What does Genesis 31:27 teach us about music?

The earliest explicit statement in Scripture about music is 

 Genesis 4:21 And his brother's name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.

The next explicit one is Genesis 31:27,

Genesis 31:27 Wherefore didst thou flee away secretly, and steal away from me; and didst not tell me, that I might have sent thee away with mirth, and with songs, with tabret, and with harp?

To interpret Genesis 31:27 properly, we must not only study the verse itself, but we must compare and contrast it with Genesis 4:21. What does Genesis 31:27 teach us about music?

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RajeshG's picture

In the canonical order of Scripture, Genesis 31:27 is the first passage to provide us with explicit information about the following:

1. Singing

2. The use of a percussion instrument

3. The use of a percussion and a stringed instrument together

4. A specific use of singing and instrumental music in an apparently well-established practice

5. Music that was joyful

RajeshG's picture

The Flood happened in 1656 AA (after Adam was created).

Some interpreters calculate that Abraham was born in 2008 AA; Jacob would would then have been born in 2168 AA. If we take Jubal to have been part of the generation of the Flood, the latest that the time of Gen. 4:21 could have been would have been was 1656 AA (the year of the Flood), which would mean that there was a span of more than 500 years (1656-2168) from Jubal in Genesis 4:21 to Jacob's fleeing.

Other interpreters calculate that Abraham was born in 1948 AA and Jacob in 2108 AA. In this case, there would have been more than 450 years (1656-2008) between Jubal in Genesis 4:21 and Jacob's fleeing.

Therefore, Genesis 31:27 speaks of an event that occurred at least 450 years after the time of the musical activities that Genesis 4:21 speaks of. The vast span of time that elapsed between Genesis 4:21 and Genesis 31:27 must be taken into account in our examining what Genesis 31:27 teaches us about music.

Kevin Miller's picture

RajeshG wrote:

The vast span of time that elapsed between Genesis 4:21 and Genesis 31:27 must be taken into account in our examining what Genesis 31:27 teaches us about music.

Why?

RajeshG's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

 

RajeshG wrote:

 

The vast span of time that elapsed between Genesis 4:21 and Genesis 31:27 must be taken into account in our examining what Genesis 31:27 teaches us about music.

 

Why?

 

Jubal lived before the Flood; Laban and Jacob, after. Given the universal devastation of the Flood, it had to take some time for civilization to redevelop after the Flood. Because Jacob lived 450-500 years after the Flood, there was plenty of time for civilization to be fully established and develop further.

RajeshG's picture

Whereas Scripture does not provide any explicit information about Jubal (beyond information about his family line, etc.) beyond what we are told in Genesis 4:21, we know much more about Laban. 

It is especially worth noting that Laban is the first person in the Bible that we are told was an idolater:

Genesis 31:19 And Laban went to shear his sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images that were her father's.

Genesis 31:30 And now, though thou wouldest needs be gone, because thou sore longedst after thy father's house, yet wherefore hast thou stolen my gods?

It is puzzling why the Spirit chose to wait until Laban to first reveal the identity of a human who was an idolater.

Is it significant that information is found in the same passage that is the first revelation about music after the Flood (in the same book that provide us with the earliest information about human music activity: Gen. 4:21)?

RajeshG's picture

Both Jubal and Laban were born into wicked households. Lamech, Jubal's father, was an openly wicked man (Gen. 4:19; 4:23-24).

Laban, an idolater, was the son of Nahor (Gen. 29:5). Strikingly, it is not until the book of Joshua that the Spirit reveals that both Nahor and his father Terah were idolaters:

Joshua 24:2 And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods.

Based on Genesis 31 and Joshua 24, we learn that Laban was a 3rd generation idolater. Laban thus grew up in the wicked household of a man who served false gods and whose father before him also served false gods.

Scripture, therefore, reveals that both Jubal and Laban had very wicked influences upon them. Moreover, because Laban grew up in the household of an idolater and was an idolater himself, we have very strong grounds to hold that Laban himself was a man who was influenced by demons in his lifetime.

How does our knowledge of the wicked influences (both human and supernatural) on Laban and his own wickedness affect how we should interpret the information provided to us about the music that Laban would have provided for in a farewell ceremony to Jacob, had he had the opportunity that he wanted to have?

RajeshG's picture

To interpret Genesis 31:27 properly, we must also compare it to what we know about music in the time of Job, who may have lived at the same time as Jacob.

The book of Job provides us with several statements about music:

Job 21:12 They take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ.

Job 29:13 The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me: and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy.

Job 30:31 My harp also is turned to mourning, and my organ into the voice of them that weep.

Job 35:10 But none saith, Where is God my maker, who giveth songs in the night;

In addition to Genesis 4:21 and 31:27, these statements in Job comprise the remainder of what has been revealed to us about human musical activities before the Exodus. In what ways do these statements add to our understanding of music beyond what is revealed in the book of Genesis?