and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it; or "direct it" (l); though God works all works of grace for us, and in us, yet there is a work of duty and obedience to him for us to do; nor should we be slothful and inactive, but be the rather animated to it by what he has done for us: our hands should be continually employed in service for his honour and glory; and, whatever we find to do, do it with all the might of grace we have; and in which we need divine direction and strength, and also establishment, that we may be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord: and this petition is repeated, to show the sense he had of the necessity of it, and of the vehemence and strength of desire after it. Jarchi interprets this of the work of the tabernacle, in which the hands of the Israelites were employed in the wilderness; so Arama of the tabernacle of Bezaleel.
(k) "adsis nobis", Tigurine version, Junius & Tremellius; Heb. "sit apud nos", Piscator; "super nobis et apud nos", Michaelis. (l) Sept. "dirige", V. L. Musculus; "dirige et confirma", Michaelis.
INTRODUCTION TO Psalm 91
Jarchi and others think this psalm was written by Moses (m), as was the preceding; but the Targum ascribes it to David; as do the Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions; and very probably, as is generally thought, was penned by him on occasion of the pestilence which came upon the people, through his numbering of them, 2 Samuel 24:1. The person all along spoken of, and to, according to the Targum, is Solomon his son; and, according to the title in the Syriac version, King Hezekiah, so Theodoret, who is called the son of David; neither of which are probable. Some think the Messiah is meant; and that the psalm contains promises of protection and safety to him, as man, from diseases, beasts of prey, evil spirits, and wicked men, under the care of angels; and this not because that Satan has applied one of these promises to him, Matthew 4:6, but because they seem better to agree with him than with any other: and one part of the title of the psalm, in the Syriac version, runs thus,
"and spiritually it is called the victory of the Messiah, and of everyone that is perfected by him.''
It seems best to understand it of every godly man, who is always safe under the divine protection. The Talmudisis (n) call it , "a song of the occursions", or "meetings with evil spirits.".
shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty: who is able to do all things for his people, and is "Shaddai", all sufficient, as this word is thought to signify; has a sufficiency of happiness in and for himself, and of provisions for all his creatures, and of power and grace for his own children: his "shadow" may be the same with his secret place, his power and protection, often in this book of Psalms called "the shadow of his wings", Psalm 17:8, in allusion to birds that overshadow and protect their young with their wings; though perhaps the allusion here may be to the shadow of a tree, and design the word and ordinances of the Lord's house, which are a delightful, refreshing, reviving, and fruitful shadow, Sol 2:3, where gracious souls dwell, and abide with great delight and pleasure. Christ, the Son of God, is sometimes compared to the shadow of a rock, or tree, which screens and shelters from heat; as he preserves his people from the heat of a fiery law, the flaming sword of justice, the wrath of God, the fiery darts of Satan, and the fury of persecutors: under this shadow do they abide or lodge all night, safe and secure, as the word (o) signifies: the Targum calls this shadow the shadow of the clouds of glory; the Arabic version, "the shadow of the God of heaven."
(m) So in Tikkune Zohar, correct. 20. fol. 50. 1.((n) T. Hieros. Sabbat, fol. 8. 2.((o) "indesinenter pernoctans", Junius & Tremellius; "pernoctat", Piscator, Gejerus; "pernoctabit", Michaelis.
"David said, I will say to the Lord,''
he is my refuge: a refuge in every time of trouble, outward or toward; a refuge when all others fail; and is himself a never failing one, a strong refuge, which none can break through and into, and in which all that have fled thither and dwell are safe:
and my fortress; what fortifications, natural or artificial, are to a city and its inhabitants, that is God to his people, and much more; he is round about them, as the mountains were about Jerusalem; his salvation are walls and bulwarks to them; yea, he is a wall of fire about them, Psalm 125:2, they are kept by his power, as in a garrison, 1 Peter 1:5,
my God, in him will I trust; his covenant God, his God in Christ, and who would ever continue so; and was a proper object of his trust and confidence, both as the God of nature, and the God of grace; who is to be trusted in, both for temporal and spiritual blessings, and at all times; to which his lovingkindness, power, and faithfulness, greatly encourage and engage: the Targum is,
"in his Word will I trust.''
