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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia


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Musical instrument akin to the flute. The flute was a favorite instrument of the ancients. The monuments show flutes of various shapes. On the Egyptian monuments are pictured (1) singletubed direct flutes made of reed or wood, (2) rather long cross-flutes, and (3) long, thin, double-tubed flutes, the tubes of which, however, were not fastened together. On Assyrian monuments is depicted a shorter, more trumpet-shaped double flute. The Syrians used the small gingras—known also to the Athenians—only a span long, with a penetrating, mournful sound. The flutes used by the Greeks were very varied; and it is probable that the Israelites, too, played several kinds; but, unfortunately, nothing definite about their shape is known.

  1. The "ḥalil," from "ḥalal" (to bore through), was a hollowed piece of wood. The name is evidence for the fact that the flute was made from cane or wood. It consisted of a tube and a tongue of cane. The number of holes in the tube was originally only two, three, or four; later it was increased. The tones of such an instrument were naturally limited, and it was manifestly necessary to have a special flute for each key. It was not until art was more highly developed that an instrument was made which could be played in different keys. Among the Israelites the ḥalil was used for music played at meals on festive occasions (Isaiah 5:12), in festal processions (1 Kings 1:40), and during the pilgrimages to Jerusalem (Isaiah 30:29). The Israelites used also the "nebi'im" in connection with the kettledrum (1 Samuel 10:5). The flute was, in addition, the special instrument to denote mourning (Jeremiah 48:36); and among the later Jews flute-playing wasconsidered so essential at funerals that even the poorest would not do without it.In the days of the Old Testament there were no flute-players in the Temple orchestra. In the Mishnah, 'Ar. 2:3, mention is made that flutes were played; it states that at the daily services from two to twelve flutes were used. But they accompanied psalm-singing only at the slaughtering of the paschal lambs, on the first and seventh days of the Passover, and during the eight days of the Feast of Tabernacles, when a flute was played before the altar to accompany the singing of the "Hallel" (comp. Tacitus, "Historia," 5:5).

    Pipes in Use in Palestine.
    (In the United States National Museum, Washington, D.C.)
  2. A second kind of wind-instrument, known from very early times, was the "'ugab," which was essentially an instrument to express joyousness, and was played for the amusement of the people, but never at divine service. According to tradition, which connects the use of the 'ugab with Jubal (Genesis 4:21), the instrument was a bagpipe ("sumpongah"; Daniel 3:5). The same sort of instrument—called "ghaiṭah" in North Africa—is used in Arabian music. The older descriptions correspond in the main with the form now found in Egypt, Arabia, and Italy. Two pipes are inserted in a leathern bag; one above, into which the player blows; and the other, provided with holes, at the bottom or slanting at the side, so that it may be played with the fingers.
  3. The instrument mentioned in the Hebrew text of Daniel 3:5,7,10,15, under the name "mashro-ḳita," is the syrinx, or Pan flute, which generally consisted of seven to nine reed tubes, of different lengths and thicknesses, arranged in a row. It was the favorite instrument of shepherds in the Orient, where it is used even at the present time. Whether it was known to the Hebrews is very doubtful.
  4. "Neḳeb" (Ezekiel 28:13 et seq.) is generally understood to denote a kind of flute; but this is more than doubtful. The word is most likely a technical term used in the goldsmith's art.
E. G. H.
W. N.

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Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Pipe'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901.

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