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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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(Chald. סוּמְפֹּנַיָה, sumponyah'; Sept. συμφωνία, Vulg. symphonia), a musical instrument, not in use among the Jews of Palestine, but mentioned in Daniel 3:5; Daniel 3:15, and at Daniel 3:10 under the shorter form of סַיפֹנְיָא (syphonya', where the text correctively points סוֹּבּנְיָא ), along with several other instruments, which Nebuchadnezzar ordered to be sounded before a golden image set up for national worship during the period of the captivity of Judah. Luther translates it lute. Grotius adopts the view of Servius, who considers simphonia to be the same with the crooked trumpet (tibia obliqua, πλαγίαυλος ); he also quotes Isidore (2:22), who speaks of it as a long drum. Rabbi Saadia Gaon (Comm. on Dan.) describes the sumphonyah as the bag-pipe, an opinion adopted by the author of Schilte hag-giborim (in Ugolini Thesaur. 32:39-42; see Joel Brill's Preface to Mendelssohn's version of the Psalms), by Kircher, Bartholoccius, and the majority of Biblical critics. The same instrument is still in use among peasants in the NW of Asia and in Southern Europe, where it is known by the similar name sampogna or zampogna. With respect to the etymology of the word a great difference of opinion prevails. Some trace it to the Gr. συμφωνία (whence Eng. symphony), and Calmet, who inclines to this view, expresses astonishment that a pure Greek word should have made its way into the Chaldee tongue: it is probable, he thinks, that the instrument dulcimer (A.V.) was introduced into Babylon by some Greek or Western- Asiatic musician who was taken prisoner by Nebuchadnezzar during one of his campaigns on the coast of the Mediterranean. Geseniuas adopts this derivation (Thes. Hebrews page 941), and cites Polybius (ap. Athen. 10:52, page 439, ed. Casaub.) and Isidore (Orig. 3:21) in confirmation. Others regard it as a Shemitic word, and connect it with סמפן, "a tube" (Furst). The word סמפון occurs in the Talmud (Sukka, 36 a), where it evidently has the meaning of an air-pipe, with a case (Chelim, 16:8); but the explanation (Chelim, 2:6) by סנפים is not clear (Rosenmuller on Daniel 1.c.). Landau (Aruch. Art. סמפון ) considers it synonymous with siphon. Ibn Yahia, in his commentary on Daniel 3:5, renders it by אורגאנוש (ὄργανα ), organ, the well known powerful musical instrument composed of a series of pipes. Rabbi Elias, whom Buxtorf quotes (Lex. Talm. col. 1504), translates it by the German word Leier (lyre). The old-fashioned spinet, the precursor of the harpsichord, is said to have resembled in tone the ancient dulcimer. The modern dulcimer is described by Dr. Busby (Dict. of Music) as a triangular instrument, consisting of a little chest, strung with about fifty wires cast over a bridge fixed at each end; the shortest wire is 18 inches in length, the longest 36; it is played with two small hammers held in the hands of the performer. (See MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Dulcimer'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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Monday, October 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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