Thoughts on Psalm 68:11

The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it. (Psa 68:11 KJV)

The context of this Psalm is holy warfare. God goes with the armies of Israel and achieves the victory. When the enemy kings flee, the good news is announced at home. God is indeed a mighty conqueror and defender of His people!

Unfortunately, the traditional translations of this text miss something very important. The first three words are indisputably translated “The Lord gave the word.”

The next three words are rich with meaning. The first word is based on the Hebrew root that means “to announce good news.” The Greek equivalent of that word is “euangelion”. We get our word “evangelism” from that. It means also, “to announce good news.”

The form of the word is a participle – which in Hebrew is a verbal adjective, here used as a noun. There is no noun that it modifies. So it would be translated “Those who announce the good news” – in the context, it is the good news of God’s victory over the armies of the enemy.

The next two words are the word for “army” or “host”, and the word for “many” or “multitude”. Added with the first word, the sentence would translate thus: “Those who announce the good news (are) a great army”. So far, so good.

But here’s the tricky bit.  The participle (“those who announce the good news”) is feminine plural. This is not a grammatical feminine gender, but an actual feminine suffix taking the place of a feminine pronoun. English distinguishes between feminine and masculine pronouns in the 3rd person singular (“he” or “she”), but there is no distinction in the plural. “They” can be either. But Hebrew DOES distinguish, and the participle is clearly feminine plural. The only possible translation is “Those (the women) who announce good news”.

These translations get it right:

The Lord gives the word; the women who announce the news are a great host: (Psa 68:11 ESV)

The Lord gives the command; The women who proclaim the good tidings are a great host: (Psa 68:11 NAS)

The King James follows the Greek translation, which inexplicably translates the feminine participle with a Greek masculine participle. It shows how necessary it is for Bible interpreters to learn the original languages. Translations, even old, established ones, err.

So what does this mean? I have simply given you a grammar lesson so far, but it shows at least that the inspired word of God does not expect women to keep their mouths shut. Miriam sang of God’s victory over Pharaoh. Deborah sang a song of victory over Sisera.

The good news of Jesus, David’s greater son, is to be proclaimed to all, by everyone who confesses his name. He has conquered Satan and death and sin and misery by his death and resurrection. The joyful tidings are to be sung and proclaimed and announced throughout the world, and the women ALSO are to make the proclamation!

I once knew a man that refused to sing any hymns by Fanny Crosby because he viewed it as a woman teaching in the church. God clearly doesn’t have the same view.

I do not believe that this has any bearing on the New Testament offices of the church – pastors, elders, or deacons – and I know that there are those who disagree with me. But I DO think this has a great deal to do with the dignity, worth, and value of the women in the congregations. There is no hint here of the women proclaiming the good news ONLY to other women. They are simply said to “announce the good news.” I think this has to do with the universal office of every believer. The Lord gives the word. The women, a mighty army, proclaim it.

Tell your neighbors, sing the songs, proclaim the good news to all. When churches leave the task of evangelism to the ordained offices, the church withers and dies. Go into all the world and proclaim the news! Satan is conquered. Death’s sting is vanquished. The armies of the enemies have fled! This is good news indeed!

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Thoughts on Psalm 68:11

  1. Amen! Well said.
    I also like how the very evidence of the Divinity of Christ is always related to a woman, so Jesus first reveals himself to the woman at the well, He establishes who He is around the adulteress about to be stoned, He shows His power to the woman with the issue of blood, He rises from the tomb and appears first to the women. There are many other examples, the point being it happens with such consistency, we know it is no accident. The woman at the well must go tell the others, the woman at the tomb must go tell the others. To “go tell the others” is the very essence of the gospel.
    Something else I find extraordinary,once Jesus has risen and appeared to Mary Magdalene,for a short moment suspended in time, she actually becomes “the whole church,” as in the only person in the world possessing the good news, the only one who can “go tell the others” that He is risen.

  2. Thank you for posting this and confirming God’s value upon a woman within a congregation. Unfortunately, like you mentioned many take the liberty of insisting that women can hold certain leadership roles within the church.

  3. I remember when I first read a translation which made it clear that verse 11was honouring women’s proclamation of the truth. I shared it with Julie Anne Smith from Spiritual Sounding Board and she was delighted and amazed.
    So many translations don’t convey the gender of the proclaimers in that verse.

  4. Susan

    The NLT gets it right also: “The Lord announces victory, and throngs of women shout the happy news.”
    Fascinating stuff. Thanks for pointing this out.

  5. Susan

    And in my Jewish Publication Society’s Bible (Hebrew and English) in verse 12 (not 11, interestingly) of Psalm 68, it reads “The Lord giveth the word; The women that proclaim the tidings are a great host.”
    Cool beans. 🙂

    • The verse numbers, of course, aren’t inspired, but were added centuries later. When the Hebrew scholars numbered the Psalms, they made the inscription (Psalm of David, etc) the first verse. The English editors didn’t. So the numbering of the Hebrew text and the English translations are off by one verse on those Psalms that have an inscription.
      Interesting tidbit for the day. Thanks for reading!

  6. Pingback: Thoughts on Psalm 68:11 - The Aquila Report

  7. “I once knew a man that refused to sing any hymns by Fanny Crosby because he viewed it as a woman teaching in the church. God clearly doesn’t have the same view.” – This sentence should have been omitted. Writing hymns is not the identical thing as announcing the good news, as in the context of Psalm 68:11. For many God-fearing men AND women, singing a “man-made” hymn over any Psalm which Christ wrote in the book of Psalms would be a deliberate affront to the Lord. Many Reformers would term that a violation of the Regulative Principle of Worship. I would sing an English translation of Psalm 68 or a part of Psalm 68, before I would sing or even discuss any of Fanny Crosby’s hymns, or any man’s hymns, either. “God’s view” is over-broadly deposited within this sentence’s argument, IMHO. The man who refused to sing Fanny Crosby has nothing to add, to an otherwise fine article about the truths found in an accurate exposition of Psalm 68.

    • James Wilkinson, most of us are well aware that some denominations in the Reformed camp believe in Psalm singing only. However, I think your point is a red herring in this discussion. I suggest you argue your viewpoint elsewhere. This post is not the place to raise it.

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