The ancient Hebrews had a great taste for music, which they used in their religious services, in their public and private rejoicing, at their weddings and feasts, and even in their mourning. We have in Scripture canticles of joy, of thanksgiving, of praise, of mourning; also mournful elegies or songs, as those of David on the death of Saul and Abner, and the Lamentations of Jeremiah on the destruction of Jerusalem; so, too, songs of victory, triumph, and gratulation, as that which Moses sung after passing the Red Sea, that of Deborah and Barak, and others. The people of God went up to Jerusalem thrice a year, cheered on their way with songs of joy, Ps 84:12; Isa 30:29. The book of Psalms comprises a wonderful variety of inspired pieces for music, and is an inexhaustible treasure for the devout in all ages.
Music is perhaps the most ancient of the fine arts. Jubal, who lived before the deluge, was the "father" of those who played on the harp and the organ, Ge 4:21; 31:26-27. Laban complains that his son-in-law Jacob had left him, without giving him an opportunity of sending his family away "with mirth and with songs, with tabret and with harp." Moses, having passed through the Red Sea, composed a song, and sung it with the Israelitish men, while Miriam, his sister, sung it with dancing, and playing on instruments, at the head of the women, Ex 15:20-21. He caused silver trumpets to be made to be sounded at solemn sacrifices, and on religious festivals. David, who had great skill in music, soothed the perturbed spirit of Saul by playing on the harp, 1Sa 16:16,23; and when he was himself established on the throne - seeing that the Levites were not employed, as formerly, in carrying the boards, veils, and vessels of the tabernacle, its abode being fixed at Jerusalem - appointed a great part of them to sing and to play on instruments in the temple, 1Ch 25. David brought the ark to Jerusalem with triumphant and joyful music, 1Ch 13:8; 15:16-28; and in the same manner Solomon was proclaimed king, 1Ki 1:39-40. The Old Testament prophets also sought the aid of music in their services, 1Sa 10:5; 2Ki 3:15.
Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun were chiefs of the music of the tabernacle under David, and of the temple under Solomon. Asaph had four sons, Jeduthun six, and Heman fourteen. These twenty-four Levites, sons of the three great masters of the temple-music, were at the head of twenty-four bands of musicians, which served in the temple by turns. Their number there was always great, but especially at the chief solemnities. They were ranged in order about the altar of burnt-sacrifices. As the whole business of their lives was to learn and to practice music, it must be supposed that they understood it well, whether it were vocal or instrumental, 2Ch 29:25.
The kings also had their music. Asaph was chief master of music to David. In the temple, and in the ceremonies of religion, female musicians were admitted as well as male; they generally were daughters of the Levites. Ezra, in his enumeration of those whom he brought back with him from the captivity, reckons two hundred singing men and singing women, 2Sa 19:35; Ezr 2:65; Ne 7:67.
As to the nature of their music, we can judge of it only by conjecture, because it has been long lost. Probably it was a unison of several voices, of which all sung together the same melody, each according to his strength and skill; without musical counterpoint, or those different parts and combinations which constitute harmony in our music. Probably, also, the voices were generally accompanied by instrumental music. If we may draw any conclusions in favor of their music from its effects, its magnificence, its majesty, and the lofty sentiments contained in their songs, we must allow it great excellence. It is supposed that the temple musicians were sometimes divided into two or more separate choirs, which, with a general chorus, sung in turn responsive to each other, each a small portion of the Psalm. The structure of the Hebrew Psalms is eminently adapted to this mode of singing, and very delightful and solemn effects might thus be produced. Compare 10'>10'>Ps 24:10'>10,10'>10,10'>10.
Numerous musical instruments are mentioned in Scripture, but it has been found impossible to affix heir names with certainty to specific instruments now in use. By a comparison, however, of the instruments probably held in common by the Jews with the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians, a degree of probability as to most of them has been secured. They were of three kinds:
A. Stringed instruments:
1. KINNOR, "the harp," Ge 4:21. Frequently mentioned in Scripture, and probably a kind of lyre.
2. NEBEL, "the psaltery," 1Sa 10:5. It appears to have been the name of various large instruments of the harp kind.
3. ASOR, signifying ten-stringed. In Ps 92:4, it apparently denotes an instrument distinct from the NEBEL; but elsewhere it seems to be simply a description of the NEBEL as ten-stringed. See Ps 33:2; 144:9.
