Psalm 68:11
The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it.
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(11-14) These verses refer to the conquest of Canaan, the long history of which is, however, here crowded into one supreme and crowning moment: a word from God, and all was done.

(11) The Lord gave . . .—Literally, The Lord gives a word. Of the women who bring the news, the host is great. The Hebrew for a word is poetical, and used especially of a Divine utterance (Psalm 19:4; Psalm 77:8; Habakkuk 3:9). Here it might mean either the signal for the conflict, or the announcement of victory. But the custom of granting to bands of maidens the privilege of celebrating a triumph (Exodus 15:20-21; Judges 5, Judges 11:34; 1Samuel 18:6; 2Samuel 1:20), here evidently alluded to, makes in favour of the latter.

By the “great company,” or host, we are apparently to think, not of one large body of women celebrating some one particular victory, but successive and frequent tidings of victory following rapidly on one another—

“Thick as tale

Came post with post.”


The LXX. and Vulg. renderings have been the source of the erroneous view which makes this verse prophetic of a numerous and successful Christian ministry: “The Lord shall give the word to them that evangelise with great might.”

Psalm 68:11. The Lord gave the word — The matter of the word, or discourse here following. He put this triumphal song into the mouths of his people; he gave them those successes and victories which are here celebrated. Or he gave the matter or thing which was published. Having celebrated the goodness of God, which fed them in, and led them through, the wilderness, conducted them into Canaan, watered and refreshed the land with plentiful showers, and rendered it fruitful, he now proceeds to speak of the great victories which God had given them over their enemies, and of the great deliverances he had wrought out for them. Great was the company of those that published it — The deliverances wrought out by God for his people were so glorious and wonderful, that all sorts of persons, women as well as men, that heard of them, broke forth into songs of praise to God for them. Indeed the Hebrew word המבשׂרות, hambasseroth, here rendered, that published it, is in the feminine gender, and therefore refers chiefly to the women, who with songs and music celebrated the victories of the Israelites over their enemies, according to the custom of those times, Exodus 15:20; 1 Samuel 18:6. So also in this procession, besides the singers and players on other instruments, we have the damsels playing with timbrels. The clause here, literally translated, is, Large was the number of women who published the glad tidings; which glad tidings are those contained in the next two verses.

68:7-14 Fresh mercies should put us in mind of former mercies. If God bring his people into a wilderness, he will be sure to go before them in it, and to bring them out of it. He provided for them, both in the wilderness and in Canaan. The daily manna seems here meant. And it looks to the spiritual provision for God's Israel. The Spirit of grace and the gospel of grace are the plentiful rain, with which God confirms his inheritance, and from which their fruit is found. Christ shall come as showers that water the earth. The account of Israel's victories is to be applied to the victories over death and hell, by the exalted Redeemer, for those that are his. Israel in Egypt among the kilns appeared wretched, but possessed of Canaan, during the reigns of David and Solomon, appeared glorious. Thus the slaves of Satan, when converted to Christ, when justified and sanctified by him, look honourable. When they reach heaven, all remains of their sinful state disappear, they shall be as the wings of the dove, covered with silver, and her feathers as gold. Full salvation will render those white as snow, who were vile and loathsome through the guilt and defilement of sin.The Lord gave the word - The command, or the order. It is not certain to what the psalmist here refers; whether to some particular occasion then fresh in the recollection of the people, when a great victory had been gained, which it was the design of the psalm to celebrate; or whether it is a general statement in regard to the doings of God, having reference to all his victories and triumphs, and meaning that in all cases the command came from him. The subsequent verses make it evident that there is an allusion here to the ark of the covenant, and to the victories which had been achieved under that as a guide or protector. The entire psalm refers to the ark, and its triumphs; and the idea here seems to be, that in all the victories which had been achieved the "word" or the command came from God, and that its promulgation was immediately made by a "great company" who stood ready to communicate it or to "publish" it.

