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The Sabbath and Worship Music


In his doctoral dissertation presented at Cambridge University and pub- lished under the title The Lord’s Song: The Basis, Function and Significance of Choral Music in Chronicles, John Kleinig notes: “David determined the particular combination of instruments to be used in worship. To the trumpets which the Lord had ordained through Moses, he added the cymbals, lyres, and harps (1 Chron 15:16; 16:5-6). The importance of this combination is emphasized by the insistence in 2 Chronicles 29:25 that the instruments for sacred song, like the place of the musicians in the temple, had been instituted at the Lord’s command. It was this divine command which gave them their significance and power.”23

In 2 Chronicles 29:25, it explicitly states that king Hezekiah “stationed the Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, harps and lyres, according to the commandment of David and Gad the king’s seer and of Nathan the prophet; for the commandment was from the Lord through his prophets.” By appealing to the prophetic directives of Gad and Nathan, the author of Chronicles empha- sizes the fact that David’s addition of the cymbals, harps, and lyres to the use of the trumpet (Num 10:2) was not based on the king’s personal taste, but on a commandment “from the Lord.”

Sacred Music for a Sacred Place. Those who believe that the Bible gives them the license to play any instrument and music in church, ignore the fact that the music at the Temple was not based on personal taste or cultural preferences. This is indicated by the fact that other instruments like timbrels, flutes, pipes, and dulcimers could not be used in the Temple, because of their association with secular entertainment. This principle was respected also in the synagogue and early church, as shown in the next chapter on “Biblical Principles of Music.”

It is evident that nothing is morally wrong with the use of instruments like the timbrel or flutes. The reason they were excluded from the Temple’s orchestra is simply because they were commonly used for entertainment.Women’s dancing in the Bible was usually accompanied by the playing of timbrels, which seem to have been hand drums, like the modern tambourines, made up of a wooden frame on which a single skin was stretched.

Had the instruments and the music associated with dancing been used in the Temple, the Israelites would have been tempted to turn the Temple into a place of entertainment. To prevent this thing from happening, instruments and music associated with entertainment were excluded from the Temple. This exclusion extended to the participation of women in the music ministry of the Temple, because, as we shall see in the next chapter, their music consisted mostly of dancing with timbrels—a music that was unfit for sacred worship.

In his book Music of the Bible in Christian Perspective, Garen Wolf points out that “the use of tabret, timbrel, toph, and dancing by women or men had no connection with worship in the Temple, but rather for the purpose of show, ecstacy and secular entertainment or for religious music making outside the Temple.”24

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