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The lyre, from the Hebrew word pronounced kin-nor, was a stringed musical instrument known from very ancient times - it was invented by Jubal (from which the word jubilation is derived) in the seventh generation after creation. It was widely used by the Hebrew people for worship and pleasure. Although somewhat similar, and variously translated as such, the harp and lyre were technically different instruments. The harp was larger, with a resonant body, and according to the Jewish historian Josephus, the lyre had ten strings which were picked with a plectrum, while the harp had twelve strings which were played with fingers alone. A lyre is shown on an ancient coin in the illustration below.

Lyre The Lyre In Bible History

"Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have cattle. His brother's name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe." (Genesis 4:20-21 RSV)

"And Laban said to Jacob, "What have you done, that you have cheated me, and carried away my daughters like captives of the sword? Why did you flee secretly, and cheat me, and did not tell me, so that I might have sent you away with mirth and songs, with tambourine and lyre?" (Genesis 31:26-27 RSV) (see Jacob and Laban)

"And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, "Let David remain in my service, for he has found favor in my sight." And whenever the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand; so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him." (1 Samuel 16:22-23 RSV)

"And the king made of the almug wood supports for the house of The Lord, and for the king's house, lyres also and harps for the singers; no such almug wood has come or been seen, to this day." (1 Kings 10:12 RSV) (see Solomon, Layout Of Solomon's Temple and Temples)

"And he stationed the Levites in the house of The Lord with cymbals, harps, and lyres, according to the commandment of David and of Gad the king's seer and of Nathan the prophet; for the commandment was from The Lord through His prophets." (2 Chronicles 29:25 RSV)

"Praise The Lord with the lyre, make melody to Him with the harp of ten strings!" (Psalm 33:2 RSV)

Fact Finder: Did the Babylonians also play the lyre?
Daniel 3:7

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