Archives For Music

The early Christian writers aimed no polemic at the nobler art music or the folk music of their day. Had they been opposed to it, they would no doubt have spoken against it. Their denunciations of music were not general; rather, they were aimed at a few well-defined targets: the music of the popular public spectacles, the music associated with voluptuous banqueting, the music associated with pagan weddings, and the music of pagan religious rites and festivities. As we have already seen, they were not alone in their denunciations. They joined their voices with those of pagan Romans who were painfully aware of the decay of their civilization.

—Calvin R. Stapert, A New Song for an Old World: Musical Thought in the Early Church, 145

At least 21 verses in Scripture record instances of shouting directly connected with singing or playing musical instruments. These passages relate instances of divine, angelic, and human shouting.

Divine Shouting

One passage clearly records an instance of divine shouting connected directly to music.

Psalm 47:5 God is gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.

Angelic Shouting

Not only does Scripture record divine shouting connected directly to music, but also it records angelic shouting connected directly with music.

Job 38:7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Human Shouting

In addition to passages recording divine and angelic shouting directly connected with music, many passages record human shouting directly connected with music. All the major sections of the OT contain at least one such passage.

The Law

Exodus 32:17 And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp. 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.

Historical Books

2 Sam. 6:15 So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.

1 Chr. 15:28 Thus all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the LORD with shouting, and with sound of the cornet, and with trumpets, and with cymbals, making a noise with psalteries and harps.

2 Chr. 15:14 And they sware unto the LORD with a loud voice, and with shouting, and with trumpets, and with cornets.

Ezr. 3:11 And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the LORD; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.

Ezr. 3:12 But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy:

Ezr. 3:13 So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off.

Poetry or Wisdom Books

Ps. 5:11 But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee.

Ps. 32:11 Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.

Ps. 35:27 Let them shout for joy, and be glad, that favour my righteous cause: yea, let them say continually, Let the LORD be magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant.

Ps. 47:1 <To the chief Musician, A Psalm for the sons of Korah.> O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph.

Ps. 65:13 The pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered over with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing.

Ps. 132:9 Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness; and let thy saints shout for joy.

Ps. 132:16 I will also clothe her priests with salvation: and her saints shall shout aloud for joy.

The Prophets

Isa. 12:6 Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.

Isa. 42:11 Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar doth inhabit: let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains.

Isa. 44:23 Sing, O ye heavens; for the LORD hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.

Jer. 31:7 For thus saith the LORD; Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations: publish ye, praise ye, and say, O LORD, save thy people, the remnant of Israel.

Zeph. 3:14 Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem.

Application

This wealth of biblical data shows the musical importance of shouting. Commands of worldwide scope (Ps. 47:1; Is. 44:23) especially highlight that importance.

Not everyone can sing well, but almost everyone who can speak can shout. Given that Scripture plainly teaches the musical importance of shouting for every believer (Ps. 5:11, 32:11, 35:27), churches would do well to add regular corporate shouting of praise to God (cf. Ezra 3:11) to their other musical worship activities.

 

 

 

Profoundly dangerous teaching about music from an influential writer on the subject:

Because true Christianity cannot be thought of apart from new creation, there should be no kind of music, however radical, however new, however strange, that is out of place in Christian worship, as long as it is faithfully offered. And no Christian, truly living by faith, should ever turn his or her back on and refuse to offer a musical piece simply because it is too radical.

—Harold M. Best, Music Through the Eyes of Faith, 154

A large group of people who virulently hate God gather in a remote location to curse God corporately for an extended period. Their blasphemous activities include the use of lots of musical instruments.

This group uses melodies in songs written by and known only to the people who attend the event. The instrumental music played throughout the event to accompany the singing is all new music written specifically for the event.

A Secret Recording

At some distance from the event, some animal researchers happen to hear the loud musical sounds emanating from the gathering. Fearing for their personal safety, the researchers do not want the large group to discover their presence.

The researchers have with them state of the art audio equipment. They use it secretly from a distance to record the musical activities of the blasphemers. Because of the distance involved, the equipment cannot pick up any of the lyrics of the songs. The equipment only records the composite sound from a distance of the singing accompanied by the musical instruments.

The researchers do not know anything about the nature of the group or why they have gathered. They cannot hear any of the words the people sing, but they are able to tell that the group is singing.

What Should We Think?

From a human standpoint, what are we to think of the morality of the composite sound that the researchers record? Anyone who would hear that recording of the composite sound would not know anything about either the words being sung or the instrumental music accompanying it. Would that composite sound recording, therefore, be an amoral musical recording for any people who hear it?

