What does Psalm 91:4 mean?
ESV: He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
NIV: He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
NASB: He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may take refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and wall.
CSB: He will cover you with his feathers; you will take refuge under his wings. His faithfulness will be a protective shield.
NLT: He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
KJV: He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
NKJV: He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
Verse Commentary:
The psalmist compares the Lord's protection of those who trust in him to the protection a mother eagle gives her chicks. This is depicted as the mother spreading the feathers of her wings over them. Similarly, the Lord covers us with His wings. This is symbolic, of course, since God does not have literal wings. This imagery echoes the cherubim: angels who spread their wings over the ark of the covenant (Exodus 25:18–20). These images faced the mercy seat where the high priest made atonement for the people of Israel. Jesus applied similar symbolism when mourning over the stubbornness of Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37).

This verse also emphasizes the Lord's faithfulness to those who trust in Him. The word "shield" refers to a larger item which covers much of a soldier's body. This is a common part of ancient armor (Ephesians 6:16). A "buckler" is a small shield, often worn on the forearm. This is rendered in translations such as the ESV and KJV from the Hebrew sō'hē'rāh, which can also be translated as a "bulwark:" a mound of earth raised around a defensive position. Whether the psalmist is repeating the concept of a mobile shield, or using different ideas for protection, the meaning is the same.
Verse Context:
Psalm 91:1–4 declares the writer's trust in the Lord as the Most High and the Almighty. He sees God as his defender and faithful protector. This passage uses a wide variety of terms suggesting security, such as "shelter," "refuge, "fortress," "shield," and "buckler." Attempts to use these words as an absolute guarantee of personal safety were refuted by Jesus. He countered that interpretation when Satan tried to use later verses in this psalm as part of a temptation (Matthew 4:5–7).
Chapter Summary:
The psalmist expresses his trust that God is a source of safety. He uses various dangers as symbols of the terrors which God's people do not need to fear. When God has resolved to protect someone, nothing can overcome that safety. Jesus refuted inappropriate use of this promise when being tempted by Satan (Matthew 4:5–7). Those who love God, and honor Him, can count on His provision and protection, and know that nothing happens without His approval.
Chapter Context:
This psalm includes similar phrases to psalms 90 and 92. The theme of this song is trust in God, a common theme in Scripture. Notable parallels can be found in 2 Samuel 22:31, Psalms 9, 37, 40, 84, and 118, Proverbs 3:5–6, Proverbs 14:26, Isaiah 26:3, Nahum 1:7, John 14:1–6, and Hebrews 11. In Psalm 91 the writer reveals what the Lord does for those who trust in Him. Verses 11 and 12 were cited by Satan when tempting Jesus in Matthew 4:5–6.
Book Summary:
The book of Psalms is composed of individual songs, hymns, or poems, each of which is a ''Psalm'' in and of itself. These works contain a wide variety of themes. Some Psalms focus on praising and worshipping God. Others cry out in anguish over the pain of life. Still other Psalms look forward to the coming of the Messiah. While some Psalms are related, each has its own historical and biblical context.
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