Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16
1 You who liveA in the shelterB of the Most High,C
A “live” = yashab. This is to sit and so to remain and so to dwell. It is sitting for any reason – as a judge, in order to ambush, or just sitting quietly. Causatively, this can mean settling or marrying. This can also mean continue, endure, or establish.
B “shelter” = sether. From sathar (hide, conceal, or be absent; hiding because something is covered – used in a literal or figurative sense). This is covering, shelter, protection, hiding place. It can be hidden by a mountain, by clouds, in the womb, in a matter of secrecy, through slander, or of nations.
C “Most High” = Elyon. From alah (to go up, ascend, be high, be a priority; to arise in a literal or figurative sense). This is most high, upper. It refers to elevation – so, lofty.
who abideD in the shadowE of the Almighty,F
D “abide” = lun. This is to stop – usually to lodge for the night. It can imply dwelling, enduring, or staying permanently. Figuratively, it can mean being obstinate, particularly with one’s words – to complain.
E “shadow” = tsel. From tsalal (to be or become dark, shade; this is the shade as during twilight or shadow as associated with something opaque). This is shade in a literal or figurative sense. So, it could be shadow, shade, protection, shelter, or defense.
F “Almighty” = Shaddai. Perhaps from shadad (to ruin, assault, devastate, oppress, destroy completely; properly, it is being burly; figuratively it is something that is powerful) OR from shed (protective spirit) OR shadah (to moisten) OR shad (breast). Perhaps meaning almighty, “my destroyer,” “my protective spirit,” “my rainmaker,” “self-sufficient, “who is abundantly,” or “breasted one” – as the one who abundantly provides or grants fertility/abundance to humans. See https://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Shaddai.html#.Xxi6Ep5KhPY
2 will say to the Lord,G “My refugeH and my fortress;I
my God,J in whom I trust.”K
G “Lord” = YHVH. From havah (to be, become) or hayah (to come to pass, become, be). This is the name of the God of Israel, the self-existent and eternal one, the tetragrammaton. This pronunciation has been lost to time so “Lord” is generally used in its place.
H “refuge” = machaseh. From chasah (to take refuge or flee for protection; figuratively, to hope or trust in someone or something). This is a shelter in a literal or figurative sense. It is refuge or place of refuge. It could also be hope or trust.
I “fortress” = matsud. From matsod (bulwark, siege works, net, snare); from tsud (to hunt, to lie in wait in order to catch an animal; used figuratively for capturing people). This is a castle, fortress, or stronghold. Also, a snare, net, or prey. It can abstractly mean capture.
J “God” = Elohim.
K “trust” = batach. This is to hide for refuge, be secure or sure. Figuratively, it refers to trust, being confident, or hoping.
9 Because you have madeL the Lord your refuge,
the Most High your dwelling place,M
10 no evilN shall befallO you,
no scourgeP come nearQ your tent.R
L “made” = sum. This is to put or place in a literal or figurative sense. It can be appoint, care, change, make, and may other things.
M “dwelling place” = maon. 17x in OT. From anah (to answer, respond, announce, sing, shout, or testify; to pay attention, which implies responding and, by extension, starting to talk; singing, shouting, testifying, etc.) OR from the same as onah (marriage, living together, marital duty). This is dwelling, den, haunt, retreat. It can refer to the Tabernacle or Temple. It can also be used for homes or animal lairs.
N “evil” = ra’. From ra’a’ (to be evil, bad, afflict; properly, to spoil – to destroy by breaking into pieces; figuratively, to cause something to be worthless; this is bad in a physical, social, or moral sense; that which displeases, to do harm or mischief, to punish or vex). This is bad, disagreeable, that which causes pain, misery, something having little or no value, something that is ethically bad, wicked, injury, calamity. This refers to anything that is not what it ought to be – a natural disaster, a disfigurement, an injury, a sin.
O “befall” = anah. 6x in OT. This is to meet, happen, approach.
P “scourge” = nega. From naga (touch, reach, arrive, come near, strike; touching for any reason including sexual or violent). This is a blow or stroke, wound, sore, mark plague. It can refer to someone with leprosy or to dress.
Q “come near” = qarab. This is to come near, offer, make ready, approach, take.
R “tent” = ohel. Perhaps from ahal (to shine, be clear). This is a tent, covering, home, or side pillar.
11 For he will commandS his angelsT concerning you
to guardU you in allV your ways.W
S “command” = tsavah. This is to charge, command, order, appoint, or enjoin. This is the root that the Hebrew word for “commandment” comes from (mitsvah).
T “angels” = malak. This is a messenger, an angel, or a deputy of some kind. Can be used for human messengers literally or for prophets, priests, or teachers as messengers of God. Also used for supernatural messengers i.e. angels.
U “guard” = shamar. This is to keep, watch, or preserve. It means to guard something or to protect it as a thorny hedge protects something.