(p) Domino, Pagninus, Montanus, Tigurine version, Musculus; "ad Jehovam", de Dieu.
and from the noisome pestilence; the most pernicious and destructive one; which may be literally understood of any pestilential distemper; from which the Lord, by his powerful providence, sometimes protects his people, when in danger of it: or, spiritually, of the pestilential disease of sin, that noisome and deadly one, the plague of the heart, which is the worst of all plagues; and from the ruinous and destructive effects and consequences of which the Lord saves his saints.
and under his wings shalt thou trust; See Gill on Psalm 91:1 and the passages there referred to; the same metaphor is continued:
his truth shall be thy shield and buckler; his faithfulness, which is engaged to keep and preserve his saints safe to his kingdom and glory, 1 Corinthians 1:8, his Son, who is "truth" itself, John 14:6, and whose person, blood, righteousness, and salvation, are as a shield and buckler all around the saints, to secure them from ruin and destruction; and are the shield which faith lays hold on, and makes use of, against the temptation, of Satan; see Psalm 84:11, the word of God also, which is truth, John 17:19, every promise in it, and doctrine of it, is as a shield and buckler to strengthen, support, and secure the faith of his people, Proverbs 30:5.
"thou shall not be afraid for the fear of devils that walk in the night:''
so Jarchi interprets this, and the next verse, of such; as do others of the Jewish writers: a man that trusts in the Lord need not be afraid of men or devils: a fear of evil spirits is natural to men, and very early appeared; perhaps it took its rise from the fatal affair of the fall of our first parents, through an intercourse with an evil spirit; and ever since has been imprinted on human nature an aversion to evil spirits, and a dread of them, and even of all spirits in general; see Job 4:13,
nor for the arrow that flieth by day; the judgments of God, such as the sword, famine, and pestilence; these are called the arrows of God, Deuteronomy 32:23 (q), because they move swiftly, come suddenly, and strike surely, and are open and visible; they are sent by the Lord, and are ordered and directed by him, and hit and hurt whom he pleases, and none else; and therefore such who dwell in the secret of the Lord, and under his shadow, need not be distressed about them: the Targum interprets it of the arrow of the angel of death, which he sends out in the day; see Hebrews 2:14, so Jarchi understands it of a demon that flies like an arrow.
(q) ---- , Homer. Iliad. 1. v. 51, 53.
nor for the destruction that wasteth at noon day; as the pestilence, which may be increased, and rage the more, through the heat of the day; and which destroys great numbers wherever it comes: seventy thousand were taken off in three days by the plague occasioned by David's numbering of the people: the Targum is,
"of a company of devils that destroy at noon day;''
that is, thou shall not be afraid: some think respect is had to a pestilential hot wind, common in the eastern countries, which begins to blow about eight o'clock in a morning, and is hottest at noon; which instantly suffocates persons, burns them, and reduces them to ashes presently, which the Arabs call "sammiel", or a poison wind (s).
(r) "Voluces sagittae", Virgil. Aeneid. 12. "volante sagitta", Ovid. Trist. eleg. 10. (s) Vide Thevenot's Travels, par. 2. sect. 1. c. 12. p. 54. & l. 3. c. 8. p. 135.
and ten thousand at thy right hand; which shows both the great devastation made by the plague where it comes, and the special care and providence of God in preserving his people from it; of which David had an experience, when vast numbers of his people were destroyed by it on the right and left:
but it shall not come nigh thee; it may come near the place where good men are, or else it could not be said that a thousand should fall on their side, and ten thousand at their right hand: the plague that killed the firstborn in Egypt was near the dwellings of the Israelites, though it entered not into them; and that in David's time was near him, though he was not infected with it: but the meaning is, that it should not come so near such as to seize their bodies and they fall by the distemper; there being a particular providence oftentimes concerned for their safety, which guards them from it; see Ezekiel 9:4, not but that good men may fall in a common calamity, and by an epidemical distemper; but then it is for their good, and not their hurt; they are taken away from the evil to come, and are delivered from a worse plague than that by which they fall, the plague of their own hearts, the evil of sin; and so the Targum adds, "shall not come near to hurt", though it understands it of devils.
