Drums in the Bible

Miriam

18th-century painting, “The Song of Miriam,” by Paulo Malteis, Italy.
Celebration after crossing the Red Sea from Egypt

Today’s post looks at mentions of drums in the Bible. I’m very comfortable sharing my faith here as a practicing Presbyterian and as a drummer, I am very interested in the use of drums for celebration and worship. Drums (or tambourines) are mentioned throughout the Old Testament. According to the website PsalmDrummers: percussion instruments such as the tambourine, timbrel or tabret are mentioned. These words are translated from the Hebrew word ‘Toph’. Tambourines and timbrels are mentioned on many occasions throughout the Old Testament and, other than cymbals, seem to be the only percussion instruments referred to. The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments’, says that “tambourine” in Scripture comes from the Hebrew word “Tof or “Toph (Hebrew; pl.tuppin), the other English translations being “timbrel” or occasionally “tabret”. It says that these are indeed frame drums and adds that, because frame drums were commonly used in the surrounding areas it is likely the ancient Israelites used them as well. Here are references of the instrument in scripture:

“Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister took a tambourine (drum) in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing.” Exodus 15:20

“After that you will go to Gibeah of God, where there is a Philistine outpost. As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, tambourines (drums), flutes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying.” 1Samuel 10:5,6

“When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with tambourines (drums) and lutes.” 1 Samuel 18:6

“Every stroke the LORD lays on them with his punishing rod will be to the music of the tambourines (drums) and harps, as he fights the battle with the blow of his arm.” Isaiah 30:32

“In front are the singers, after them the musicians; with them are the maidens playing tambourines (drums).” Psalm 68:25

“Begin the music, strike the tambourine (drum)…” Psalm 81:2.

“Let them praise His name with dancing and make music to Him with tambourine (drum) and harp.” Psalm 149:3.

“Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise Him with the harp and lyre, praise Him with the tambourine (drum) and dancing, praise Him with the strings and flute, praise Him with the clash of cymbals, praise Him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.” Psalm 150:3-6.

(Note: Cymbals are mentioned extensively in 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Psalms.)

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