God, angels, and demons, however, would know exactly all that the group did and and sang on this occasion. Because of their full knowledge about the event, would that recording still be an amoral recording simply because it is a recording of composite sound of humanly unknown and unknowable lyrics sung to musical accompaniment that is humanly unknown and unknowable?

Exodus 32 is an important passage in Scripture on the subject of worship. I recently engaged in a lengthy online discussion on Sharper Iron concerning that passage: “How Does God Want Christians to Profit concerning Worship from Exodus 32:17-20.”

I then conducted a follow-up poll on the question: “Is Exodus 32:17-18 divine revelation about worship music?

Respondents chose from 7 answers: “Yes, for sure; Probably; Maybe; Not sure; Probably not; No; or, Absolutely not.”

Poll Results

The results of the poll were shocking. Out of 22 respondents, 3 voted “No” and 14 voted “Absolutely not.” Only 2 people voted “Yes, for sure” and 1 voted “Probably.”1

Poll Analysis

Are the majority of the responses in this poll the correct view about Exodus 32:17-18? A careful analysis of the passage and of other relevant passages answers that question decisively.

Undeniably, Exodus 32:17-18 is divine revelation that has been given by inspiration of the Spirit:

Exodus 32:17 And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp. 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.

Because verse 18 mentions singing explicitly, these verses are undeniably divine revelation about music. The only question that remains is whether these verses are divine revelation about worship music.

Exodus 32:5 shows that what took place in the Golden Calf Incident (GCI) took place on an occasion that was supposed to have been a feast to the Lord, which would have been a divinely ordained occasion of corporate worship (cf. John 12:20). In addition, apostolic citation of Exodus 32:6 in 1 Corinthians 10:7 decisively shows that the GCI was an occasion of worship because it says that they were idolaters on that occasion:

1 Corinthians 10:7 Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

1 Corinthians 10:7 μηδὲ εἰδωλολάτραι γίνεσθε, καθώς τινες αὐτῶν· ὡς γέγραπται, Ἐκάθισεν ὁ λαὸς φαγεῖν καὶ πιεῖν, καὶ ἀνέστησαν παίζειν.

Furthermore, Paul specifies that their idolatrous worship extended to their eating and drinking what had been offered to the idol and to their subsequent playing. The Greek verb παίζειν that is rendered “to play” in this statement is used in the LXX to signify singing and playing of musical instruments:

1 Chr. 13:8 And David and all Israel played before God with all their might, and with singing, and with harps, and with psalteries, and with timbrels, and with cymbals, and with trumpets.

1 Chr. 13:8 καὶ Δαυιδ καὶ πᾶς Ισραηλ παίζοντες ἐναντίον τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν πάσῃ δυνάμει καὶ ἐν ψαλτῳδοῖς καὶ ἐν κινύραις καὶ ἐν νάβλαις ἐν τυμπάνοις καὶ ἐν κυμβάλοις καὶ ἐν σάλπιγξιν

This biblical data justifies holding that the idolatrous worship in the GCI included their singing.

Conclusion

In spite of the prevailing view to the contrary that is held by most of the respondents to this poll, a careful handling of Exodus 32:17-18 shows that it is definitively divine revelation concerning worship music.


Notes

1 One of the people who responded to this poll on SI conducted the same poll in a closed Facebook group of fundamentalist pastors. He found that 24 of the 30 pastors said that Exodus 32:17-18 is not divine revelation about worship music. If anything, his results are more shocking than mine are because of the nature of the group that he polled.

A professional CCM musician recently made the following revealing comment to an online article about CCM:

I’m a professional musician who has and does work with some of the most well known CCM artists. I’ve done tours, recorded on their albums , etc.. I can tell you first hand that it’s about the bottomline, not Jesus. The hypocrisy is rampant. And I will say many are not believers. I was on a tour bus one year with a well known act and I was mocked for reading my bible. I was yelled at by the drummer for calling out heretics on TBN. Many musicians like myself who work in the CCM market are not believers. They all call themselves Christian’s, but their words and actions betray them. And the biblical ignorance is beyond breathtaking. There ate [sic] true believers players and artists alike, but far and few between.

This article provides telling information about CCM. The comments are especially informative.

Russian president Vladimir Putin recently made some striking remarks about rap music:

“Rap is based on three pillars: sex, drugs and protest.” But he is particularly concerned with drug themes prevalent in rap, saying “this is a path to the degradation of the nation.”

