What Does 1 Samuel 16:14-23 teach about music?

1 Samuel 16:23 And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.

The passage that ends with this statement provides us with explicit revelation about "an evil spirit from God" in connection with the playing of music. What does this passage teach about music?

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RajeshG's picture

By posting this topic for discussion, I am not seeking a general discussion about music, worship, etc.

If you are not interested in specifically and in great detail discussing this passage and what it teaches, please do not participate in this discussion.

RajeshG's picture

Some, perhaps even many, have problems with holding that "evil spirit" in 1 Samuel 16 signifies a demon. Three major Bible versions (NKJ, ESV, NLT) do not render the Hebrew word ‎רָעָ֖ה (rangah) as "evil": 

KJV 1 Samuel 16:14 But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him. 

NAU 1 Samuel 16:14 Now the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD terrorized him.

NET 1 Samuel 16:14 Now the Spirit of the LORD had turned away from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him.

NKJ 1 Samuel 16:14 But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the LORD troubled him.

CSB 1 Samuel 16:14 Now the Spirit of the LORD had left Saul, and an evil spirit sent from the LORD began to torment him,

ESV 1 Samuel 16:14 Now the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a harmful spirit from the LORD tormented him.

NIV 1 Samuel 16:14 Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him.

NLT 1 Samuel 16:14 Now the Spirit of the LORD had left Saul, and the LORD sent a tormenting spirit that filled him with depression and fear.

Nevertheless, many versions do render it as "evil."

RajeshG's picture

Not including the verses in First Samuel with rangah in them in which it is typically rendered as "evil" in them concerning the spirit that afflicted Saul, the following verses in First Samuel have rangah in them:

1 Sam. 12:19  And all the people said unto Samuel, Pray for thy servants unto the LORD thy God, that we die not: for we have added unto all our sins this evil, to ask us a king.

1 Sam. 24:11  Moreover, my father, see, yea, see the skirt of thy robe in my hand: for in that I cut off the skirt of thy robe, and killed thee not, know thou and see that there is neither evil nor transgression in mine hand, and I have not sinned against thee; yet thou huntest my soul to take it.

1 Sam. 25:21  Now David had said, Surely in vain have I kept all that this fellow hath in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that pertained unto him: and he hath requited me evil for good.

1 Sam. 25:26  Now therefore, my lord, as the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, seeing the LORD hath withholden thee from coming to shed blood, and from avenging thyself with thine own hand, now let thine enemies, and they that seek evil to my lord, be as Nabal.

1 Sam. 26:18  And he said, Wherefore doth my lord thus pursue after his servant? for what have I done? or what evil is in mine hand?

1 Sam. 29:6  Then Achish called David, and said unto him, Surely, as the LORD liveth, thou hast been upright, and thy going out and thy coming in with me in the host is good in my sight: for I have not found evil in thee since the day of thy coming unto me unto this day: nevertheless the lords favour thee not.

In all of these verses, understanding rangah as denoting 'moral evil' is justified. Based, therefore, on how the word is used in the context of its inspired unit (the book of 1 Samuel), there is strong basis to hold that rangah signifies an evil spirit, that is, a demon in 1 Samuel 16.

RajeshG's picture

In every occurrence of the phrase "evil spirit" in the LXX of 1 Samuel 16 (and once in 1 Sam. 19), the Greek text has πνεῦμα (spirit) with πονηρὸς (evil), which is an adjective that denotes moral evil:

1 Sam. 16:14  But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.

1 Sam. 16:14  καὶ πνεῦμα κυρίου ἀπέστη ἀπὸ Σαουλ καὶ ἔπνιγεν αὐτὸν πνεῦμα πονηρὸν παρὰ κυρίου

1 Sam. 16:15  And Saul's servants said unto him, Behold now, an evil spirit from God troubleth thee.

1 Sam. 16:15  καὶ εἶπαν οἱ παῖδες Σαουλ πρὸς αὐτόν ἰδοὺ δὴ πνεῦμα κυρίου πονηρὸν πνίγει σε

1 Sam. 16:16  Let our lord now command thy servants, which are before thee, to seek out a man, who is a cunning player on an harp: and it shall come to pass, when the evil spirit from God is upon thee, that he shall play with his hand, and thou shalt be well.

