The Bible Answers Short Questions From Our Readers
Plain Truth Magazine
July 1967
Volume: Vol XXXII, No.7
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The Bible Answers Short Questions From Our Readers
Plain Truth Staff  

You define " psalteries" in The Bible Story by parenthetic expression as "bagpipes." I don't find this definition current among the dictionaries at my command. I would be gratefully pleased for the elucidation of this point.
Robert L. D., Tulsa, Okla.

   Dictionaries are not perfect!
   The English word "psaltery" comes from the Hebrew word nebel. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible available in most public libraries defines nebel as "a skin-bag for liquids (from collapsing when empty)."
   What musical instrument is made of a skin-bag that collapses when empty?
   Only the bagpipe!
   If we take Strong's definition of the word, the meaning appears very clear. But if one reads further, his explanation becomes muddled. The author apparently doesn't believe his own definition.
   The definition in Peloubet's Bible Dictionary is typical of most dictionaries. It is inaccurate. Peloubet dogmatically states at the outset of his definition of the psaltery: "This was a stringed instrument of music to accompany the voice... This instrument resembled the guitar..." The definition purports to have the ring of certainty.
   But notice several lines further down when Peloubet actually starts defining the word nebel: "It is impossible to say positively with what instrument the nebel of the Hebrew exactly corresponded. From the fact that nebel in Hebrew also signifies a wine bottle or skin, it has been conjectured that the term when applied to a musical instrument denotes a kind of BAGPIPE."
   Why couldn't theologians believe their own definition of the Hebrew word nebel? Possibly because it goes contrary to opinions they already had.
   A careful scrutiny of the definition of the Hebrew word and its 21 occurrences in the Old Testament makes it impossible to define the "psaltery" as a type of guitar. It is impossible to deduce anything so rigid as a guitar from a Hebrew word that specifically connotes collapsing when empty.
   Theologians know that the term nebel clearly means an instrument that collapses when empty as a bagpipe does when the air is let out. But they still can't believe it. So they reason around it. To associate the' Hebrew nebel with the Greek psalterium required a theological and grammatical distortion.
   Why can't modern theologians believe the nebel or "psaltery" was a bagpipe? Very likely they reasoned that "this nebel was a Hebrew instrument and the bagpipe is a Scottish instrument and the Scots are not Jews." They just couldn't bring themselves to render this term "bagpipe" 21 times in the Bible. If they had, it would become rather clear that the bagpipe was rather prominent in ancient Israel. And that David, the sweet psalmist, had a high regard for the bagpipe, as well as the harp, as an instrument to be used in praising God. Someone might then deduce that since the Scots, who are among the most traditional of Celtic, Gaelic, Anglo-Saxon peoples, perpetuated the bagpipe in its finest form, they may be Israelites I And if the Scots are Israelites, it would not be too difficult to conclude that other related nationalities in Northwestern Europe are also Israelites. Since this would make us related to the Jews, the scholars had to conclude that the nebel or "psaltery" was anything but a bagpipe. Thus the "skin-bag" became a kind of guitar.
   One would not call a guitar by any term that connotes collapsing when not in use. But the Hebrew word nebel perfectly fits the Scottish and Irish bagpipes.
   Just how logical is the theologians' decision to discard the apparent meaning of nebel and arbitrarily select a new meaning that violated the natural connotation of the term? In the scriptures that tell us the characteristics of the "psaltery" or nebel, what do we find? Do these verses describe the bagpipe? or the guitar?
   In I Chronicles 15:20 the Levites were commanded to play "with psalteries on Almnoth." This term alamoth means "soprano" or "falsetto." The bagpipe emits a high-pitched falsetto sound. But would this description fit the guitar-type instruments? Hardly. In Psalm 33 we find the command to "play skillfully with a loud noise" (verse 3). Verse 2 reads: "Praise the Lord with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings." It would have been difficult to get a loud noise out of this combination if the psaltery were a guitar. But with the psaltery as a bagpipe, there would have been no difficulty.
   Some assume that in Psalm 33 the term "an instrument of ten strings" is meant to define a psaltery, rather than being a third instrument in the group.
   But in Psalm 92:3, in which the same grouping is mentioned, the wording is absolutely clear. Read it: "Upon an instrument of ten strings, and upon the psaltery; upon the harp with a solemn sound." This wording indicates three different instruments. The nebel translated "psaltery" appears to have been commonly accompanied by the harp and by a little-known instrument of ten strings. Old drawings have pictured instruments with ten strings of equal length. This may have been simply a rhythm instrument. Such an instrument would go well with bagpipes.
   Who is more likely to have preserved the instruments and melodies of David's Israelite surroundings than the traditional Israelites, such as the Scots, Welsh and Irish, who colonized Britain in the days of ancient Israel and preserved much of the form of Hebrew music?
   With bagpipes in his band, it is no wonder David was inspired to dance a "Highland fling" as he brought the ark to Jerusalem (II Sam. 6:5). Bagpipes, rightly used, generate feelings of exuberance and make people want to express proper emotion.

Is repentance really necessary for a person to become a Christian? Isn't belief in Christ accepting Christ enough?
I. R.

   Nineteen hundred years ago, Jesus Christ walked through the land of Galilee preaching, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: REPENT YE, and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15).
   Jesus meant what He said.
   Christ's message was the SAME message proclaimed by the apostles of the early New Testament Church. On the day of Pentecost, surrounded by milling, anxious crowds, the apostle Peter thundered to everyone within earshot, "REPENT, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of Sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).
   True repentance is the very first step in becoming a Christian. Notice Jesus' warning: "Suppose ye that these Galileans [who had recently been slain by Pilate] were sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such Things? I tell you, Nay: but, EXCEPT YE REPENT, ye shall ALL likewise PERISH" (Luke 13:2-3).
   This point was so emphatic in the mind of Christ, that He REPEATED it: "Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but except ye REPENT, ye shall all likewise perish" (verses 4-5).
   Perhaps you think YOU are an exception that you haven't ever done anything wrong. Perhaps you think maybe YOU don't really need to repent! But notice the words of Paul!
   "And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but NOW commandeth ALL MEN EVERY WHERE to repent" (Acts 17:30).
   Yes, repentance is absolutely necessary for salvation. God makes no exceptions at all. There is no other way. IF a person truly wants to be a Christian, he must be willing to REPENT of his sins!
   Because all have sinned!
   Notice what your Bible says.
   The apostle Paul was inspired by God to write, "...for we have before PROVED both Jews and Gentiles, that they are ALL UNDER SIN; as it is written, There is NONE righteous, no, not one: There is NONE that understandeth, there is NONE that seeketh after God. They are ALL gone out of the way, they are TOGETHER become unprofitable; there is NONE that doeth good, no, not one" (Rom. 3:9-12).
   And later, in verse 23, he adds, "For ALL HAVE SINNED, and come short of the glory of God."
   Here is the reason EVERYONE must come to repentance before God. EVERYONE has sinned EVERYONE has done iniquity there is NONE that has been perfectly righteous in his life, with the sale exception of Jesus Christ our Saviour!
   For a while Job knew he was righteous and didn't need to repent. "My righteousness I hold fast... my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live" (Job 27:6).
   The prophet Isaiah foretold, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isa. 53:6).
   When finally God convinced him that he was a self-righteous sinner, Job repented (Job 42:6).
   Since ALL have sinned, ALL must repent! This means everyone. This means you.

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Plain Truth MagazineJuly 1967Vol XXXII, No.7