Ten Lords a-Leaping
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” Moses was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments. Exodus 34:27-28
The ten lords a-leaping most likely refers to Morris dancers who performed leaping dances between courses at feasts. This type of wild and strenuous dancing probably evolved from more ancient war and fertility dances and would have been a popular form of entertainment for this type of function. Both King Henry VIII and his daughter Queen Elizabeth I had professional Morris dance troupes in their courts to perform as part of the entertainment at royal feasts. Unlike the nine ladies dancing in the previous stanza, where the dancers appear to have been guests dancing for enjoyment, these were professional dancers brought in to entertain the guests while they dined.
The energetic lords of this song represent the ten commandments. The commandments given to Moses on the holy mount form the heart of the covenant relationship between God and His chosen people. It is an appropriate response to leap for joy before the Lord. Elizabeth told Mary that “As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” (Luke 1:44) And King David, who often danced before the Lord, says, “My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.” (Psalm 28:7)
Our True Love gives us an everlasting covenant. Leap for joy.