The motive of this historical psalm is plainly declared in Psalm 105:44-45, and the scope which the author allowed himself in the survey of the past appears in Psalm 105:11. He wishes this generation to remember that the continued possession of the Promised Land is contingent on obedience to the covenant God. In fact, the psalm is an elaboration of the charge so often repeated in the Book of Deuteronomy: “For the Lord thy God shall greatly bless thee in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, only if thou carefully hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God to observe to do all these commandments which I command thee this day “(Deuteronomy 15:4-5).
The psalm dates from a time prior to the composition of the first Book of Chronicles, for it forms part of the compilation of song in chapter 16; but there is no other indication by which to assign date or authorship. The conjecture is probable that it was compiled for liturgic use soon after the re-settlement in the country after the Captivity. The parallel structure, which is of the synthetic kind, alone gives it a claim to rank with poetry.
As to the term “prophet,” the poet found it expressly conferred on Abraham in Genesis 20:7.
Staff of bread.—Leviticus 26:26. (See, too, Note on Psalm 104:15.)
Word of the Lord.—As a different Hebrew word from that in the previous clause is used, better render, saying (or, oracle) of Jehovah.
Tried him.—Better, purified him, i.e., proved him innocent of the charge for which he was imprisoned. (For this sense of the verb, see Psalm 17:3; Psalm 18:30; Proverbs 30:5, margin.) The psalmist means that by enabling him to foretell the dreams of Pharaoh’s servants, God brought about the proof of his innocence.
Deal subtilly.—The reference is to the murdering of the male children (Exodus 1:10 : “Come and let us deal wisely with them”).
His signs.—Literally (as in margin), the words of his tokens; but it may also be rendered, “the details of his signs.”(Comp. Psalm 65:3 : “matters of iniquity,” or, “details of sin.”) So here, “details of signs,” i.e., signs in detail or sequence, sign after sign.
The simplest explanation is to take the verb as imperfect subjunctive: “He sent darkness, and made it dark, that they might not rebel against his word.”
But this fails to supply a reason for the position in the list of the ninth plague, and the suggested emendation of Mr. Burgess is so satisfactory in this respect, that it almost by itself carries conviction with it. By a very slight change, he obtains: “He sent darkness, and darkened them, that they might not discern his tokens;” taking deber in the same sense that it bears in Psalm 105:27.
Thus the plague of darkness is, by a slight device of the poet, made to symbolise the moral blindness displayed by the Egyptians throughout.