Scripture provides more than 3000 verses pertaining to the subject of music. Based on an extensive analysis of the biblical revelation about human musical activity, I believe that a very helpful way to understand divine revelation about music is to organize that revelation chronologically into seven periods of human musical activity on earth.
The Seven Periods of Human Musical Activity on Earth
The following listing provides key passages concerning music in each period. As far as I can tell, the references in the first two periods are the only revelation that we have about music in those periods; the listing in the other periods is highly selective and leaves out much other revelation that is in Scripture.
1. Music before the Flood
Gen 4:21 And his brother’s name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.
2. Music from the Flood to the Exodus
Job 21:12 They take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ.
Job 30:31 My harp also is turned to mourning, and my organ into the voice of them that weep.
Job 35:10 But none saith, Where is God my maker, who giveth songs in the night;
Gen 31:27 Wherefore didst thou flee away secretly, and steal away from me; and didst not tell me, that I might have sent thee away with mirth, and with songs, with tabret, and with harp?
3. Music from the Exodus to the Monarchy
Exo 15:1 Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.
Exo 15:20 And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. 21 And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.
Exo 32:18 And he said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing do I hear.
Deu 31:19 Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel.
Jdg 5:1 Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day, saying,
4. Music from the Monarchy to the Coming of Christ
1Sa 16:23 And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.
Psa 1:1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. 3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
Psa 2:1 Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, 3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.
Psa 2:10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.
Psa 33:1 Rejoice in the LORD, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright. 2 Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings. 3 Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise. 4 For the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth. 5 He loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.
Psa 106:48 Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting: and let all the people say, Amen. Praise ye the LORD.
1Ch 25:1 Moreover David and the captains of the host separated to the service of the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophesy with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals: and the number of the workmen according to their service was: 3 Of Jeduthun: the sons of Jeduthun; Gedaliah, and Zeri, and Jeshaiah, Hashabiah, and Mattithiah, six, under the hands of their father Jeduthun, who prophesied with a harp, to give thanks and to praise the LORD. . . . 6 All these were under the hands of their father for song in the house of the LORD, with cymbals, psalteries, and harps, for the service of the house of God, according to the king’s order to Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman. 7 So the number of them, with their brethren that were instructed in the songs of the LORD, even all that were cunning, was two hundred fourscore and eight.
2Ki 3:15 But now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the LORD came upon him.
Dan 3:5 That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up:
Amo 5:23 Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols.
5. Music at the Time of Christ
Mat 9:23 And when Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise,
Mat 26:30 And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.
Luk 7:32 They are like unto children sitting in the marketplace, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept.
Luk 15:25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.
6. Music in the Early Church
Act 16:25 And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.
Rom 15:9 And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name.
1Co 13:1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
1Co 14:7 And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? 8 For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?
1Co 14:15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.
1Co 14:26 How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.
Eph 5:19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
Col 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
Jam 5:13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.
7. Music before the Great White Throne Judgment
Psa 98:4 Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise. 5 Sing unto the LORD with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm. 6 With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the LORD, the King. 7 Let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. 8 Let the floods clap their hands: let the hills be joyful together 9 Before the LORD; for he cometh to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity.
Rev 18:22 And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee; and the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee;
Through a careful analysis of the similarities and differences in human musical activity in these periods, we can learn much about what God wants us to know about music. Such a study is especially important for believers who want to worship God acceptably with corporate music that is fully in accord with all that He has revealed.