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Rethinking Some Old Premises That Are Based On Amos 6:5

By Eusebio Tanicala, Ph.D.

It’s from PBC alumni that I’ve heard wrong arguments that are derived from Amos 6:5. So it is fitting that I put this reminder and caution in the PBCAA blog. I especially address the PBC alumni. Please read and analyze this article so that understanding of Amos 6:5 would improve and become correct.

There are two wrong notions related to Amos 6:5 that are used by some PBC alumni in arguing against the use of mechanical instruments of music in Christian worship that need to be corrected: (a) Some presume that the meaning of the term ”invent” in Amos 6:5 means to discover, originate and use something for the first time; and (b) By using Amos 6:5, some presume that King David, out of the presumptuousness and hardness of his heart, introduced musical instruments in the tabernacle worship just as divorce for any reason was insisted by Israel out of the hardness of their heart (Matt. 19:7-8). Both presumptions are incorrect. We shall show why.

  1. It is not true, as some believe, that the term “invent” in Amos 6:5 means “to originate, to discover something new and use it for the first time.” It is a fact that the term “invent” in Amos 6:5 is chashab in Hebrew and it means, “to think, to devise, to design” (Young’s Analytical Concordance, p. 519). Thomas Edison invented the incandescent lamp which means, there was no incandescent lamp before his time. The meaning of “invent” in the case of Edison is NOT the same meaning in the case of Amos 6:5.
  2. It is not true, as some claim, that King David was the first one to use musical instruments. Fact is that thousands of years before King David was born, Jubal and his sons played harps and flutes according to Gen. 4:21. Jubal and sons lived some 4000 years B.C.; whereas, David became king about 1010 B.C
  3. It is not true, as some claim, that Jubal’s sons’ playing the harps and flutes as stated in Gen. 4:21 was a sinful beginning act, for if it were so, then to dwell in tents and have livestock like Jabal in Gen. 4:20 would also be sinful. It would also be sinful for Tubal-cain to instruct others on the use of bronze and iron (Gen. 4:22). It was not sinful for Abraham to dwell in a tent (Gen. 18:1) and not sinful today. We use bronze and iron today and it is not sinful.
  4. It is not true, as some claim, that King David was the first to use musical instruments because hundreds of years before David was born, God Himself sounded the trumpet at Mt. Sinai in the giving of the Decalogue. Read Exodus 19:19; 20:18; Heb. 12:19. The date is about 1450 B.C.
  5. It is not true, as some claim, that King David was the first to invent and use musical instruments because some 500 years before David was born, the Levitical priests in the wilderness were commanded by God to sound the trumpets in various religious events like in the New Moon and Full Moon, over various animal offerings, on the Day of Atonement, etc. Read Num. 10:1-10; 19:1; Lev. 23:24; 1 Chron. 15:24; 2 Chron. 5:12.
  6. It is not true, as some claim, that King David’s rebellious heart caused him to invent musical instruments and used them in the tabernacle. Fact is that God commanded him to design, craft and manufacture the instruments. The palace seer, Gad, as well as the palace prophet, Nathan, approved of the making and use of the musical instruments. Or perhaps the two revealed to King David God’s commandment. Read 2 Chron. 29:25.
  7. It is not true, as some claim, that the use of musical instruments was unacceptable in David’s time because when the young David played the harp in the palace, the distressing spirit that God sent to plague King Saul would depart. Read 1 Sam. 6:14, 23.
  8. It is not true, as some claim, that the use of musical instruments in the OT was started due to David’s rebellious heart and was grudgingly allowed to be used in the tabernacle and temple, just as the Israelites were permitted by Moses to write a certificate of divorce due to the hardness of people’s heart. The parallelism is not true because the first part has no basis. I couldn’t find any verse that suggests that God grudgingly allowed musical instruments to be used in the OT.
  9. It is not true, as some claim, that musical instruments were grudgingly allowed in the tabernacle and temple worship. Fact is God personally instructed Moses to make for himself a trumpet to be used by the priests. (Read Num. 10:1-2). Miriam and the women joyously danced with their timbrels (15:20-21) in celebrating God’s deliverance. King David exultingly encouraged the use of musical instruments in praising God as in 1 Chron. 6:31; 25:7; 2 Chron. 29:27; Psalm 28:7; 33:3; 45:96; 65; 66; 67:75-76; 69:30; 83; 87; 88; 96; 98; 144:9; 149:1: 150; Isa. 42:10. Ezra, the well respected priest and scribe during the return from exile, and the priests in Jerusalem in the restoration of the wall used musical instrument to praise God in the dedication of the wall. (See Ezra 3:8-11). Nehemiah, the governor, praised God with musical instruments (Read Neh.12:35-43). No rebuke in the use of musical instruments could be found in these instances. On the other hand, divorce was never used to praise God. Fact is Malachi denounced the practice of divorce when the Israelites freely discarded their wives (2:16).

