What Does the Bible Say About..? Logo

What Does the Bible Say About..Cymbals in Psalm 150?

My friend told me that the cymbals in Psalms 150:5 were talking about drums. But I didn't think those kinds of instruments were supposed to be used in the church. So I was just wondering this because he also listens to some secular music and says it is okay when I tell him it has a worldly beat to it, and then he refers back to Ps. 150:5.


There are several points to my answer.

1. If he says “cymbals” in Psalm 150:5 should be translated “drums,” he should be able to show some reputable scholar of Hebrew that says this. Actually, the instrument referred to may not be any we now know. The Hebrew word used here is also translated (in the King James Version) locust, spear, and shadowing. The word really means a buzzing or whirring, much like the sound of a locust. So the instrument in question may be more like the “grogger” used in Purim celebrations. This sort of noisemaker used to be available for kids party favors. Basically it is a handle with a gear on it, and a sounding box with a ratchet attached. When you spin the contraption it makes a whirring noise. It certainly would be nothing like modern drums or cymbals.

2. The instrument in question was to be used in the Temple worship. It has nothing to do with Christian or secular music. If he wants to use this passage to support any kind of music, then he would have to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem and reinstitute the animal sacrifices and worship there. He certainly can’t apply this passage to secular music, because it clearly says it was an instrument used to praise God. (Actually, it may have been an instrument used to call people to praise God. The verse could just as easily be translated, “Praise him upon hearing the cymbals: praise him upon the signal of the cymbals.”) And because it was a whirring instrument, it probably had no specific beat at all.

3. Whether such instruments were used in the Temple has little to do with whether they were or are to be used in the church. At the time of the beginning of the church no instruments were used in synagogue worship. The reasoning of the rabbis was that those instruments were used in the Temple worship, and after the destruction of Solomon’s Temple they were never used in worship. They may have been used in the Second Temple, but would not have been used after it was destroyed in 70 AD. Musical instruments were not commonly used in Christian worship for about 500 years, although there is some indication that someone tried to introduce them after about 300 years. Since the church is God’s temple today (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; Ephesians 2:21) and the church is made up of people and not stones and timber, the instrument for worship today is that which is in people, the voice. The musical instruments of the Temple worship were the shadow of the reality of the church. We should concern ourselves with the reality, not the shadow.