Click picture to enlarge a little
Today I’d like to cover music and singing in the Bible, for both the redeemed and the Redeemer. Following last week’s blog about the imagery in Revelation, there are some interesting facts about music at the temple. Again, from Edersheim’s The Temple,
John could find no more adequate imagery to portray heavenly realities and final triumph of the Church than that taken from the service of praise in the Temple. Thus, when first “the 24 elders,” representing the chiefs of the 24 courses of priesthood, and afterwards the 144,000, representing redeemed Israel in its fulness (12 x 12,000), sing “the new song” …they appear, just as in the Temple services, as “harpers, harping with their harps” (Revelation 5:8; 14:2, 3). Possibly there may also be an analogy between…when these “harpers” are introduced and…when the music began–just as the joyous drink-offering was poured out. There is…reference in…Revelation to “harps of God” (Revelation 15:2), with pointed allusion…to Sabbath services in the Temple. In this case “the harpers” are all they “that had gotten the victory over the beast.”
It’s interesting to keep reading all the analogies Edersheim makes in Revelation to temple worship. When in the above quote Edersheim refers to the Sabbath services, he explains how to identify these analogies as well. But today I want to press more focus on melodies and lyrics.
The Rabbis enumerate 36 different instruments, of which only 15 are mentioned in the Bible, and of these 5 in the Pentateuch. As in early Jewish poetry there was neither definite and continued metre (in the modern sense), nor regular and premeditated rhyme, so there was neither musical notation, nor yet any artificial harmony. The melody was simple…sung in unison to the accompaniment of instrumental music. Only one pair of brass cymbals were allowed…but this “sounding brass” and “tinkling cymbal” formed no part of the temple music itself, and served only as the signal to begin that part of the service. To this the apostle seems to refer…in 1 Corinthians 13:1.
There’s also “sufficient evidence that there was a kind of organ in the Temple.” From The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah,
the sound of the ‘organ’ …heard to the most distant parts of the Temple, and, according to tradition, far beyond its precincts, had summoned priests, Levites, and people to prepare for whatever service or duty was before them…. which announced throughout the vast Temple-buildings that the incense was about to be kindled on the Golden Altar, summoned those who were to be purified.
This organ would’ve had to be a hydraulis since this technology of water-forcing-air was invented in the 3rd century BC. Click on the picture in this hydraulis-Wikipedia link to see it bigger.
Changing the subject to God’s music, God is often given human-like qualities in the scriptures for us to understand him better. Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”
Now I must summarize this blog with a focus on King David. He had more influence on music and singing in the Bible than anyone else. He not only wrote poetry, composed music and invented musical instruments, but he was a “man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22). Why would God say that about David? He was an adulterer, effectively a murderer, and lived a lie for about a year!
This website gives 10 good reasons for why God would’ve described David this way. But I think Psalm 51:17 is a fair summary. “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” Yet we must also not forget 1 Samuel 15:22-24,
Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.