Revelation 5: “The Harp”

Greetings! This is our sixth post in our study of Revelation chapters 4 and 5. In our last post, we examined the “seven spirits of God.” In this post, we’re going to look at what place the harp has in the book of Revelation. It’s interesting. You’ll want to keep reading.

Revelation 5

Sixth in a Seven-Part Series
by Karen Thompson

The Harp

Rev. 5:7 And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne. 8 And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.

After the elder said to John that the Lion of the tribe of Judah was the only one worthy to open the book, the Lamb then approached the throne and took the book out of the Father’s right hand. As soon as the Lamb took the book out of the Father’s hand, “the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints” (v. 8). When the Lamb took the book, they all prostrated themselves in reverence. Then here we learn something very interesting. The prayers of the saints are kept in golden vials, which are small bowl-like containers to hold liquids such as perfume.

It also says that each of them had a harp. There are three places in the book of Revelation where the word “harp” is seen. In fact, it is the only musical instrument mentioned in the entire book (other than the trumpet which is used for announcing, not worship). Every time the harp is mentioned, it is in connection with singing a song. The first time we see the harp mentioned is here in verse eight where the elders play harps right before the Lamb of God opens the seven seals of the book. The next time we read about the harp is when the sealed 144,000 are with the Lamb in heaven playing harps and singing a new song (Rev.14:1–3). This happens in the middle of Daniel’s 70th week. And the last time we see the harp is when all those that had victory over the beast (Antichrist) are in heaven before God’s throne and they are singing the song of Moses while playing harps (Rev.15:2–4). This happens at the end of Daniel’s 70th week.

The History of the Harp

The harp has a long history that dates back before Noah’s flood. It was one of the first musical instruments created; a man named Jubal is credited for its creation, a sixth descendant from Cain. All we know about Jubal is what Genesis 4:21 says: “He [Jubal] was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.” Today when people think of a harp, they think of the enormous concert harp which is six feet in height. The concert harp is a relatively modern instrument and only professionally trained people can play it. The harp that Jubal created was small enough to be held, and you didn’t have to go through years of training in order to play it.

It was King David who brought the harp into prominence. The oral law says David was not only an expert harpist who composed music, but he was also a builder of classical harp designs. The harp he played was called the kinnor. He had a special way of playing the harp. He held it next to his heart and then placed his ear on the wooden frame. He played the harp softly, but the sound would vibrate loudly in his ear. David played his harp when he worshiped God. He also composed songs, many of which are in the book of Psalms. Sadly, the musical compositions to his songs were lost long ago.

Another interesting biblical aspect about the harp is its spiritual healing properties as seen in the experience of King Saul. King Saul failed to obey God’s instructions, and the penalty for his disobedience was severe. The Lord sent the prophet Samuel to give a message to King Saul: “…thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord hath rejected thee from being king over Israel” (1 Sam. 15:26). The Lord removed His Spirit from Saul and when the Spirit left him, an evil spirit came to torment him.

Saul commanded his servants to find someone who was skilled at playing the harp, so he would play for him during these times of spiritual torment. Saul’s servants told him about David, a son of Jesse, who played the harp. Each time David played the harp for Saul, the evil spirit would leave him and Saul would feel refreshed. (1 Sam. 16:22–23)

King David even commissioned people to “prophesy with harps” (1 Chron. 25:1) for the purpose of giving thanks and praise to God. David clearly saw the spiritual aspects of the harp. He used harps for temple worship, as well. The choir sang against the background of 1,000 harps. It is said that the music played during the great festivals of Passover, Pentecost, and Succoth was so loud that it could be heard from miles away.

Sadly, when the Jewish people were exiled to Babylon, the sound of the harp went silent. Psalms 137:1–6 tells us they hung their harps on the willows, because they could no longer sing. They said, “How can we sing in a foreign land?” (v. 4). The music of the harp ceased in Jerusalem when King Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the temple. Jewish historians do not know if music was restored when the second temple was built, but they do know that the symbol of the harp of David was used in the temple until it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. Since then, the harp has been absent from Israel for over 2,000 years.