5. MINNIM, strings, Ps 150:4. Probably another kind of stringed instrument.
7. PESANTERIN, "psaltery," occurs Da 3:7, and is supposed to represent the NEBEL.
B. Wind instruments:
9. KEREN, "horn," Jos 6:5. Cornet.
10. SHOPHAR, "trumpet," Nu 10:10. Used synonymously with KEREN.
11. CHATZOZERAH, the straight trumpet, Ps 98:6.
12. JOBEL, or KEREN JOBEL, horn of jubilee, or signal trumpet, Jos 6:4. Probably the same with 9 and 10.
13. CHAIL, "pipe" or "flute." The word means bored through, 1Sa 10:5.
14. MISHROKITHA, Da 3:5, etc. Probably the Chaldean name for the flute with two reeds.
15. UGAB, "organ" in our version Ge 4:21. It means a double or manifold pipe, and hence the shepherd's pipe; probably the same as the syrinx or Pan's pipe; or perhaps resembling the bagpipe.
C. Instruments which gave out sound on being struck:
17. TOPH, Ge 31:27, the tambourine and all instruments of the drum kind.
18. PHAAMON, "bells," Ex 28:33. Attached to the hem of the high priest's garment.
19. TZELITZELIM, "cymbals," Ps 150:5. A word frequently occurring. There were probably two kinds, hand-cymbals.
20. SHALISHIM, 1Sa 18:6. In our version, "instruments of music." "Three-stringed instruments." Most writers identify it with the triangle.
21. MENAANEIM, "cymbals," 2Sa 6:5. Probably the sistrum. The Hebrew word means to shake. The sistrum was generally about sixteen or eighteen inches long, occasionally inlaid with silver, and being held upright, was shaken, the rings moving to and fro on the bars.
Further particulars concerning some of these may be found under the names they severally bear in our English Bible.
Jubal was the inventor of musical instruments (Ge 4:21). The Hebrews were much given to the cultivation of music. Their whole history and literature afford abundant evidence of this. After the Deluge, the first mention of music is in the account of Laban's interview with Jacob (Ge 31:27). After their triumphal passage of the Red Sea, Moses and the children of Israel sang their song of deliverance (Ex 15).
But the period of Samuel, David, and Solomon was the golden age of Hebrew music, as it was of Hebrew poetry. Music was now for the first time systematically cultivated. It was an essential part of training in the schools of the prophets (1Sa 10:5; 19:19-24; 2Ki 3:15; 1Ch 25:6). There now arose also a class of professional singers (2Sa 19:35; Ec 2:8). The temple, however, was the great school of music. In the conducting of its services large bands of trained singers and players on instruments were constantly employed (2Sa 6:5; 1Ch 15; 16; 23:5; 25:1-6).
(For illustrations, see DANCE; DAVID; FLUTE; HARP; JEDUTHUN.) Its invention is due to a Cainite, Jubal son of Lamech, "father (first teacher) of all such as handle the harp (lyre) and organ" (pipe). "The lyre and flute were introduced by the brother of a nomadic herdsman (Jabal); it is in the leisure of this occupation that music is generally first exercised and appreciated" (Kalisch: Ge 4:21). "Mahalaleel," third from Seth, means "giving praise to God," therefore vocal music in religious services was probably earlier than instrumental music among the Cainites (Ge 5:12). Laban the Syrian mentions "songs, tabret (tambourine), and harp" (Ge 31:27); Job (Job 21:12) "the timbrel (tambourine), harp, and organ (pipe)". Instead of "they take," translated "they lift up (the voice)," as in Isa 42:11, to accompany "the tambourine," etc. (Umbrett.) Thus the "voice," stringed and wind instruments, include all kinds of music. The Israelite men led by Moses sang in chorus, and Miriam led the women in singing the refrain at each interval, accompanied by tambourine and dances (Ex 15:21).
