Prophetic Musicians in Worship
Featuring Worshipedia Posted on June 3, 2010
In ancient Israel, prophecy and music were closely associated. During the Exodus, Miriam the prophetess, sister of Moses and Aaron, took tambourine in hand and led the women in song and dance, celebrating the Lord’s triumph over the Egyptian pursuers (Exodus 15:20–21). As we have seen, Moses concluded his farewell address, an extended reenactment of the covenant ceremony, with a song of judgment and warning. The prophetess Deborah (Judges 4:4) composed a song celebrating Israel’s victory over a Canaanite army (Judges 5:1–31). The prophets that Saul encountered coming down from the high place were prophesying to the accompaniment of musical instruments (1 Samuel 10:5).
The prophets of the period of the Israelite kingdoms continued the same alignment between spoken word and music. Second Kings 3:15 records that Elisha called for a "minstrel" (a player on a stringed instrument) in order to prophesy to the kings of Israel, Judah, and Edom, assembled for battle against Moab. The prophets who produced the prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible composed lyric oracles, which they probably sang to their hearers—at least to their disciples, if not always to the public. Isaiah’s "song of the vineyard" (Isaiah 5:1–7) expresses the Lord’s disappointment with his unfaithful people. Another song in Isaiah 26:1–6, celebrating the Lord’s deliverance of those who trust in him, perhaps was composed as part of a liturgy of entrance into the sanctuary (Isaiah 26:2). Jeremiah composed a chant of lament upon the death of King Josiah (2 Chronicles 35:25), and his book of Lamentations is a song. Most of the material in the prophetic books is, in fact, poetic song, and some material in the later Prophets, now preserved in prose form, was probably originally written as song. Indeed, prophecy was so closely associated with music that Ezekiel complained that to the public he was simply a musical entertainer (Ezekiel 33:32).
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