What does Psalm 91:8 mean?
ESV: You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.
NIV: You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.
NASB: You will only look on with your eyes And see the retaliation against the wicked.
CSB: You will only see it with your eyes and witness the punishment of the wicked.
NLT: Just open your eyes, and see how the wicked are punished.
KJV: Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.
NKJV: Only with your eyes shall you look, And see the reward of the wicked.
Verse Commentary:
This verse refers to the death of the thousands mentioned in the previous verse (Psalm 91:7) as "the recompense of the wicked." Those who trust in the Lord will escape God's judgment, but they will witness it. In an eternal perspective, this is true in the most literal sense (Revelation 20:11–15). In practice, rejecting God's goodness and wisdom generally leads to disaster (Proverbs 1:7; 9:11–12).

Psalm 92:9 echoes this confidence that the Lord's enemies will perish. Psalm 92:11–12 records the psalmist's testimony, "My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies; my ears have heard the doom of my evil assailants. The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon." The wicked may seem to go unpunished now (Psalm 73:3–5), but someday they will feel God's wrath (Psalm 73:16–19). At the end of days, a multitude of unbelievers will follow Satan's lead and camp around Jerusalem, but God will rain fire on them (Revelation 20:7–9). The Devil will be captured and will be thrown into the lake of fire to be tormented forever (Revelation 20:10). God's wrath is the payment for sin.
Verse Context:
Psalm 91:5–13 points out that those who trust in the Lord have nothing to fear because the Lord watches over them. This continues the theme introduced in the prior passage. This segment is notable in that it was cited by the Devil when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:5–6). Jesus responded to Satan's attempt at twisting Scripture with additional Scripture and a better perspective (Matthew 4:7). Trust in God's sovereignty and goodness does not mean an absolute expectation of safety.
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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