This translates the Hebrew word kin·nohrʹ, the name of the first musical instrument mentioned in Scripture (Gen. 4:21, AS, Da, Fn, Kx, NW, Yg), also rendered “lyre” in a number of Bible translations. (JB, Mo, Ro, RS) In twenty-one of the forty-two occurrences of kin·nohrʹ in the Bible, the translators of the Septuagint Version rendered it by the Greek ki·thaʹra. The ki·thaʹra was an instrument resembling the lyre (Gr., lyʹra), but had a more shallow sounding board. Modern translations generally render ki·thaʹra in the Christian Greek Scriptures as “harp.” (1 Cor. 14:7; Rev. 5:8) Pictorial representations on Egyptian monuments indicate that ancient harps were of many styles and shapes, with a varying number of strings. In view of those points, some have suggested that kin·nohrʹ may have been a somewhat general term designating any instrument incorporating basic features of the ancient harp.
All that the Hebrew Scriptures definitely indicate about the kin·nohrʹ is that it was portable and comparatively light in weight, since it could be played in a procession, or even by a prostitute as she sang, walking through a city. (1 Sam. 10:5; 2 Sam. 6:5; Isa. 23:15, 16) Some were made of “almug” wood. (1 Ki. 10:12) The strings may have been made from the small intestines of sheep, although perhaps spun vegetable fibers were also used.
David, who was skilled in playing the kin·nohrʹ “with his hand” (1 Sam. 16:16, 23), assigned this instrument a prominent place along with the ‘stringed instrument’ (neʹvel) in the orchestra that later played at Solomon’s temple. (1 Chron. 25:1; 2 Chron. 29:25) When Nehemiah inaugurated Jerusalem’s wall, the kin·nohrʹ added to the joy of the occasion. (Neh. 12:27) Since the kin·nohrʹ was essentially a “pleasant” instrument of “exultation,” its sound would cease at times of judgment or punishment. (Ps. 81:2; Ezek. 26:13; Isa. 24:8, 9) Saddened by their captivity in Babylon, exiled Israelites had no inclination to play their harps, but hung them upon poplar trees.—Ps. 137:1, 2.
Because of the uncertainty surrounding the precise identity of the kin·nohrʹ, and especially the neʹvel (stringed instrument), any attempt to compare the two instruments is speculative. First Chronicles 15:20, 21 mentions “stringed instruments [neva·limʹ (plural)] tuned to Alamoth, . . . harps [kin·no·rohthʹ (plural)] tuned to Sheminith.” If “Alamoth” refers to a higher musical register and “Sheminith” to a lower tonal range, this could imply that the kin·nohrʹ was the larger, lower-pitched instrument. On the other hand, the reverse could be true (which is the general consensus of thought) if, indeed, Alamoth and Sheminith are specifically here mentioned because of being exceptional tunings for these instruments. In any event, both instruments were portable.
At Daniel 3:5, 7, 10, 15, the Aramaic word sab·bekhaʼʹ seems to refer to a “triangular harp” (NW), also rendered as “trigon” (AT, JB, RS) and “sambuca.” (Da) The sab·bekhaʼʹ is described by some as a small, shrill, triangular, four-stringed harp, which description harmonizes with the above renderings.
[Picture on page 716]
Three captives playing lyres as shown on an Assyrian relief