Psa 91:1 NKJV - He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
The "secret place" is very common Hebrew idiom and usually denotes what is done between God and person. Its meaning is not so much of secret in the sense of unknown but hidden in the sense of unseen by others.
The NT uses this idiom in Matt 6:6 -
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Note that here, the place is well know but happens in private is unknown to others except between God and the person praying. In this sense the OT uses the word סֵתֶר as follows:
- Ps 139:15 - secret place of the womb. Again, the place is well known but what happens inside is hidden from view
- Eze 7:22 appears to refer to robbers who desecrate the secret place where Israel worships, namely the inner courts of the temple
- Ps 27:5 contains a similar reference to the sacred place of the tabernacle being the secret place of God where we "hide" while praying and presenting petitions to God.
- Ps 51:6 - it is away from view in the "secret place", alone with God, that David must learn spiritual wisdom
- Ps 81:7 refers to Israel during the desert wanderings being in a secret place, that is alone with God - away from the view of other nations
- Ps 31:20 describes God's goodness being hidden in the secret place of God's presence, that is alone with God when we privately contemplate His majesty
That this sense is the intended meaning in Ps 91:1 is confirmed in V 9 & 10 where we are told explicitly:
Because you have made the LORD your dwelling — my refuge, the Most High - no evil will befall you, no plague will approach your tent.
Benson summarizes this well when he observes:
He that dwelleth in the secret place, &c. — He that makes God his habitation and refuge, as he is called Psalm 91:9, that has recourse to him, and relies on him in his dangers and difficulties; that has access to him, intercourse with him, and worships within the veil, living a life of constant communion with him; shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty — He shall not be disappointed of his hope, but shall find a quiet and safe resting- place under the divine care. A shadow, in Scripture, often signifies protection. But there evidently seems to be an allusion to the most holy place in the tabernacle and temple, and to the outstretched wings of the cherubim covering the ark and mercy-seat: see notes on Psalm 27:5; Psalm 32:7. And it is as if the psalmist had said, He shall dwell like the ark in the holy of holies, under the immediate shadow and protection of the Divine Majesty. It is justly observed here by Dr. Horne, that “in all dangers, whether spiritual or corporal, the members of Christ’s mystical body may reflect, with comfort, that they are under the same almighty Protector.”
The Pulpit commentary reaches a similar conclusion:
Verse 1. - He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High (comp. Psalm 90:1). He who has his thoughts always on God is said to "dwell in him" - to "make his abode with him" - to "sit down in his secret place." He has the Almighty, as it were, for his constant companion. Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. This is not "tautology." What is meant is that "loving faith on man's part shall be met by faithful love on God's part" (Kay). God will extend his "shadow" over the man who places himself under his protection.
In Psalm 91, what is the “secret place of the Most High”?
Psalm 91:1-2 King James Version (KJV)
Security of the One Who Trusts in the Lord.
91 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.2 I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.
It is a figurative place of safety and security for those that seek shelter in the LORD, it is secret because it is unknown to anyone who lacks spiritual perception/eyesight and has no faith in God. Jesus set an example for all Christians to follow.
The Lord is compared here to a bird who protects its young under the shadow of its wings (see Vs 4) He gives refuge to all those the live in harmony with his commandments as stated in the Bible, they are in effect saying to the Lord: "He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. (Vs 2)"
Below is the Greek version of the Psalm as found in “the Septuagint aka the LXX”. In that version this is numbered as Psalm 90. The reason I refer to this is that I don’t know any Hebrew and while dependent on helps, such as an interlinear, I have much more ability to peek into the Greek. Also, the Greek OT was for the most part “the Bible” of the authors of the NT.
1Praise of a Song, by David. He that dwells in the help of the Highest, shall sojourn under the shelter of the God of the sky.
I would suggest a translation (and the following interpretation) more like:
A hymn of honor to David, the one presiding with the support of the Highest, lodging under the protection of the God of heaven.
Now, David was the most celebrated and loved king of the united kingdom of Israel but his name, which means “Beloved”, is often used to refer to his promised offspring aka the Anointed One aka the Messiah aka the Christ. This kind of hymn is called a “Messianic Psalm”. So the one being celebrated is the Messiah, seated at God’s right hand.
2He shall say to the Lord, Thou art my helper and my refuge: my God; I will hope in him.
“He” is David/the Messiah. So in the LXX it is not a “secret place” but rather a “safe place”, as we see as the Psalm goes on;
3For he shall deliver thee from the snare of the hunters, from every troublesome matter.
4He shall overshadow thee with his shoulders, and thou shalt trust under his wings: his truth shall cover thee with a shield.
5Thou shalt not be afraid of terror by night; nor of the arrow flying by day;
6nor of the evil thing that walks in darkness; nor of calamity, and the evil spirit at noon-day.
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 observe and see the reward of sinners.
At this point in the Psalm the psalmist changes to direct address.
9For thou, O Lord, art my hope: thou, my soul, hast made the Most High thy refuge.
I would propose amending that to:
Because you Lord, my hope, have set the Highest as your refuge.
10No evils shall come upon thee, and no scourge shall draw nigh to thy dwelling.
11For he shall give his angels charge concerning thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
12They shall bear thee up on their hands, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
13Thou shalt tread on the asp and basilisk: and thou shalt trample on the lion and dragon.
Now God speaks of the Messiah:
14For he has hoped in me, and I will deliver him: I will protect him, because he has known my name.
15He shall call upon me, and I will hearken to him: I am with him in affliction; and I will deliver him, and glorify him.
16I will satisfy him with length of days, and shew him my salvation.
So the whole thrust of the poem is the absolute trust the Messiah has in his God and the perfect safety and support that God gives to him. The “secret place of the Highest” is God’s right hand, which Paul speaks of here:
Col 3:1-4 NLT - Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God's right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.
Eph 2:4-7 NLT - But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God's grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.