1 Sam. 16:16  εἰπάτωσαν δὴ οἱ δοῦλοί σου ἐνώπιόν σου καὶ ζητησάτωσαν τῷ κυρίῳ ἡμῶν ἄνδρα εἰδότα ψάλλειν ἐν κινύρᾳ καὶ ἔσται ἐν τῷ εἶναι πνεῦμα πονηρὸν ἐπὶ σοὶ καὶ ψαλεῖ ἐν τῇ κινύρᾳ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀγαθόν σοι ἔσται καὶ ἀναπαύσει σε

1 Sam. 16:23  And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.

1 Sam. 16:23  καὶ ἐγενήθη ἐν τῷ εἶναι πνεῦμα πονηρὸν ἐπὶ Σαουλ καὶ ἐλάμβανεν Δαυιδ τὴν κινύραν καὶ ἔψαλλεν ἐν τῇ χειρὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀνέψυχεν Σαουλ καὶ ἀγαθὸν αὐτῷ καὶ ἀφίστατο ἀπ᾽ αὐτοῦ τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ πονηρόν

1 Sam. 19:9  And the evil spirit from the LORD was upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his javelin in his hand: and David played with his hand.

1 Sam. 19:9  καὶ ἐγένετο πνεῦμα θεοῦ πονηρὸν ἐπὶ Σαουλ καὶ αὐτὸς ἐν οἴκῳ καθεύδων καὶ δόρυ ἐν τῇ χειρὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ Δαυιδ ἔψαλλεν ἐν ταῖς χερσὶν αὐτοῦ

Whenever those words are used together in the NT, they always refer to a demon or to multiple demons:

Matt. 12:45  Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.

Matt. 12:45  τότε πορεύεται καὶ παραλαμβάνει μεθ᾽ ἑαυτοῦ ἑπτὰ ἕτερα πνεύματα πονηρότερα ἑαυτοῦ καὶ εἰσελθόντα κατοικεῖ ἐκεῖ· καὶ γίνεται τὰ ἔσχατα τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐκείνου χείρονα τῶν πρώτων. οὕτως ἔσται καὶ τῇ γενεᾷ ταύτῃ τῇ πονηρᾷ.

Lk. 7:21  And in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight.

Lk. 7:21  ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ὥρᾳ ἐθεράπευσεν πολλοὺς ἀπὸ νόσων καὶ μαστίγων καὶ πνευμάτων πονηρῶν καὶ τυφλοῖς πολλοῖς ἐχαρίσατο βλέπειν.

Lk. 8:2  And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils,

Lk. 8:2  καὶ γυναῖκές τινες αἳ ἦσαν τεθεραπευμέναι ἀπὸ πνευμάτων πονηρῶν καὶ ἀσθενειῶν, Μαρία ἡ καλουμένη Μαγδαληνή, ἀφ᾽ ἧς δαιμόνια ἑπτὰ ἐξεληλύθει,

Lk. 11:26  Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.

Lk. 11:26  τότε πορεύεται καὶ παραλαμβάνει ἕτερα πνεύματα πονηρότερα ἑαυτοῦ ἑπτὰ καὶ εἰσελθόντα κατοικεῖ ἐκεῖ· καὶ γίνεται τὰ ἔσχατα τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐκείνου χείρονα τῶν πρώτων.

Acts 19:12  So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.

Acts 19:12  ὥστε καὶ ἐπὶ τοὺς ἀσθενοῦντας ἀποφέρεσθαι ἀπὸ τοῦ χρωτὸς αὐτοῦ σουδάρια ἢ σιμικίνθια καὶ ἀπαλλάσσεσθαι ἀπ᾽ αὐτῶν τὰς νόσους, τά τε πνεύματα τὰ πονηρὰ ἐκπορεύεσθαι.

Acts 19:13  Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.

Acts 19:13  Ἐπεχείρησαν δέ τινες καὶ τῶν περιερχομένων Ἰουδαίων ἐξορκιστῶν ὀνομάζειν ἐπὶ τοὺς ἔχοντας τὰ πνεύματα τὰ πονηρὰ τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ λέγοντες· ὁρκίζω ὑμᾶς τὸν Ἰησοῦν ὃν Παῦλος κηρύσσει.

Acts 19:15  And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?

Acts 19:15  ἀποκριθὲν δὲ τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ πονηρὸν εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· τὸν [μὲν] Ἰησοῦν γινώσκω καὶ τὸν Παῦλον ἐπίσταμαι, ὑμεῖς δὲ τίνες ἐστέ;

Acts 19:16  And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

Acts 19:16  καὶ ἐφαλόμενος ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἐπ᾽ αὐτοὺς ἐν ᾧ ἦν τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ πονηρόν, κατακυριεύσας ἀμφοτέρων ἴσχυσεν κατ᾽ αὐτῶν ὥστε γυμνοὺς καὶ τετραυματισμένους ἐκφυγεῖν ἐκ τοῦ οἴκου ἐκείνου.

In connection with the NT evidence, the LXX use of πνεῦμα πονηρὸν in every occurrence to refer to the evil spirit that afflicted Saul shows definitively that the spirit from God that afflicted Saul was a demon.

