- Is it merely an entrance liturgy suitable for a variety of worship occasions, or is it specifically an entrance liturgy to be used in conjunction with the celebration of military victories?
I enjoy reading other people’s take on the psalm, and have no intention of being comprehensive here. I am indulging in my interest in the history of translation by following this psalm throughout two millenia.
Bob writes on Bright Wings, a reference to Gerald Manley Hopkins.
In verse 11 of psalm 68, we meet women again. In this case the most obvious interpretation is that they are announcing good news or a victory. To me this brings to mind return from war or restoration.
הַמְבַשְּׂרוֹת צָבָא רָב
- adonai yitten-omer hamvasserot tzava rav
κύριος δώσει ῥῆμα τοῖς εὐαγγελιζομένοις δυνάμει πολλῇ LXX
Dominus dabit verbum evangelizantibus, virtute multa. Clementine Vulgate
Domine dabis sermonem adnuntiatricibus fortitudinis plurimae Jerome
Dominus dat verbum;
virgines annuntiantes bona sunt agmen ingens: Nova Vulgata
Dominus dedit sermonem: earum quae nunciabant, exercitus magnus erat Pagnini
The Lord schal yyue a word; to hem that prechen the gospel with myche vertu. Wycliffe
The LORDE shal geue the worde, wt greate hoostes of Euagelistes. Coverdale
The Lorde gaue the worde: great was the company of the preachers. Bishop’s
The Lorde gaue matter to the women to tell of the great armie. Geneva
The Lord gaue the word: great was the company of those that published it. KJV
The Lord giveth the word: the women that publish the tidings are a great host. Revised Version
The Lord giveth the word; the women that proclaim the tidings are a great host. JPS
The Master gives word —
the women who bear tidings are a great host: Alter
In Hebrew the verb is definitely feminine and so it must be “women”. There does not seem to be much rhyme or reason to which translations indicated that the verb was feminine, – Jerome and Pagnini, – and those that did not, LXX and Vulgate . To add “virgins” in the Nova Vulgata seems odd. The word is not in the text so it is a supposition that these were unmarried women. It might suggest a custom, but it is still an interpretation. We will come back to virgins later in the psalm.
Regarding the variety of translation, it is possible to suggest that when it is translated without indicating the feminine, it tends to say “sermon”, and “preach” or “evangelize”; and when the women are referred to, then the translation plays down the role and says “tell of the great army”. There is no way one can tell if this is deliberate.
Adam Clarke, 1762 – 1832, makes this remark in his commentary.
- Great was the company of those that published it. “Of the female preachers there was a great host.” Such is the literal translation of this passage; the reader may make of it what he pleases. Some think it refers to the women who, with music, songs, and dances, celebrated the victories of the Israelites over their enemies. But the publication of good news, or of any joyful event, belonged to the women. It was they who announced it to the people at large; and to this universal custom, which prevails to the present day, the psalmist alludes. See this established in the note on Isa. xl. 9.
However, it seems clear to me that this is not a statement about preaching, but simply announcing a victory in war, or other announcement. It does indicate the full and joyous participation of women.
What is interesting is that the verb is in the feminine without a feminine noun first. It seems to be one more indication that this psalm was written by a woman. She quotes the song of Deborah throughout the psalm, she is concerned about children, widows, and homes, she says that those who announce the tidings are a host of women. Women will appear two more times in this psalm. It is not proof, of course, but this frequent mention of women is unusual in the psalms.
This is also the first time in the psalm that the name אֲדֹנָי Adonai, Lord, is used for God. I will write more about this in my next post.