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Music, Instrumental

Among instruments of music used by the Hebrews a principal place is given to stringed instruments. These were:

  1. The kinnor, the “harp.”

  2. The nebel, “a skin bottle,” rendered “psaltery.”

  3. The sabbeka, or “sackbut,” a lute or lyre.

  4. The gittith, occurring in the title of Psalms 8; 81; 84.

  5. Minnim (Psalms 150:4), rendered “stringed instruments;” in Psalms 45:8, in the form minni, probably the apocopated (i.e., shortened) plural, rendered, Authorized Version, “whereby,” and in the Revised Version “stringed instruments.”

  6. Machalath, in the titles of Psalms 53 and 88; supposed to be a kind of lute or guitar.

Of wind instruments mention is made of:

  1. The 'ugab (Genesis 4:21; Job 21:12; 30:31), probably the so-called Pan's pipes or syrinx.

  2. The qeren or “horn” (Joshua 6:5; 1 Chronicles 25:5).

  3. The shophar, rendered “trumpet” (Joshua 6:4, 6, 8). The word means “bright,” and may have been so called from the clear, shrill sound it emitted. It was often used (Exodus 19:13; Numbers 10:10; Judges 7:16, 18; 1 Samuel 13:3).

  4. The hatsotserah, or straight trumpet (Psalms 98:6; Numbers 10:1-10). This name is supposed by some to be an onomatopoetic word, intended to imitate the pulse-like sound of the trumpet, like the Latin taratantara. Some have identified it with the modern trombone.

  5. The halil, i.e, “bored through,” a flute or pipe (1 Samuel 10:5; 1 Kings 1:40; Isaiah 5:12; Jeremiah 48:36) which is still used in Israel.

  6. The sumponyah, rendered “dulcimer” (Dan. 3:5), probably a sort of bagpipe.

  7. The maskrokith'a (Dan. 3:5), rendered “flute,” but its precise nature is unknown.

Of instruments of percussion mention is made of:

  1. The toph, an instrument of the drum kind, rendered “timbrel” (Exodus 15:20; Job 21:12; Psalms 68:25); also “tabret” (Genesis 31:27; Isaiah 24:8; 1 Samuel 10:5).

  2. The paamon, the “bells” on the robe of the high priest (Exodus 28:33; 39:25).

  3. The tseltselim, “cymbals” (2 Samuel 6:5; Psalms 150:5), which are struck together and produce a loud, clanging sound. Metsilloth, “bells” on horses and camels for ornament, and metsiltayim, “cymbals” (1 Chronicles 13:8; Ezra 3:10, etc.). These words are all derived from the same root, tsalal, meaning “to tinkle.”

  4. The menaan'im, used only in 2 Samuel 6:5, rendered “cornets” (Revised Version, “castanets”); in the Vulgate, “sistra,” an instrument of agitation.

  5. The shalishim, mentioned only in 1 Samuel 18:6, rendered “instruments of music” (marginal note of Revised Version, “triangles or three-stringed instruments”).

The words in Eccl. 2:8, “musical instruments, and that of all sorts,” Authorized Version, are in the Revised Version “concubines very many.”

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