Great was the company of those that published it - Margin, army. More literally, "The women publishing it were a great host." The word used is in the feminine gender, and refers to the Oriental custom whereby females celebrated victories in songs and dances. See Exodus 15:20-21; Judges 11:34; Judges 21:21; 1 Samuel 18:6-7. The idea here is, that when there was a proclamation of war - when God commanded his people to go out to battle, and to take with them the ark, the females of the land - the singers - were ready to make known the proclamation; to celebrate the will of the Lord by songs and dances; to cheer and encourage their husbands, brothers, and fathers, as they went out to the conflict. The result is stated in the following verse.

11. gave the word—that is, of triumph.

company—or, choir of females, celebrating victory (Ex 15:20).

11 The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it.

12 Kings of armies did flee apace: and she that tarried at home divided the spoil.

13 Though ye have lien among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold.

14 When the Almighty scattered kings in it, it was while as snow in Salmon.

Psalm 68:11

In the next verses we do not sing of marching, but of battle and victory "The Lord gave the word." The enemy was near, and the silver trumpet from the tabernacle door was God's mouth to warn the camp; then was there hurrying to and fro, and a general telling of the news; "great was the company of those that published it." The women ran from tent to tent and roused their lords to battle. Ready as they always were to chant the victory; they were equally swift to publish the fact that the battle-note had been sounded. The ten thousand maids of Israel, like good handmaids of the Lord, aroused the sleepers, called fin the wanderers, and bade the valiant men hasten to the fray. O for the like zeal in the church to-day, that, when the gospel is published, both men and women may eagerly spread the glad tidings of great joy.

Psalm 68:12

"Kings of armies did flee apace." The lords of hosts fled before the Lord of Hosts. No sooner did the ark advance than the enemy turned his back: even the princely leaders stayed not, but took to flight. The rout was complete, the retreat hurried and disorderly; - they "did flee, did flee;" helter skelter, pell-mell, as we say.

"Where are the kings of mighty hosts?

Fled far away, fled far and wide.

Their triumph and their trophied boasts

The damsels in their bowers divide."

"And she that tarried at home divided the spoil." The women who had published the war-cry shared the booty. The feeblest in Israel had a portion of the prey. Gallant warriors cast their spoils at the feet of the women and bade them array themselves in splendour, taking each one "a prey of divers colours, of divers colours of needlework on both sides." When the Lord gives success to his gospel, the very least of his saints are made glad and feel themselves partakers in the blessing.

Psalm 68:13


Gave the word, i.e. the matter of the word or discourse here following. He put this triumphant song into their mouths; he gave his people all those successes and victories which are here celebrated. Or, gave the matter or thing which was published.

Great was the company of those that published it: the works of God on the behalf of his people were so glorious and wonderful, that all sorts of persons, both men and women, that heard of them, broke forth into songs of praise to God for them. The Hebrew word is of the feminine gender, because it was the manner of the Hebrews, that when the men returned victorious from the battle, the women went out to meet them with songs of triumph, Psalm 68:25 Exodus 15:20 Judges 11:34 1 Samuel 18:6.

The Lord gave the word,.... The word of the Gospel to his apostles. He committed the word of reconciliation to them; he intrusted them with it, as a sacred depositum; he gave gifts unto them, qualifying them for the ministration of it; he gave them a commission to preach it; and he gave them a door of utterance to speak it as it should be, and an opportunity to publish it. The Targum wrongly interprets it of the word of the law;

great was the company of those that published it; there were in our Lord's time twelve apostles and seventy disciples, who were sent out to preach the Gospel; and many more in the times of the apostles, and since. The word for "company" signifies an "army" (x): Christ's ministers are soldiers, and war a good warfare; they have weapons which are not carnal, but spiritual, and mighty through God, and they are made to triumph in Christ in every place. And the word rendered "those that published" is in the feminine gender; not as suggesting that women would be preachers of the Gospel under the New Testament dispensation, for that is forbidden, 1 Corinthians 14:34; but in allusion to the custom of women in Israel publishing the victories obtained by their armies and generals; see 1 Samuel 18:7; and it may be it is used to denote the weakness of Gospel ministers in themselves, who have the treasure of the word put into their earthen vessels, that the power may appear to be of God, and not of man; so ministers are called maidens, Proverbs 9:3; and this same word is used of them in Isaiah 40:9. And it may be observed, that notwithstanding it is of the said gender, yet it is by the Targum interpreted of men, thus;

"but Moses and Aaron evangelized the word of God to the great army of Israel.''

