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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

(κιθάρα, also κιθαρίζειν, ‘to harp,’ and κιθαρῳδός [κιθαρ + ἀοιδός] ‘a harper’)

The word and its two derivatives occur only in 1 Corinthians and Revelation. In  1 Corinthians 14:7 : ‘Even things without life, giving a voice, whether pipe or harp, if they give not a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?’ St. Paul by this musical illustration criticizes a prevalent and unedifying speaking with tongues, though, in the light of the phrase eandem cantilenam recinere , his figure of ‘harping’ has come in colloquial use to represent rather monotonous persistency. In  Revelation 5:8 the four living creatures and the four and twenty elders who abased themselves before the Lamb have each of them a harp; and the voice which was heard, as the Lamb and the hundred and forty and four thousand stood on Mount Zion, is described as that of ‘harpers harping with their harps’ ( Revelation 14:2). The victors over the beast, his image, and his mark, who stand by ‘the glassy sea mingled with fire’ and sing the the song of Moses, have ‘harps of God’ to sing His praise ( Revelation 15:2). In  Revelation 18:22 the angel who doomed the great city of Babylon declared that it would hear no more the voice of harpers (cf.  Isaiah 23:16).

When we attempt to describe exactly the design and manipulation of musical instruments in use throughout the Apostolic Age, we are met with almost insuperable difficulties. The apocalyptic character of the book, which, as we have seen, contains, with but one exception, the references to harps, turns one to Jewish music; but, though there is much relevant information in Chronicles and other OT writings, it is lacking in precision. It is easier to describe the instruments of ancient Egypt and Assyria, for we are helped by sculptures and pictures, the like of which have not been found in Palestine. We must rely, therefore, on analogy guided by our inexact OT descriptions.

‘To accompany singing, or at all events sacred singing, stringed instruments only were used, and never wind instruments’ (Appendix to Wellhausen’s ‘Psalms’ [Haupt’s PB [Note: B Polychrome Bible.], 1898]). It may be too much to say that they were the only accompanying instruments, but they were certainly the principal. In the OT there is mention of only two stringed instruments (if we except the curious list which appears in Daniel), and these are the כִּנּוֹר and נֶבֶל. The former is the older, and tradition points to Jubal as its inventor ( Genesis 4:21); while the second does not appear before  1 Samuel 10:5. These are translated in the English Versionas ‘harp’ and ‘psaltery’ respectively. From  1 Kings 10:12 we learn that their framework was made of almug or algum; from  2 Chronicles 20:28 that both were portable, and from many OT passages that they were much used at religious and festive gatherings. It is difficult to determine with exactness the difference between these stringed instruments; but, although later tradition confused them, they were certainly not identical, nor were their names used indifferently to denote the same instrument. There are several reasons, however, for the belief that the כִּנּוֹר resembled a lyre, and that the נֶבֶל was a form of harp (the question is discussed in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) iii. 458f.). Amongst these are (1) the fact that in the Septuagintκιθάρα, or its equivalent κινύρα, is the almost invariable translation of כִּנּוֹר; (2) the evidence of Jewish coins pointing to a decided similarity of כִּנּוֹר and κιθάρα (see F. W. Madden, Coins of the Jews 2, 1885, pp. 231, 243); and (3) the distinction emphasized by early Christian writers between instruments which had a resonance-frame beneath the strings and those which had it above (see St. Augustine on Psalms 42). Josephus, who has a description of the frame-work and strings of these instruments is Ant. viii. iii. 8, distinguished the κινύρα as ten-stringed and struck with a plectrum from the νάβλα as twelve-stringed and played with the hand.*[Note: See S. R. Driver, Joel and Amos (Cambridge Bible, 1898), p. 234 ff.]

The κιθάρα was the traditional instrument of psalmody, and the κιθαρῳδός, along with the αὐλητής, performed at the festive seasons of Hebrew life (cf. H. B. Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John 2, 1907, pp. 80, 239). Being lighter in weight than the נֶבֶל, the lyre was much played in processions, and, as we learn from  Psalms 137:2, it could be hung on the poplar trees of Babylon when the Hebrew exiles were in no mood for songs of rejoicing. The κιθάρα was of Asiatic origin, and was probably introduced into Egypt by Semites. The earliest representation of a stringed instrument is that excavated at Telloh in South Babylonia, which in size resembles a harp but is shaped like a lyre, i.e. it has a resonance-body on which are set two almost perpendicular posts between which are the strings, upright and fastened to a cross-bar. A picture which better illustrates the ordinary lyre is that of three Semitic captives guarded by an Assyrian warrior while they played; but perhaps the best illustration is that on the Jewish coins mentioned above.

Archibald Main.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [2]

Kinnor With ten strings, played on with a Plectrum (quill), according to Josephus; but also with the hand by David ( 1 Samuel 16:23;  1 Samuel 18:10;  1 Samuel 19:9). Jubal invented it, the simplest kind of stringed instrument, and the" organ" ( Ugab ), rather the "pipe," the simplest kind of wind instrument; his brother Jabal was" father of such as dwell in tents and have cattle." The brotherhood accords with the fact that the leisure of a nomad life was well suited to the production and appreciation of music ( Genesis 4:20-21). The harp was the earliest of all musical instruments, and the national instrument of the Hebrew.

They used it, not as the Greeks, for expressing sorrow, but on occasions of joy and praise ( Genesis 31:27;  2 Chronicles 20:28;  Psalms 33:2); therefore, it was hung on the willows in the Babylonian captivity ( Psalms 137:2;  Job 30:31). The words "My bowels shall sound like an harp" ( Isaiah 16:11) do not allude to the sound as lugubrious, but to the strings vibrating when struck. There was a smaller harp played with the hand, as by the walking prophets ( 1 Samuel 10:5), besides the larger, with more strings, played with the plectrum. Its music, as that of other instruments, was raised to its highest perfection under David ( Amos 6:5). It was an important adjunct to the "schools of the prophets."