The evidence from both the Hebrew text of 1 Samuel 16 and the Greek text of the LXX of 1 Samuel 16 thus establishes clearly that God sent a demon to afflict Saul.

RajeshG's picture

1 Samuel 16:14 But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.

The Spirit inspired the writer of 1 Samuel to begin this passage by revealing something that no ordinary human being otherwise could ever have known had taken place at that very moment. The Holy Spirit departed from Saul, and then an "evil spirit" from God troubled him.

The departure of the Spirit from Saul strongly supports holding that God sent a demon to trouble Saul. If "evil spirit" were to refer to just an angel whom God sent to trouble Saul, the departure of the Spirit is inexplicable.

Anything that an angel could have done to torment Saul is something that the Spirit could have done to him.

By strong contrast, the arrival of an evil spirit to afflict Saul would be consistent with God's having taken away the holy influences of His Spirit upon Saul. Moreover, an evil spirit would be willing to affect and afflict Saul in sinful and unholy ways (cf. Gen. 3:1, 4-5) that the Spirit or a holy angel would never do.

RajeshG's picture

Having examined some lexical/linguistic points for why 1 Samuel 16 is revelation about God's afflicting Saul by sending a demon to do so, a theological objection raised to that view must be answered.

Some believers hold that God could not have sent a demon to afflict Saul because that would be tantamount to His tempting Saul with evil, which He says in James 1:13-15 is something that He never does. This objection stems from a misapplication of the teaching in James 1 because God's sending a demon to afflict Saul was not His tempting him with evil or His tempting him to do evil. The two are not at all the same.

Two passages show that they are not the same.

First, God is the One who called Job to Satan's attention twice (Job 1:8; 2:3) and twice authorized Satan to afflict Job (Job 1:12; 2:6). Satan's intent/expectation in both instances was that Job would curse God to His face (Job 1:11; 2:5).

If someone holds that we would have a theological problem with the spirit being an evil spirit in 1 Samuel 16, we would have a much greater problem with the devil himself being directed by God to afflict Job, knowing that Satan's intent was to get Job to do evil.

Second, we would have an even greater problem with what the Spirit reveals in 1 Kings 22:

1 Kings 22:19 And he said, Hear thou therefore the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left. 20 And the LORD said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead?

And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner.

21 And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will persuade him.

22 And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith?

And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.

And he [God] said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so.

23 Now therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil concerning thee.

Note that God is the One who initiated a spirit's going forth to persuade Ahab to fall (22:20). A demon came forth and said that he would be a lying spirit in the mouth of all of Ahab's prophets (22:22).

God authorized that demon to do so and commanded the demon to go forth and do so (22:22)!

God's prophet, Micaiah, informed Ahab that "the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil concerning thee" (22:23).

These passages (and others) show that the objection that God could not have sent a demon to afflict Saul because that would tantamount to His tempting Saul with evil is not supported by Scripture.

RajeshG's picture

Some assert that the Hebrew words repeatedly rendered “evil spirit” in 1 Samuel 16:14-23 are to be understood to mean something like a “bad attitude.” I have already provided extensive evidence to show that the word rangah signifies ‘moral evil’ in this passage.

Concerning rendering the word ruah that is rendered spirit, the opening verse of the passage uses that word twice:

1 Samuel 16:14 But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.

Because it uses the same word in both cases in such close proximity to each other, there is no basis for rendering it as “spirit” in the first instance and as “attitude" in the second. The Spirit departed from Saul and the evil spirit came to trouble him.

Moreover, the Hebrew verb used for the Spirit's departing in 16:14 is the same verb that is used for the demon's departing in 16:23:

1 Samuel 16:23 And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.

The passage is thus predicating the same action for both the Spirit and for the demon. This further supports holding that in both instances the word is to be rendered as “spirit.”

There is not any basis, whether contextual, linguistic, or theological, for understanding that "evil spirit" refers to anything other than a demon in 1 Sam. 16.

RajeshG's picture

Some believers may object strongly to holding that passages such as 1 Sam. 16:14-23 are divine revelation about music. In their thinking, what they view is "the main point" or "the big idea" of the passage is what matters and what we are to profit from. On that basis, they would deny that this passage is about music because they say that music is not "the main point" or "the big idea" of the passage.

Answering this objection is important so that it can be completely set aside for the rest of this discussion.

To understand why this is an invalid objection, consider the following argumentation that I have provided elsewhere:

Probably every believer who has been a believer for any length of time has encountered teaching about the main point or big idea of the following passage:

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Most have been taught that this passage is “about” the Great Commission that Jesus gave to His apostles. Probably no one has ever thought or said that the main point or big idea of this passage is to teach us about the Holy Spirit.

