What the Bible says about Music
The first time music is mentioned in the Bible is in reference to the man named Jubal in Genesis 4:21. Jubal was the fourth generation from Adam through Cain and is recorded as “the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe.”
The book of the Bible that has the most references to music is the book of Psalms. The greatest song and psalm writers were Moses, David, and Solomon.
It is good to give thanks to the Lord to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night, to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre. For you, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.
Psalm 101:1 says "I will sing of steadfast love and justice; to you, O Lord, I will make music."
In Psalms 150 we read: "Praise him with the sounding 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 resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD."
Psalm 104:33-34: I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being. May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord."
Psalm 146:1-2: Praise the Lord, O my soul! I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being."
Psalm 95:1-2: Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!"
Scripture references of song lyrics:
Songs were sung throughout the Bible. Here are some in addition to those in the book of Psalms.
- Exodus 15 (After the victory over Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea." Moses’ sister, Miriam, sang and led the Israelite women “with tambourines and dancing.”)
- Judges 11:34 (After Jephthah returned from battle, his daughter met him with timbrels and dance)
- 1 Samuel 18:6–7 (After David's victories)
- Luke 1:46-55 (Mary's Magnificat)
- Revelation 5:9-10 and Revelation 15:3-4 (Praising God in Heaven)
Others singing in the Bible:
Jesus and the disciples sang in Matthew 26:30. "And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives."
Paul and Silas sang in jail: Acts 16:25. "About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's bonds were unfastened."
Scriptural commands to sing:
1 Chronicles 15 and 16 discusses how the people of Israel used music in their worship.
Ephesians 5:18-19 commands believers to "be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart."
Colossians 3:16 says "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God."
“Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise,” is from James 5:13.
"What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up." (1 Corinthians 14:26)
Good music vs. bad music?
Is there such a thing as good music versus bad music? There is certainly some debate amongst Christians about the beat in music or about whether we should use instruments or not; I won't go there.
It is much more clear in Scripture about whether we should sing or listen to particular lyrics, though.
Ecclesiastes 7:5 says "It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools."
1 Corinthians 15:33 encourages us with "Do not be deceived: 'Bad company ruins good morals.'"
Proverbs 4:23-26 says "Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure."
Philippians 4:8 tells us " Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
Colossians 3:2-5 says, "Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry."
And Romans 12:2 tells us "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."
Daniel 3:5 discusses a wrong way to use music, in worshipping anyone other than God: "that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up."
Other uses for music:
Here are a couple of other ways music was used in the Bible.
- David played his harp to soothe Saul during attacks from a harmful spirit. (1 Samuel 16:14–23).
Music was used for mourning (Matthew 9:23) and celebration (Luke 15:25 and Nehemiah 12:27)