Song of Moses Exod 15 shows Instruments not Typical/Tied to Sacrifice

Discussion in 'A capella Exclusive Psalmody' started by Afterthought, Dec 24, 2015.

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  1. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Senior

    For those who agree that instruments ought not to be used in the worship of God, thoughts on answering an objection from the song of Moses in Exodus 15? Instruments are used, but they are not tied to sacrifice or a Levitical order in this case. So, the argument goes, instruments in the worship of God are not always part of the ceremonial law. (I am trying to argue without the regulative principle, but this might be a place where assuming it is necessary to prove the point.)

    I have my own thoughts, but I would like to answer in a more persuasive and simple manner. Thoughts? My own thoughts: If this is an example of public worship (some say "national celebration;" others say national celebration and public worship together), the instruments are tied to the prophets, which instruments were later incorporated by David into the temple worship (need to consider the progressive nature of revelation). So it would seem there is a "prophetic" function to these musical instruments (as is the case with later examples) which later serves a "typical" function in the temple. They might not serve a typical purpose right now, but they are still part of the OT system of worship that is tied to a prophetic guild. (An objection might arise here: But we see singing here for the first time in the worship of God before the law of Moses, and this is often used to prove the non-ceremonial nature of the singing; so instruments and dancing before the law of Moses is given shows these are non-ceremonial in nature!)
  2. Jake

    Jake Puritan Board Junior

    We do not reject instruments simply because they were so connected with ceremonial worship. It is notable that a command was required, as well as offices for players, etc. when they were used in the temple worship. There seems to be evidence that instruments were not used in Synagogue worship for example, for absence of command. I think such would point to Exodus 15 being outside of regulated worship and more of a civil celebration.

    e.g., cf. section 3 on Victory Songs from Schwertley here (p. 2):

    Also, interestingly enough, Girardeau points to the women being the instrument players as a refutation of this being regulated worship. From his classical defense (excuse my formatting, copied from a PDF):

    In the second place, it was Miriam and the women who used instruments of music on the
    occasion: "And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all
    the women went after her with timbrels and with dances." The argument of the objector
    proves too much. If from this instance the legitimacy of employing instrumental music in the
    public worship of the Jewish Church is to be inferred, so may the legitimacy of its use by women
    in that worship. But the history of the appointments of that worship furnishes no evidence of
    the tenableness of the latter inference. The contrary is proved. Women were excluded from
    any prominent, at least any official, function in the services of God’s house in the Mosaic
    dispensation. 4 It was the males of Israel who were commanded to repair to Jerusalem on those
    festival occasions when bursts of instrumental music were united with the singing of praise in
    the temple-worship. Indeed, so far from the women taking an active part in that worship, it
    would seem to have been limited, as to its outward expression in sounds, to the priests and
    Levites, who, as the divinely appointed official representatives of the congregation, sang and
    played on instruments of music. The argument might do for a modern advocate of woman’s
    rights, but it will hardly answer for the Jewish dispensation. It is as barren of results as was
    Miriam herself of issue.
  3. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Senior

    I would think civil celebration too, but the text does say that the song was sung unto the Lord, which suggests a worship context?
  4. Poimen

    Poimen Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Note that Miriam leads the women in worship through inspired testimony (as she was a prophetess). The timbrel and dancing appears to function in the same way it did in other OT contexts when prophesying took place: 1 Samuel 10:5-6, 19:20; 2 Kings 3:15ff.;1 Chronicles 25:3. Thus the instruments acted as an impetus to prophecy (though not necessarily to accompany the prophecy itself).

