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The Timbrel

The timbrel, or tabret, was a small hand drum, similar to a tambourine (as it is sometimes translated in various versions of the Bible). It's one of the most ancient musical instruments known, mentioned early in Genesis: "I might have sent you away with mirth and songs, with tambourine [i.e. timbrel] and lyre" (Genesis 31:27 RSV)


The Sound Of Music After the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, and the Pharaoh's army was drowned, Moses' sister Miriam (whose earlier experience with water included following her infant brother Moses in the basket that was placed in the Nile River) celebrated with the playing of timbrels:

"For when the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his horsemen went into the sea, The Lord [see Rock Of Ages] brought back the waters of the sea upon them; but the people of Israel walked on dry ground in the midst of the sea. Then Miriam, the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and dancing. And Miriam sang to them: "Sing to The Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider He has thrown into the sea." (Exodus 15:19-21 RSV)

In one of the most tragic, and curious, incidents of the Bible, Jephthah's young daughter came out with the sound of timbrels to celebrate her father's victory - not realizing what he pledged to The Lord to make the victory possible:

"And Jephthah made a vow to The Lord, and said, "If thou wilt give the Ammonites into my hand, then whoever comes forth from the doors of my house to meet me, when I return victorious from the Ammonites, shall be The Lord's, and I will offer him up for a burnt offering. So Jephthah crossed over to the Ammonites to fight against them; and The Lord gave them into his hand ... Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah; and behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances; she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter. And when he saw her, he rent his clothes, and said, "Alas, my daughter! you have brought me very low, and you have become the cause of great trouble to me; for I have opened my mouth to The Lord, and I cannot take back my vow." (Judges 11:30-32,34-35 RSV)

Timbrels were often used to celebrate military victories, including one that irked King Saul when he saw that the young David was more popular than he was:

"As they were coming home, when David returned from slaying the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with timbrels, with songs of joy, and with instruments of music. And the women sang to one another as they made merry, "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands." (1 Samuel 18:6-7 RSV)

The playing of timbrels was used in worship of The Lord:

"Let Israel be glad in his Maker, let the sons of Zion [see Who, What or Where Is Zion?] rejoice in their King! Let them praise His Name with dancing, making melody to Him with timbrel and lyre! For The Lord takes pleasure in His people; He adorns the humble with victory." (Psalm 149:2-4 RSV)

Fact Finder: Who is one of the first-recorded human musicians?
Genesis 4:21

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