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Music Of Biblical Times

The ancient music of Biblical times was often a form of praise. Writings of the time are filled with testimonies of music's power to perform miracles, to heal and to bring about transformation. One important characteristic of ancient language itself was rhythm. That rhythm carried on to include music of praise, of prayer, of sorrow, of war and of celebration. Music is mentioned in the Bible over 800 times and there are many scriptures that refer to music.

From Psalm 33:3 - Sing to Him a new song: Play skillfully with a shout of joy.


The People -

David - It is said King David played the harp to soothe Saul's anxiety. He was an accomplished musician in his time and an instrument maker. A poet by nature, David charmed others with the songs he wrote and played for them. He was a wise and creative king and is the Biblical figure most remembered for his musical abilities.

Jubal - Though no known text goes into details, Jubal is referred to in the Bible (Genesis 4:211) as the father of music. He is considered the pioneer in defining music in relation to musical instruments. Jubal is credited with being the father of the lyre and pipe.

Miriam - Miriam is credited with taking timbrel in hand and leading other women in music and dance. She was a prophetess and presided in the assembly of women. She was considered a skilled musician. Dancing was slow along with the rhythm of the song and performed as a form of praise.

King Solomon - This wise and politically savvy king is said to have written over 1000 songs. He never did things in a small way and brought singers, cymbal players, dancers, harpists and psaltery players into his vast kingdom. Solomon also employed 120 priests to play trumpets. (II Chronicles 5:11-14)

The Shepherds - The flute was considered the sheherd's instrument. Much art work has depicted a shepherd boy leaning against a tree and playing a bamboo flute. It was used for entertaining both the shepherd and the sheep. He carried his flute everywhere along with his staff and other equipment.

The Instruments -

The Harp - Most harps in Biblical days had 10 or 12 strings. Harps were played to worship as well as to soothe and entertain. It was often played with the hand while walking and sometimes had a sounding board.

The Lyre - Supposedly invented by Jubal, the lyre is one of the oldest instruments in human history. It usually had 10 strings and was played with the fingers.

The Trumpet - In ancient times, the trumpet was long and often made of silver, It was usually used to call people to assembly. Trumpets were often seen used in pairs and was the instrument of the priests.

The Timbrel - The timbrel was used most often by dancers and is similar to a tambourine, It was the principal musical instrument of percussion in ancient times. It was used in the Old Testament in both singular and plural form. It is said that the Egyptians used it to scare away evil spirits.

The Flute - Aristotle believed flute music could arouse strong emotions in people and that it had a cathartic effect. Flutes were very popular and were usually made of bone, bamboo, ivory or metal.

The Dulcimer - The dulcimer can also be called a bagpipe. It was made of inflated goatskin onto which was attached a reed mouthpiece. The dulcimer was considered a melody pipe having several finger holes enabling a variety of notes to be produced.

The Cymbals - In Biblical times, cymbals were used to praise the Lord. By clanging two brass bowls together, a rhythm was created. The cymbals are mentioned quite often in the Bible (2 Chronicles 5:12). Cymbal players often accompanied other musicians during a procession.

The Cultures -

The Egyptians - Music, in all its forms, played a significant role in the everyday life of ancient Egyptians. Their musical instruments were well developed and used for worship, processions and parties. They also believed music had an economic purpose. Workers were more productive when singing or listening to music.

The Greeks - The word "music" comes from the "muses", the daughters of Zeus and patron goddesses of intellectual and creative pursuits. Music was very important to the Greeks and an integral part of ancient Greek society. Music was always present at marriages, religious ceremonies and funerals. Epic poetry was turned into ballads and staged musical dramas were common.

The Israelites - Like the music of other cultures in ancient times, Hebrew music was a celebration and joyous sound. Temple music included an all male orchestra and singers. Feast days began with a musical proclamation. Hebrew leaders were careful to discourage music they associated with sensuality or pagan worship.

The Babylonians - The Babylonians regarded music as an accompaniment to story-telling rather than on its own. It was used for entertainment as well as religious ceremonies. Most Babylonian music was instrumental though there was evidence of some singing.

The Romans - The Romans were not known for their originality or creativity when it came to music. Though they did enjoy it, much of the music in ancient Roman days was based on the Greek tradition. Roman music was mostly monophonic and they did not attach spirituality to it as the Greeks did.

This article merely skims the history and beauty of ancient musical tradition. To study it fully would require a tome as big as the Bible.

From Psalm 98 - "Sing to the Lord a new song,.....Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music, ....make music to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, .... with trumpets and a blast of the ram's horn - shout for joy before the Lord, the King."

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