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"Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp." ~ Psalm 149:3 (KJV)
The word "drum" is more than likely not in any translation of the Bible that most of us have read.
The word "tambourine" is not in the King James version. But we do see the words "timbrel" or "tabret" in the KJV.
When you dig into the context of these words, you will find out that the actual Biblical timbrel, tabret or what we call tambourine was originally a drum.
Yes... a drum.
The Common English Bible (CEB) translates Psalms 149:3 as follows:
"Let them praise God’s name with dance; let them sing God’s praise with the drum and lyre"
Why did they use the word drum? Just listen...
In most common translations of the Bible you will find the percussion instruments tambourine, timbrel or tabret mentioned, these words are translated from the Hebrew word ‘Toph’. Tambourines and timbrels are mentioned on many occasions throughout the Old Testament and, other than cymbals, seem to be the only percussion instruments referred to. “Praise Him with the timbrel and dance.. ” Psalm 150:4 (KJV).
In the preface to the New International Version (Hodder & Stoughton), the Committee on Bible Translation say the following:
“It should be noted that minerals, flora and fauna, architectural details, articles of clothing and jewellery, musical instruments and other articles cannot always be identified with precision.”
So what can we find out about this word ‘Toph’? ‘The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments’, says that “tambourine” in Scripture comes from the Hebrew word “Tof” or “Toph” (Hebrew; pl.tuppin), the other English translations being “timbrel” or occasionally “tabret”.
It says that these are indeed frame drums, without jingles, and adds that, because frame drums were commonly used in the surrounding areas that it is likely the ancient Israelites used them as well.
The Oxford ‘Companion of Musical Instruments’ says of “historical tambourines”, that they are ancient frame drums, as far as can be seen, without jingles.
The word ‘Toph’, like many names for percussion instruments, and rhythmic exercises is onomatopoeic. In other words it suggests the sound of the instrument or the action of playing it.
Other typical onomatopoeic names for drums are tom tom, conga, tambour, rek, doumbek and indeed the word drum itself (drrrrrum) implies a bounce followed with a stop on the drum skin.
The modern tambourine is a “jingle” percussion instrument, commonly without a skin, and often half circle or crescent shaped, (although the round, skinned types are used in Latin ensembles and for other more grass roots styled groups). It would appear that the tambourine we find in the Bible was not a tambourine (as we know it) at all.
"European tambourines typically have one skin and jingling disks set into the sides of the frame. The designation tambourine refers specifically to the European frame drum" ~ Britannica
‘Percussion Instruments and their History’ by the late James Blades, also refers to instruments of Mesopotamia and Egypt circa 1100 BC. These include frame drums, small kettledrums (baz) and vase shaped drums made of clay. Blades comments, “In biblical references the words tinkling and metal are used in connection with bells and cymbals, but not with tabret or timbrel, (commonly translated as tambourine).”
This gives us an idea of what kind of drums were used in biblical times, it also shows us that when we see the word ‘tambourine’ in Scripture we can read it as ‘frame drum’.
Frame drums are still popular today and found in most cultures around the world. These drums are highly versatile and can provide a dynamic and powerful sound.
Compared to the seemingly male dominated drumset of today, which interestingly has a history of less than 100 years – size and portability of the frame drum maybe one reason more women played them in Bible times.
From an article titled "Drums & the Bible"
So when we see the word tambourine, or each time we see one, we should understand that it was originally a drum. And we know that the drum is deeply embedded in the culture of Africa.
We also know, if you follow this page or has done the research, that the Biblical Israelites were indeed what we would call an "African" people. Of course they were not "African" as in sons of Ham. See our article titled "Noah and His Three Sons" for more information.
The facts clearly confirm that the Biblical "tambourine" was actually an African drum.
Everything fits together and makes perfect sense.
Grace and peace
Concerning the Bible, incorrect history will mostly always produce incorrect theology
By Minister Rodney Jones, specializing in Biblical History
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