A careful examination of nearly every sound work on systematic theology or NT theology would likely reveal, however, that this is an important passage for one’s formulating a proper understanding of what the Scripture teaches us about pneumatology. Any person who does not treat what this passage reveals about the Spirit in formulating their theology of the Spirit is a person who does not profit fully from revelation that God has intended him to profit from theologically.

As this brief but clear example shows, it is a faulty approach to hermeneutics and exegesis to insist that the main point/big idea of a passage is all that matters. Truth that God has revealed about a subject in a passage that does not have that subject as its main point or big idea is nonetheless truth that God wants us to profit from fully.

Regardless, therefore, of what one decides is "the main point" or "the big idea" of 1 Samuel 16:14-23, five explicit statements in the passage about the playing of a musical instrument make abundantly clear that this passage is divine revelation about music:
 

1 Samuel 16:16 Let our lord now command thy servants, which are before thee, to seek out a man, who is a cunning player on an harp: and it shall come to pass, when the evil spirit from God is upon thee, that he shall play with his hand, and thou shalt be well. 17 And Saul said unto his servants, Provide me now a man that can play well, and bring him to me. 18 Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the LORD is with him.

23 And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.

Taking the position that this passage is not divine revelation about music is a faulty approach to handling the passage.

God has given us divine revelation in 1 Samuel 16:14-23 to profit us concerning our doctrine and practice of music!

Kevin Miller's picture

RajeshG wrote:

God has given us divine revelation in 1 Samuel 16:14-23 to profit us concerning our doctrine and practice of music!

It seems to me that one of the possible revelations about music from this passage is that evil spirits do not like it when music is played, especially when it is played skillfully. If one is worried that an evil spirit is indwelling them, playing music will potentially cause the spirit to leave. It worked for Saul, after all.

RajeshG's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

 

RajeshG wrote:

 

God has given us divine revelation in 1 Samuel 16:14-23 to profit us concerning our doctrine and practice of music!

 

It seems to me that one of the possible revelations about music from this passage is that evil spirits do not like it when music is played, especially when it is played skillfully. If one is worried that an evil spirit is indwelling them, playing music will potentially cause the spirit to leave. It worked for Saul, after all.

Yes, you are right in thinking that benefit that Saul received is an important ramification/application of what this passage reveals. There are many things that need to be discussed carefully in considering further that aspect. The passage speaks broadly to some key truths about music that have often not been appreciated or have even been denied, including this one that you have brought up.

RajeshG's picture

To understand aright what 1 Samuel 16:14-23 reveals about music requires great care in handling the passage. The passage must not be handled as generic information about all music. 

This passage is highly specific information about instrumental music played by a highly skilled Israelite musician who had the Spirit on him.

Furthermore, this passage is not revelation about singing. The playing of a stringed instrument (the harp) is what is undeniably in view in every mention of music in the passage.

God intends the explicit emphasis on instrumental music in this passage to instruct us about the importance that He places on instrumental music that pleases Him.

 

RajeshG's picture

The profound emphasis on instrumental music in this passage refutes the notion that its only the lyrics that are sung that matter to God. This passage shows definitively that instrumental music played by a godly, highly skilled, and Spirit-empowered musician provided multiple benefits to a suffering human being. What kind of instrumental music humans listen to and fill their minds with is a vitally important matter!

Kevin Miller's picture

RajeshG wrote:

God intends the explicit emphasis on instrumental music in this passage to instruct us about the importance that He places on instrumental music that pleases Him.

What makes you think the instrumental music was pleasing God? It pleased God to send the evil spirit against Saul. The music, however, made the evil spirit leave, even though God has specifically sent it. Why would God be pleased that His affliction of Saul be countermanded?

RajeshG's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

 

RajeshG wrote:

 

God intends the explicit emphasis on instrumental music in this passage to instruct us about the importance that He places on instrumental music that pleases Him.

 

What makes you think the instrumental music was pleasing God? It pleased God to send the evil spirit against Saul. The music, however, made the evil spirit leave, even though God has specifically sent it. Why would God be pleased that His affliction of Saul be countermanded?

The Spirit-inspired flow of the passage profoundly highlights the Spirit's being on David:

1 Samuel 16:13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah. 14 But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.

The passage reinforces that point in how Saul's servant describes David:

1 Samuel 16:18 Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the LORD is with him.

The Spirit was mightily on David so that the LORD was with him in a way that even other humans could readily detect. Not only would such a man who has the Spirit on him not engage in actions that oppose the will of God but also the Lord would not empower him and be with him had he chosen to do something against the purposes of God.

Saul's servants somehow discerned that an evil spirit from God was afflicting him. How much more so would a man on whom the Spirit was and with whom the Lord was know that this affliction was sent by God?

