Psalms 107:10-14

107:10 They sat in utter darkness,

bound in painful iron chains,

107:11 because they had rebelled against God’s commands,

and rejected the instructions of the sovereign king.

107:12 So he used suffering to humble them;

they stumbled and no one helped them up.

107:13 They cried out to the Lord in their distress;

he delivered them from their troubles.

107:14 He brought them out of the utter darkness,

and tore off their shackles.

tn Heb “those who sat in darkness and deep darkness.” Synonyms are joined here to emphasize the degree of “darkness” experienced by the exiles. The Hebrew term צַלְמָוֶת (tsalmavet, “deep darkness”) has traditionally been understood as a compound noun, meaning “shadow of death” (צֵל + מָוֶת [tsel + mavet]; see BDB 853 s.v. צַלְמָוֶת; cf. NASB). Other authorities prefer to vocalize the form צַלְמוּת (tsalmut) and understand it as an abstract noun (from the root צלם) meaning “darkness.” An examination of the word’s usage favors the latter derivation. It is frequently associated with darkness/night and contrasted with light/morning (see Job 3:5; 10:21-22; 12:22; 24:17; 28:3; 34:22; Ps 107:10, 14; Isa 9:1; Jer 13:16; Amos 5:8). In some cases the darkness described is associated with the realm of death (Job 10:21-22; 38:17), but this is a metaphorical application of the word and does not reflect its inherent meaning. In Ps 107:10 the word refers metonymically to a dungeon, which in turn metaphorically depicts the place of Israel’s exile (see vv. 2-3).

tn Heb “those bound in suffering and iron.” “Suffering and iron” is a hendiadys (like English “good and angry”), where both words contribute to one idea. In this case the first word characterizes the second; the iron (chains) contribute to the prisoners’ pain and suffering.

tn Heb “the words of God.”

tn Heb “the counsel of the Most High.”

tn Heb “and he subdued with suffering their heart.”

tn Heb “darkness and deep darkness.” See the note on the word “darkness” in v. 10.