Any reactions to the items affirmed in this article are welcomed.

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Instruments of Music in Worship in Old Testament Times Were Commanded of God

Lev.23:23-25, “The LORD told Moses to give these instructions to the Israelites, ‘On the appointed day in early autumn, xxxxx You will call the people to a sacred assembly – the Festival of Trumpets – with loud blasts from a trumpet. You must do no regular work on that day. Instead, you are to present offerings to the LORD by fire.” (New Living Translation. Following quotes are from the same version.)

Num. 10:10, “Blow the trumpets in times of gladness, too, sounding them at your annual festivals and at the beginning of each month to rejoice over your burnt offerings and peace offerings. The trumpets will remind the LORD your God of his covenant with you. I am the LORD your God.”

Psalm 81:1-3, “Sing praises to God, our strength. Sing to the God of Israel. Sing! Beat the tambourine. Play the sweet lyre and the harp. Sound the trumpet for a sacred feast when the moon is new, when the moon is full. For this is required by the laws of Israel; it is a law of the God of Jacob.” (This Psalm is assigned to Asaph, a prophet of God. He was an inspired writer. See also 147:7; 149:3; 150:3-5).

1 Chron.25:1-2, “David and the army commanders then appointed men from the families of Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun to proclaim God’s messages to the accompaniment of harps, lyres, and cymbals …They worked under the direction of their father, Asaph, who proclaimed God’s messages by the king’s orders.

2 Chron. 29:25-30, “King Hezekiah then stationed the Levites at the Temple of the LORD with cymbals, harps, and lyres. He obeyed all the commands that the LORD had given to King David through Gad, the king’s seer, and the prophet Nathan. The Levites then took their positions around the Temple with the instruments of David, and the priests took their positions with the trumpets. Then Hezekiah ordered that the burnt offerings be placed on the altar. As the burnt offerings were presented, songs of praise to the LORD were begun, accompanied by the trumpets and other instruments of David, king of Israel. The entire assembly worshipped the LORD as the singers sang and the trumpets blew, until all the burnt offerings were finished. Then the king and everyone with him bowed down in worship. King Hezekiah and the officials ordered the Levites to praise the LORD with the psalms of David and Asaph the seer. So they offered joyous praise and bowed down in worship.”

Neh.12:24-46, “These were the family leaders of the Levites ….. who stood opposite them during the ceremonies of praise and thanks-giving, one section responding to the other, just as commanded by David, the man of God. x x x x x During the dedication of the new wall of Jerusalem, the Levites throughout the land were asked to come to Jerusalem to assist in the ceremonies. They were to take part in the joyous occasion with their songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, lyres, and harps. x x x x x They used the musical instruments prescribed by David, the man of God. Ezra the scribe led this procession. x x x x x The two choirs that were giving thanks then proceeded to the Temple of God, where they took their places. So did I, together with the group of leaders who were with me. We went together with the trumpet-playing priests –Eliakim, Maaseiah, Minia-min, , , , and the singers . . . and Ezer. They played and sang loudly and clearly under the direction of Jezrahiah the choir director. x x x x The custom of having choir directors to lead the choirs in hymns of praise and thanks to God began long ago in the days of David and Asaph.”

2Chron.8:14 This passage teaches that the services arranged by David, including the singers and musical instrument players, were permitted by God.

From the above verses, it is clear that the use of mechanical instruments of music in the tabernacle and temple worship and even in open air religious celebrations, was commanded by God through Moses, Gad, Nathan, David and Asaph who were all seers or prophets. It is not true that instruments of music in Old Testament worship were prohibited. Our passages clearly prove these were used because of God’s commands or their use were instructed through prophets.

Some, including several preachers in the Church of Christ, argue that David invented musical instruments and introduced them in the tabernacle worship out of his own vain imagination and pride This supposition cannot be supported by scriptures and history. Not supported by scholars. It is a position taken by ignorant preachers and writers, some teachers and preachers of churches of Christ included.

