PART 2: ANCIENT ISRAELITE INSTRUMENTATION AND THEIR PAGAN COUNTERPARTS
If you haven’t read the introduction to the previous post, do so, because I’m going to jump straight into Exhibit B. In the 1920s, archaeologists unearthed an ancient, forgotten city—Ugarit—which lies on the northeastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea, on the western coast of current day Syria. The ruins of Ugarit, dating from between the 13th and 12th centuries B.C., were quite a find, because of their proximity (in both time and geography) to the Old Testament accounts and places. Understanding the pagan city of Ugarit helps us better understand many things about the ancient Israelites of the Old Testament period.
One of the discoveries made at Ugarit were documents and artifacts that gave a window into viewing the way they worshiped. They used stringed, wind, and percussion instruments similar to those cited in the Old Testament. They engaged in solo, antiphonal, and unison singing, not unlike the practices of what went on in ancient Israel.
What? Israel worshiped God in the musical and cultural forms of “the world”? But I thought Israel was a holy nation, set apart by God! I can’t believe that Israel would allow “secular” forms of worship to taint YHWH’s sacred worship!
Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet
Praise Him with the harp and lyre
Praise Him with tambourine and dancing
Praise Him with the strings and flute
Praise Him with the clash of cymbals
Praise Him with electric guitars. Praise Him with overdrive pedals. Praise Him with tube amps and reverb units. Praise Him with the kick drum. Praise Him with the snare. Praise Him with microphones. Praise Him with the djembe. Praise Him with the cajon. Praise Him with mandolins. Praise Him with the shekere. Praise Him with synths. Praise Him with loops. Praise Him with sound boards and XLR cables. Praise Him with Aviom in-ear systems. Praise Him with loud, booming subwoofers.
Evidently God doesn’t mind “secular” instruments in sacred worship. Evidently He wants culture redeemed for holy use (you can see where I fall in Niebuhr’s Christ and culture spectrum). Evidently, even in all its brokenness and sin, God hasn’t abandoned culture. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. We’ll see you in part 3.