Such a man who was "prudent in matters" would not (and could not) have engaged in an activity contrary to the will and purposes of God. We can be confident that the music that he played was pleasing to God and that his playing that music was pleasing to God.

RajeshG's picture

Many believers hold that instrumental music only affects its hearers emotionally. First Samuel 16:14-23 does not support this view.

Instrumental music played by a godly, highly skilled Israelite musician who had the Spirit upon him profited an afflicted sinful human being more than just by improving his emotional state--God used it to deliver him from torment that he was experiencing from a wicked spirit:

1 Samuel 16:23 And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.

The value of godly instrumental music is not limited just to beneficial effects on the emotional state of its hearers. Godly instrumental music profits its hearers spiritually in ways that cannot be humanly explained because God has not revealed how such profit is mediated through that music.

Instrumental music is not just about emotional effects!

RajeshG's picture

First Samuel 16:14-23 reveals to us some key theological truths about music:

1. Music is not just about what lyrics are sung--instrumental music without any singing is highlighted in this passage.

2. Music is not just about emotions--instrumental music had a highly beneficial spiritual effect on Saul in this account.

3. Music is not just about humans--the playing of instrumental harp music by David, a godly, highly skilled Israelite musician who had the Spirit on him, delivered Saul from the harmful effects that he was experiencing that were caused by a demon. God used the music to cause the demon to depart. What music humans play and listen to has effects not just on them and on other humans but also on supernatural evil beings.

Kevin Miller's picture

RajeshG wrote:

First Samuel 16:14-23 reveals to us some key theological truths about music:

1. Music is not just about what lyrics are sung--instrumental music without any singing is highlighted in this passage.

2. Music is not just about emotions--instrumental music had a highly beneficial spiritual effect on Saul in this account.

3. Music is not just about humans--the playing of instrumental harp music by David, a godly, highly skilled Israelite musician who had the Spirit on him, delivered Saul from the harmful effects that he was experiencing that were caused by a demon. God used the music to cause the demon to depart. What music humans play and listen to has effects not just on them and on other humans but also on supernatural evil beings.

One thing the passage does NOT teach us is whether any particular pitch or tempo or key or volume or timbre or pattern or style is responsible for any particular effect that instrumental music might have on humans or supernatural beings. The passage is not that specific about those individual details regarding the music David played.

RajeshG's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

RajeshG wrote:

 

First Samuel 16:14-23 reveals to us some key theological truths about music:

1. Music is not just about what lyrics are sung--instrumental music without any singing is highlighted in this passage.

2. Music is not just about emotions--instrumental music had a highly beneficial spiritual effect on Saul in this account.

3. Music is not just about humans--the playing of instrumental harp music by David, a godly, highly skilled Israelite musician who had the Spirit on him, delivered Saul from the harmful effects that he was experiencing that were caused by a demon. God used the music to cause the demon to depart. What music humans play and listen to has effects not just on them and on other humans but also on supernatural evil beings.

One thing the passage does NOT teach us is whether any particular pitch or tempo or key or volume or timbre or pattern or style is responsible for any particular effect that instrumental music might have on humans or supernatural beings. The passage is not that specific about those individual details regarding the music David played.

In His perfect wisdom, the Spirit has deemed that we do not need to know those individual details about the music David played in order to profit from this passage fully, as He intend us to.

Apparently, the Spirit wants to teach us other truths about music that are essential for us to know. We do well to ponder what are the truths from this passage that we do need to know.

I have already discussed/presented several of them. Another one is that the passage does reveal to us that there is at least one style of Israelite instrumental harp music that pleases God and that He used to benefit Saul in multiple ways, including delivering him from severe affliction caused by a demon.

We also know that David knew what that style was and how to play that style of music skillfully. We also know that certain servants of Saul had prior knowledge of the spiritual efficacy of that style of harp music for delivering people from at least the type of demonic affliction from which Saul was suffering.
 

Kevin Miller's picture

RajeshG wrote:

Kevin Miller wrote:

One thing the passage does NOT teach us is whether any particular pitch or tempo or key or volume or timbre or pattern or style is responsible for any particular effect that instrumental music might have on humans or supernatural beings. The passage is not that specific about those individual details regarding the music David played.

 

In His perfect wisdom, the Spirit has deemed that we do not need to know those individual details about the music David played in order to profit from this passage fully, as He intend us to.

You're absolutely right that the Holy Spirit has deemed that we don't need to know those details. The reason I mentioned them is that I have heard people over the years make a big deal about promoting or condemning certain style elements even though it is very, very rare for a particular passage about music to contain information about such style elements. One can't make definitive statements about style elements if the passage doesn't support such statements.

