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Doctrine of Religious Worship: History of Music in the Pre-Davidic Period

October 30, 2022 Series: Great Doctrines of the Christian Faith

Scripture: Ephesians 5:18–20, Colossians 3:16–17


We are continuing our study of music in Scripture

  • where it was used for the purposes of worship
  • where it was used not for worship

So, when we come to Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3

  • we might be able to take a look at them reasonably and rationally with the Scriptures

Last week we went all the way up through Moses

  • we looked at the song of Moses in Exodus 15
  • we looked at the 2nd song of Moses in Deut. 32
  • we looked at the song of the well in Numbers

This week we will look at the periods of

  • Joshua, Judges, Ruth, and up to 1 Samuel 10

Judges → Joshua

Judges to Joshua does not have a lot about music.

The book of Joshua doesn't have a lot of information with regard to worship either.

Song of Deborah

There is a song that takes place in the book of Judges

  • Judges 5.2-31 - the song of Deborah and Barak
  • This is an inspired song

Deborah speaks by the word of the Lord

  • the Spirit of God that inspired her to write

There are places that sound similar to worship songs

verse 2, verse 3, verse 4, 5

There are places that are uncharacteristic of praise

verse 7

  • uncharacteristic of praise to exalt a single person
    • Unless we are exalting David
    • When we exalt David, we exalt Christ
  • we do not see something like this in the Psalter

verse 12

  • personal address is uncommon to the Psalter
  • The Psalter addresses the Lord

The Psalter does have personal references in it

  • but those personal references are universal
  • they are things everyone can sing to the Lord

Worshiping assemblies could not say things like this

verse 24

  • This is something we will not find in the Psalter
    • blessing above women to Jael
  • This kind of personal reference and personal exaltation of one particular historical figure…
    • Is not typically found in the Psalter
    • unless they are historically prophetic
      • as in the instance of David, where he stands prophetically speaking for Christ

verse 26

  • Not really the stuff the psalms are made of

There are imprecatory Psalms

  • but they are universal in speaking

verse 28

  • these types of references are not in the Psalter

This was a song that was sung by Deborah and Barak

  • In some ways it was sung in praise to God
  • It was also sung to memorialize a particular event, the throwing off Sisera, by Jael

Is this a song for all time in worship of God?

  • I do not think so.

Joshua 6.4 and Instruments

We see some references to instruments in Joshua

  • These instruments are trumpets

As learned last week, trumpets

  • are not musical instruments for worship
  • are used for mustering
  • are used for communication
  • Reference the use of partials

The trumpet here has nothing to do with music

  • but everything to do with signaling, mustering, gathering together, concentrating the shouts of the people at a particular moment

There are other instances of trumpets

  • Judges 3.27, 6.34, 7.8-22
  • they are not used, however, for worship

Remember the 2 silver trumpets in Numbers 10?

  • silver trumpets were to be blown over sacrifices
  • they were to be blown so that the people knew that sacrifices were being made

Again, they were used as a signal

  • not for musical purposes

1 Samuel 10

What is the book of 1 Samuel about?

  • It is about the getting the King
    • Ruth tells us the genealogy
    • Samuel tells us how we get him

Remember first we had Saul then David

But in 1 Samuel, we have the calling of the first king

  • Samuel the prophet comes to anoint Saul and describes to him the signs of the monarchy

The Signs of the Monarchy 

  • 1 Samuel 9 → Saul's father sends him to find some donkeys that had been lost
  • On they way he meets Samuel and is told not to worry about the donkeys - they have been found
  • Samuel anoints Saul at the beginning of Ch. 10

Samuel tells him the signs of the monarchy will come

What are these signs of the monarchy?

  1. He's to meet 3 guys that are going up to worship
  • they are going to give him 2 loaves of bread
  1. He's going to meet a company of prophets
  • They're going to have a number of instruments: a tablet, a pipe, a harp, a psaltery
  • They will be coming down and prophesying
  • When you see them, you too, will prophesy
    • you will be changed into another man
  1. Then Samuel tells when he goes down to Gilgal
  • wait for 7 days until Samuel arrives
  • and then, Samuel will make a sacrifice
  • But Saul does not wait for Samuel and makes the sacrifice himself (Ch. 13)
  • Then Samuel comes to him, and says:
    • What have you done? (v. 11)
    • the Lord has rejected you from being king

But let us go back to what is going on in Chapter 10

  • There are prophets coming down the hill
  • They have these instruments and playing them
  • This means that they are most likely singing with the instrumental accompaniment
  • When Saul meets up with them, he too, will receive of the Spirit of the Lord such that he will prophesy with them.
  • Notice that this comes immediately on the heels of his anointing

Let us think about this scenario for a second...

  • Who are these prophets and where did they come from?

It's not mentioned much in Scripture who these guys were. But there are a few clues.

The School of the Prophets

In the days of Samuel there was a school of Prophets.

