Psalm 105:20-24

20. The king sent and loosed him; even the ruler of the people, and set him free. 21. He made him lord over his house; and ruler over all his substance: 22. To bind his princes 1 at his pleasure; and to teach his elders wisdom. 23. And Israel came into Egypt; and Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham. 224. And he greatly increased his people, and multiplied 3 them above their oppressors.


20. The king sent and loosed him. The Psalmist celebrates in high terms the deliverance of Joseph; for God's singular power was conspicuously displayed in a matter so incredible. What is of more rare occurrence than for a most powerful monarch to bring a stranger out of prison to constitute him ruler over his whole kingdom, and to raise him to a rank of honor, second only to himself? The phrase in verse 22, to bind his princes, is commonly explained as implying that Joseph was invested with the chief sovereignty in the administration of the government, so that he could cast into prison, at his pleasure, even the nobles of the realm. Others, conceiving this interpretation to be somewhat harsh, derive the verb rwoal, lesor, which Moses employs, not from roa, asar, which signifies to bind, but from roy, yasar, which signifies to instruct, by changing the letter y, yod, into a, aleph. 4 But I am surprised that neither of them have perceived the metaphor contained in this word, which is, that Joseph held the lords of Egypt bound to him at his pleasure, or subject to his power. What is here spoken of is not fetters, but the bond or obligation of obedience, both the princes and all others being dependent on his will. The expression, which is added a little after, to teach his elders wisdom, evinces that Joseph did not bear sway like a tyrant, difficult and rare a thing as it is for men, when invested with sovereign power, not to give loose reins to their own humor: but that he was a rule and a pattern, even to the chief of them, in the high degree of discretion which he exemplified in the administering the affairs of state.

23. And Israel came into Egypt. The prophet does not rehearse the whole history, nor was this necessary. He only presents to our view how divine providence was concerned in it, which very few consider in reading the narrative of Moses. He accordingly declares, that after Joseph had been sent before into Egypt, to be the means of supporting his father and the whole family, Jacob then came into Egypt, that is, he did so when all things were admirably arranged, that he might find abundance of bread among a people, the proudest of the whole world, 5 when all others were perishing for want of food. From this it appears, that what is accounted to be slowness in God, tends to no other end than to accomplish his work on the best possible occasion.

24. And he greatly increased his people. The singular favor of God towards his Church is now commended by the additional circumstance, that within a short space of time, the chosen people increased beyond the common proportion. In this matter the wonderful blessing of God was strikingly displayed. So much the more offensive then is the barking of some dogs, who insolently scoff at the account given by Moses of the multiplying of the people, because it goes far beyond what takes place in the ordinary course of things. Had the people increased only at the common rate, these persons would have immediately objected, that therein no work of God was to be seen. Thus the object which they pursue by their cavillings is nothing else than to make it to be believed, that the blessing of God had no connection with the case. But we, who are persuaded that it is unwarrantable for us to measure God's power according to our own understandings, or according to what happens by the common law of nature, reverently admire this extraordinary work of his hand. The subsequent clause is a little obscure, especially if we read, The people were strengthened; 6 for the prophet does not seem to refer to that period when the Israelites lived at ease and in prosperity, but to the time when they were contemptuously and barbarously dealt with as slaves. We may, however, understand the language as spoken by anticipation, -- as pointing to what was to happen. In the following verse, it is affirmed, that the Egyptians having changed their mind, began to treat the people with cruelty. Although then the Egyptians did not as yet openly exercise their cruelty against the people, when they were increasing both in number and strength, yet the prophet calls them persecutors. It is certain, that the Israelites, even when they were oppressed as slaves, were a terror to their enemies; and Moses plainly affirms, (Exodus 1:12) that when they were under tyranny and wrongful oppression, it was still abundantly manifest, that the blessing of God rested upon them.

1 "The meaning of to bind his princes is to exercise control over the greatest men in the kingdom, which power was conferred on Joseph by Pharaoh: see Genesis 41:40; also verses 43, 44. The capability of binding is to be regarded as an evidence of authority; a power of compelling obedience; or, in default thereof, of inflicting punishment." -- Phillips.

2 "As the two members of the verse express substantially the same thing, we infer the land of Ham to be the same as Egypt. Ham, the son of Noah, was father to Mizraim, who is supposed to have been the founder of the Egyptians, and hence the two names of the country. Jerome, in his note on Genesis 10:6, observes that Egypt was called in his day, in the Egyptian language, by the name of Ham." -- Ibid.

3 "Ou, fortifia." -- Fr. marg. "Or, strengthened."

4 "For roal, the LXX., Vulgate, and Jerome, certainly had royl, 'to tutor;' or they took roa in the sense of roy, as they took it in Hosea, chapter 10:10." -- Horsley.

5 "En un peuple le plus superbe de tout le monde." -- Fr.

6 "The root Mue," says Phillips, "signifies to be strong, not only with regard to physical force, but also with respect to number: Psalm 38:20; 40:6; 69:5, etc.; in German, a great number is called eine starke Anzahl, a strong number. Number seems to be referred to in this passage."


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