The singers go before,
the minstrels follow after,
in the midst of damsels
playing upon timbrels.
It doesn’t actually say that they were dancing but we all know they were. This verse calls to mind other scenes in the Hebrew scriptures.
- And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. Ex. 15:20
And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter. Judges 11:34
Now it had happened as they were coming home, when David was returning from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women had come out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with joy, and with musical instruments. 1 Sam. 18:6
For each verse in this psalm so far, I have tried to choose a new dance partner, and tonight it is Luther. I have not read his commentary of the psalms, but I do have his preface to the New Testament in front of me. I would argue that, while Luther may read the old testament in the light of the new, he also reads the new testament in the light of the old.(in Luther’s Works page 358)
I am not suggesting a Christological interpretation of this psalm, but simply saying that Luther, like most of the reformers, was not capable of writing about the gospel without framing his thoughts in the language and poetry of the Hebrew scriptures. I see both the evangelists of verse 11 and the girls playing tambourines of verse 26 in this preface.
Update: Iyov has added Luther’s commentary on Ps. 68:26,
- This verse must be taken allegorically. Otherwise the image of a dance would appear incongruous in this sublime and serious context. The prophet wanted to intimate that no joy, no music, no maidens afford as much pleasure as this recognition of Christ, of His grace, and of His work grants the conscience.
Therefore spiritual musical instruments, spiritual maidens, and spiritual dancing are indicated here. The princes are the apostles, as may be inferred from what is to follow. The minstrels are those who glorify God with song and sermon, those who spread God’s glory by means of the Gospel, as well as those who mortify their bodies. The maidens are the souls of Christians regenerated by faith, especially the martyrs. Their timbrels are their own bodies, which they mortify and bring into subjection to the spirit and thereby produce a clear and loud sound of a good life as an example to others, with which God alone is honored and proclaimed.
In all this, the princes must take the lead, as the apostles truly did, inducing the others to follow willingly and gladly with their song and music. Gospel, faith, and all else would be useless and in vain if the mortification and crucifixion of the old Adam did not follow. God and the angels delight in these minstrels, and it sounds lovely to spiritual ears.
From Luther’s works, vol. 13: Selected Psalms II, J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1956.
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