Instrumental Music in Worship

Instrumental music in worship was the power of the pagan cult of the gods -- the cult of the dead. Roman proverb, "send for the trumpeters," meant the approach of death. Instrumental music in worship cannot preach the gospel and it cannot give peace and comfort to the dead. With that, there is no place for instrumental music in worship in the land of the living. The general theme in the lostness of all paganism was:

Let us eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.

The instrumental music in worship at Mount Sinai was to call the dead Osiris from "across the sea" to lead Israel.

The music of the prophesying sons of the prophets from the Philistine high place was God's sign that "God was dead" to them because they had "fired" Him.

The musical instruments in the Monarchy temple was performed over the dead animals.

The instrumental worship "stop the plague" ceremony performed by David and later by Hezekiah accompanied the death of the people because of leadership sins.

The music in Job was to tell God that they were dead to His influence.

The music in Isaiah 5 was the cause and sign that the nation as God's "vineyard" was dead -- starved because of lack of knowledge.

The "worship" of Israel condemned by God through Amos was the cult of the dead.

The harps and music with which Lucifer came equipped in the agency of the king of Tyre and of Babylon brought about their death and Babylon's harps went with them into Sheol.

Jesus had to eject the professional "team of the dead" before He would raise the dead.

The "piping" to force Jesus to dance was to honor the dead Dionysus.

The end-time Babylon whore religion will be the marriage of commerce and musical worship -- the the city on seven hills in your own community.

"Jingling, banging, and rattling accompanied heathen cults, and the frenzying shawms of a dozen ecstatic cries intoxicated the masses. Amid this euphoric farewell feast of a dying civilization, the voices of nonconformists were emerging from places of Jewish and early Christian worship ..." (Encyclopedia Judaica, 1971 ed., s.v. "Music")

Israelite worship under the Monarchy rejected God for a military king to destroy the enemy and allow them to worship like the nations. Throughout the Old Testament this was instrumental music in worship in a cult of the dead.

Speaking of the instrumental music in worship condemned by Amos and others:

"The marzeah had an extremely long history extending at least from the 14th century B.C. through the Roman period. In the 14th century B.C., it was prominently associated with the ancient Canaanite city of Ugarit (modern Ras Shamra), on the coast of Syria... The marzeah was a pagan ritual that took the form of a social and religious association... Some scholars regard the funerary marzeah as a feast for--and with--deceased ancestors (or Rephaim, a proper name in the Bible for the inhabitants of Sheol)." (King, Biblical Archaeological Review, Aug, 1988, p. 35, 35)

"These five elements are: (1) reclining or relaxing, (2) eating a meat meal, (3) singing with harp or other musical accompaniment, (4) drinking wine and (5) anointing oneself with oil." (King, p. 37).

"With the wine-drinking (which is the literal meaning of the Hebrew for feasting), went music and dancing." (Heaton, E. W., Everyday Life in Old Testament times, Scribners, p. 93)

"Worship was form more than substance; consequently, conduct in the marketplace was totally unaffected by worship in the holy place. Amos spoke from the conviction that social justice is an integral part of the Mosaic covenant, which regulates relations not only between God and people, but also among people." (King, p. 44).

"In pagan traditions, musical instruments are invented by gods or demi-gods, such as titans. In the Bible, credit is assigned to antediluvian patriarchs, for example, the descendants of Cain in Genesis 4:21. There is no other biblical tradition about the invention of musical instruments." (Freedman, David Noel, Bible Review, Summer 1985, p. 51)

"Slightly less familiar are the Devil's musical exploits. He not only loves singing but is master of the violin, of which instrument of evil he is reputedly the inventor. By the same token he can give mastery of the violin, bartering infernal skill for the pupil's soul.

These legends are related to the larger belief in the supernatural origin of musical skill and individual songs." (Botkin, B. A., A Treasury of American Folklore, Crown Publishers, p. 718; Cf. The Devil and the Fiddle, Herbert Halpert, Hoosier Folklore Bulletin, Vol II (Dec., 1943).  