Quote:
We also know that David knew what that style was and how to play that style of music skillfully. We also know that certain servants of Saul had prior knowledge of the spiritual efficacy of that style of harp music for delivering people from at least the type of demonic affliction from which Saul was suffering. 
Yes, David knew what style he played, but since the Holy Spirit did not deem it important for US to know the style, then we can't make any personal applications for today regarding the style David used. That truth is certainly important for us to acknowledge.

Even your statement that there was a "spiritual efficacy" of "that style of harp music" goes beyond what the passage says. Do you interpret some particular wording from the passage to be making that claim, that it was specifically the "style" that provided spiritual benefit? You first mentioned that the Holy Spirit hasn't deemed that we need to know about individual details of the music, and then you make a definitive statement regarding one of those details.

RajeshG's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

 

Quote:
We also know that David knew what that style was and how to play that style of music skillfully. We also know that certain servants of Saul had prior knowledge of the spiritual efficacy of that style of harp music for delivering people from at least the type of demonic affliction from which Saul was suffering. 

Yes, David knew what style he played, but since the Holy Spirit did not deem it important for US to know the style, then we can't make any personal applications for today regarding the style David used. That truth is certainly important for us to acknowledge.

Just because we cannot know certain specific information about the style does not mean that we cannot make any applications for today. For example, there are applications that we can make by knowing of the existence of such an Israelite musical style, etc. 

Kevin Miller wrote:

Even your statement that there was a "spiritual efficacy" of "that style of harp music" goes beyond what the passage says. Do you interpret some particular wording from the passage to be making that claim, that it was specifically the "style" that provided spiritual benefit? You first mentioned that the Holy Spirit hasn't deemed that we need to know about individual details of the music, and then you make a definitive statement regarding one of those details.

I disagree. By style, I mean the totality of what David did with his hands in skillfully playing the harp so that it produced the music that God used to deliver Saul. David had to play the harp in some manner because the harp did not play itself; whatever that manner was, it was some style of playing it with which he played it to produce that music that had a specific character and efficacy to it.

The passage emphasizes not just that he played the harp and Saul obtained relief in many ways--the passage emphasizes that David played it skillfully by explicitly speaking 3x of the harp being played either by a cunning player or by saying that it was played well!

1 Samuel 16:16 Let our lord now command thy servants, which are before thee, to seek out a man, who is a cunning player on an harp: and it shall come to pass, when the evil spirit from God is upon thee, that he shall play with his hand, and thou shalt be well. 17 And Saul said unto his servants, Provide me now a man that can play well, and bring him to me. 18 Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the LORD is with him.

At a later point, I plan to discuss further the application that we can certainly make from this (and other passages) of the importance that God places on skillfully playing musical instruments in His service. I am not ready for that discussion at this point so I am not going to elaborate on that point further at this time.

Kevin Miller's picture

RajeshG wrote:

Kevin Miller wrote:

 

Even your statement that there was a "spiritual efficacy" of "that style of harp music" goes beyond what the passage says. Do you interpret some particular wording from the passage to be making that claim, that it was specifically the "style" that provided spiritual benefit? You first mentioned that the Holy Spirit hasn't deemed that we need to know about individual details of the music, and then you make a definitive statement regarding one of those details.

 

I disagree. By style, I mean the totality of what David did with his hands in skillfully playing the harp so that it produced the music that God used to deliver Saul. David had to play the harp in some manner because the harp did not play itself; whatever that manner was, it was some style of playing it with which he played it to produce that music that had a specific character and efficacy to it.

The passage emphasizes not just that he played the harp and Saul obtained relief in many ways--the passage emphasizes that David played it skillfully by explicitly speaking 3x of the harp being played either by a cunning player or by saying that it was played well!

1 Samuel 16:16 Let our lord now command thy servants, which are before thee, to seek out a man, who is a cunning player on an harp: and it shall come to pass, when the evil spirit from God is upon thee, that he shall play with his hand, and thou shalt be well. 17 And Saul said unto his servants, Provide me now a man that can play well, and bring him to me. 18 Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the LORD is with him.

I think your emphasis on David himself here is well placed. It seems highly likely to me that any other musician could have played the exact same notes with the exact same speed on the exact same harp, and the music would not have had the same effectiveness as when David himself played them. The passage emphasizes David himself far more than any individual aspect of the music. One could even make a 6 point message regarding David's effectiveness just from verse 18. David was 1. cunning in playing, 2. a mighty valiant man, 3. a man of war, 4. prudent in matters, 5. a comely person, and 6. the Lord was with him. Since the Holy Spirit determined it was important that we know all these factors about David, I think it is safe to say that all these factors played a role in David's effectiveness at making the evil spirit leave Saul.

