References to Music in the Bible

Introduction

The best way to understand God's will on any point is to survey the Scriptures, looking for any clue referring to God's preference on the question. However, the task becomes increasingly challenging, if it is mentioned frequently throughout the Bible. Although the bulk of passages may help to make a conclusion more sure, it also makes it harder to consider every passage fairly, which increases the chance that a significant point may be overlooked.

Unfortunately, music is referenced many times throughout the Scriptures. Over 1150 verses in the Bible reference a form of the following words, which may be related to music:

The context for some of these occurrences is not related to music, allowing the list to be trimmed down to less than half of the original references. For your reference, and to serve as a foundation for studying questions related to musical praise of God, the remaining references were analyzed and grouped into the following categories.

Vocal Praise to God

The primary purpose of this analysis is to separate references to vocal praise from those mentioning musical accompaniment. This first category contains all the references of worship to God, which contained only vocals. If instruments of music were actually used in the following passages, there is no reference to it in the context:

Exodus 15:1-18; Numbers 21:17; Deuteronomy 31:19-32:44; Judges 5:1-12; II Samuel 22:1; II Samuel 22:50; I Kings 4:32; I Chronicles 6:31-33; I Chronicles 9:33; II Chronicles 23:18; II Chronicles 35:15; II Chronicles 35:25; Ezra 2:41, 65, 70; Ezra 7:7, 24; 20:24; Nehemiah 7:1, 44, 67, 73; Nehemiah 10:28, 39; Nehemiah 11:22-23; Nehemiah 13:5, 10; Job 35:10; Isaiah 5:1; Isaiah 12:2, 5; Isaiah 24:14, 16; Isaiah 26:1; Isaiah 35:10; Isaiah 42:10-11; Isaiah 44:23; Isaiah 48:20; Isaiah 49:13; Isaiah 51:3, 11; Isaiah 52:8-9; Jeremiah 20:13; Jeremiah 31:7; Jeremiah 31:12; Jeremiah 33:11; Ezekiel 40:44; Amos 8:3, 10; Jonah 2:9; Zephaniah 3:14, 17; Zechariah 2:10; Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26; Acts 16:25; Romans 15:9; I Corinthians 14:15; I Corinthians 14:26; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 2:12; James 5:13

Although many of the Psalms note accompaniment of musical instruments, many reference singing with no mention of instruments. These references are provided below:

Psalm 7:17; 9:2, 11; 13:6; 18:1, 49; 21:13; 27:6; 28:7; 30:1, 4, 12; 32:7; 34:1; 35:1; 40:3; 42:8; 51:14; 59:16; 61:8; 65:13; 66:2-4; 69:12, 30; 77:6; 89:1; 95:1,2; 96:1, 2; 100:2; 101:1; 104:12, 33; 105:2; 118:14; 119:54; 126:2; 135:3; 138:1, 5; 145:7; 146:2

Instrumental Praise to God

It cannot be denied that instruments of music have been rightfully used to praise the Creator, neither should it be. If God saw fit to authorize mechanical instruments of music, then His wisdom should not be questioned. Likewise, His judgment must not be questioned if He later changed His mind, "for we walk by faith, not by sight" (II Corinthians 5:7).

Exodus 15:20-21; I Samuel 10:5; II Samuel 6:5, 15, 21; I Kings 10:12; II Kings 12:13; I Chronicles 13:8; I Chronicles 15:16-29; I Chronicles 16:5-9, 23, 42; I Chronicles 23:5; I Chronicles 25:1-7; II Chronicles 5:12-13; II Chronicles 7:6; II Chronicles 9:11; II Chronicles 15:14; II Chronicles 20:19-28; II Chronicles 29:25-30; II Chronicles 30:21; II Chronicles 34:12; Ezra 3:10; Nehemiah 12:8-47; Isaiah 5:12; Isaiah 30:29; Isaiah 38:20; Amos 5:23; Amos 6:5; Habakkuk 3:19; Revelation 5:8-9; Revelation 14:2-3; Revelation 15:2-3

Many of the Psalms have ancient subscripts, mentioning how they were to be sung, or played. Many of these titles include references to instruments, such as "string instruments", "flutes", and "harps". Others mention mechanical instruments specifically in the Psalm itself. Psalms with references to musical accompaniment include:

Psalm 4:1; 5:1; 6:1; 8:1; 12:1; 33:2, 3; 43:4; 47:5-7; 49:4; 54:1; 55:1; 57:7-9; 61:1; 67:1,4; 68:4, 25, 32; 71:22-23; 76:1; 81:1-3; 84:1; 87:7; 92:3; 98:1, 4-6; 108:1-3; 137:2-4; 144:9; 147:1, 7; 149:1, 3, 5; 150:3-4

Merriment and Bereavement

Whether it be a marriage feast (Jeremiah 7:34) or a funeral (II Samuel 1:17-27; Matthew 9:23), music is often referenced as an expression of intense joy or sorrow. In each of these passages, the context is not religious. Often the context is social, like a marriage feast. These passages were separated from others, because they do not directly relate to the form of musical praise to God, although they provide intriguing knowledge to the place of music in the culture of the ancients.