And it may also be observed, that this word which signifies a "publishing of good news", is derived from a root which signifies "flesh" denoting, that the good tidings of the Gospel, or of peace and pardon, righteousness, life, and salvation, published in it, are by an incarnate Saviour, or through his assumption of our flesh, and suffering in it.

(x) "exercitus", Pagninus, Montanus, Gejerus, Cocceius.

The Lord gave the word: great was the company of {h} those that published it.

(h) The fashion then was that women sang songs after the victory, as did Miriam, Deborah, Judith and others.

11. The Lord giveth the word:

The women that publish the tidings are a great host.

God’s word is sovereign (Psalm 33:9; Isaiah 30:30). He has only to command, and the victory is won. Forthwith are heard the songs of the women proclaiming the good news. Victories were commonly celebrated by the Israelite women with song and dance. Cp. Psalm 68:25, Exodus 15:20 f.; Judges 5; Jdg 11:34; 1 Samuel 18:6 f. It is a less satisfactory explanation to regard the word as the song of triumph which God puts in the mouth of the singers.

11–14. With a few graphic strokes the poet recalls the victories by which Canaan was won and retained. He refers to the times of the Judges as well as to the original conquest under Joshua.

Verses 11-23. - From God's mercies to his people at Sinai and in the wilderness, the psalmist goes on to consider those connected with the conquest of Canaan, and the establishment of David's widespread rule. The passage is difficult and obscure, perhaps from its embodying fragments of the earlier Hebrew poetry. It is also full of curious transitions, and of ellipses which make the meaning doubtful. Verse 11. - The Lord gave the word. The reader naturally asks - What word? Commentators answer variously: "the watchword" (Cheyne); "promise of victory" (Kay); "the word of command" (Dean Johnson); "announcement of an actual victory gained" (Hengstenberg). I should rather understand a sort of creative word, initiating the period of strife (comp. Shakespeare's "Cry havock, and let slip the dogs of war!"). Great was the company of those that published it; literally, great was the company of the women that heralded it. The reference is to the female choirs which took a prominent part in the war songs of ancient days (see Exodus 15:20, 21; Judges 5:1; 1 Samuel 18:6, 7). Psalm 68:11The futures that now follow are no longer to be understood as referring to previous history; they no longer alternate with preterites. Moreover the transition to the language of address in Psalm 68:14 shows that the poet here looks forth from his present time and circumstances into the future; and the introduction of the divine name אדני, after Elohim has been used eleven times, is an indication of a new commencement. The prosperous condition in which God places His church by giving it the hostile powers of the world as a spoil is depicted. The noun אמר, never occurring in the genitival relationship, and never with a suffix, because the specific character of the form would be thereby obliterated, always denotes an important utterance, more particularly God's word of promise (Psalm 77:9), or His word of power (Habakkuk 3:9), which is represented elsewhere as a mighty voice of thunder (Psalm 68:34, Isaiah 30:30), or a trumpet-blast (Zechariah 9:14); in the present instance it is the word of power by which the Lord suddenly changes the condition of His oppressed church. The entirely new state of things which this omnipotent behest as it were conjures into existence is presented to the mind in v. 12b: the women who proclaim the tidings of victory - a great host. Victory and triumph follow upon God's אמר, as upon His creative יהי. The deliverance of Israel from the army of Pharaoh, the deliverance out of the hand of Jabin by the defeat of Sisera, the victory of Jephthah over the Ammonites, and the victorious single combat of David with Goliath were celebrated by singing women. God's decisive word shall also go forth this time, and of the evangelists, like Miriam (Mirjam) and Deborah, there shall be a great host.