RajeshG's picture

Three expressions in the climactic verse of 1 Samuel 16 provide inspired revelation that attests to the existence of godly instrumental music that promoted Saul's well-being in multiple ways:

1 Samuel 16:23 And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.

Many try to argue that instrumental music is only the language of emotions and only affects people emotionally. This text does not support that view.

Through his hearing David's godly harp music, Saul was benefited in multiple ways. He was not benefited only with regard to his emotional state--the text says that there were three effects on him. Even if the position that the first two concern only his emotional state could be or were to be shown to be valid, it is impossible to hold validly that the third benefit also only had to do with his emotions.

Because hearing that music did not just benefit Saul emotionally, the Bible does not teach that godly instrumental music only benefits people emotionally. Godly instrumental music promotes human well-being in multiple ways!

Because this passage reveals that godly instrumental music has these beneficial effects, we should disciple people to value listening to godly instrumental music and learning to play it skillfully.

RajeshG's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

 

RajeshG wrote:

 

Kevin Miller wrote:

 

Even your statement that there was a "spiritual efficacy" of "that style of harp music" goes beyond what the passage says. Do you interpret some particular wording from the passage to be making that claim, that it was specifically the "style" that provided spiritual benefit? You first mentioned that the Holy Spirit hasn't deemed that we need to know about individual details of the music, and then you make a definitive statement regarding one of those details.

 

I disagree. By style, I mean the totality of what David did with his hands in skillfully playing the harp so that it produced the music that God used to deliver Saul. David had to play the harp in some manner because the harp did not play itself; whatever that manner was, it was some style of playing it with which he played it to produce that music that had a specific character and efficacy to it.

The passage emphasizes not just that he played the harp and Saul obtained relief in many ways--the passage emphasizes that David played it skillfully by explicitly speaking 3x of the harp being played either by a cunning player or by saying that it was played well!

1 Samuel 16:16 Let our lord now command thy servants, which are before thee, to seek out a man, who is a cunning player on an harp: and it shall come to pass, when the evil spirit from God is upon thee, that he shall play with his hand, and thou shalt be well. 17 And Saul said unto his servants, Provide me now a man that can play well, and bring him to me. 18 Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the LORD is with him.

 

I think your emphasis on David himself here is well placed. It seems highly likely to me that any other musician could have played the exact same notes with the exact same speed on the exact same harp, and the music would not have had the same effectiveness as when David himself played them. The passage emphasizes David himself far more than any individual aspect of the music. One could even make a 6 point message regarding David's effectiveness just from verse 18. David was 1. cunning in playing, 2. a mighty valiant man, 3. a man of war, 4. prudent in matters, 5. a comely person, and 6. the Lord was with him. Since the Holy Spirit determined it was important that we know all these factors about David, I think it is safe to say that all these factors played a role in David's effectiveness at making the evil spirit leave Saul.

Although the passage does mention all those characteristics about him in one verse (16:18), the rest of the passage only speaks of his skillful playing and does not mention any of the other five. If one were to make a 6-point message about the whole passage from verse 18, I do not think that would be a sound handling of the whole passage. What the Spirit highlights in the passage is his skillful playing of the harp and its beneficial effects on Saul.

Kevin Miller's picture

RajeshG wrote:

Although the passage does mention all those characteristics about him in one verse (16:18), the rest of the passage only speaks of his skillful playing and does not mention any of the other five. If one were to make a 6-point message about the whole passage from verse 18, I do not think that would be a sound handling of the whole passage. What the Spirit highlights in the passage is his skillful playing of the harp and its beneficial effects on Saul.

But as I'm sure you've noticed, the entire first part of chapter 16, before the account of the evil spirit on Saul, is about Samuel anointing David and the Spirit of God being with David from that point. Then after the account of David playing for Saul, we have the account of David defeating Goliath in chapter 17, something which Saul was unable to accomplish. So a message about the "whole passage" of chapters 16 and 17 can definitely be encapsulated by the characteristics of David's effectiveness that are listed in 16:18.

I hope you aren't saying that we should ignore this list of characteristics of David just because they are only contained as a list in one verse. These characteristics can definitely be seen in account after account of events that happened in David's life, including the account of David playing music for Saul. I can't help but notice that it was the sum total of characteristics in David's life that made him so effective in removing the evil spirit from Saul.

Kevin Miller's picture

RajeshG wrote:

Three expressions in the climactic verse of 1 Samuel 16 provide inspired revelation that attests to the existence of godly instrumental music that promoted Saul's well-being in multiple ways:

1 Samuel 16:23 And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.

Ah, but was this music "godly" instrumental music because of something inherent in the music, or was it "godly" because David himself, someone filled with the Holy Spirit, was playing it? The passage indicates quite clearly that David himself was the primary factor. "David took an harp" and he "played with his hand." We don't have any indication from the passage that any other person could have taken the harp and been effective in the same way David was. Now, maybe they could have been, but the passage doesn't give us enough information to be definitive about that.