Music rude and boisterous accompanied the dances in honor of the golden calf, so that Joshua mistook it for "the noise of war," "the voice of them that shout for the mastery and that cry for being overcome" (Ex 32:17-18). The triumphant shout of the foe in the temple is similarly compared to the joyous thanksgivings formerly offered there at solemn feasts, but how sad the contrast as to the occasion (La 2:7). The two silver trumpets were used by the priests to call an assembly, and for the journeying of the camps, and on jubilant occasion (Nu 10:1-10; 2Ch 13:12). (On the rams' (rather Jubilee) horns of Joshua 6, see HORNS.) The instruments at Nebuchadnezzar's dedication of his golden image were the "cornet," like the French horn; "flute" or pipe blown at the end by a mouthpiece; "sackbut," a triangular stringed instrument with short strings, in a high sharp key; "psaltery," a kind of harp; "dulcimer," a bagpipe, emitting a plaintive sound, a Hebraized Greek word, sumfonia (Da 3:4).
The schools of the prophets cultivated music as a study preparing the mind for receiving spiritual influences (1Sa 10:5; 19:19-20): at Naioth; also at Jericho (2Ki 2:5,7), "when the minstrel among Jehoshaphat's retinue played, the hand of Jehovah came upon Elisha" (2Ki 3:15); Gilgal (2Ki 4:38); Jerusalem (2Ki 22:14). "Singing men and women" were at David's court (2Sa 19:35), also at Solomon's (Ec 2:8; Gesenius translated for "musical instruments and that of all sorts," shiddah wishidot, "a princess and princesses".) They also" spoke of Josiah in their lamentations, and made them an ordinance in Israel" (2Ch 35:25).
Music was often introduced at banquets (Isa 5:12), "the harp and viol" (nebel, the "lute", an instrument with 12 strings), etc. (Lu 15:25.) Am 6:5; "chant (parat, 'mark distinct tones,' the Arabic root expresses an unmeaning hurried flow of rhythmical sounds without much sense, as most glees) to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of music like David"; they fancy themselves David's equals In music (1Ch 23:5; Ne 12:36). He added to the temple service the stringed psaltery, kinor ("lyre"), and nebel ("harp"), besides the cymbals. These as distinguished from the trumpets were "David's instruments" (2Ch 29:25-26; 1Ch 15:16,19-21,24; 23:5). The age of Samuel, David, and Solomon was the golden one alike of poetry and of music. The Hebrew use of music was inspirational, curative, and festive or mournful. David's skill on the harp in youth brought him under Saul's notice, and he played away Saul's melancholy under the evil spirit (1Sa 16:16-23).
As David elevated music to the praise of God, so the degenerate Israelites of Amos' time degraded it to the service of their own sensuality (like Nero fiddling when Rome was in flames), yet they defended their luxurious passion for music by his example. Solomon's songs were a thousand and five (1Ki 4:32). In the procession accompanying the ark to Zion, the Levites led by Chenaniah, "master of the song," played cornets, trumpets, cymbals, psalteries, and harps, accompanying David's psalm composed for the occasion (1 Chronicles 15; 16; 2Sa 6:5). Of the 48,000 in the tribe 4,000 praised Jehovah on David's instruments (1Ch 23:5-6). Heman led the Kohathites, Asaph the Gershonites, and Ethan or Jeduthun the Merarites (1Ch 15:17; 25:1-8). The "cunning" or skilled musicians were 288: 24 courses, 12 in each, headed by the 24 sons of Heman, Asaph, and Jeduthun.
The rest of the 4,000 were "scholars." David's chant (1Ch 16:34,41) was used for ages, and bore his name: at the consecration of Solomon's temple (2Ch 7:6); before Jehoshaphat's army when marching against the Ammonite invaders, to the thanksgiving is attributed God's giving of the victory, "when they began to sing and to praise, Jehovah set ambushments against ... Ammon" (2Ch 20:21-22), compare in Abijah's victory over Jeroboam the priests' sounding of trumpets (2Ch 13:12-22); at the laying the second temple's foundation (Ezr 3:10-11). Heman, Asaph, and Ethan played with cymbals of brass to mark the time the more clearly, while the rest played on psalteries and harps (1Ch 15:19; 16:5).
