Music was very much a part of religious life, and musicians had always been important. They were classed along with smiths and those who possessed flocks and herds. Jubal was recognized as the father of all who played the pipe (Gen 4:20-21). We therefore find many examples of music in Bible times. The instruments that were played are not always easy to identify from their Hebrew names, but the following instruments (arranged alphabetically) are the most important ones used:

The Balil (1 Kings 1:40; Isaiha 5:12) was a pipe bored out of wood or bone. It took its name from the verb Balil, which means “to bore.” The sound was produced by a reed, and the reeds were carried around in a porch. It had a light sound, but it could be used to express the sadness of grief (Jeremiah 48:36). It was always used by ordinary people and never for worship.

The bazora (Numbers 10:5) was a metal trumpet. Those mentioned in the Bible were made of silver, but many have been found made of bronze. It gave a sharp sound (1 Corinthians 14:8).

The kinnor (1 Chronicles 15:16; 2 Chronicles 5:12) was a stringed instrument shaped like a harp (the Sea of Galilee has a similar shape and is often called Kinneret). The strings were made of stretched sheep-gut. It was used in the Temple and festivities (Isaiah 5:12), to accompany prophecies (1 Chronicles 25:1), and to change moods (1 Samuel 16:23). We do not know the number of stings or whether a plectrum (pick) was used.

The menanaim was a percussion instrument made of metal plates taht produced a sound when moved. The plates were probably pierced by metal rods held in a wooden frame that looked something like a hand mirror. The Egyptian sistra was probably very similar.

The meziltaim were cymbals made of copper. They were banged together in the Temple (1 Chronicles 15:10) to mark the beginnings, pauses, and endings of the chapters that were sung.

The nebel was another stringed instrument (Psalm 71:22) with up to ten strings. The word nebel was normally used for a skin bottle or jar, and the instrument may have got its name from a swollen soundbox shaped like a skin bottle.

The qeren was a wind instrument made from an animal horn. If the horn was a ram’s horn, it was called a shophar, which had an important place in worship (Psalm 98:6; Psalm 150:3).

The tof was a percussion instrument with a membrane (Isaiah 5:12). The drums varied in size and were played either with bare hands or with sticks. Two people played a large one (Exodus 15:20)

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