Bible Bite: Those HEEEEATHEN Drums!

Bible Bites Teeth

I was up before my kids today, working and doing some reading.  I was in Exodus 15 and found myself reading Miriam’s song in Exodus 15:1-21.  That’s a passage I’d love to preach on, especially in a Mennonite Brethren Church (as if that’s happening before the second coming).  Miriam basically sings a song about how wonderful God is at slaying his enemies (15:1-10) and how glorious he is because of it (15:11-18).

The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is his name.” – Ex. 15:3

I don’t see that praise song coming out of Hillsong anytime soon.


I’ll have to do a separate post walking through that magnificently metal worship song, but something caught my attention that I’m going to share with you.  Guess what?  Exodus 15:20-21 says:

“Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing.And Miriam sang to them:

Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.”

The English says “tambourine”, but I had a conversation with someone where I ended up looking into the term.  It’s the Hebrew word toph and it refers to a small drum with bells on it.  So quite literally, Miriam and all the women started banging drums (with bells on) and started singing about how the Lord has triumphed gloriously by slaughtering their enemies.

So much for all those Evangelical myths about the Bible never mentioning drums or drums being from Africa and therefore demonic, or “the rock beat” being the source of all evils in the church.  I’ve heard those lines time and again and I just ignored them as the silly rantings of superstitious people, but I never actually looked into the issue.  A few minutes with a lexicon has proven quite therapeutic for me, especially after decades of playing drums in church but being endlessly guilted by elderly folks in the church who threw certain books (like this book and this book and this book and this book and the book by the guy who’s name is Marijuana…no church musician can read that seriously) at every drummer who ever came into the church.

When young people left the church, they knew I had something to do with it.


Well, now I can finally sleep at night.

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “Searching for exegetical support for headbanging now” Unger


11 thoughts on “Bible Bite: Those HEEEEATHEN Drums!

  1. Interesting. I had never paid much attention to the “drums are of the devil” crowd, but like you, I had never looked that far into it either. Although I had always how such folks thought Moses moved the organ around in the wilderness (maybe the priests carried it on poles like the ark of the covenant?).

  2. Reminds me of an article I read many years ago on Exodus 34:14, “The Lord, whose name is Jealous.” Then did a little re-write on Jack Hayford’s classic song “Majesty.” My new lyrics didn’t go over well. Maybe my version was lacking a good drum beat.

  3. Totally agree with you – some Bibles translate toph as timbrel rather than tambourine – it suggests a frame drum – one of the earliest musical instruments. The word also occurs in Psalm 150:4 alongside dancing just like Exodus 15:20 – now we really are on dangerous ground !!

    BUT… the anti-drums crowd often say (1) Exodus 15 was a celebration of a military victory, not an act of worship (I don’t buy that) (2) drums were not used in formal worship, (3) OT worship is not a model for worship in the NT and beyond, and (4) a modern drum kit is closely associated with the wickedness of secular pop music so shouldn’t be used in church.

    I’d love to see some responses to these…

    • (1) Celebration of military victory or not, drums are apparently not immoral. (2) Psalm 150:4 keywords: “Praise” and “timbrels” (3) Drums weren’t part of the NT model for musical worship because the NT has no model for musical worship. (4) The cross was easily associated with torture, Paul was easily associated with persecuting Christians, wine is easily associated with drunkenness, and organs are easily associated with funerals. Association doesn’t mean anything.

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