Psalm 68:12 describes the subject of this triumphant exultation. Hupfeld regards Psalm 68:13-15 as the song of victory itself, the fragment of an ancient triumphal ode (epinikion) reproduced here; but there is nothing standing in the way that should forbid our here regarding these verses as a direct continuation of Psalm 68:12. The "hosts" are the numerous well-equipped armies which the kings of the heathen lead forth to the battle against the people of God. The unusual expression "kings of hosts" sounds very much like an ironically disparaging antithesis to the customary "Jahve of Hosts" (Bttcher). He, the Lord, interposes, and they are obliged to flee, staggering as they go, to retreat, and that, as the anadiplosis (cf. Judges 5:7; Judges 19:20) depicts, far away, in every direction. The fut. energicum with its ultima-accentuation gives intensity to the pictorial expression. The victors then turn homewards laden with rich spoils. נות בּית, here in a collective sense, is the wife who stays at home (Judges 5:24) while the husband goes forth to battle. It is not: the ornament (נוה as in Jeremiah 6:2) of the house, which Luther, with the lxx, Vulgate, and Syriac, adopts in his version,

(Note: "Hausehre," says he, is the housewife or matron as being the adornment of the house; vid., F. Dietrich, Frau und Dame, a lecture bearing upon the history of language (1864), S. 13.)

but: the dweller or homely one (cf. נות, a dwelling-lace, Job 8:6) of the house, ἡ οἰκουρός. The dividing of the spoil elsewhere belongs to the victors; what is meant here is the distribution of the portions of the spoil that have fallen to the individual victors, the further distribution of which is left for the housewife (Judges 5:30., 2 Samuel 1:24). Ewald now recognises in Psalm 68:14. the words of an ancient song of victory; but v. 13b is unsuitable to introduce them. The language of address in Psalm 68:14 is the poet's own, and he here describes the condition of the people who are victorious by the help of their God, and who again dwell peaceably in the land after the war. אם passes out of the hypothetical signification into the temporal, as e.g., in Job 14:14 (vid., on Psalm 59:16). The lying down among the sheep-folds (שׁפתּים equals משׁפּתים, cf. שׁפט, משׁפּט, the staked-in folds or pens consisting of hurdles standing two by two over against one another) is an emblem of thriving peace, which (like Psalm 68:8, Psalm 68:28) points back to Deborah's song, Judges 5:16, cf. Genesis 49:14. Just such a time is now also before Israel, a time of peaceful prosperity enhanced by rich spoils. Everything shall glitter and gleam with silver and gold. Israel is God's turtle-dove, Psalm 74:19, cf. Psalm 56:1, Hosea 7:11; Hosea 11:11. Hence the new circumstances of ease and comfort are likened to the varied hues of a dove disporting itself in the sun. Its wings are as though overlaid with silver (נחפּה, not 3. praet, but part. fem. Niph. as predicate to כּנפי, cf. 1 Samuel 4:15; Micah 4:11; Micah 1:9; Ew. 317 a), therefore like silver wings (cf. Ovid, Metam. ii.:537: Niveis argentea pennis Ales); and its pinions with gold-green,

(Note: Ewald remarks, "Arabian poets also call the dove Arab. 'l-wrq'â, the greenish yellow, golden gleaming one, vid., Kosegarten, Chrestom. p. 156, 5." But this Arabic poetical word for the dove signifies rather the ash-green, whity blackish one. Nevertheless the signification greenish for the Hebrew ירקרק is established. Bartenoro, on Negaim xi. 4, calls the colour of the wings of the peacock ירקרק; and I am here reminded of what Wetzstein once told me, that, according to an Arab proverb, the surface of good coffee ought to be "like the neck of the dove," i.e., so oily that it gleams like the eye of a peacock. A way for the transition from green to grey in aurak as the name of a colour is already, however, opened up in post-biblical Hebrew, when to frighten any one is expressed by פנים הוריק, Genesis Rabba, 47a. The intermediate notions that of fawn colour, i.e., yellowish grey. In the Talmud the plumage of the full-grown dove is called זהוב and צהוב, Chullin, 22b.)

and that, as the reduplicated form implies, with the iridescent or glistening hue of the finest gold (חרוּץ, not dull, but shining gold).