How then should we interpret Amos 5:21-25 and Amos 6:4-6? Are the items enumerated prohibited? How do we interpret “You sing idle songs to the sound of the harp, and you fancy yourselves to be great musicians, as King David was”? (NLB)

First, look at the theme of Amos about sin and the judgment of God in the following expressions: “the people of Damascus have sinned again and again, and I will not forget it” (1:3); “the people of Gaza have sinned again and again, and I will not forget it” (1:6); “the people of Tyre have sinned again and again, and I will not forget it” (1:9); “the people of Edom have sinned again and again” (1:11); of Ammon (1.13); of Moab (2.1); “the people of Judah have sinned again and again, and I will not forget it” (2:4-5); “The people of Israel have sinned again and again, and I will not forget it. I will not let them go unpunished any longer! They have perverted justice by selling honest people for silver and poor people for a pair of sandals. They trample helpless people in the dust and deny justice to those who are oppressed. Both father and son sleep with the same woman, corrupting my holy name. At their religious festivals, they lounge around in clothing stolen from their debtors. In the house of their god, they present offerings of wine purchased with stolen money.” (2:6-8)

Continue reading 3 and 4 to see the wickedness and hypocrisy of the Israelites. “I hate all your show and pretense – the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your hymns of praise! They are only noise to my ears. I will not listen to your music, no matter how lovely it is.” All the above acts enumerated are good and are commanded by God Himself, but what is lacking is the sincerity of heart, respect for God and the daily application of moral and social precepts. Israel had the motions and material elements of worship but the people did not have the spirit and the heart in their religion. That made their religious acts vain, condemnable, unacceptable. The religious acts mentioned were not prohibited. God wanted Israel to apply God’s laws in their daily lives so that their religious activities would be acceptable. There’s a negation of one part by God because the people negated the other part. God wanted both aspects to be present in religion. The negation, though, is not a prohibition due to illegality or lack of authority. In the use of figures of speech, this is called “relative negation.”

Illustrations

Sa Tagalog, ito ay tinatawag na pagtutuwid at hindi pagbabawal. Kagaya ng Mateo 5:21-26, for a Jew to bring his gifts at the altar with his heart burdened and stained with hatred against his brother would be unacceptable. Not that the gift/offering is bad in itself. Ganyan din ang kaso sa Mtt. 7:21-23: prophesying in the name of Jesus, casting out demons in the name of Jesus, doing wonderful works in the name of Jesus are not acts that in themselves are wrong. These things become unacceptable because these were not done as the will of the Father but as a means of making a living, or that some other laws of God were scandalously discarded. Pareho rin sa 1 Corinto 1:17. Hindi isinasatabi ang bautismo, pero ang ibig sabihin ay ang bautismo ay walang kabuluhan kung and sentro ng ebanghelio (kamatayan ni Cristo, burial of Christ, resurrection of Christ) ay pababayaan. Ganyan din ang 1 Cor. 11: 17-22. Hindi pagbabawal ng pagganap ng Banal na Hapunan kundi pagtutuwid kung paano isagawa ang Banal na Hapunan with sincerity centered on the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The activity of breaking bread and drinking the fruit of the vine became unacceptable and condemnable when the Agape Feast (Love Feast) of the early Christians became pasiklaban, pasikatan ng baon, pagbubukod-bukod ng mga magkakabarkada at may nalalasing pa.

Second, we should be consistent. Look at the context. If the portion, “I will not hear the melody of thy viols” (5:23). were a prohibition on the use of instruments of music at the time of Amos, then to be contextually consistent, all others in the context disliked by Yahweh, like feast days, solemn assemblies, burnt offerings, meat offerings, peace offerings, drinking with the use of bowls, eating fatted cows, lying on soft beds, and singing should all be prohibited.

With Authority

Does the passage “and invent for yourselves musical instruments like David” teach that David invented and introduced musical instruments in the tabernacle worship without permission from God? No, this passage does not teach that David invented and introduced the instruments without God’s permission. King David made the instruments as directed by God Himself thro the prophets Gad and Nathan as we have proved in 1 Chron 25 and 2 Chron. 29. The passage tells that the people wanted to imitate King David and be recognized like King David as artistic and worshipful by doing what King David did. King David had a sincere heart in doing what God wanted him to do. So to be pronounced as “doing something as King David did” was an obsession among the Israelites. (see Psalm 51:10,17; 1Kings 3:6; 1 Kings 11:4; 1 Kings 15:3,4,5; 2 Chron. 7:17; 2 Chron. 17:3; 2 Chron. 34:2 ) but the Israelites in Amos’ days were insincere in their hearts. The religious motion was present, but the heart and the spirit were absent. That was the atmosphere that Yahweh discredited.

And that’s what Jesus wanted to correct among the Jews in John 4:24 when he was on earth: worship in spirit and in truth. For worship to be acceptable, magkasabay ang dalawa: Tamang forma at tamang puso’t kaluluwa.

I plead with fellow preachers and church leaders to STOP using Amos 5 and Amos 6 as proofs against the use of instruments of music in worship. Using them as proofs against instrument of music in worship would only reveal ignorance and would help perpetuate wresting of scriptures. Further, a foolish and weak argument against a practice removes the sting of one’s advocacy. ( Eusebio Tanicala, Ph.D.)