25. The singers went before, the players on instruments followed after; in the midst were the damsels playing with timbrels. 26. Bless ye God in the congregations, even the Lord, O ye who are of the fountain of Israel! 27. There is little Benjamin their ruler, the princes of Judah in their assembly, the princes of Zebulun, and the princes of Naphtali.
25. The singers went before It is evident that he does not now speak of an army in battle array, but of a solemn assembly held for offering up thanksgivings to God for victory. God had openly shown that he was their leader in war, and to him the song of triumph is with propriety addressed. Mention is made of distinct choirs employed in his service, and particularly of such as played upon the timbrel; for, absurd as the practice may appear to us, it was then customary for the women to play upon that instrument. By the fountain from which they are called upon to bless God, some understand the heart, as it is known that those praises which proceed from the lips merely, and are hypocritical, meet with the Divine reprobation. But I conceive the true meaning to be, that all are summoned to praise the Lord who could deduce their origin from the patriarch Jacob. Many might not sustain the character which answered to their high vocation; but, as the whole race had been chosen of God, the Psalmist very properly invites them to engage in this devotional exercise. At the same time, I see nothing objectionable in the opinion, if any persist in preferring it, that the term is here used to distinguish the true saints of God from those who vainly boasted of being the posterity of Abraham, while they had degenerated from his spirit. Those only who walk in the footsteps of his faith are reckoned to be his children. It has caused some surprise that, in a general description of the sacred assemblies of the people, precedence should have been given to the tribe of Benjamin According to certain interpreters, this is owing to the position which it occupied, as being next to David; and honor is put upon the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali, which, though they lay at a great distance, were in a particular manner friendly and attached to him. Others think that the whole nation is represented under the tribes specified, which were at once the nearest and most distant. These conjectures are probable enough, but the point is one which may be left in uncertainty, as there may have been some other reason, which it is impossible for us to discover. It has been suggested that Benjamin is called little on account of the smallness of its numbers, the tribe having been nearly exterminated for the crime of the men of Gibeah, (Judges 19:20;) but David would not probably have adverted to any reproach of this kind in calling them to take so prominent a part in the praises of God. The inspired writers, in speaking of the tribes, often allude to the patriarchs from whom they respectively took their origin; nor is it surprising that the posterity of Benjamin, who was the youngest of Jacob's children, should receive the designation here given to them; and the truth is, that even antecedently to the heavy stroke which befell them, they were not numerous. Interpreters, by general consent, have considered that Benjamin is called ruler, as Saul, who was first made king in Israel, belonged to this tribe; but I cannot bring myself to think it probable that David would have made such an unseasonable allusion to Saul's memory, whose government is everywhere represented in Scripture as pregnant with disaster, and which was to be buried in that of his successor, whose reign is so prominently brought forward in this psalm. The more likely conjecture is, that this title of dignity is applied in order to put honor upon a tribe, which some might despise for its smallness, and to intimate that the Benjamites, though few in numbers, and not possessed of great influence, formed one head in Israel as well as the rest. Others may be disposed to think that there must have been some illustrious individual in this and the two tribes mentioned along with it, or that the whole tribe had signalised itself in a recent battle. Though honorable mention is made of these tribes, yet the chief place in the numbers assembled together at this time is assigned to the princes of Judah. Some think that the copulative is understood, and read, the princes of Judah and their congregation The Hebrew word which we translate congregation is by others translated stoning. But it seems preferable to construe the words as implying that this tribe presided over the assembly which marched under its auspices in war. The power of summoning the people together is thus asserted as belonging to Judah, and it is represented as honored with the government and primacy of the kingdom.