Music was an important element in temple worship, but it was also controversial. There was something about temple music that was not acceptable to those who changed the ways of the temple in the seventh century BCE, the time of King Josiah. Piecing together the other elements that were purged or discouraged at that time, a picture emerges of the role of music in the temple which is consistent over many centuries, a role that passed into the Church.
There are two accounts of the temple in the Old Testament, both compiled after the time of Josiah, and both drawing on ancient source material. One account, in the books of Samuel and Kings, was written by a group who based themselves on the characteristic teachings of Deuteronomy, a puritanical group who thought that both temple and monarchy were a departure from their people’s desert origins; and the other account, in the books of Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, was written by a priestly group who favoured both monarchy and temple.
When the Deuteronomists described David bringing the ark to Jerusalem (2 Sam.6), they mentioned musicians in the procession - but no names were given - and said that the ark was set in its tent, David offered sacrifices and blessed the people, and there was a feast. The priestly account, however, (1 Chron.15-16) describes in detail a procession of named Levites singing, accompanied by named musicians playing cymbals, harps, and lyres, and by named priests blowing trumpets. Did they possess, centuries after the event, records of temple musicians?
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