The Spirit has spoken about what took place in the Golden Calf Incident (GCI) in at least six passages in six different books of the Bible (57 total verses in Exod. 32, Deut. 9, Neh. 9, Ps. 106, Acts 7, and 1 Cor. 10). God has thus highlighted what took place in the GCI in a way that demands our careful attention to what He has revealed about that event.

Exodus 32, the longest record of that event, reveals that singing was a part of what took place on that occasion:

Exodus 32:17 And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp. 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. 19 And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount.

Because the Spirit has given this revelation to us about their singing, we know that He intends for us to profit from it. Does He want us to understand that their singing on this occasion was ungodly singing?

Was Their Singing Ungodly?

To answer this question, we note that the passage does not provide any record of an explicitly negative evaluation of the singing. The record, however, shows that from a distance the sound of the singing was not of such a nature that it would have led everyone who heard it to know definitively that it was the sound of singing.

We know that this is true because Joshua did not accurately interpret that sound that he was hearing as the sound of singing. For him, the sound was of such a character that he thought that the people were engaged in fighting a war (Exod. 32:17).

Moses, however, discerned correctly that the sound that they were hearing from a distance was the sound of singing (Exod. 32:18). Because the passage does not record any evaluative statements by Moses of the singing, we cannot determine its character from any direct statement by him.

A Broader Consideration of Their Singing

In order to evaluate further the nature of the sound of the singing that Moses heard, we have to examine the passage more broadly. When we do so, we find that this singing did not take place until the people had first engaged in eating sacrifices that had been offered to the golden calf:

Exodus 32:6 And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.

Because the Spirit says that the people “rose up to play” after they had consumed the sacrifices and then He reveals to us specifically that what the people did was to sing (Exod. 32:18) and dance (Exod. 32:19), we learn that their playing on this occasion consisted at least of their singing and dancing.

Based on Moses’ anger waxing hot when he saw the dancing (and the calf; Exod. 32:19), we know that their dancing was ungodly dancing. Was their singing also ungodly?

The NT answers that question by revealing the divine evaluation of their playing on this occasion:

1 Corinthians 10:7 Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

It is crucial to note that Paul writes that their idolatry included not just their eating and drinking those sacrifices but also their subsequent playing. This revelation tells us that their playing on that occasion was of a wicked, idolatrous nature and that God commands us through this revelation not to be idolatrous in that way.

Based on this NT revelation, we know that both their singing and dancing were of a wicked, idolatrous nature that God commands us not to engage in.

Conclusion

The sound that Joshua and Moses heard from a distance was the sound of people engaging in singing idolatrously—Exodus 32 is the record of an event featuring the sound of ungodly singing!

 

“Satisfied” by Clara T. Williams is a hymn that powerfully testifies to the satisfaction that knowing Jesus brings to the life of a believer. This PDF provides the first stanza, melody notes, and chord symbols for all the chords to play the song in the key of D.

If you are an advanced guitarist, play all the chords to this song. To make the song easier to play, play the chords as normal chords instead of playing them as slash chords (for example, play Em7 instead of Em7/D).

With this mp3 audio of the song, you can practice playing the chords while hearing the melody (there are 5 introductory beats before the song begins).

 

The Golden Calf Incident (GCI) is an infamous biblical account of idolatrous worship. Exodus 32 provides the lengthiest record of what took place on that occasion and informs us that both singing and dancing were part of their worship:

Exodus 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.

Exodus 32:19 And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount.

In spite of the record of their singing and dancing, many people believe that the lack of mention of musical instruments in any of the passages that record the GCI means that there were no musical instruments used in their worship at that time. Is it a reasonable position to hold that these people sang a cappella and danced “a musica”1?

The Relevance of Exodus 15 to the Interpretation of Exodus 32

After the Israelites had crossed the Red Sea and God had drowned Pharaoh and all his hosts, the Israelites sang praise to God for the deliverance that He had provided them (Exod. 15:1-19). Miriam then led all the women in singing and dancing that was accompanied by the playing of timbrels:

Exodus 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.

Exodus 15 thus establishes an important precedent that the Israelites used musical instruments in corporate worship of God that included both singing and dancing. Because we know that the Israelites had at least timbrels and had used them prior to the GCI in worship that included both singing and dancing, we do not have any biblical basis to hold that the Israelites did not use at least timbrels in the GCI.

Conclusion

Allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture, there is no reasonable basis to hold that the GCI was an occasion of idolatrous worship where the people sang and danced without the use of any musical instruments. Exodus 32 is not a record of singing and dancing without the use of musical instruments.


1“A musica” is a term that I coined to signify when dancing is done without the use of musical instruments to accompany the dancing.