THE MUSIC OF THE BIBLE - With an account of the Development of Modern Musical Instruments from Ancient Types. By John Stainer, M.A., MUS. DOC.MAGD, COLL., OXON. New Edition. - Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co.: LONDON, PARIS & NEW YORK. 1882. (ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.) - Prepared for katapi by Paul Ingram, 2005.


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THESE are the names of the three important Hebrew trumpets. The first, evidently, either actually was, or at least originated from, that most ancient of wind instruments, the horn of an animal. Keren and shophar are sometimes used synonymously, notably so in the account of the capture of Jericho ( But in this same account there is affixed to keren the word jobel, making the whole a "jobel-horn." Although this is translated "ram's horn" in our version, and although it has been suggested that jobel in Arabic, if not in Hebrew, might signify a ram, yet on the whole it seems probable that jobel is the source of our word jubilee, and that the expression simply points to the fact that the instrument was used on great solemnities, and was a jubilee-trumpet (τοῦ ἰμβήλ). top The actual horns of animals were in very early times imitated in metal or ivory. In the latter case a tusk was hollowed out and often elaborately carved. They were called in the Middle Ages oliphants, or elephant-trumpets, from their material. The Ashantees to this day use tusks for this purpose, only, strangely enough, the instrument is blown at a hole in the side (like flauto traverse ), and not at the small end. In i Chron.xxv.5, after giving a list of those set aside by David to play upon the keren, the historian says,

All these were the sons of Heman, the king's seer in the words of God, to lift up the horn.

Again, translated in our version by "cornet" (though in the Septuagint by σάλπυγξ), the word occurs in Dan.iii.5, &c. Only in these passages is mention made of the keren as a musical instrument, although the word often occurs with other meanings, and is frequently used as figurative of "strength." 

In Fig. 73 are shown various forms of the keren.

The shophar, judging from its very frequent mention, extending in the pages of the Bible from the Book of Exodus to that of Zechariah, must have been more commonly used than the keren. It was the voice of a shophar, exceeding loud, issuing from the thick cloud on Sinai, when, too, thunders and lightnings rolled around the holy mount, which made all in the camp tremble.

When Ehud's personal daring had rid Israel of a tyrant, he blew a shophar and gathered the people together to seize the fords of Jordan towards Moab. Gideon used the instrument, and Saul also (i Sam.i.3), and many other of Israel's warriors, to rouse and call up the people against their enemies. But it was not confined to military use, for

David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the shophar (2

It is mentioned three times in the Psalms:

God is gone up with a merry noise,
and the Lord with the sound of the shophar
(Ps. xlvii. 5);
Blow up the shophar in the new moon (Ixxxi.3);
Praise Him in the sound of the shophar (cl. 3).

The shophar is especially interesting to us as being the only Hebrew instrument whose use on certain solemn occasions seems to be retained to this day. Engel, with his usual trustworthy research, has traced out and examined some of these in modern synagogues.

That shown in Fig. 74 is from the synagogue of Spanish and Portuguese Jews, Bevis Marks, and is, he says, one foot in length. Fig. 75 shows one used in the Great Synagogue, St. James's Place, Aldgate, twenty-one inches in length. Both are made of horn. Figs. 76 and 77 Engel gives in his valuable Music of the most Ancient Nations, from Saalschutz. The first is a ram's horn, the second that of a cow. 

On these instruments signals or nourishes are on certain occasions played, the music of which it is unnecessary to give, as they are well known as the simplest progressions which such tubes are capable of producing. All such tube-instruments can only give a series of sounds called natural harmonics or over­tones, which are produced in their special case by forcing (by gradually increasing the pressure of air from the lips) the column of air they contain, into two vibrating parts; then three, four, five, six, and so on.


Here is the series of notes which can be produced by a trumpet in C.

The notes marked * are not in tune with the sounds thus ordinarily represented, and are not therefore used, except among barbarous nations, although they can be sometimes heard in a Ranz des vaches or Kühreihen among the Alps.

