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Psalm 92:4 With an instrument of ten strings, and with the psaltery; with a solemn sound upon the harp.

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Psalm 33:2 Give thanks unto the LORD with harp, sing praises unto Him with the psaltery of ten strings.

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Psalm 144:9 O God, I will sing a new song unto Thee, upon a psaltery of ten strings will I sing praises unto Thee;

All verses quoted from the JPS Bible

What is this mysterious instrument of 'ten strings'?

  • Interesting question. Apparently there were various types of harps / lyres at that time - each having a different number of strings. Similar to guitars, today. We have 6 string guitars and, IIRC, Glen Frey of the Eagles plays a 12-string guitar in "Hotel California". I'll see what I can find on this. – DanF Mar 10 '17 at 17:27
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    What is so mysterious about an instrument with ten strings. – mevaqesh Mar 10 '17 at 18:37
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    Lots of people play non-6 string guitars sometimes. Dave Gilmour plays 12 string on "Wish You Were Here", and Steve Howe of Yes plays all sorts of interesting guitar devices, some with two necks, on "Close To The Edge" and other songs. – Gary Mar 10 '17 at 18:55
  • I seem to remember a place somewhere among our commentators about King David being able to play ten notes in an octave (miraculously, of course) and that was the reason for his harp having ten strings. – ezra Mar 10 '17 at 20:38
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    @MonicaCellio "so asking what the Tanakh means by it seems like a reasonable question to me" I don't disagree. – mevaqesh Mar 12 '17 at 2:40
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See this:

HARP (në'-vël) [H5035] 1. an ancient string instrument of ten strings used to accompany the voice. Standing almost three feet tall, the harp had of two sets of strings (five on each side of the instrument) that could be played in much the same manner as modern harps (by plucking with the fingers) or possibly with a bow. The harp was primarily a melodic instrument and most likely doubled or outlined the melodies sung by the singers.

The word used is "Nevel" vs. "Kinor" which is used in other places. A "Shminit" is an 8 string harp. There is also a "Gittit" mentioned in a few places.

One of the other tabs on the site I mentioned above describes some other Biblical instruments.

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There is an instrument called a Psaltery which can be hand held, or placed on the lap, and can be found with 8, 10, or more strings and plucked with the fingers as well as having a bow such as a violin uses, only a bit shorter, as this instrument is triangular and has a beautiful, rich tones can come from it. Also, the 10 stringed lyre was more like a guitar with a longer tuning area, as well as the tuning area being bent backwards. The body was also teardrop shaped, and the back was shaped think more pear or bowl shaped, but still in teardrop form. The 10 stringed harp was just that. A harp, think of a curved music stand, but instead of a back, it had strings, and was plucked. It is called David's harp. There are 8 and 10 string harps. Throughout the bible, there is talk about tambourines, and horns made of brass. All these instruments you can buy today. Some have been rediscovered, as they were still being used in areas some people had never heard of, and some have been in continuous use. They were used in different ways as well as in conjunction with one another to play beautiful music, soothing music, uplifting music, for all those who were coming to worship at the temple. At one time I was looking into trying to figure out if I wanted a full size harp or a smaller David's 10 string harp, and then I began to come across all the other instruments. It was fascinating, and so much fun! There are other instruments as well.

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    Welcome to Mi Yodeya and thanks for contributing this answer. Do you happen to have any pictures of, or links for further information about, the ancient forms of these instruments? While it's tangential to your main point, I was under the impression that the triangular, bowed psaltery was invented in the 18th or 19th century. Harps and lyres go way back, I know, and the harps were closer to folk harps than modern concert harps. (If you're looking for a harp for yourself and you want to play accompaniments and not just melodies, you'll probably want more than 10 strings. 3 octaves is good.) – Monica Cellio Mar 13 '17 at 16:03
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The book of Psalms has 'gems' and this is one of them. Psalteries, tabrets, viols and harps,'stringed instruments' are often a construct state which is a generic symbol for ordinances,laws or statutes, godly or ungodly.

The 10 'stringed instrument' signifies the 10 commandments of Moses.

Whereas to sing or play music signifies walking/behaviour according to the 'ordinances' in question;

Isaiah 23
15 And it shall come to pass in that day, that Tyre shall be forgotten seventy years, according to the days of one king: after the end of seventy years shall Tyre sing as an harlot.
16 Take an harp, go about the city, thou harlot that hast been forgotten; make sweet melody, sing many songs, that thou mayest be remembered.

Qouting from musicofthebible.com. HARP (në'-vël) [H5035] 1. an ancient string instrument of ten strings used to accompany the voice. Standing almost three feet tall, the harp had of two sets of strings (five on each side of the instrument) that could be played in much the same manner as modern harps (by plucking with the fingers) or possibly with a bow..

The '10 strings' denote the 10 commandments of Moses on 2 tablets stones which aspect is also reflected in the 2 sides of the 'ten stringed instrument'.

It's the same figure of Harps and 'stringed instruments' to typify ordinances or laws also illustrated in Isaiah 14, in that the devil goes to the pit with his 'ordinances', the 'psalteries/viols' which he used to decieve people in all the earth. When the ordinances are ungodly, the 'sound' of that 'instrument' is said to be a 'noise',

Isaiah 14:9-12 9 Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth;... 11 Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee. 12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

This is the same figure of 'noise of the harps' that Israel made to God in Amos 5:23-24, and which was 'rejected' by the Most High.

Amos 5
23 "Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps.
24 But let justice roll down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.…

On the other hand when the ordinances are in righteousness. The sound is signified as a new song or sound or simply 'dancing' before God.

Psalm 149:3
Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp.

Psalm 144:9 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.

That's why the psalmist is specifying to God the EXACT instrument with which he is going to sing to Him. That is the ten stringed instrument, the symbolic laws of Moses.

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    This is all a matter of opinion. No sources, so it's not really a great answer. You're just running on feelings! The '10 strings' denote the 10 commandments of Moses on 2 tablet stones Ten commandments of Moses? Last time I checked they were G-d's, and there were 613 of them. – ezra Mar 12 '17 at 7:10
  • @ezra Isaiah 28: יגוְהָיָה לָהֶם דְּבַר יְהֹוָה צַו לָצָו צַו לָצָו קַו לָקָו קַו לָקָו זְעֵיר שָׁם זְעֵיר שָׁם לְמַעַן יֵלְכוּ וְכָשְׁלוּ אָחוֹר וְנִשְׁבָּרוּ וְנוֹקְשׁוּ וְנִלְכָּדוּ: Isaiah 5 יבוְהָיָה כִנּוֹר וָנֶבֶל תֹּף וְחָלִיל וָיַיִן מִשְׁתֵּיהֶם וְאֵת פֹּעַל יְהֹוָה לֹא יַבִּיטוּ וּמַעֲשֵׂה יָדָיו לֹא רָאוּ: – Ted O Mar 12 '17 at 8:08
  • Isiah 5:13 Therefore, My people shall go into exile because of lack of knowledge, and its esteemed ones shall die of hunger, and its multitude shall be parched from thirst. Because they thought, as you also think, that the Creator was interested in hearing the sound of all these instruments in skillfully playing them, when what He meant by singing is walk in truth. – Ted O Mar 12 '17 at 8:10

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