Side by side with this bold simile there appears in v. 15 an equally bold but contrastive figure, which, turning a step or two backward, likewise vividly illustrates the results of their God-given victory. The suffix of בּהּ refers to the land of Israel, as in Isaiah 8:21; Isaiah 65:9. צלמום, according to the usage of the language so far as it is now preserved to us, is not a common noun: deep darkness (Targum equals צלמות), it is the name of a mountain in Ephraim, the trees of which Abimelech transported in order to set fire to the tower of Shechem (Judges 9:48.). The Talmudic literature was acquainted with a river taking its rise there, and also somewhat frequently mentions a locality bearing a similar name to that of the mountain. The mention of this mountain may in a general way be rendered intelligible by the consideration that, like Shiloh (Genesis 49:10), it is situated about in the centre of the Holy Land.

(Note: In Tosifta Para, ch. viii., a river of the name of יורדת הצלמון is mentioned, the waters of which might not be used in preparing the water of expiation (מי חטאת), because they were dried up at the time of the war, and thereby hastened the defeat of Israel (viz., the overthrow of Barcochba). Grtz "Geschichte der Juden, iv. 157, 459f.) sees in it the Nahar Arsuf, which flows down the mountains of Ephraim past Bethar into the Mediterranean. The village of Zalmon occurs in the Mishna, Jebamoth xvi. 6, and frequently. The Jerusalem Gemara (Maaseroth i. 1) gives pre-eminence to the carob-trees of Zalmona side by side with those of Shitta and Gadara.)

השׁליג signifies to bring forth snow, or even, like Arab. aṯlj, to become snow-white; this Hiph. is not a word descriptive of colour, like הלבּין. Since the protasis is בּפרשׂ, and not בּפרשׂך, תּשׁלג is intended to be impersonal (cf. Psalm 50:3; Amos 4:7, Mich. Psalm 3:6); and the voluntative form is explained from its use in apodoses of hypothetical protases (Ges. 128, 2). It indicates the issue to which, on the supposition of the other, it must and shall come. The words are therefore to be rendered: then it snows on Zalmon; and the snowing is either an emblem of the glistening spoil that falls into their hands in such abundance, or it is a figure of the becoming white, whether from bleached bones (cf. Virgil, Aen. v. 865: albi ossibus scopuli; xii. 36: campi ossibus albent; Ovid, Fasti i.:558: humanis ossibus albet humus) or even from the naked corpses (2 Samuel 1:19, על־בּמותיך חלל). Whether we consider the point of comparison to lie in the spoil being abundant as the flakes of snow, and like to the dazzling snow in brilliancy, or in the white pallid corpses, at any rate בּצלמון is not equivalent to כּבצלמון, but what follows "when the Almighty scatters kings therein" is illustrated by Zalmon itself. In the one case Zalmon is represented as the battle-ground (cf. Psalm 110:6), in the other (which better corresponds to the nature of a wooded mountain) as a place of concealment. The protasis בפרשׂ וגו favours the latter; for פּרשׂ signifies to spread wide apart, to cause a compact whole - and the host of "the kings" is conceived of as such - to fly far asunder into many parts (Zechariah 2:10, cf. the Niph. in Ezekiel 17:21). The hostile host disperses in all directions, and Zalmon glitters, as it were with snow, from the spoil that is dropped by those who flee. Homer also (Iliad, xix. 357-361) likens the mass of assembled helmets, shields, armour, and lances to the spectacle of a dense fall of snow. In this passage of the Psalm before us still more than in Homer it is the spectacle of the fallen and far seen glistening snow that also is brought into the comparison, and not merely that which is falling and that which covers everything (vid., Iliad, xii. 277ff.). The figure is the pendant of the figure of the dove.

(Note: Wetzstein gives a different explanation (Reise in den beiden Trachonen und um das Haura equals ngebirge in the Zeitscheift fr allgem. Erdkunde, 1859, S. 198). "Then fell snow on Zalmon, i.e., the mountain clothed itself in a bright garment of light in celebration of this joyous event. Any one who has been in Palestine knows how very refreshing is the spectacle of the distant mountain-top capped with snow. The beauty of this poetical figure is enhanced by the fact that Zalmon (Arab. ḏlmân), according to its etymology, signifies a mountain range dark and dusky, either from shade, forest, or black rock. The last would well suit the mountains of Haurn, among which Ptolemaeus (p. 365 and 370, Ed. Wilberg) mentions a mountain (according to one of the various readings) Ἀσαλμάνος.")

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