Easton's Bible Dictionary

Music, Instrumental

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

  • The kinnor, the "harp."
  • The nebel, "a skin bottle," rendered "psaltery."
  • The sabbeka, or "sackbut," a lute or lyre.
  • The gittith, occurring in the title of Psalms 8; 8; 84.
  • 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."
  • 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,

  • The 'ugab (Genesis 4:21; Job 21:12; 30:31), probably the so-called Pan's pipes or syrinx.
  • The qeren or "horn" (Joshua 6:5; 1 Chronicles 25:5).
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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 Palestine.
  • The sumponyah, rendered "dulcimer" (Daniel 3:5), probably a sort of bagpipe.
  • The maskrokith'a (Daniel 3:5), rendered "flute," but its precise nature is unknown.

    Of instruments of percussion mention is made of,

  • 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).
  • The paamon, the "bells" on the robe of the high priest (Exodus 28:33; 39:25).
  • 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."
  • The menaan'im, used only in 2 Samuel 6:5, rendered "cornets" (RSV, "castanets"); in the Vulgate, "sistra," an instrument of agitation.
  • The shalishim, mentioned only in 1 Samuel 18:6, rendered "instruments of music" (marg. of RSV, "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."

    Copyright Statement
    These dictionary topics are from M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain, copy freely.

    Bibliography Information
    Easton, Matthew George. "Entry for 'Music, Instrumental'". "Easton's Bible Dictionary".
    <>. 1897.