There's Music in the Bible

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There's Music in the Bible

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Did you realize the Bible is loaded with music? From the angels being created with musical abilities and singing at the creation of the earth (see Ezekiel 28:13-14 Ezekiel 28:13-14 [13] You have been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of your tabrets and of your pipes was prepared in you in the day that you were created. [14] You are the anointed cherub that covers; and I have set you so: you were on the holy mountain of God; you have walked up and down in the middle of the stones of fire.
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; Job 38:7 Job 38:7When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
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) to the song of the Lamb of God (Revelation 15:3 Revelation 15:3And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are your works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are your ways, you King of saints.
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), the Bible is chock-full of music and musical references from cover to cover.

Early in human history, Jubal in Genesis 4:21 Genesis 4:21And his brother's name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.
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is described as the father of those playing the harp and flute. Many years later, in Genesis 31:27 Genesis 31:27Why did you flee away secretly, and steal away from me; and did not tell me, that I might have sent you away with mirth, and with songs, with tabret, and with harp?
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, when Laban spoke with his son-in-law Jacob, he said Jacob should not have left secretly but should have allowed Laban to send him away with a musical celebration. He specifically mentions songs along with two musical instruments—the timbrel and harp. Obviously, in the ancient Middle East music was a part of celebrations. That is also true in many cultures today.

Further study of the Bible reveals that music was used as an emotional expression of appreciation and thanks to God. When an unusual or significant event occurred, it was quite common for people to compose and sing songs praising and thanking God for His blessing.

An example of this is found in Exodus 15. After leaving Egypt as the direct result of God having sent plagues on the Egyptians, ancient Israel found itself in the frightening position of being trapped by mountains on both sides of them, the Red Sea in front of them and the army of Egypt closing in behind them. God then miraculously parted the Red Sea and dried the sea bottom, allowing Israel to walk to the other side.

When the Egyptians went down into the sea in pursuit, God allowed the walls of water to slam back together, drowning the Egyptian army (Exodus 14:9-12 Exodus 14:9-12 [9] But the Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth, before Baalzephon. [10] And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out to the LORD. [11] And they said to Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? why have you dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? [12] Is not this the word that we did tell you in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.
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, 21-23, 28-30).

Moses and the Israelites sing

Exodus 15 records the song Moses and the Israelites sang praising God's merciful deliverance (verses 1-18). Then Miriam, Moses' sister, and the women also played, sang and danced in jubilation—apparently singing a companion song that complemented the words of Moses' song (verses 20-21).

A few centuries later, after the Israelites settled in the land God promised them, King David appointed a group of 4,000 men from the 38,000 of the tribe of Levi (so just over 10 percent of the Levites) to serve in the temple as full-time professional musicians (1 Chronicles 6:31-33 1 Chronicles 6:31-33 [31] And these are they whom David set over the service of song in the house of the LORD, after that the ark had rest. [32] And they ministered before the dwelling place of the tabernacle of the congregation with singing, until Solomon had built the house of the LORD in Jerusalem: and then they waited on their office according to their order. [33] And these are they that waited with their children. Of the sons of the Kohathites: Heman a singer, the son of Joel, the son of Shemuel,
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and 23:3-6). Their job included singing songs of praise to God in formal worship services.

The whole book of Psalms (the longest book in the Bible) seems to be a kind of national hymnal, with many psalms bearing David's name as the composer.

Music was highly regarded in the Old Testament. Besides poetry, it is the main art form that seems to have been cultivated to any extent in ancient Israel. Perhaps it is because the second of the Ten Commandments prohibits making any likeness or graven image as a religious object. The other nations of the ancient world were steeped in the use of ornate paintings, carvings and sculptures in the worship of their gods. God's people were to avoid those and therefore focused on the powerful emotional impact of words—written, spoken and sung.

Jesus and His disciples sing

The New Testament continues this rich heritage. After inaugurating the symbols of the New Testament Passover on the night before His betrayal and crucifixion, Jesus and the disciples sang a hymn at the conclusion of the Passover service (Matthew 26:30 Matthew 26:30And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.
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).

The apostle Paul later wrote to the Christians at Colosse that the teachings of Christ should be deeply treasured as they taught and counseled each other in word and song. He spoke of "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" (Colossians 3:16 Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
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)—all of which indicate the use of music in joyous worship of God.

Completing the New Testament, the book of Revelation describes numerous scenes that include the use of songs in worship and praise of God in heaven. This includes the singing of a new song by the 144,000 who are redeemed from the earth to the accompaniment of harps (Revelation 14:1-3 Revelation 14:1-3 [1] And I looked, and, see, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads. [2] And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: [3] And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.
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).

Clearly God gives His approval of music as an appropriate means of expression—whether in everyday life or in worship of Him. However, like many other aspects of human existence, music can be misused. Be sure to read the other articles in this issue for some helpful insights on the right and wrong use of this powerful art form. VT