Musical Instruments In Scripture

Source: The Complete Library of Christian Worship, Robert E. Webber, General Editor

The Bible frequently mentions musical instruments in association with the praise of the Lord. The following six entries explain that percussion, wind, and string instruments each had their place in the worship of the people of God.

Scriptural References to Instruments (Biblical)

In Scripture, musical instruments serve a purpose within and for the life of the covenant community; their function was not a matter of individual self-expression, as is often the case today.

Percussion Instruments (Biblical)

Percussion instruments are those that make their sound when struck or shaken; biblical percussion instruments include cymbals, the sistrum, bells, the gong, and the tambourine.

Wind Instruments (Biblical)

Wind instruments are of three general classes: those that use lip vibrations in creating the sound (trumpets and horns); those that use a vibrating reed or reeds (the clarinet and oboe); and those in which the vibrations are created by wind directed across the opening of an air column (flutes, whistles, and pipe organs). The latter two kinds may be classified together as "pipes. " Scripture mentions several varieties of wind instruments.

Stringed Instruments (Biblical)

Several sorts of stringed instruments are mentioned in the Bible. The harp and the lyre, especially, were prominent in the music of the sanctuary.

The Sanctuary Orchestra (Biblical)

The sanctuary orchestra accompanied the singers and served to call the people to the worship of Yahweh.

Symbolism of Instrumentation (Biblical)

Each of the instruments used in Israel had its function in the life of the people, as described. Their customary uses also gave them symbolic significance, especially in the New Testament, which rarely mentions their actual use in music.