Verse 3. Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp. Thus let them repeat the triumph of the Red Sea, which was ever the typical glory of Israel. Miriam led the daughters of Israel in the dance when the Lord had triumphed gloriously; was it not most fit that she should? The sacred dance of devout joy is no example, nor even excuse, for frivolous dances, much less for lewd ones. Who could help dancing when Egypt was vanquished, and the tribes were free? Every mode of expressing delight was bound to be employed on so memorable an occasion. Dancing, singing, and playing on instruments were all called into requisition, and most fitly so. There are unusual seasons which call for unusual expressions of joy. When the Lord saves a soul its holy joy overflows, and it cannot find channels enough for its exceeding gratitude: if the man does not leap, or play, or sing, at any rate he praises God, and wishes for a thousand tongues with which to magnify his Saviour. Who would wish it to be otherwise? Young converts are not to be restrained in their joy. Let them sing and dance while they can. How can they mourn now that their Bridegroom is with them? Let us give the utmost liberty to joy. Let us never attempt its suppression, but issue in the terms of this verse a double license for exultation. If any ought to be glad it is the children of Zion; rejoicing is more fit for Israel than for any other people: it is their own folly and fault that they are not oftener brimming with joy in God, for the very thought of him is delight.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 3. The dance was in early times one of the modes of expressing religious joy (Ex 15:20 2 Samuel 6:16 ). When from any cause men's ideas shall undergo such a revolution as to lead them to do the same thing for the same purpose, it will be time enough to discuss that matter. In our time, dancing has no such use, and cannot, therefore, in any wise be justified by pleading the practice of pious Jews of old. --William Swan Plumer.
Verse 3. Let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp. They who from hence urge the use of music in religious worship, must, by the same rule, introduce dancing, for they went together, as in David's dancing before the ark ( Judges 21:21 ). But whereas many Scriptures in the New Testament keep up singing as a gospel ordinance, none provide for the keeping up of music and dancing; the gospel canon for Psalmody is to "sing with the spirit and with the understanding." --Matthew Henry.
Verse 3. Timbrel. The toph was employed by David in all the festivities of religion ( 2 Samuel 6:5 ). The occasions on which it was used were mostly joyful, and those who played upon it were generally females ( Psalms 68:25 ), as was the case among most ancient nations, and is so at the present day in the East. The usages of the modern East might adequately illustrate all the scriptural allusions to this instrument, but happily we have more ancient and very valuable illustration from the monuments of Egypt. In these we find that the tambourine was a favourite instrument, both on sacred and festive occasions. There were three kinds, differing, no doubt, in sound as well as in form; one was circular, another square or oblong, and the third consisted of two squares separated by a bar. They were all beaten by the land, and often used as an accompaniment to the harp and other instruments. The tambourine was usually played by females, who are represented as dancing to its sound without the accompaniment of any other instrument. --John Kitto.
Verse 3. Harp. Of the kinnor the Scripture affords little further information than that it was composed of the sounding parts of good wood, and furnished with strings. Josephus asserts that it was furnished with ten strings, and played with a plectrum; which, however, is not understood to imply that it never had any other number of strings, or was always played with the plectrum. David certainly played it with the hand ( 1 Samuel 16:23 18:10 19:9); and it was probably used in both ways, according to its size. That this instrument was really a harp is now very generally denied (Kitto). The reader will, by this time, have balanced the probabilities as to the nature and construction of the kinnor; and most likely he will be led to think that it was either a guitar or lyre, a belief which seems to be gaining ground, on account of the aptitude of such instruments for the uses to which the kinnor was devoted. --J. Stainer.