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Bible Dictionaries

Smith's Bible Dictionary

Musical Instruments of The Hebrews

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Musical Instruments of The Hebrews. (There has been great obscurity as to the instruments of music in use among the Hebrews, but the discoveries on the monuments of Egypt and Assyria have thrown much light upon the form and nature of these instruments.

I. Stringed Instruments. -

The harp or lyre. See illustration.

The psaltery, the name of various large instruments of the harp kind.

The sackbut, a harp-like instrument of four strings and of triangular form.

A kind of lute or guitar (mahalath), in titles to Psalms 53:1 and Psalms 88:1, with a long, flat neck, and a hollow body of wood, whose surface was perforated with holes. There were three strings, and the whole instrument was three or four feet long.

The gittith, in titles to Psalms 8:1; Psalms 81:1; Psalms 84:1, a stringed instrument, probably found by David st Gath, whence its name.

II. Instruments of Percussion.

The timbrel, a form of tambourine, a narrow hoop covered with a tightened skin, and struck with the hand on the Egyptian monuments are three kinds - the circular, the square, and another formed by two squares separated by a bar.

The drum, (toph). Of these, there were many varieties, some of them resembling modern drums. The Egyptians had a long drum, of wood or copper, 2 1/2 feet long, resembling the tom-tom of India, and beaten by the hand. Another form was shaped like a cask with bulging centre, and was made of copper. It was of the same length as the other, but larger around, and was beaten with sticks. Another drum was more like our kettledrum; and one of these, the rabbins say, was placed in the Temple court to the priests to prayer, and could be heard from Jerusalem to Jericho.

Bells, (paanton), attached to the high priest's dress, and rung by striking against the knobs, shaped like pomegranates, which were hung near them.

Cymbals. The earliest cymbals were probably finger cymbals - small plates of metal fastened to the thumb and middle finger, and struck together. Afterward, there were the large cymbals, played with both hands.

Systra, (menaanim), 2 Samuel 6:5, there translated comets. The systrum was a carved bronze or copper frame, with a handle, in all from 8 to 18 inches long, with movable rings and bars. It was shaken with the hand, and the rings and bars made a piercing metallic sound by striking against the bronze frame.

The triangle, (shalishim), 1 Samuel 18:6.

A musical instrument, (machol), used for accompanying the dance, and several times translated, dancing. Psalms 150:3; Psalms 150:45. It was a metallic rim , or frame, sometimes, with a handle and had small bells attached to it, or bars across, on which were strung metallic rings or plates. It was held in the hand, and was played by the women, at weddings and merry-makings.

III. Wind Instruments. -

The syrinx, pandean pipe or bagpipe, (ugab); translated "organ" in Genesis 4:21. Either, like the bagpipe, or a series of pipes from 5 to 23 in number, though usually only 7.

The horn, in the form of an animal's horn, even when made of metal, but originating in the use of the horns of cattle.

The trumpet, (shophar), same as horn.

The straight trumpet.

The flute, (halil, meaning, "bored through"), a pipe perforated with holes, originally made from reeds, but afterward, of wood, bone, horn or ivory. It was chiefly consecrated to joy or pleasure.

The flute, alluded to in Daniel 3:6, probably a kind of double flageolet.

The dulcimer, Daniel 3:5, a kind of bagpipe with two shrill reeds. The modern dulcimer is a triangular instrument strung with about 60 brass wires, and played upon with little sticks or metallic rods. It more resembles the ancient psaltery than the dulcimer of Daniel 3:5. - Editor).

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Bibliography Information
Smith, William, Dr. Entry for 'Musical Instruments of The Hebrews'. Smith's Bible Dictionary. 1901.

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