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BELL (Heb. metsillôth, pa‘amôn). The latter of these terms rendered bell is found in Exod.28.33ff.; Exod.39.25-Exod.39.26. Bells were attached to the hem of the priestly robes worn by Aaron and his descendants as they performed service in the tabernacle. The tinkling of the bells gave assurance to the worshipers outside the tabernacle that the high priest had not incurred divine retribution but remained alive as their intercessor. The other Hebrew term is used just once, in Zech.14.20, where the bells bear the inscription “Holy To The Lord.” These “bells” are more like our cymbals than our bells. The bell was not used in biblical times for the purpose of religious convocation as today. The use of the bell to summon the worshipers is a distinctively Christian practice dating back to the end of the fourth century a.d. Its usage seems to have been introduced by Bishop Paulinus who lived during that time. Miniature bells were often fastened to the necks of goats and sheep, enabling the shepherd to more easily keep track of them.——JFG

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

The former of these terms occurs only once (Zec 14:20) where it is thus translated. It is derived from a verb meaning "to tingle" or "dirl" (1Sa 3:11), and there is, therefore, no objection etymologically to rendering the noun by "bells." But the little bell attached to the harness of horses would hardly be a suitable place for a fairly long inscription, and as buckles shaped exactly like cymbals (see Music) were used as ornaments for horses, "cymbals" is probably a better rendering.

The other Hebrew word for bell is found only in Ex 28:33 f; 39:25,26, where "bells of gold" are directed to be attached to the hem of Aaron’s official robe, that the people may hear him when he enters and quits the sanctuary. Bells were not employed by the Hebrews to summon the congregation to worship, nor do Mohammedans so use them at the present day. The church bell is a peculiarly Christian institution, said to have been introduced by Bishop Paulinus of Nola in Campania, who lived about the end of the 4th century. Little bells, however, like those attached to the hem of Aaron’s robe, frequently form part of the harness of horses, or are fastened to the necks of the he-goats or wethers that lead the flock in eastern lands.

See also

  • Music; Musical Instruments