and see the reward of the wicked; the vengeance of God upon them, and this as a just punishment for their sins; not looking upon it with delight and pleasure, rejoicing in the misery of their fellow creatures, any otherwise than as the glory of divine justice is displayed in it; see Psalm 52:6, the pestilence is always threatened, and it always comes, as a Judgment upon a wicked generation of men; and so it is ever to be considered, and is considered by good men, Leviticus 26:5.
even the most High, thy habitation; it should be rendered, "thou hast made the most High thy habitation"; being an apostrophe of the psalmist to his own soul, observing the ground of his security; the most high God being made and used by him as his habitation, or dwelling place, where he dwelt, as every good man does, safely, quietly, comfortably, pleasantly, and continually: the Targum makes them to be the words of Solomon, paraphrasing them thus,
"Solomon answered, and thus he said, thou thyself, O Lord, art my confidence; in an high habitation thou hast put the house of thy majesty.''
(t) "quniam tu Domine spes mea", Pagninus, Montanus, Musculus; "nam tu O Jehova es receptus meus", Cocceius; so Piscator; "quia tu Domine, es perfugium meum", De Dieu, Gejerus.
neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling; how should it, when they dwell in God, and have made him, the most High, their habitation (u); Psalm 91:1 otherwise it may come nigh their temporal dwellings; See Gill on Psalm 91:7 though it may not enter into them; and, should it, yet not as an evil, or by way of punishment; see Proverbs 3:33.
(u) "excelsum posuisti habitaculum tuum", Pagninus, Montanus, De Dieu, Gejerus.
to keep thee in all thy ways; in walking and travelling from place to place, as Providence calls and directs; and in all civil ways, in all lawful business and employment of life; in all spiritual ones, as the ways of God and religion: what Satan tempted Christ to was neither of these ways; it was not a natural way of going, nor the duty of his office, nor any of the ways of God.
lest thou dash thy foot against a stone; lest they fall into sin, or into any calamity and distress; lest the least hurt or mischief befall them, or the least injury be done them; see Proverbs 3:23. The Targum interprets it of the evil concupiscence, or corruption of nature, which is like a stone; see Ezekiel 36:26.
the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample underfoot; which also may be understood of the great dragon, the old serpent, called the devil and Satan; whom Christ trampled under his feet when he hung on the cross, and spoiled him and his principalities and powers; and who, in a short time, will be bruised under the feet of his people, as he has been already by the seed of the woman, Genesis 3:15.
therefore will I deliver him: from noisome diseases before mentioned, from all afflictions into which he comes, and from all the temptations of the evil one, so as that he shall not be hurt or destroyed by them:
I will set him on high; on the Rock Christ Jesus, that is higher than he, higher than the angels, higher than the heavens, and where he is now out of the reach of all his enemies, and will be set hereafter on high in heaven, among princes, inheriting the throne of glory; yea, even set upon the same throne with Christ himself:
because he hath known my name; himself, his being, and perfections; his Son, the Angel of his presence, in whom his name, nature, and perfections are; and his name as proclaimed in him, a God gracious and merciful; and this not merely notionally, but experimentally, and affectionately and fiducially; for such, that truly know him, love him, and trust in him; and these exalt him, and so are exalted and set on high by him.
I will be with him in trouble; the Lord knows his people in adversity; he visits them in their affliction, grants his gracious presence with them, supports them under it, that they are not overwhelmed by it; he bears them up and through it, and makes all things work together for their good:
I will deliver him, and honour him: deliverance is again promised, to denote the certainty of it; and with this addition, that the Lord will honour such that know him, and love him: all his saints are honoured by him, by taking them into his family, and giving them a name better than that of sons and daughters of the greatest potentate; by clothing them with the righteousness of his Son; by adorning them with the graces of his Spirit; by granting them communion and fellowship with himself, and by bringing them to his kingdom and glory.