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [3]

A — 1: Κιθάρα (Strong'S #2788 — Noun Feminine — kithara — kith-ar'-ah )

whence Eng., "guitar," denotes "a lyre" or "harp;" it is described by Josephus as an instrument of ten strings, played by a plectrum (a smaller instrument was played by the hand); it is mentioned in  1—Corinthians 14:7;  Revelation 5:8;  14:2;  15:2 .

B — 1: Κιθαρίζω (Strong'S #2789 — Verb — kitharizo — kith-ar-id'-zo )

signifies "to play on the harp,"  1—Corinthians 14:7;  Revelation 14:2 . In the Sept.,  Isaiah 23:16 .

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [4]

Hebrew KINNOR, the most ancient and common stringed instrument of the Jews, more properly translated lyre. It was light and portable, and was used on joyful occasions, whether sacred or not. It was invented by Jubal,  Genesis 4:21   31:27   1 Chronicles 16:5   25:1-5   Psalm 81:2 . David was a proficient in its use,  1 Samuel 16:16,23   18:10 . The instrument most nearly resembling our harp was the Hebrew NEBEL, translated, psaltery in the Old Testament,  Psalm 57:8   81:2   92:3   108:2 . It had a general triangular shape, and seven to twelve strings,  Psalm 33:2   144:9 . It was played with the hand or with a short iron rod or plectrum according to its size. The Jews had other stringed instruments, like the guitar and lute, but little can be accurately determined respecting their form, etc. See Music .

Easton's Bible Dictionary [5]

 Genesis 4:21 Kinnor   Genesis 31:27 1 Samuel 16:23 2 Chronicles 20:28 Psalm 33:2 137:2

In Solomon's time harps were made of almug-trees ( 1 Kings 10:11,12 ). In  1 Chronicles 15:21 mention is made of "harps on the Sheminith;" Revised Version, "harps set to the Sheminith;" better perhaps "harps of eight strings." The soothing effect of the music of the harp is referred to   1 Samuel 16:16,23;  18:10;  19:9 . The church in heaven is represented as celebrating the triumphs of the Redeemer "harping with their harps" ( Revelation 14:2 ).

Webster's Dictionary [6]

(1): ( n.) A grain sieve.

(2): ( n.) A musical instrument consisting of a triangular frame furnished with strings and sometimes with pedals, held upright, and played with the fingers.

(3): ( n.) A constellation; Lyra, or the Lyre.

(4): ( v. t.) To play on, as a harp; to play (a tune) on the harp; to develop or give expression to by skill and art; to sound forth as from a harp; to hit upon.

(5): ( n.) To dwell on or recur to a subject tediously or monotonously in speaking or in writing; to refer to something repeatedly or continually; - usually with on or upon.

(6): ( n.) To play on the harp.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [7]

Musical instrument, probably somewhat like those now bearing the name, for such are seen depicted on the Egyptian monuments. The harp is mentioned as early as  Genesis 4:21 . It was one of the instruments used in the temple service.  1 Kings 10:12;  1 Chronicles 13:8 , etc. The harp is remarkable for its soft, soothing sounds. It was used by David to drive away the evil spirit from Saul,  1 Samuel 16:23 and it is the only musical instrument referred to symbolically as being in heaven.   Revelation 5:8;  Revelation 14:2 : called 'the harps of God' in  Revelation 15 .  2 .

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [8]

a stringed musical instrument. The Hebrew word kinaor, which is translated "harp" in our English version, very probably denoted all stringed instruments. By the Hebrew, the harp was called the pleasant harp; and it was employed by them, not only in their devotions, but also at their entertainments and pleasures. It is probable, that the harp was nearly the earliest, if not the earliest instrument of music. David danced when he played on the harp: the Levites did the same. Hence it appears, that it was light and portable, and that its size was restricted within limits which admitted of that service, and of that manner of using it.

King James Dictionary [9]

H`ARP, n.

1. An instrument of music of the stringed kind, of a triangular figure, held upright and commonly touched with the fingers. 2. A constellation.

H`ARP, To play on the harp.

I heard the voice of harpers,harping with their harps.  Revelation 14

1. To dwell on, in speaking or writing to continue sounding.

He seems

Proud and disdainful,harping on what I am--

Not what he knew I was.

2. To touch as a passion to affect.

Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [10]

 Isaiah 5:12 (b) This is a symbol of joy, praise and worship. When Israel was captive in a foreign land, their song ceased, and the musical instruments were laid aside. (See  Psalm 137:2). In this passage the musical instruments are mentioned to describe the hilarity and riotous music that comes from those who follow wine and strong drink. They are full of joy, praise and worship for their false gods.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [11]

Harp. The harp was the national instrument of the Hebrews, and was well known throughout Asia. Moses assigns its invention to Jubal during the antediluvian period.  Genesis 4:21. Josephus records that the harp had ten strings, and that it was played on with the plectrum. Sometimes it was smaller having only eight strings, and was usually played with the fingers.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [12]

Harp. The national musical instrument of the Hebrews. Its invention is credited to Jubal before the flood.  Genesis 4:21. Josephus records that the harp had ten strings and that it was played on with the plectrum. Sometimes it was smaller, having only eight strings, and was usually played with the fingers.

Holman Bible Dictionary [13]

Instruments DancingMusic

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [14]

HARP . See Music and Musical Instruments.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [15]

Copyright StatementThese files are public domain. Bibliography InformationMcClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Harp'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/h/harp.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [16]

Harp [MUSIC]