“Elkanah his son, Zophai his son, Nahath his son, Eliab his son, Jeroham his son, Elkanah his son and SAMUEL his son. The sons of Samuel: JOEL the firstborn and Abijah the second son.”
This is a little long, but I think you will enjoy it.
The prophet Samuel came from a musical family who descended from Levi’s son Kohath. Samuel’s son, listed in this scripture, was Joel. Verse 33 called the son of Joel and grandson of Samuel “Heman, the musician.” Just what did Heman the musician do?
David told the Levites to appoint “singers to sing joyful songs, accompanied by musical instruments: lyres, harps, and cymbals.” Heman was the first one they appointed (I Chronicles 15:16f), and he had two assistants, ~ Asaph and Merari (I Chronicles. 6:39, 44). David put them in charge of the music in the house of the Lord, and they performed their duties according to the regulations (verses 31f).
So what David appointed was a choir and orchestra. When David first appointed them, Heman had 120 relatives in his clan, and his assistants had 220 and 130 in their clans (I Chronicles. 15:5-7; 19-22; 27-28), so they had a total of 470 musicians. Wow! And these musicians had a full-time job!
They were to minister before the Lord “according to each day’s requirements” of sacrifices as written in the Law of Moses. Heman and the others were responsible for sounding the trumpets and cymbals and playing the other instruments ~ lyres, harps, and cymbals (15:19-21) ~ for sacred song (16:37-42). In addition to playing the prescribed lyres, harps, and cymbals, trumpets were to be sounded to announce sacrifices, etc. (16:4-6).
By the time David was old, there were “four thousand…to praise the Lord with the musical instruments” (I Chronicles 23:5)! What an amazing choir and orchestra they had by this time! Remember, they were all male Levites, and were to help Aaron’s descendants, the priests, in the temple every day and at special feasts (verse 28, 30f). And what instruments were they still playing? Cymbals, lyres, and harps “for the ministry at the house of God” (I Chronicles. 25:1 & 6).
Years later after David died and his son Solomon had completed the grand Temple in Jerusalem (II Chronicles. 5:1), “all the Levites who were musicians…stood on the east side of the altar dressed in fine linen and playing cymbals, harps and lyres, accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets. The trumpeters and singers joined in unison as with one voice to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals, and the other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the Lord” (verses 12-13).
Can you imagine such an orchestra and choir? The tinkling of the harps and lyres, with cymbals keeping the tempo, and trumpets calling attention to it all? And all those singers! Was God pleased? Indeed he was, for in the form of a cloud, “the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God” (verse 14).
All this occurred around 1000 BC. Three centuries later, when Hezekiah was king, the same instruments were being played ~ cymbals, harps, and lyres (II Chronicles. 29:25f). Why? Because they were prescribed by David, Gad the seer and Nathan the prophet as commanded by God through his prophets. (Acts 2:29-30 says David was a prophet too.)
So we see that during Old Testament times, God commanded that they have full-time musicians to sing and play during daily sacrifices and special feasts, and they had to be male Levites, and they had to play cymbals, harps, and lyres, sometimes accompanied by trumpets.
What a family Samuel had! And I’ll bet he was musical himself. How proud he would have been of his descendants.
Interestingly, although God specified every detail of the instruments that had to be played in the Old Testament, nothing like that was specified in the New Testament. Did God forget? Perhaps God took us to a higher plain in the New Testament era. We do know that in I Corinthians 14:15, we are told to both pray and sing with mind and spirit.
And in Ephesians 5:19, we are told to “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.” The term “make music” in the original Greek language of the New Testament is to play on strings. Since we are to make music in our hearts, then it looks like we are to play on the instrument of our heart. How beautiful!
About 50 years ago, when my father died, the funeral was in a little country church. The music consisted of a small group from the congregation who sang hymns without the accompaniment of an instrument. They were not good performers ~ they twanged a lot and sometimes were a bit off-key. But it was some of the most beautiful music I have ever heard. Why? Because their singing was accompanied by their heart. They were telling my family, “We love you,” and I really felt that they did.
God looks down at our singing ~ no matter how good or feeble ~ and says, “I can tell you love me.” And that’s all that matters.
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