Harps in the Bible

The harp appears quite frequently throughout the Bible. In this blog we will see what the Bible has to say about the harp from its inventor to its eternal purpose.

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The Father of All Harp Players

You may know that the harp is an ancient instrument, but did you know that the first mention of the harp appears in Genesis chapter four? 

Genesis 4:21 “… Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.”

Jubal was a descendant of Cain. He was born eight generations into the human race. This means that the harp is almost as old as the whole of humankind!

Photo by Samantha Hurley from Burst

The Ancient Harp

The ancient harp looked much different than more modern harps. The harp of the Old Testament often consisted of less strings than the harps we are familiar with today and it was usually accompanied by other musical instruments such as flutes and lyres. (See Psalm 144:9 and 150:3 for examples).

The Harp’s Purpose

One very clear purpose of the harp throughout scripture is praise! 

Psalm 71:22 “I will also praise You with a harp, Even your truth, O my God; To You I will sing praises with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel.”

The harp appears many times throughout the Psalms (such as the one above) and is used as an instrument of praise to the Lord.

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Another closely related purpose of the harp is in rejoicing. People throughout the Old Testament would use the harp during times of celebration. 

For example, harps were used during the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem in the book of Nehemiah (see Nehemiah 27:27). 

Just as easily however, harps could be turned into symbols of mourning. The suffering and afflicted Job says, “Therefore my harp is turned into mourning, And my flute to the sound of those who weep.” (Job 30:31)

Harps were used to pacify. In 1 Samuel 16, David comes to play his harp before King Saul in order to soothe him.

The Psalms

King David is probably the most famous of harpists in the Bible. He is known for having played the harp in for royalty and for writing the Psalms. Although not all Psalms were written by David himself, there are numerous Psalms that mention the harp – often as an instrument of praise.

The harp of the Psalms was not always played alone. Psalm 98:5 says, “Sing unto the Lord with the harp, with the harp, and the voice of a psalm”. Therefore, the harp was to accompany the singing of praise (much like the piano does today).

A Statue of David from the National Gallery of Art

The Heavenly Ensemble

I know of many people who have jokingly disliked the idea of playing harp all day on puffy white clouds in heaven. While I personally believe the thought of doing so is awesome, I do not think that this is what the Bible has to say about the harp’s role heaven (or what we believers will be doing in Eternity). 

Although the exact details regarding the use of the harp in heaven is to be debated, the purpose of the harp in heaven appears to be consistent with its purpose throughout the rest of the Bible. 

Revelation 5:8-9 says, “8 And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and the four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of the saints. 

9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;”. 

Here we can see that the harp is likewise being used to accompany praise – in this case to the Lamb (Jesus). (See also Revelation 14:2-3 and 15:2-3)

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What Are Your Thoughts?

Let me know what you think.

God Bless!

2 thoughts on “Harps in the Bible

  1. Hi… The harp is well associated with ancient times, like you cited many examples. One thing I’ve seen some say because instruments are not mentioned by Jesus and the apostles in worship, only singing is really mentioned, is questioning if instruments should be used at all in worship for a Christian. Now, I totally disagree with that, God wants us to use our creativity in everything to praise Him. But interested in your thoughts on the relative quiet on that point in the New Testament.

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    1. That is a very good point, the New Testament does not say as much about using instruments in worship as the Old Testament. The harp only appears once in the NT outside of Revelation (1 Corinthians 14:7) and instruments are seldom mentioned in other NT books. However, there is nothing said by Jesus or the apostles that condemns the use of instruments. So, I agree with the idea that instruments should be used for worship. I think the important thing to consider about instrumental worship is whether it is done genuinely for the glory of God, and for edification of believers.
      Thanks for the comment!

      Like

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