The only musical instrument John saw in his vision of heaven was the harp. That fact alone tells us that it has spiritual significance. In fact, there are two prophecies in the oral law concerning end times with regard to the harp.

The first prophecy talks about how King David made 1,000 lyres and 7,000 harps to be used to atone for Israel. When Jerusalem was being besieged by King Nebuchadnezzar, certain men hid them in a secret place to prevent them from being taken and used by the Babylonians. The prophecy in the oral law says, “They hid them until the day when Israel will return to their former stature and reclaim [eternal] honor and worldly glory, and they find a man whose name is David, son of David. The silver and gold shall then be unearthed to him, when all Israel gather and make a complete Aliya (ascent) to Jerusalem.” The term “son of David,” of course, refers to Messiah.

There is another prophecy in the oral law that says, “The harp of the ten strings is reserved for the day when the world that is to come is united in one harmonious whole.” Rabbis have long believed that when the kinnor harp (the harp of ten strings used by David) returned to Israel, it would proclaim, or herald, the soon coming of the Messiah.

Enter Mike and Shoshanna Harrari!

Mike and Shoshanna Harrari have been making biblical style harps in their workshop in Israel for decades. They make harps for personal orders, as well as harps for the Temple Institute that they believe will someday be used for future temple worship.

Mike and Shoshanna’s personal life story is fascinating. Mike and Shoshanna Harrari were born and raised in the United States before they moved to Israel. As a young couple, they moved around the U.S. looking for the most beautiful place to live. Their search led them to a log cabin in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. The cabin had no electricity, so their only entertainment was to read novels. One winter day, there came a blizzard that left them snowed in and stranded for days. They ran out of books to read and soon became bored, so bored that they pulled out a Book they had never read before—the Tenach. Being Jewish, they purchased it because they thought it was something they should have but had never read it. Their boredom drove them to find it and read it. They started at the very beginning and read straight through, book by book. Before long, they were completely captured by it. Even after it stopped snowing, they kept reading.

When they got to the books of the prophets, they came to the prophetic word that would change their lives forever. They read how “in those days” Hashem would call His children from the four corners of the earth, and He would bring them back to their own land, replant them, and never uproot them again. When they read that prophetic word, it had a huge impact on them. They said it felt as though they were reading a personal invitation from the Creator to move to the Holy Land.

Years before they moved to Israel, Shoshanna had a friend who owned a little handheld harp. Being that her husband, Mike, was an instrument maker, she asked him to make her one just like it. But it wasn’t until they moved to Israel that Mike finally had the time to do it. They saw a picture of a harp in an archaeology book, and Mike used that picture to make Shoshanna her long desired harp. They had no clue as to how significant the making of that harp was. After he completed that harp, Mike began making other harps for people who requested them. A reporter heard about the harps being made in Israel, and she did research and found that they were the first harp makers in Israel in 2,000 years!

They began to build other harps as well. They made the ten-stringed kinnor harp. They did not realize the spiritual significance of making that harp either. One day, they had a special visitor from the religious neighborhood in Jerusalem who heard they were making the ten-stringed kinnor harp. He explained that his interest in the harp was because his Talmud studies focused on the signs of the coming Messiah. They asked him why the kinnor harp was so important. He told them about the prophetic word in the oral law that said the ten-stringed harp is connected to a beautiful song that would arise from the day when the world would be united in one harmonious whole.

The rabbi told his friends about the kinnor harp, and they came by to see it as well. They talked about how music in the future messianic age would be different than it is now and that a new song would be sung. Psalms 144:9 talks about a new song being sung with a ten-stringed instrument: “I will sing a new song unto thee, O God: upon a psaltery and an instrument of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee.” (See also Ps. 33:2 and 92:3.) Many believe the return of the harp to Israel is a sign of Israel’s soon coming restoration!

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