  • Today, that might look something similar to a seminary where men learned to be prophets from other inspired prophets
  • And it may have been that the difference between an inspired Prophet and an uninspired Prophet was not so wide a difference
  • In other words, these men learned to understand the Bible they had in that day
    • They learned how to read it
    • They learned how to understand it
    • They learned how to teach it
  • And some of those men God were gifted with the supernatural kind of utterance

1 Chronicles 25.1-7 → sons of the prophets

The musical notation is tied to the prophecy

What we're doing is we're building up the mosaic of information that that the scriptures give us about the circumstances and then we'll put it all together

2 Kings 2.1-7 → sons of the prophets

Notice they are called the sons of the prophets

  • It is in the same sense as Solomon
    • My son, hear the instruction

not speaking necessarily to his literal son

  • they are sons in a 5th commandment sense → the relationship of inferiors to superiors
  • Similarly, “sons of the prophets” is not necessarily the literal “sons” of the prophets

2 Kings 4.38 → sons of the prophets

The chief prophet Elijah is with the sons of the prophets, sort of like the students

  • This college of the prophets is where these men have come from in 1 Samuel 10
  • these men that are coming down the hill
    • they are prophesying
    • they are playing instruments
    • they are singing
      • and the singing is called prophesying

When Saul joins them

  • he joins in their singing
  • he joins in prophesying

The prophets, this school of the prophets

  • they are uttering their prophecy
  • they are uttering by way of musical utterance
  • and they are known as and called prophets

1 Samuel 19.18-21

What is going on here?

What is the prophesying that is taking place?

If we compare Scripture with Scripture, what is happening is that men are singing the words of God

Similar to those men that are coming down the hill when Saul joins them and begins prophesying

  • When these men sing, they are said to prophesy

2 Kings 3.13-20

Notice what Elisha said, he said, “Bring me a minstrel”

  • And when the minstrel played, it says The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he prophesied

Isn't that interesting?

Sometimes in Scripture, we see the prophets prophesying, by way of musical utterance.

  • This is what the prophets were doing when they were coming down the hill to Saul.
  • This is what they were doing in 1 Samuel 19
  • This is the only explanation that really encompasses the scriptural narratives.

The same is true of Habakkuk 3 where Habakkuk utters a prophecy on Shigionoth → a musical notation

  • at the end of that prophecy, he says,
    • to the chief musician upon my stringed instruments….

Numbers 11.24-30

From everything we have looked, we might understand the 70 Elders broke into some kind of singing.

Otherwise, it is a cacophony of prophecy, right?

If each of the 70 Elders stood up and began uttering a prophecy that is different from the others

  • then it is just a cacophony of voices
  • then no one can understand what they are saying

What the Bible says is recognized as prophecy, may have to do with the fact that they were singing

  • How do we know that Miriam was a prophetess?
    • Well, because the Bible tells us, sure.
  • But how is it that we understand that she was to be set apart as a prophetess?
    • She sang in the public assembly, didn't she?
      • Yes, she did
      • As we have seen, there is a very close tie

If you take a good look from Genesis to 1 Samuel

  • You will see a very close tie between prophecy and singing
  • You will see these ties will help us understand what's going on in the days of Saul and Samuel


Now, why are we looking into all this history?

Because in doing our survey, we are looking to

  • get every instance of music that has come up in the Scriptures up until the time of David
  • incorporate this into our understanding of song as it was used for worship

Every instance of singing that we have seen so far is referred to as prophecy, or prophesying.

Aside from the earlier references in Gen and Job where no particular song was referenced but only singing in general – and not connected with any from or worship activity

How do we interpret this?

We know every song we have in the Bible is inspired

  • But there are a number of songs that we have seen referenced that are not in the Bible
    • they are still inspired
    • they are still called prophecy
      • though the words are not given
    • when they are used, they are called prophesy

Therefore, up until now, every song that was sung in worship was an inspired song

As we close, turn back Ephesians 5.18

With that with the history that we have just reviewed, does this text take on a new understanding?

  • Are we being told here in this passage to prophesy?
    • Yes

We are being told to have the Spirit of God that we may do as the prophets of old have done

  • We are being told that we too may sing out and prophesy.

Paul is standing in the stream of these Old Testament passages telling us that we also should be filled with the Spirit and so our singing will be informed.

  • You say, Pastor does this, then give us the right to write our own songs?
    • Do you believe that you are an inspired prophet?
    • Do you believe you are being inspired by the Spirit of God to write Scripture?

We have gone through the days of Joshua, Judges, Ruth, and 1 Samuel up to the time David is anointed

  • We have seen some people prophesying
  • We have seen some people singing their prophecy
    • they are using instruments to do so
    • we are not told where the songs came
    • we are not told where the instruments came
  • We have seen that the Spirit of the Lord came upon these men, and they prophesied
    • they didn't do this of themselves
    • in some cases, they had a different intention
    • the Spirit of the Lord came upon them
      • turned them into someone else (Saul)
      • they sang their prophecy

We've seen the apostle Paul stand in the same stream

  • Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns and spiritual songs

Paul would usher that Old Testament concept straight into the New Testament

  • that we should sing the words of God like those prophets of old.

This feeds right into our understanding of 1 Corinthians 11

  • Every woman praying or prophesying with her head uncovered, dishonors her head.
  • How does she pray?
  • How does she prophesy in the worshipping assembly?
    • by having the words of the Spirit of God in her mouth
    • by being filled with the Spirit
    • by speaking and singing in psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs


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