V “all” = kol. From kalal (to complete). This is all or every.
W “ways” = derek. From darak (to tread, march, to walk. Can also mean affixing a string to a box since one needs to step on it to bend it in the process; so also an archer). This is a road as a thing that is walked on. Can be used figuratively for the path that one’s life takes or how one chooses to live one’s life.
12 On their handsX they will bear you up,Y
so that you will notZ dashAA your footBB against a stone.CC
X “hands” = kaph. From kaphaph (to bend – from a root meaning curve or bend down). This is palm of the hand or sole of the foot, footstep, grasp. Figuratively, it can also mean power.
Y “bear…up” = nasa. This is to lift in a broad sense, literally and figuratively. So it could be to carry, take, or arise. It could also be bring forth, advance, accept.
Z “so that…not” = pen. Perhaps from panah (to turn, face, appear). This is lest, if, or.
AA “dash” = nagaph. This is to strike, beat, hurt, stumble, defeat, inflict disease.
BB “foot” = regel. This is foot, endurance, or journey. It is a foot as the means of walking and so it implies a step or a greater journey. It can be used euphemistically for private parts.
CC “stone” = eben. This is a stone, weight, or mason. It is part of the word “Ebenezer.”
13 You will treadDD on the lionEE and the adder,FF
the young lionGG and the serpentHH you will trample under foot.II
DD “tread” = darak. Related to “ways” in v11. See note W above.
EE “lion” = shachal. 7x in OT– 3x in Job, 1x in Psalms, 1x in Proverbs, & 2x in Hosea. May come from a word meaning roar. This is a lion as roaring and fierce.
FF “adder” = pethen. 6x in OT. This is some kind of venomous snake. Its root may mean to twist. Perhaps it is a cobra, asp, or adder.
GG “young lion” = kephir. Perhaps from kaphar (to appease, cover, pacify, cancel). This is a young lion – maybe in the sense that it has a mane covering.
HH “serpent” = tannin. From the same as tan (jackal, dragon, whale). It may stem from a root meaning elongate. It is some kind of monster of land or sea like a jackal or a sea serpent.
II “trample under foot” = ramas. 19x in OT. This is to trample or tread down. It could be to work as a potter, to walk, or to be abusive.
14 Those who loveJJ me, I will deliver;KK
I will protectLL those who knowMM my name.NN
JJ “love” = chashaq. 11x in OT. This is to cling, have a desire, love, join, deliver.
KK “deliver” = palat. This is to escape, slip out, deliver, carry away, or calve.
LL “protect” = sagab. This is to raise, lifted, high, set secure on high, excellent, or strong. It is inaccessibly high in a literal and figurative sense. It implies something that is safe and, therefore, something that is strong.
MM “know” = yada. This is to know, acknowledge, advise, answer, be aware, be acquainted with. Properly, this is to figure something out by seeing. It includes ideas of observation, recognition, and care about something. It can be used causatively for instruction, designation, and punishment.
NN “name” = shem. Related to “made” in v9. May be from sum (see note L above). This is name, fame, renown. A name was thought to indicate something essential about a person – something about their individuality. So, this word can also mean honor, authority, or character.
15 When they callOO to me, I will answerPP them;
I will be with them in trouble,QQ
I will rescueRR them and honorSS them.
OO “call” = qara. This is to call or call out – to call someone by name. Also used more broadly for calling forth.
PP “answer” = anah. Related to “dwelling place” in v9. See note M above
QQ “trouble” = tsarah. From tsar (properly, a narrow or constricted place; figuratively, trouble, a pebble, an enemy, anguish, or distress); from tsarar (to bind, restrict, narrow, be cramped, an adversary). This is tightness, distress, affliction, trouble, or adversary.
RR “rescue” = chalats. This is to withdraw, pull off, leave, equip for a fight, strengthen.
SS “honor” = kabad. To be heavy, weighty, or severe. It can also be positive abounding in, rich, or honorable. The Hebrew word for “glory,” kabod, is taken from this root.
16 With long lifeTT I will satisfyUU them,
and showVV them my salvation.WW
TT “long life” = orek + yom. Literally, “length of days.” Orek is from arak (to be long in a literal or figurative sense, to continue, defer, draw out). This is length, long, or forever. Yom has a root that may mean being hot. This is the day in a literal or figurative sense. It can also mean birth, age, daylight, continually or other references to time.
UU “satisfy” = saba. To be satisfied or full in a literal or figurative sense. Also, to have plenty of.
VV “show” = raah. This is to see in a literal or figurative sense so stare, advise, think, view.
WW “salvation” = yehsuah. From yasha (to deliver, defend, help, preserve, rescue, be safe. Properly, to be open, wide or free, which implies being safe. Used causatively, it means to free). This is salvation, deliverance, health, victory, prosperity.
Image credit: “proof” by woodleywonderworks, 2009.