The relation of the intervals of this series remains unaltered for all open tubes, only the pitch can vary; thus a trumpet in D would give D, D, A, D, F#, &c. The ordinary orchestral trumpet has the means of making the note No. 11 either truly natural or truly sharp.

The series of sounds given above (varying in pitch, not in relation) was therefore the actual scale of the Keren, Shophar, and Khatsotsrah.

When a tube-instrument is required, on which a chromatic series of sounds can be played, pistons must be used as in our modern cornets, or slides as in our trombones.  

Tubes with slides are more ancient than generally supposed. Fig. 78 shows Chinese instruments of this class.

The khatsotsrah is generally thought to have been a straight trumpet, with a bell or "pavilion," as it is termed. Moses received specific directions as to making them.

Make thee two trumpets of silver; of a whole piece shalt thou make them: that thou mayest use them for the calling of the assembly, and for the journeying of the camps.

In Ps.xcviii.6 the khatsotsrah and shophar are brought into juxtaposition :

With khatsotsrah and sound of shophar make a joyful noise before the Lord the King,

or, as it incorrectly stands in the Prayer-book version,

With trumpets also and shawms, &c

[The word shawm is a corruption of chalumeau, and signified a primitive clarinet or oboe.]. In this passage the Septuagint has it, Ἐν σάλπιγξιν ἐλαταῖς, και φωνῃ σάλπιγγος κερατίνης,

With ductile trumpets, and the sound of horn-trumpets.

So, too, the Vulgate: "In tubis ductilibus et voce tubas corneae." The word mikshah, which is applied to the description of the khatsotsrah in Numb.x.2, which means "rounded" or "turned," may either apply to a complete twist in the tube of the instrument, or, what is more probable, to the rounded outline of the tell.

But if the former is the real interpretation of the epithet, it would make it more like a trombone, and similar in form to that depicted on the Arch of Titus.

But, on the other hand, the account given by Josephus points out the latter characteristic of shape. He says, "Moses invented a kind of trumpet of silver; in length it was little less than a cubit, and it was somewhat thicker than a pipe; its opening was oblong, so as to permit blowing on it with the mouth; at the lower end it had the form of a bell, like a horn." It seems chiefly to have been brought into use in the Hebrew ritual, but was also occasionally a battle-call, and blown on other warlike occasions. It was the sound of the khatsotsrah' which made the guilty Athaliah tremble for her safety and rend her clothes, crying, "Treason! treason!" Silver trumpets have always been associated with dignity and grandeur, whether blown before a pope in the ritual of the magnificent St. Peter's, Rome, or carried, as in this country, by royal trumpeters, or by a few favoured regimental bands.

In Figs. 79 and 80 two coins are shown, on which, surrounded by a motto, "the deliverance of Jerusalem," trumpets are delineated. These instruments have been described as specimens of the khatsotsrah, with much probability of truth.

The Assyrians appear to have used trumpets, as Fig. 81 plainly shows; but there are at present no records of their having trumpets with a bell mouth. Figs. 82 and 83 prove, however, that such terminations to tubes were not unknown to the Egyptians. The Romans had at least three varieties of trumpet, the most powerful of which was called tuba. It was used as a war-trumpet. 

Fig. 84, from a bas-relief in the Capitol, exhibits a Roman blowing a trumpet at the triumph of Marcus Aurelius. Ancient trumpets, which were usually formed of one piece only, could not possibly be adjusted to any variety of pitch, and therefore must have been with difficulty associated with other instruments.

This difficulty is overcome in modern tube-instruments, not having slides or pistons (as, for instance, the simple French Horn or Trumpet) by changing the crook, and so lengthening the tube or shortening it, as to adjust it to a required pitch.

The verse of the Psalms before quoted (xcviii.6) is the only one in which mention of the khatsotsrah is made by the Psalmist. The first allusion to this instrument in Holy Scripture is where Moses is commanded to make two of silver (Numb.x.2); the last in Hos.v.8, where it is used in connection with the shophar, and both instruments are to be blown as a warning to wicked Israel of the approaching visitation of God.