Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 14, 1963
NUMBER 2, PAGE 2,10a

Was God "Pleased" With Instrumental Music In The Old Testament

Cecil G. Douthitt

According to recent articles in some of the papers, a few brethren think great violence is done to Amos 6:5, when the passage is used to show that God raised his voice in protest against instrumental music in worship in the Old Testament. In defense of their opinions they have presented some impressive lessons in the old fashioned ways of proving false propositions.

In keeping with their demonstrated methods, if you want to convince your readers that God was pleased with such music under the Mosaic law, you must not use the word "pleased" at all. You should use the word "authorize" instead. You can take the word "authorize" and build for yourself a straw man and knock him down flat. Of course, if some uncouth brother should ask you if God was pleased with everything he "authorized" in the Old Testament, and if you tried to answer his question, then your straw man would explode right in your face and get dust in your eyes.

If you answered, "Yes, God was pleased with everything he authorized in the Old Testament," you would be forced to say that God was pleased with the change of government from judges to kings, in spite of his protest in 1 Sam. 8:7. Jehovah commanded Samuel to make them a king (I Sam. 8:22), and went so far as to select the king for them, and sent his prophet to anoint him. (1 Sam. 9:15-17) God authorized the kingly government; but as long as 1 Sam. 8:7-22 remains in the Bible some of us will insist that God was not pleased, even though he "authorized" it by a commandment to Samuel. Also, if you gave an affirmative answer to the question, consistency would compel you to say God was pleased with the "bill of divorcement" and remarriage which he "authorized" in the Old Testament (Deut. 24:1-3), in spite of what Jesus said about it in Matt. 19:8. But as long as Matt. 19:8 remains in the Bible some of us will insist that God was not pleased with some of the things that he "authorized" in the Old Testament.

If you say, "No, God was not pleased with everything he 'authorized' in the Old Testament," then nearly everybody who hears your answer will see clearly that all your labor to prove instrumental music in worship under the Old Testament amounts to exactly nothing, and the dust of your straw man will choke you.

Proving that God "authorized" a thing in the Old Testament, is one thing; proving that he was pleased with it, is quite another thing. God himself says that the old covenant was not faultless. (Heb. 8:7)

"Woe them....that invent for themselves instruments of music, like David." (See Amos 6:1-5.) Now a little exegesis on this word "invent" by some of these brethren who know all about "the sage rule," and how to interpret prophecy, and "the primary theme of the book;' would be refreshing indeed. The people on whom the "woe" is pronounced invented something. They invented it like David. Did David actually make or "invent" the instrument as such? Were the people of the text really making or inventing brass horns and stringed instruments? Nobody thinks so. Then we can rule that out as the meaning of "invent" as used in Amos 6:5, unless some proof exists that God pronounced a "woe" on people for making a harp. David introduced music into the worship in the Old Testament. This was his invention, and the people of Amos 6:5 were doing like David.

If this is not David's invention, why is he invariably accredited with its introduction in worship in the Old Testament? In giving the law at Sinai, God gave a description of the tabernacle, its furniture, the worship, the priestly garments and all the other material. If he had wanted and was pleased with such music in the tabernacle worship, why didn't he say something about it? He mentioned everything else. Why did Ezra (3:10), more than 400 years after the death of David, say that praising Jehovah with the instrument was "after the order of David the king of Israel"? Why are the instruments in Neh. 12:36 again called "the musical instruments of David" so many years after the death of David? Why was the name of David brought into the picture at all in Amos 6.5? He was not guilty of the other sins mentioned in the chapter, and the people were not charged with committing those other sins "like David." What sin were they committing "like David" had committed it? These brethren who seem to know all about "the sage rule," and Lamsa, and the "primary theme of the book," somehow just never get around to answering some of the most pertinent questions. The one thing in this chapter charged against David was his innovation or introduction of mechanical music in the worship.

Many of these sins listed in Amos 6 did not pertain to the worship at all; but the thing that the people were doing "like David," did relate to the worship, and it cannot be ignored by the "too sweeping" statement that this is not "the primary theme of the book"; it is "the primary theme" of Amos 6:5, and that is enough. When Jesus taught in Matt. 19:8 that the divorce and remarriage "authorized" in Deut. 24:1-3 did not please Jehovah, it was not "the primary theme of the book" of Matthew, but it was "the primary theme" of Matt 19:8, and that is enough.

In reply to the warning and insinuation that "Scripture against Scripture" is being arrayed, I want to call your attention to the way Jesus replied to the false interpretation made by the devil. Satan quoted a passage of Scripture, and interpreted it to mean that Jesus should jump off the pinnacle of the temple. (Matt. 4:5, 6) Jesus presented another passage (Matt. 4:7), but this was not setting "Scripture against Scripture"; this was the Lord's way of setting both passages against the devil's false interpretation of Scripture, and this is still the best way to refute a false interpretation, unless somebody has a better method than the Lord had.

When a denominational preacher quotes Acts 16:31, "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved;' and interprets it to mean salvation by faith only, and an opponent quotes James 2:24 in reply to show that the denominational interpretation of Acts 16:31 is wrong, usually the one in error will charge that his opponent is setting "Scripture against Scripture"; while Scripture is not being set against Scripture, but both Acts 16:31 and James 2:24 are being set against the erroneous interpretation of Acts 16:31.

In like manner when a false interpretation is placed upon 2 Chron. 29:25, and then an opponent quotes Amos 6:5 to show that the false interpretation is wrong, Scripture is not being set against Scripture; Scripture is being set against the erroneous interpretation of Scripture.

In the Gospel Guardian of March 5, 1964, page 3, a brother stated that he was aware of his obligation to produce a passage of Scripture that teaches that "God did actually authorize the use of instrumental music in the Old Testament law, and that he would "hasten" to do so. Then he undertook to quote 2 Chron. 29:25, and a miserable mess was made of the quotation. I do not accuse the brother of intentionally misquoting the verse; I am sure that the error is a clerical one. I do not think for one moment that the brother would deliberately misquote Scripture. But some of the Guardian readers may not know that the clerical error is in the quotation as it appeared in the Guardian; therefore both the passage and the erroneous quotation are presented here:

2 Chron. 29:25: "And he set the Levites in the house of Jehovah with cymbals, with psalteries, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, and of Gad the king's seer, and Nathan the prophet; for the commandment was of Jehovah by his prophets."

Here is the way it appeared in the Guardian article: "And he stationed the Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, harps, and lyres, according to the commandment and of Gad the king's seer and of Nathan the prophet; for the command was from the Lord through His prophets. (2 Chron. 29:25)" The phrase, "of David," is left out. Though I feel sure the error is clerical, yet it could be the way "that Lamsa translates it"; the brother did quote from Brother Lamsa once in his article. But the verse was cited to show that God "authorized" the mechanical music in the Old Testament. I am not arguing with him about that. But I am suggesting that he search throughout all the translations, including Brother Lamsa's, and try to find a verse that teaches that God was pleased with the mechanical music under the Old Testament law; it will not have to be "the primary theme of the book"; If it is just "the primary theme" of the one verse, that will satisfy me.

In 2 Chron. 29:25, as in many other passages, the commandments and the "instruments of David" are mentioned in contradistinction to the "song of Jehovah," as clearly revealed when the verse is not "lifted from its context." Read verse 27.

— 712 Victoria Drive, Louisville, Kentucky, 40207