The "singers" went first, "the damsels with timbrels" in the middle, "the players on (stringed) instruments followed after" (Ps 68:25). In intelligent worship the word has precedence of ornamental accompaniments (1Co 14:15); music must not drown but be subordinate to the words and sense. Amos (Am 8:3) foretells the joyous "songs of the temple" should be changed into "howlings." In Ps 87:7 translated "the players on pipes" or "flutes" (Gesenius), but Hengstenberg, "dancers" (choleel); the future thanksgiving of the redeemed heathen (1Ki 1:40). Women were in the choir (1Ch 13:8; 25:5-6; Ezr 2:65). The priests alone blew the trumpets in the religious services (1Ch 15:24; 16:6), but the people also at royal proclamations (2Ki 11:14). A hundred and twenty priests blew the trumpets in unison with the Levite singers, in fine linen, at the dedication of Solomon's temple (2Ch 5:12-13; 7:6). So under Hezekiah in resanctifying the temple (2Ch 29:27-28).
As the temple, altar, and sacrifices were Jehovah's palace, table, and feasts, so the sacred music answers to the melody usual at kings' banquets. The absence of music such as accompanied bridal processions is made a feature of a curse being on the land (Isa 24:8-9; Jer 7:34; Eze 26:13). Judah's captors in vain called on her singers to sing her national melodies, "songs of Zion," in Babylon. She hung her harp on the willows of that marshy city, and abjured "mirth in a strange land" (Ps 137:2-4). Away from Zion, God's seat, they were away from joy. Love songs (Psalm 45 title) as well as professional mourners' (Am 5:16) dirges were composed. Harlots attracted men by songs to the guitar (Isa 23:15-16). (See MOURNING,) The grape was gathered and trodden with joyous song (Isa 16:10). (See HYMNS.)
Music, instrumental and vocal, was all in unison, not harmony, which was unknown to the ancients; the songs were all melodies, choral and antiphonal, as Moses' and Miriam's song, and Nehemiah's musicians in two responsive choirs at the dedication of the wall (Ne 12:40-42). For "instruments of music" (Da 6:18) translated "concubines." Xenophon's picture of Darius as addicted to wine and women, without self control, accords with Daniel's mention of his abstinence as something extraordinary. In Ps 45:8 Gesenius translated for "whereby" (mini), as in Ps 150:4), "out of the ivory palaces the stringed instruments make thee glad"; Hengstenberg shows this untenable, KJV is better. In 1Sa 18:6 "instruments of music," shalishim, is from shalowsh, "three," probably "triangles," invented in Syria (Athenaeus, Deipnos, 4:175).
1. The most ancient music. --The inventor of musical instruments, like the first poet and the first forger of metals, was a Cainite. We learn from
that Jubal the son of Lamech was "the father of all such as handle the harp and organ," that is, of all players upon stringed and wind instruments. The first mentioned of music in the times after the deluge is in the narrative of Laban's interview with Jacob,
so that, whatever way it was preserved, the practice of music existed in the upland country of Syria, and of the three possible kinds of musical instruments two were known and employed to accompany the song. The three kinds are alluded to in
On the banks of the Red Sea Moses and the children of Israel sang their triumphal song of deliverance from the hosts of Egypt; and Miriam, in celebration of the same event, exercised one of her functions as a prophetess by leading a procession of the women of the camp, chanting in chorus the burden of the song of Moses. The song of Deborah and Barak is cast in a distinctly metrical form, and was probably intended to be sung with a musical accompaniment as one of the people's songs. The simpler impromptu with which the women from the cities of Israel greeted David after the slaughter of the Philistines was apparently struck off on the spur of the moment, under the influence of the wild joy with which they welcomed their national champion. "the darling of the sons of Israel."
Up to this time we meet with nothing like a systematic cultivation of music among the Hebrews, but the establishment of the schools of the prophets appears to have supplied this want. Whatever the students of these schools may have been taught, music was an essential part of their practice. Professional musicians soon became attached to the court.
2. The golden age of Hebrew music. David seems to have gathered round him "singing men and singing women."
Solomon did the same,
adding to the luxury of his court by his patronage of art, and obtaining a reputation himself as no mean composer.
But the temple was the great school of music, and it was consecrated to its highest service in the worship of Jehovah. Before, however the elaborate arrangements had been made by David for the temple choir, there must have been a considerable body of musicians throughout the country.
(David chose 4000 musicians from the 38,000 Levies in his reign, or one in ten of the whole tribe. Of these musicians 288 were specially trained and skillful.