RajeshG's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

 

RajeshG wrote:

 

Although the passage does mention all those characteristics about him in one verse (16:18), the rest of the passage only speaks of his skillful playing and does not mention any of the other five. If one were to make a 6-point message about the whole passage from verse 18, I do not think that would be a sound handling of the whole passage. What the Spirit highlights in the passage is his skillful playing of the harp and its beneficial effects on Saul.

 

But as I'm sure you've noticed, the entire first part of chapter 16, before the account of the evil spirit on Saul, is about Samuel anointing David and the Spirit of God being with David from that point. Then after the account of David playing for Saul, we have the account of David defeating Goliath in chapter 17, something which Saul was unable to accomplish. So a message about the "whole passage" of chapters 16 and 17 can definitely be encapsulated by the characteristics of David's effectiveness that are listed in 16:18.

 

I hope you aren't saying that we should ignore this list of characteristics of David just because they are only contained as a list in one verse. These characteristics can definitely be seen in account after account of events that happened in David's life, including the account of David playing music for Saul. I can't help but notice that it was the sum total of characteristics in David's life that made him so effective in removing the evil spirit from Saul.

I certainly have been aware of how all of these characteristics are relevant in the following chapters and in the rest of his life. I do not think, however, that his being "a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person" had anything to do with the effectiveness of his playing that music in driving out the demon.

Of course, the Lord's being with him was a key factor, and my comment was not denying its importance but only noting that it is not repeatedly mentioned in the passage, as skill in playing the harp is.

RajeshG's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

 

RajeshG wrote:

 

Three expressions in the climactic verse of 1 Samuel 16 provide inspired revelation that attests to the existence of godly instrumental music that promoted Saul's well-being in multiple ways:

1 Samuel 16:23 And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.

 

Ah, but was this music "godly" instrumental music because of something inherent in the music, or was it "godly" because David himself, someone filled with the Holy Spirit, was playing it? The passage indicates quite clearly that David himself was the primary factor. "David took an harp" and he "played with his hand." We don't have any indication from the passage that any other person could have taken the harp and been effective in the same way David was. Now, maybe they could have been, but the passage doesn't give us enough information to be definitive about that.

It was godly instrumental music because a person who is filled with the Spirit is not going to play anything or do anything else that is ungodly. The Spirit will control Him to do what pleases God.

Moreover, God commands people to be skillful in playing musical instruments for Him (Ps. 33:3) in a passage that explicitly commands that they praise Him with the harp (Ps. 33:2). God also commands His people to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18), which filling results in their ministering musically for Him (Eph. 5:19). These passages show that the very things that were true of David are what God commands of those who would minister to Him with musical instruments.

We know for a fact that there were many other highly skilled and godly instrumental musicians that David, under God's direction, appointed to minister to God (1 Chron. 15-16; etc.). I have no doubt that there were and have been other godly, highly skilled instrumentalists that God could have and has used in the same manner that He used David.

In fact, even before David comes on the scene, 1 Samuel itself testifies to us of prophets who (under the influence and empowerment of the Spirit) prophesied with musical instruments, including a harp:

1 Samuel 10:5 After that thou shalt come to the hill of God, where is the garrison of the Philistines: and it shall come to pass, when thou art come thither to the city, that thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp, before them; and they shall prophesy:

RajeshG's picture

1 Samuel 16:14 But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him. 15 And Saul's servants said unto him, Behold now, an evil spirit from God troubleth thee.

How did Saul's servants know accurately what was happening to him?

Kevin Miller's picture

RajeshG wrote:

It was godly instrumental music because a person who is filled with the Spirit is not going to play anything or do anything else that is ungodly. The Spirit will control Him to do what pleases God.

Moreover, God commands people to be skillful in playing musical instruments for Him (Ps. 33:3) in a passage that explicitly commands that they praise Him with the harp (Ps. 33:2). God also commands His people to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18), which filling results in their ministering musically for Him (Eph. 5:19). These passages show that the very things that were true of David are what God commands of those who would minister to Him with musical instruments.

So when a Spirit-filled Christian composes some contemporary Christian music, is it automatically godly, since a spirit-filled person can't play anything that displeases God?

Kevin Miller's picture

RajeshG wrote:

1 Samuel 16:14 But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him. 15 And Saul's servants said unto him, Behold now, an evil spirit from God troubleth thee.

How did Saul's servants know accurately what was happening to him?

Do you think an answer to this can be found in the words of the passage, or are you just looking for guesses?

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