References to Music in the Bible by Trevor Bowen

References to Music in the Bible


The best way to understand God's will on any point is to survey the Scriptures, looking for any clue referring to God's preference on the question. However, the task becomes increasingly challenging, if it is mentioned frequently throughout the Bible. Although the bulk of passages may help to make a conclusion more sure, it also makes it harder to consider every passage fairly, which increases the chance that a significant point may be overlooked.
Unfortunately, music is referenced many times throughout the Scriptures. Over 1150 verses in the Bible reference a form of the following words, which may be related to music:
  • music
  • melody
  • song
  • hymn
  • instrument
  • sound
  • play
  • blow
  • noise
  • psalm
  • harp
  • lyre
  • timbrel
  • trumpet
  • horn
  • voice
The context for some of these occurrences is not related to music, allowing the list to be trimmed down to less than half of the original references. For your reference, and to serve as a foundation for studying questions related to musical praise of God, the remaining references were analyzed and grouped into the following categories.

Vocal Praise to God

The primary purpose of this analysis is to separate references to vocal praise from those mentioning musical accompaniment. This first category contains all the references of worship to God, which contained only vocals. If instruments of music were actually used in the following passages, there is no reference to it in the context:
Exodus 15:1-18Numbers 21:17Deuteronomy 31:19-32:44Judges 5:1-12II Samuel 22:1II Samuel 22:50I Kings 4:32I Chronicles 6:31-33I Chronicles 9:33II Chronicles 23:18II Chronicles 35:15II Chronicles 35:25Ezra 2:416570Ezra 7:72420:24Nehemiah 7:1446773Nehemiah 10:2839Nehemiah 11:22-23Nehemiah 13:510Job 35:10Isaiah 5:1Isaiah 12:25Isaiah 24:1416Isaiah 26:1Isaiah 35:10Isaiah 42:10-11Isaiah 44:23Isaiah 48:20Isaiah 49:13Isaiah 51:311Isaiah 52:8-9Jeremiah 20:13Jeremiah 31:7Jeremiah 31:12Jeremiah 33:11Ezekiel 40:44Amos 8:310Jonah 2:9Zephaniah 3:1417Zechariah 2:10Matthew 26:30Mark 14:26Acts 16:25Romans 15:9I Corinthians 14:15I Corinthians 14:26Ephesians 5:19Colossians 3:16Hebrews 2:12James 5:13
Although many of the Psalms note accompaniment of musical instruments, many reference singing with no mention of instruments. These references are provided below:
Psalm 7:179:21113:618:14921:1327:628:730:141232:734:135:140:342:851:1459:1661:865:1366:2-469:123077:689:195:1,296:12100:2101:1104:1233105:2118:14119:54126:2135:3138:15145:7146:2

Instrumental Praise to God

It cannot be denied that instruments of music have been rightfully used to praise the Creator, neither should it be. If God saw fit to authorize mechanical instruments of music, then His wisdom should not be questioned. Likewise, His judgment must not be questioned if He later changed His mind, "for we walk by faith, not by sight" (II Corinthians 5:7).
Many of the Psalms have ancient subscripts, mentioning how they were to be sung, or played. Many of these titles include references to instruments, such as "string instruments", "flutes", and "harps". Others mention mechanical instruments specifically in the Psalm itself. Psalms with references to musical accompaniment include:
Psalm 4:15:16:18:112:133:2343:447:5-749:454:155:157:7-961:167:1,468:4253271:22-2376:181:1-384:187:792:398:14-6108:1-3137:2-4144:9147:17149:135150:3-4

Merriment and Bereavement

Whether it be a marriage feast (Jeremiah 7:34) or a funeral (II Samuel 1:17-27Matthew 9:23), music is often referenced as an expression of intense joy or sorrow. In each of these passages, the context is not religious. Often the context is social, like a marriage feast. These passages were separated from others, because they do not directly relate to the form of musical praise to God, although they provide intriguing knowledge to the place of music in the culture of the ancients.

The Message of Horns

Trumpets and horns were used in musical praise; however, they were often used in relation to sounding a battle communication. The blast of a trumpet was used to signal everything from the anointing of a new king (II Samuel 15:10) to the call to battle (Judges 3:27), and from welcoming a holy feast day (Leviticus 23:24) to instructing the host of Israel to begin marching (Numbers 10:2-10). In the absence of megaphones, the sound of trumpets could travel long distances, conveying important messages to large numbers of people. These references are separated, because they deal with the sounds of communication - not the melody of worship.

The Trumps of God

Trumpets and horns are often associated with God's royal presence and power. Like the horns of war, these trumpets also convey a message - they signify the entrance of the King. However, sometime they are associated with the King's work in judgment. Although these might be considered in the above category, because of the association with battle, references that associate trumpets with God's judgment are grouped in their own special category.

A Horn of Exaltation

Closely related with the blowing horns of victory, which would have been heard bellowing across the battlefield, horns were associated with victory and exaltation. Additionally, since they were often used to carry anointing oils, they are also associated with the glory of election. Although not directly related to music, these references to horns are significant, and are therefore worthy of their own category:


Including mention of the father of stringed instruments (Genesis 4:21), miscellaneous references to music and its instruments are sprinkled throughout the Scriptures. Although these may be important to another topic, they are not relevant to understanding the nature, purpose, or form of God's desired musical praise. These references include:


Scriptures contain many passages referring to various forms of music. However, many of these passages do not relate to our immediate question of determining the appropriate form of modern worship of God through music. The Old Testament, especially after the time of David, contains numerous references to musical praise, both vocal and instrumental. However, the frequency of similar references is much lower for the New Testament. Also, it is fairly low for the time preceding the Davidic reign. Is this significant? God is not a weak parent, who might be ignored, because of his desperate requests and numerous, empty threats. Our respect for God and His Word should require God's communication one time. Therefore, the implications of these passages that should be studied carefully, which is the purpose of the following articles:
If you have questions or feedback after considering the above articles, please either post your thoughts on our forums, or email the author with your questions, comments, or feedback.
Trevor Bowen