The whole number was divided into 24 courses, each of which would thus consist of a full band of 154 musicians, presided over by a body of 12 specially-trained leaders, under one of the twenty-four sons of Asaph, Heman or Jeduthun as conductor. The leaders appear to have played on the cymbals, perhaps to make the time.
All these joined in a special chant which David taught them, and which went by his name.
Women also took part in the temple choir.
These great choirs answered one to another in responsive singing; thus the temple music most have been grand and inspiring beyond anything known before that time.
3. Character of Hebrew music.--As in all Oriental nations, the music of the Hebrews was melody rather than harmony, which latter was then unknown. All old and young, men and maidens, singers and instruments, appear to have sung one part only in or in octaves. "The beauty of the music consisted altogether in the melody;" but this, with so many instruments and voices, was so charming that "the whole of antiquity is full of the praises of this music. By its means battles were won, cities conquered, mutinies quelled, diseases cured." --ED.)
4. Uses of music. --In the private as well as in the religions life of the Hebrews music held a prominent place. The kings had their court musicians,
and in the luxurious times of the later monarchy the effeminate gallants of Israel amused themselves with devising musical instruments while their nation was perishing ("as Nero fiddled while Rome was burning"). But music was also the legitimate expression of mirth and gladness The bridal processions as they passed through the streets were accompanied with music and song.
The music of the banquets was accompanied with song and dancing.
The triumphal processions which celebrated victory were enlivened by minstrels and singers.
There were also religious songs.
Love songs are alluded to; in
title, and Isai 5:1 There were also the doleful songs of the funeral procession, and the wailing chant of the mourners. The grape-gatherers sang at their work, and the women sang as they toiled at the mill, and on every occasion the land of the Hebrews during their national prosperity was a land of music and melody.
MUSIC is probably nearly coeval with our race, or, at least, with the first attempts to preserve the memory of transactions. Before the invention of writing, the history of remarkable events was committed to memory, and handed down by oral tradition. The knowledge of laws and of useful arts was preserved in the same way. Rhythm and song were probably soon found important helps to the memory; and thus the muses became the early instructers of mankind. Nor was it long, we may conjecture, before dancing and song united contributed to festivity, or to the solemnities of religion. The first instruments of music were probably of the pulsatile kind; and rhythm, it is likely, preceded the observation of those intervals of sound which are so pleasing to the ear. The first mention of stringed instruments, however, precedes the deluge. Tubal, the sixth descendant from Cain, was "the father of all such as handle the harp and the organ." About five hundred and fifty years after the deluge, or B.C. 1800, according to the common chronology, both vocal and instrumental music are spoken of as things in general use: "And Laban said, What hast thou done, that thou hast stolen away unawares to me, and carried away my daughters, as captives taken with the sword? Wherefore didst thou flee away secretly, and steal away from me; and didst not tell me, that I might have sent thee away with mirth and with songs, with tabret and with harp?" Ge 31:26-27.
Egypt has been called the cradle of the arts and sciences, and there can be no doubt of the very early civilization of that country. To the Egyptian Mercury, or Thoth, who is called Trismegistos, or "thrice illustrious," is ascribed the invention of the lyre, which had at first only three strings. It would be idle to mention the various conjectures how these strings were tuned, or to try to settle the chronology of this invention. The single flute, which they called photinx, is also ascribed to the Egyptians. Its shape was that of a horn, of which, no doubt, it was originally made. Before the invention of these instruments, as Dr. Burney justly observes, "music could have been little more than metrical, as no other instruments except those of percussion were known. When the art was first discovered of refining and sustaining tones, the power of music over mankind was probably irresistible, from the agreeable surprise which soft and lengthened sounds must have occasioned." The same learned writer has given a drawing, made under his own eye, of an Egyptian musical instrument, represented on a very ancient obelisk at Rome, brought from Egypt by Augustus. This obelisk is supposed to have been erected at Heliopolis, by Sesostris, near four hundred years before the Trojan war. The most remarkable thing in this instrument is, that it is supplied with a neck, so that its two strings were capable of furnishing a great number of sounds. This is a contrivance which the Greeks, with all their ingenuity, never hit upon. "I have never been able," says the doctor, "to discover in any remains of Greek sculpture, an instrument furnished with a neck; and Father Montfaucon says that in examining the representations of near five hundred ancient lyres, harps, and citharas, he never met with one in which there was any contrivance for shortening the strings during the time of performance, as by a neck and finger board." From the long residence of the Hebrews in Egypt, it is no improbable conjecture that their music was derived from that source. However that may be, music, vocal and instrumental, made one important part of their religious service. If the excellence of the music was conformable to the sublimity of the poetry which it accompanied, there would be no injustice in supposing it unspeakably superior. to that of every other people; and the pains that were taken to render the tabernacle and temple music worthy of the subjects of their lofty odes, leaves little doubt that it was so. That the instruments were loud and sonorous, will appear from what follows; but as the public singing was performed in alternate responses, or the chorus of all succeeded to those parts of the psalm which were sung only by the appointed leaders, instruments of this kind were necessary to command and control the voices of so great a number as was usually assembled on high occasions.
