Special Treat: Psalm 23, Sung in Hebrew

This is Peter Pringle, an expert in ancient music. Some years ago, he says, “I built a small lyre based on a 1200 BCE artifact” found in the ruins of Megiddo. Now he uses it to accompany himself as he sings Psalm 23 in Hebrew.

No music texts from ancient Israel survive, so he had to compose a melody himself. He doesn’t claim authenticity… but this might be pretty close to what it sounded like when David first sang it.

‘The World’s Oldest Music’ (2015)

Image result for images of ancient babylonian harp

A lot of “ifs” went into this, but if all the ifs are right, we can listen to a piece of music from 1,400 B.C.


We have musical instruments from ancient Chinese tombs, which don’t work anymore because they’re just too old, and some rusted-up pieces from Greece and Rome: but this one example just might be real.

If all the ifs are right.

It’s a pretty nice piece of music, by the way. Listen and enjoy it.

The World’s Oldest Music

This is a pagan hymn from about 1400 B.C., produced by an ancient Near Eastern people we call Hurrians. The music score is in cuneiform, preserved on a clay tablet. The instrument on which it is played, here, is a reproduction of a lyre, as reconstructed by archaeologists. If the translation of the tablet is accurate, then we are listening to a piece of music from 3,400 years ago.

Was this similar to the music Saul heard, when David played for him? When David first composed the Psalms, did he set them to music that sounded like this?

It’s possible that what we have here is a true window into the remote past, and a live connection with a portion of the Bible. It may be as close as we can ever come to actually hearing the Psalms as David sang them.

Which is really, really something, when you think about it.