    In addition, these particular, redemptive-historical events do not set a precedent for the use of instruments outside of the context of the times. This would be demonstrated by the fact that prophecy took place in the NT church and yet without any such aid. Thus it appears that the early church fathers and the Reformers were correct in seeing the use of instruments as belonging to the infancy of the church's development (much as the ceremonial law acted as a temporary institution to lead the young church to the Christ).
  5. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Senior

    I was just recalling that a civil celebration could include elements of worship in it. So what we have here is a civil celebration in which acts of worship are performed. Hence, the common mode of civil celebration is used (instruments and dancing); this is no example of instruments being used as an act or accompaniment to worship. However, the fact that "prophetess" is assigned to Miriam suggests to me that this action by her and the women is not only the common custom of celebration, but it is also related to the prophecy in general making use of musical instruments, which instruments eventually made it into the temple. Am I stretching matters here by layering all these aspects of the event together?

    I wonder if it is also stretching to say that the use of musical instruments in connection with the temple worship is only one way to see that they are ceremonial; their use by inspired prophets also shows their temporary, ceremonial function? Or maybe more is needed: noting that they are "carnal ordinances" and "elements of the world"?

    Perhaps though the simplest way to explain this passage while arguing for the ceremonial nature of instruments (without making reference to the regulative principle) is as Rev. Kok has done above: (a) first note the civil celebration nature of the act and then (b) simply note the temporary nature of instruments accompanying prophecy.
  6. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    You have to go to the New Testament, anyway to see whether there is sufficient warrant for musical instruments in public worship, and there isn't. Nor is there a list of suitable instruments to be used if we had a notion to use them.

    In other contexts than worship services those who subscribe to EP may feel justified in playing psalm or hymn tunes on musical instruments. There are examples of such things in the OT.

    I play e.g. New Britain (Amazing Grace) or Bays of Harris or Belmont on the pipes, but would never think of incorporating the playing of the pipes into a worship service.

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  7. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    One interesting thing I have noted is that the Hebrew for the "instruments" half of the term "musical instruments", keliy, is the same word used for, among other things, the furnishings of the tabernacle. Strong's defines keliy as "an article, a vessel, an implement, a utensil, a tool." I wrote a bit about this because I wonder if it's not an important factor in the argument for why musical instruments have passed away as an element of singing in the NT church. Here is a link to those observations if anyone is interested- (I'm a bit embarrassed about pointing to anything I've written but if it helps in the conversation about psalmody and the church's singing I'd be happy).
  8. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Senior

    Yes, I've done similar. However, this passage has worship song being sung while musical instruments are being played.
  9. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    Well although all worship is to be regulated by God's Word, it is clear from e.g. the 1673 Preface to the Scottish Psalter that (some of) those men that did not see warrant in Scripture for the use of non-psalmodic songs in worship services, yet saw some use for them in some contexts.

    Whether this was because of passages like Exodus 15, and e.g. when the prophets asked for a musician to play before giving an oracle, I don't know. Maybe a search of Puritan commentary on such passages would further "pick their brains".

    Nor do I know what those men thought of strumming a lute by the fireside while singing a hymn.

    But their position on psalms and other songs shows some degree of nuance, otherwise they would have just have said in the 1673 Preface that on no account and at no time were other 'spiritual songs" to be composed or sung.

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  10. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Senior

    Yes, this is true. I wonder if it follows that: if a psalm can be sung while one is working, could a psalm be sung while one plays an instrument as part of a civil celebration (which might be the case here)? Even as one could sing certain sorts of hymns outside the worship context.
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2015
  11. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    As in "Sing unto the Lord with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm"?
  12. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    We need to see what the Westminster divines said in their commentary on such passages and other writings. We'd learn more from their nuance than from confident declarations that it is (always) sinful to sing a hymn made in the name of an attempt at "consistency" in the RPW sometimes in order to win debate on the subject of worship.

    This is a very important area re strengthening the case for the RPW so the more that can be gathered from the Puritans on it, the better.

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  13. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Senior

    I said "as part of a celebration." I was not talking about a worship context, as is likely the case here (temple worship imagery), or a figurative use of instruments, as may be the case here. I could have been more clear though and said "civil celebration."

    Yes, that would be helpful.
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