The Hebrews insisted on having music at marriages, on anniversary birth days, on the days which reminded them of victories over their enemies, at the inauguration of their kings, in their public worship, and when they were coming from afar to attend the great festivals of their nation, Isa 30:29. In the tabernacle and the temple, the Levites were the lawful musicians; but on other occasions any one might use musical instruments who chose. There was this exception, however: the holy silver trumpets were to be blown only by the priests, who, by the sounding of them, proclaimed the festival days, assembled the leaders of the people, and gave the signal for the battle and for the retreat, Nu 10:1-10. David, in order to give the best effect to the music of the tabernacle, divided the four thousand Levites into twenty-four classes, who sung psalms, and accompanied them with music. Each of these classes was superintended by a leader, placed over it; and they performed the duties which devolved upon them, each class a week at a time in succession, 1Ch 16:5; 23:4-5; 25; 2Ch 5:12-13. The classes collectively, as a united body, were superintended by three directors. This arrangement was subsequently continued by Solomon after the erection of the temple, and was transmitted till the time of the overthrow of Jerusalem. It was indeed sometimes interrupted, during the reign of the idolatrous kings, but was restored by their successors, 2Ch 5:12-14; 29:27; 35:15. It was even continued after the captivity, Ezr 3:10; 12/45'>Ne 12:45-47; 1 Mac. 4:54; 13:51. It should be remarked, however, that neither music nor poetry attained to the same excellence after the captivity as before that period.
There were women singers as well as men in the temple choir; for in the book of Ezra, among those who returned from the Babylonish captivity, there are said to have been two hundred, Ezr 2:65; and in Ne 7:67, we read of two hundred and forty-five singing men and women. The Jewish doctors will, indeed, by no means admit there were any female voices in the temple choir; and as for those ??????meshoreroth, as they are called in the Hebrew, they suppose them to be the wives of those who sung. Nevertheless, the following passage makes it evident that women, likewise, were thus employed: "God gave to Heman fourteen sons and three daughters; and all these were under the hands of their father for song in the house of the Lord, with cymbals, psalteries, and harps, for the service of the house of God," 1Ch 25:5-6. Instrumental music was first introduced into the Jewish service by Moses; and afterward, by the express command of God, was very much improved with the addition of several instruments in the reign of David. When Hezekiah restored the temple service, which had been neglected in his predecessor's reign, "he set the Levites in the house of the Lord, with cymbals, with psalteries, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, and of Gad the king's seer, and Nathan the prophet; for so was the commandment of the Lord by his prophets," 2Ch 29:25.
The harp, ????, kinnor, was the most ancient of the class of stringed instruments, Ge 4:21. It was sometimes called ??????, or "eight stringed," 1Ch 15:21; Ps 6:1; 12:1; although, as we may gather from the coins or medals of the Maccabean age, there were some harps which were furnished with only three strings. The nablum or psaltery, ???????, ?????, ???, is first mentioned in the Psalms of David. In Ps 33:2; 144:9, it is called ???? "a ten-stringed instrument;" but in Ps 92:3, it is distinguished from it. Josephus assigns to it twelve strings, which, taken in connection with the fact above stated, leaves us to conclude that it sometimes had ten and sometimes twelve strings. It was not played with a bow or fret, but with the fingers: the act of playing it is expressed in Hebrew by the word