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SONG (Heb. shîr, shîrâh). Singing played a prominent part in the worship and national life of the Hebrews. The first song in the Bible was sung by Lamech (
Paul urges believers to sing (
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
Besides the great collection of sacred songs contained in the Psalter, as well as the lyric outbursts, marked by strong religious feeling, on great national occasions, it is natural to believe, and we have evidence to show, that the Hebrews possessed a large number of popular songs of a secular kind. So of Songs (which see) of itself proves this. Probably the very oldest song or fragment of song in the
But it is in the headings of the Psalms that we find the most numerous traces of the popular songs of the Hebrews. Here there are a number of words and phrases which are now believed to be the names or initial words of such lyrics. In thethey are prefaced with the prep. "on," in the (British and American) with "set to," i.e. "to the tune of." We give a list:
(1) Hind of the Morning.the King James Version, the Revised Version (British and American) Aijeleth hash-shahar, ’ayyeleth ha-shachar. The title means (Revised Version, margin) "The hind of the morning," but whether the original song so named was a hunting song or a morning serenade it is useless to conjecture. See
(2) Al-taschith (the King James Version), Al-tashheth (Revised Version), ’al-tashcheth, i.e. "Destroy not," Psalms 57-59; 75, is apparently quoted in
(3) Jonah elem rehokim or Yonath’elem rechoqim (
(4) Machalath (
(5) Muthlabben (
(6) Lastly, we have Shoshannim = "Lilies" (Psalms 45; 69), Shushan `Edhuth = "The lily of testimony" (
The music to which these songs were sung is irretrievably lost, but it was, no doubt, very similar in character to that of the Arabs at the present day. While the music of the temple was probably much more elaborate, and of wider range, both in notes and expression of feeling, the popular song was almost certainly limited in compass to a very few notes repeated over and over in long recitations or ballads. This is characteristic of the performances of Arab minstrels of today. The melodies are plaintive, in spite of the majority of them being in major keys, owing to the 7th being flattened, as in genuine Scottish music. Arabic music, further, is marked by great variety and emphasis of rhythm, the various kinds of which have special names.
See Spiritual Songs.