The pagan mind had absolutely no hope in the resurrection, and the death brought out the people's atheism. The tombstone of a twenty year old girl, Prokope, reads

"I raise my hands against God, who has taken me away in my innocence."


"I didn't exist, I was born, I suffered, I died, I don't exist, I am glad."

The pagan cult of the dead

"with its excessive manifestation of grief and its instrumental music in worship extravagance was rejected by the more thoughtful pagans. However, it was too much a part of the past lives of many Christians, formerly pagans, for them simply to be able to replace the pagan dirges and funeral music with psalmody.

To assure people that God was taking care of the dead, Chrysostom pointed out that Jesus, in performing his miracle, had cast out (more or less violently) the flute players:

"If the Lord sent such people away then, so much the more now. Then it was not yet know that death is merely a sleep; now it is clearer than the sun.... Thus in the future no one should mourn and lament any longer and bring the saving work of Christ into discredit... Why not listen to Paul who says: 'What has Christ to do with Belial?'"

The mystery cults supplied the confidence for the mourners through music, song, dance and wine: "They offered them to the dead but ate them for themselves."

Johannes Quasten, in Music and Worship in Pagan and Christian Antiquity, p. 155

"It is often said that in these portrayals the relatives of the deceased are depicted coming to the grave to entertain him with music. But we must first distinguish between the portrayals in which the dead person has a musical instrument in his hand and those in which the persons visiting the deceased are carrying musical instruments.

Among the Dead: "In the first case the musical instrument in the dead person's hand -- usually a lyre or tambourine -- is meant to signify that the deceased no longer leads an earthly life but is already taken up with the affairs of the other world." (Note: Job 21; Isaiah 5; Amos 5,6,8 and Ezekiel 33 all show that the instruments show a disregard for the Words of God)

However, of those still on Earth (That's us): "The fact remains that the persons depicted as approaching the deceased on Greek ointment jars are never playing their instruments... the person bearing the cithara is stretching out his hands toward the gravestone on which the dead man is sitting as if he wished to offer the latter the instrument."

Why? "In antiquity, singing and instrumental music, playing and dancing were considered to be the chief occupation and pastime of the blessed... The popular religions of the time, especially Orphism and the mystery cults, portrayed the life of the blessed as a continual banquet." (ibid. p. 156)

"Originally it was carried out by relatives and friends who had gathered in the place of mourning, but later hired women mourners were employed. The words of lamentation were sung in a particular mourning tone, and almost everywhere they were sung in alternation (p. 149)

The Cymbal: Painting on a Campanian Mixing bowl. A deceased person on a gravestone holding a tambourine (Berlin: Antiquarium)

The Lyre: Oil flask from a Greek cult of the dead. The lyre is a gift for the deceased (Berlin: Antiquarium)

The harps in revelation was the supernatural message that as Christians they did not have to engage in pagan rituals to appease the dead or to make the dead happy: God takes care of His own. As a result of this message the early church ceased the musical festivals involved in the cult of the dead:

In Heaven: In Revelation 6:9 John saw the souls of victorious saints. Souls don't need literal harps made by the hands of men out of real material. They need "harps from God" or the ability to sing and speak. When the harps in Revelation are placed in the church it is a confession of lostness.

Meanwhile Back on the Earth (where I live)--Christ wants us to be busy teaching the gospel to everyone in every nation. That doesn't leave much time for worshiping ourselves in songs with instruments and dance teams to call God down to the big meeting:

And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Revelation 14:6

Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters. Revelation 14:7

The harps in Revelation are for the dead: we cannot preach the everlasting gospel to those on the other side of the tomb and we cannot do God's work and give peace and rest to those who have died in the Lord.

Historical Documents and Research on Instrumental Music as worship

Chronologically Ordered

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