On Jubal, David, and the CCM Debate

December 21, 2013

As a justification for using CCM, some believers assert that good king David worshiped God using a harp that may have been invented by Jubal, an ungodly man. Is this a valid argument for using CCM?

Jubal as the Possible Inventor of Two Musical Instruments

In the first statement about musical instruments in Scripture, Moses tell us through inspiration of the Spirit that Jubal, a man in the ungodly line of Cain, may have invented[1] two instruments:

 Gen 4:21 And his brother’s name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.

Why did the Spirit inspire Moses to give us this information and what are we supposed to learn from it? Because the passage itself does not expound further on the significance of this statement, there is uncertainty about its purpose beyond informing us about who originated some aspect of the playing of these instruments.

Because the Noahic Flood destroyed all humanity living at the time of Noah except Noah and certain members of his family, we cannot be certain that there was any direct connection between these instruments and the instruments called by the same names after the Flood. If neither Noah nor any of his surviving family played these instruments or knew of these instruments through some other means, it is possible that the knowledge of these two instruments was completely lost after the Flood and somebody else later invented similar instruments or even the same instruments without knowing anything about the harps and the organs of which Jubal originated the playing.

Furthermore, Scripture provides no indication that Jubal was the inventor of the other musical instruments mentioned in Scripture, such as the timbrel and the psaltery. This fact further cautions us not to make too much of his possibly inventing the instruments that he may have invented.

In fact, Scriptural emphasis on King David’s making musical instruments for divine worship (1 Chron. 23:5; 2 Chron. 7:6; 29:26-27; Neh. 12:36) makes a dogmatic assertion that David played the same instrument that Jubal possibly invented all the more a debatable point. If David actually invented some or all of these instruments instead of just commissioning the making of them or crafting them himself, the instruments that David played in divine worship may not have been traceable at all to the harp that Jubal possibly made.

A proper consideration of Jubal’s possibly inventing these two instruments, therefore, must account for these other truths from Scripture. These considerations show that David may or may not have played a harp possibly invented by Jubal.

Nevertheless, the rest of this post will examine what significance there would be for the debate about CCM if David did in fact play the same instrument that Jubal may have invented. To understand that significance, we need to take a closer look at Jubal’s originating the playing of the musical instruments that he did and the morality of David’s use of one of them.

A Closer Look at the Morality of David’s Use of the Harp that Jubal Created

When Jubal originated the playing of the harp and the organ that he did, he either created or played musical instruments that obviously only produced instrumental music. As a member of the ungodly line of Cain, Jubal may have invented and likely played these instruments with wicked intent.

Our understanding of the actual nature of the instrumental music that he produced, however, depends entirely on the position that we take about whether instrumental music is inherently neutral or even moral.

Case 1: Instrumental Music is Inherently Neutral or Moral

Let us consider first what would have been true if we do hold to the inherent neutrality or morality of instrumental music. Holding the position that music itself without lyrics cannot be sinful requires that we also hold that no matter how wicked Jubal was and regardless of how wicked his intent was in his playing, it was impossible for him to produce any instrumental music that was in and of itself evil.

Because there was no way for him to play those instruments to produce instrumental music that was itself evil, all the instrumental music that he produced must have been either neutral or moral. Since his instruments, therefore, produced, only neutral or moral music, neither his instruments themselves nor the music they produced were evil.

In that case, even though Jubal would have been a wicked man who originated the playing of his instruments for a wicked purpose, he could not have accomplished his wicked intent solely through the intrinsic nature of the music that he played through his instruments. Any wicked activities for which he used his instruments, therefore, would have been wicked not because of the intrinsic nature of either the instruments or the music they produced; some other aspect of the activities had to be wicked for him to use those instruments for evil.

Because neither his instruments nor any of the music that they produced would have been capable of being evil, the use of those instruments that he may have made by godly people (especially many centuries later) would have posed no moral issues whatever. Even if David had used the same instrument that Jubal may have invented for his wicked purposes, there would have been no moral problems with his doing so because the instrument itself was not evil and it was incapable of producing any inherently evil instrumental music.

Case 2: Instrumental Music Can Be Sinful

What happens, however, if we hold that music itself without lyrics can be sinful? In this case, Jubal would have been able to produce instrumental music that was itself wicked.

He could then have accomplished his evil intent solely through playing those instruments. Would that therefore have made his instruments evil or their use by someone else wrong?

The only way that his instruments themselves could have been evil was if they were capable of only producing sinful instrumental music. For that to have been true, no matter what notes or combinations of notes he played or how he played them, the resulting instrumental music would always have had to have been sinful.

Of course, his creating such instruments was impossible because musical sounds in and of themselves cannot be evil. We must conclude in this case, therefore, that his instruments were not inherently sinful and that they were inherently capable of producing both godly instrumental music and ungodly instrumental music.

Because his instruments were not inherently sinful and because they were capable of producing godly instrumental music, David’s use of one of those instruments for godly purposes could not have been inherently wrong.

In either case, therefore, David’s use of the harp that may have been invented by Jubal could not have been wrong based on the consideration of who may have invented it.

Does David’s Use of the Harp Possibly Invented by Jubal Justify CCM?

The above discussion shows that regardless of what position we take about the possibility of music itself without lyrics being sinful, David’s using a harp that Jubal possibly invented could not have been intrinsically wrong because the harp itself was not evil nor could it have been. This conclusion is true whether Jubal invented the harp or its playing or both as a wicked man with a wicked intent or as a wicked man with a humanly good intent.[2]

Is the same true for CCM? For the same to be true of CCM, it would have to be proven that music itself without lyrics could not be evil.


Brethren who wish to show that using CCM is legitimate cannot do it by pointing to David’s use of a harp that may have been invented by Jubal as a valid parallel to their use of CCM because the harp itself could not have been inherently evil even if Jubal’s intent for possibly making it, using it, or both was evil. Because the same is not true of the instrumental music used to create and play CCM, David’s use of the harp possibly invented by Jubal does not justify CCM.


[1] Most interpreters understand his being the father of those who handle the harp and the organ as signifying that he invented them. The verbs used in this verse, however, do not mean to invent, so it is unclear whether Jubal invented these instruments or not.

[2] Obviously, if Jubal was a good man, the same conclusion holds.



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2 responses to On Jubal, David, and the CCM Debate

  1. This is a very interesting point and article, but, at the risk of sounding a little sarcastic, do people really argue over this? I guess I’m just interested in what prompted the need for this article in the first place. I also find it ironic that, in my browser, there is an add to learn how to play Guitar for ministry.

    • Yes, one person recently tried to use something along these lines to try to defend CCM. Another person told me that he thinks that using the guitar is not proper in church because of how it has been used by the world. Another person even commented on my blog that I needed to study the origins of the guitar, and that if I would study it, maybe I would not promote playing the guitar for ministry. So, yes, there are real live people whose views I was addressing Scripturally through this article.