language of hyperbole; nor indeed will he say that it is the language of hyperbole, but a true and exact representation of their case. We boast much of our courage so long as we remain at a distance from the scene of danger; but no sooner are we brought into action, than in the smallest matters we conjure up to ourselves lions, and dragons, and a host of frightful dangers. The Psalmist accommodates his language to this infirmity of our carnal apprehension. The Hebrew word שחל, shachal, which in the Septuagint is rendered asp, 581581     Calvin’s reading of this verse is different from that of our English Bible. According to it, thou, in the first clause, refers to the Psalmist; while, according to him, it is to be understood of God. Hammond gives a similar version. “Because thou, O Lord! art my hope; thou hast made the Most High thy help or refuge.” All the ancient versions understand the first clause as spoken of God. In the Septuagint it is σὺ Κύριε ἡ ἔλπις μου, “thou, O Lord! art my hope.” Similar is the reading of the Chaldee, the Syriac, and Vulgate. But the last member of the verse, “thou hast made the Most High thy refuge,” is generally referred to the Psalmist, and regarded as a part of a soliloquy to which, when alone, his soul gave utterance. signifies a lion, and such repetition in the second member of the sentence is usual in the Hebrew. There is therefore no occasion for seeking any nice distinction which may have been intended in specifying these four different kinds of animals; only by the lion and young lion we are evidently to understand more open dangers, where we are assailed by force and violence, and by the serpent and dragon hidden mischiefs, where the enemy springs upon us insidiously and unexpectedly, as the serpent from its lurking place. 582582     ἀσπιδα. The most ancient versions correspond in this respect with the Septuagint, as the Vulgate, St Jerome’s, Apollinaris’, the Syriac, Arabic, and Æthiopic versions, rendering שחל, shachal, not by the lion but by the asp, though they are not agreed as to the particular kind of asp which is intended. This opinion is adopted by the learned Bochart, (Hieroz. volume 3, lib. 3, cap. 3,) who thinks it probable that throughout the verse serpents only are spoken of, and other interpreters have concurred in the same view. He thinks שחל, shachal, rendered “the lion,” is the black serpent, or hoemorhous; and כפיר, kepher, rendered “young lion,” has been supposed to be the cenchris, which Nicander (Theriac, 5, 463) calls λέων ἄιολος, the spotted lion, because he is speckled, and, like the lion, raises his tail when about to fight, and bites and gluts himself with blood. Bochart objects to the lion and young lion being meant, on the ground of the incongruity of animals of so very different a nature as lions and serpents being joined together; and observes, that to walk upon the lion seems not a very proper expression, as men do not in walking tread on lions as they do on serpents. But the lion and the young lion, the rendering of later interpreters, correspond to each other, and preserve the parallelism for which the Hebrew poetry is distinguished, and the reasons assigned by Bochart for setting it aside seem insufficient. The lion and the serpent are formidable animals to contend with; and Satan, one of the enemies to be “put in subjection under the feet of Christ,” is, in the New Testament, compared both to the lion and the dragon, (1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 12:9.) “Let it be added,” says Merrick, “that the Hebrew text says nothing of walking upon the lion, but has the word תדרך, which strictly signifies calcabis, thou shalt tread; and as to trample on the nations, and to make his enemies his footstool, are expressions used to signify the subduing and triumphing over them; to tread on the lion and the serpent may be understood in the same sense.”
   Cresswell thinks it probable that the language of this verse is proverbial. “The course of human life,” he remarks, “is in Scripture compared to a journey; and the dangers described in this verse were common to the wayfaring man in the Psalmist’s time and country.”


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