From the beginning of creation

The Bible is full of references to music, as it was an integral part of life in both Old Testament and New Testament times.
According to the book of Job, song was a part of the process of creating of the world. God talks to Job about the moment he laid the earth’s foundations and said that he was accompanied by the morning stars singing together (Job 38:7).

Music to commemorate

Miriam's dance, illuminated manuscriptThroughout the Old Testament, God’s people sought to both commemorate and remember what he had done for them through song (a long-established oral tradition). For example, when God rescued the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt with the parting of the Red Sea and subsequent drowning of their enemies, Moses and his sister Miriam penned a song of thanks to God: 
1 I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
 the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.
2 The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation;
 this is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him.
3 The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is his name.
4 Pharaoh's chariots and his host he cast into the sea,
 and his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea. 
                                                              Exodus 15:1–4 ESVUK     
Other songs praising God for his victories include Deuteronomy 32:3-14, Judges 5:3–12 and 2 Samuel 22:2–20.

Music to express emotion

David and Saul by Julius KronbergDavid’s harp

Before becoming King of Israel, David was renowned for being a gifted harpist whose soothing music was able to quell a disturbing spirit which afflicted his predecessor, King Saul (1 Samuel 16:16-18). Subsequently many compositions in the books of Psalms were attributed to him.

The book of Psalms

There are various types of emotion expressed within the Psalms, from songs of thanks and praise right through to songs of lament. These songs continued to be sung by believers into New Testament times, for example:
Singing Psalms has continued throughout church history and they have been the inspiration for many hymns.

Music as a backdrop to life 

Worship and celebration

Music was a vital component of Temple worship, with males of one tribe, the Levites, being exempt from other duties because of the importance placed on their role in leading music (1 Chronicles 9:33, Ezra 3:10). The use of music in worship was clearly common in other cultures of the day (e.g. Daniel 3:4–7).

Battle cry

When the Israelites went out into battle, the musicians sounded their trumpets as a battle cry (see 2 Chronicles 13:12-14). Trumpets in particular were associated with victory, as with the defeat of Jericho (see The battle of Jericho, Joshua 6:2–5). Sometimes musicians were on the frontline of the army, leading the fighters out with praise:
[Jehosaphat] appointed those who were to sing to the Lord and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army                 2 Chronicles 20:21 ESVUK     

New Testament songs

The MagnificatThe gospel of Luke in particular is full of songs that express feeling:
Elsewhere in the New Testament, it appears that singing together was a regular occurrence for believers:

Depictions of heavenly worship

The final book of the Bible, Revelation, contains scenes depicting heavenly worship; in chapter 5:
.. the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb .. And they sang a new song, saying,
‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.’                    Revelation 5:9–10 ESVUK     
In Revelation 15:2–4 phrases from the song of Moses (see above) are utilised in a song which celebrates the ultimate deliverance of God’s people from the power of the devil

Other cultural references

  • Drama: Shakespeare frequently used music in his plays to establish mood and many plays contained song lyrics e.g.: Ariel’s songs in The Tempest
  • Music: Stevie Wonder’s album Songs in the Key of Life
  • Art: Three Musicians by Pablo Picasso, The Piano Lesson, by Henri Matisse

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