Genesis 31:27; Exodus 32:18; Judges 11:34; I Samuel 16:16-23; I Samuel 18:6-10; I Samuel 19:9; I Samuel 21:11; II Samuel 1:18; I Kings 1:40; Job 21:12; Job 29:13; Job 30:9; Job 30:31; Psalm 75:9; Proverbs 25:20; Proverbs 29:6; Ecclesiastes 2:8; Ecclesiastes 7:5; Song of Solomon 2:12; Isaiah 14:7, 11; Isaiah 16:10, 11; Isaiah 23:15, 16; Isaiah 24:8, 9; Isaiah 26:19; Isaiah 30:32; Isaiah 35:2, 6; Isaiah 54:1; Isaiah 55:12; Jeremiah 7:34; Jeremiah 16:9; Jeremiah 25:10; Jeremiah 30:19; Jeremiah 51:48; Lamentations 5:14; Daniel 3:5-15; Daniel 6:18; Hosea 2:15; Matthew 9:23; Matthew 11:17; Luke 7:32; Luke 15:25; Revelation 18:22-23

The Message of Horns

Trumpets and horns were used in musical praise; however, they were often used in relation to sounding a battle communication. The blast of a trumpet was used to signal everything from the anointing of a new king (II Samuel 15:10) to the call to battle (Judges 3:27), and from welcoming a holy feast day (Leviticus 23:24) to instructing the host of Israel to begin marching (Numbers 10:2-10). In the absence of megaphones, the sound of trumpets could travel long distances, conveying important messages to large numbers of people. These references are separated, because they deal with the sounds of communication - not the melody of worship.

Leviticus 23:24, 25:9; Numbers 10:2-10; Numbers 29:1; Numbers 31:6; Joshua 6:4-20; Judges 3:27; Judges 6:34; Judges 7:8-22; I Samuel 13:3; II Samuel 2:28; II Samuel 15:10; II Samuel 18:16; II Samuel 20:1, 22; I Kings 1:34; I Kings 1:39-45; II Kings 9:13; II Kings 11:14; II Chronicles 13:12, 14; II Chronicles 23:13; Nehemiah 4:18, 20; Job 39:24; Job 39:25; Isaiah 18:3; Isaiah 58:1; Isaiah 65:14; Jeremiah 4:5, 19, 21; Jeremiah 6:1, 17; Jeremiah 51:27; Ezekiel 7:14; Ezekiel 26:13; Ezekiel 33:3-6; Hosea 5:8; Hosea 8:1; Joel 2:1, 15; Amos 2:2; Amos 3:6; Zephaniah 1:16; Matthew 6:2; I Corinthians 13:1; I Corinthians 14:7-8

The Trumps of God

Trumpets and horns are often associated with God's royal presence and power. Like the horns of war, these trumpets also convey a message - they signify the entrance of the King. However, sometime they are associated with the King's work in judgment. Although these might be considered in the above category, because of the association with battle, references that associate trumpets with God's judgment are grouped in their own special category.

Exodus 19:13-19, 20:18; Isaiah 27:13; Zechariah 9:14; Matthew 24:31; I Corinthians 15:52; I Thessalonians 4:16; Hebrews 12:19; Revelation 8:2-9:14; 10:7; 11:5;

A Horn of Exaltation

Closely related with the blowing horns of victory, which would have been heard bellowing across the battlefield, horns were associated with victory and exaltation. Additionally, since they were often used to carry anointing oils, they are also associated with the glory of election. Although not directly related to music, these references to horns are significant, and are therefore worthy of their own category:

I Samuel 2:1, 10; I Samuel 16:1, 13; II Samuel 22:3; I Kings 1:39; Psalm 75:4, 5, 10; Psalm 89:24; Ezekiel 29:21; Luke 1:69

Miscellaneous

Including mention of the father of stringed instruments (Genesis 4:21), miscellaneous references to music and its instruments are sprinkled throughout the Scriptures. Although these may be important to another topic, they are not relevant to understanding the nature, purpose, or form of God's desired musical praise. These references include:

Genesis 4:21; Genesis 4:23; Exodus 28:31-35; II Samuel 19:35; II Samuel 23:1; II Kings 3:15; Ecclesiastes 12:4; Song of Solomon 1:1; Isaiah 25:5; Isaiah 27:2; Jeremiah 48:36; Lamentations 3:63; Ezekiel 33:32; Zephaniah 2:14; Revelation 1:10; Revelation 4:1

Observations

Scriptures contain many passages referring to various forms of music. However, many of these passages do not relate to our immediate question of determining the appropriate form of modern worship of God through music. The Old Testament, especially after the time of David, contains numerous references to musical praise, both vocal and instrumental. However, the frequency of similar references is much lower for the New Testament. Also, it is fairly low for the time preceding the Davidic reign. Is this significant? God is not a weak parent, who might be ignored, because of his desperate requests and numerous, empty threats. Our respect for God and His Word should require God's communication one time. Therefore, the implications of these passages that should be studied carefully, which is the purpose of the following articles:

If you have questions or feedback after considering the above articles, please either post your thoughts on our forums, or email the author with your questions, comments, or feedback.

Unless otherwise noted, all quotations are from the New King James Version, copyright © 1994 by Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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