We mentioned that when David set up a “tent” for the ארון in Jerusalem:
it wasn’t a little tent:
but a real structure modeled on the משכן שילה:
It was meant to be a permanent building, the basis of the future בית המקדש.
And David established a service there, led by Asaf and his Levites. In דברי הימים that service is recorded as one long psalm, the הודו לה׳ קראו בשמו that we say as part of פסוקי דזמרה every morning. That psalm is a digest of three chapters of תהילים, 105, 96 and 106 (in that order). It is unclear which came first: was the shorter psalm later expanded for inclusion (in three parts) in ספר תהילים, or was it actually said as three psalms and the author of דברי הימים just summarized them? I will assume the latter and look at each psalm separately, and also deal with the question of why they are out of order. 106 clearly follows 105 in context; 96 seems not to fit.
סדר עולם says that תהילים קה was said in the morning, and תהילים צו and קו were said in the afternoon (I called that a kind of מנחה/מעריב). Let’s look at the שחרית service:
###הודו לה׳ קראו בשמו
This was a psalm of הודאה, acknowledgment or thanks. We’ve talked about that, how הודאה can’t just be listened to, it has to be expressed. Such psalms were meant to be responsive, with a שליח ציבור saying the words and the קהילה reciting the refrain after each verse.
And this song is meant to inspire us to spread the word of G-d’s great deeds throughout the world (הודיעו בעמים עלילותיו).
We are meant to seek out ה׳ (and be happy about it). This is part of David’s mission: building the בית המקדש is a matter of דרישה; ה׳ won’t just hand it to us:
And that דרישה has been lacking until now:
And the specific עלילות that David wants to talk about are the stories of the אבות. We’ve seen other תהילים (like עח) that deal with history but they go back to Egypt and יציאת מצרים. This is the only perek that deals with the prehistory of the Jewish people. I think that David is trying to establish that connection. He’s trying to create a unified country out of a bunch of Israelite tribes that still don’t think of themselves as one people, and he has to go back to אברהם, יצחק and יעקב to do that. The original ברית was with them, and it lasts to this very day: זכר לעולם בריתו.
I don’t have a good reason why יצחק is spelled ישחק here (in דברי הימים it is spelled יצחק) but Artscroll brings a “cute” gematria: the difference between ישחק and יצחק is 210 (ש is 300; צ is 90). There’s a hint to the 210 years of servitude that the fulfillment of the ברית was delayed, but it is still a reason for rejoicing (ישחק) because it could have been much longer:
לא הניח אדם לעשקם
ספר בראשית is full of the stories of the אבות being saved from foreign leaders. David specifically refers to the story of Avraham and Avimelech:
And this pasuk has echoes today:
שלח לפניהם איש
From this point on is left out of דברי הימים. It leaves the story incomplete, which bolsters my argument that דברי הימים is a summary of the actual שירה.
Then David moves to the story of Joseph, emphasizing that it was all part of ה׳‘s plan. The tragedy of his slavery, even “impisoning his soul” (ברזל באה נפשו), was ה׳’s doing: שלח לפניהם איש…עד עת בא דברו.
שלח מלך ויתירהו is intentionally ambiguous:
ויבא ישראל מצרים
Then he gets into more familiar territory, the cycle of Jewish history. We’re successful, we forget G-d, we are punished, we repent and are saved.
שמו בם דברי אתותיו
He skips the years of servitude to come back to G-d’s greatness (he is emphasizing הודיעו בעמים עלילותיו, after all) and recounts the plagues. Malbim says לא מרו refers to the plagues; ה׳ demonstrated His control of nature when the elements obeyed Hi will:
As in תהילים עח, I don’t know why the order is off. He skips דבר and שחין:
Similarly, Ibn Ezra points out that those two did not impress Pharaoh:
שמח מצרים בצאתם
And when they leave בכסף וזהב, the Egyptians are happy to see them go. כי נפל פחדם עליהם may mean simply that the Egyptians were so scared of the Jews that they just wanted them out of the country, but I think it represents something more profound:
Benno Jacob translates וינצלו as “saved”, not “plundered”:
The key to understanding וישאלו ממצרים כלי כסף וכלי זהב ושמלת is that these “gifts” are reparations. They allow בני ישראל to leave Egypt without hating the Egyptians, without always looking for revenge. Rabbi Sacks connects this to a mitzvah in Ki Tetse:
פרש ענן למסך
David summarizes the way ה׳ protected the Jews in the wilderness. Notably, this psalm is all positive; there’s no mention of rebellions and all the sins of the Jews in those years. That’s an important contrast to תהילים קו that follows. This is the happy morning prayer, but it still comes with a message: יתן להם ארצות גוים; ועמל לאמים יירשו׃ בעבור ישמרו חקיו ותורתיו ינצרו. It’s the same message that Moshe gave the Jews 400 years earlier:
It is David’s hope that the nation he is creating out of בני ישראל will be worthy of being the one foretold in the ברית of אברהם, יצחק and יעקב.