Like me, I’m sure that you are still reeling from the tragedy that took place at the Tree of Life Synagogue in which 11 innocent people were gunned down by an anti-Semite mass murderer. Being born and raised in Pittsburgh, this tragedy hit close to home. “Shocking” is not strong enough of a word to describe the emotions that were felt across the country. These devastating events seem to be far too frequent. Off Beat is not a political blog. I will keep it that way but I pray that something can be done to help prevent more shootings from happening in the future. I have no idea what that is. That said, I can post about what I know. The Jewish faith has a long history of music and drumming. A couple years ago I posted a piece about the Israelites drums in the Bible and cited where they appeared.
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.” 1 Samuel 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.
The “tabret” was a smaller version of the “Toph”. It was very similar to the medieval tabor drum (or tabour), which consists of a circular frame of two hoops fitting within one another in which a cloth or animal skin is stretched across to create a small, one-headed or two-sided drum. Since no records, pictures or drawings of tabrets have ever been found, some have come to believe that the tabret is an instrument that is between a tambourine and a modern-day drum. Here are some references of the instrument in scripture:
“After that thou shalt come to the hill of God, where is the garrison of the Philistines: and it shall come to pass, when thou art come thither to the city, that thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a tabret (drum), and a pipe, and a harp, before them; and they shall prophesy.” 1 Samuel 10:5
“And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of all cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tabrets (drums), with joy, and with instruments of music.” 1 Samuel 18:6
“Again I will build thee, and thou shalt be built, O virgin of Israel: thou shalt again be adorned with thy tabrets (drums), and shalt go forth in the dances of them that make merry.” Jeremiah 31:4
(Note: Cymbals are mentioned extensively in 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Psalms.)