Tambourine in the Bible

As you learn how to play the tambourine as an instrument of praise, worship and warfare, why not read about how the tambourine was used in biblical times. Very interesting and relevant to all timbrelists.


The tambourine in the Bible is referred to by several different names: tambourine, timbrel, tabret, tof, to name a few. Considering we do not have any physical evidence of ancient Israeli tambourines, it is hard to say what they looked like, however, it is assumed that they would have been substantially larger than the tambourines of modern day with a membrane and extensive decorations on the rim. There would probably not have been a hole, and far fewer jingle pairs, possibly none.



The tambourine was used for a variety of different reasons including: praise, joy, gladness, rejoicing, triumph, singing, warfare, victory, celebration, processionals, welcoming etc. It was definitely an instrument of praise and warfare, often leading armies into battle.

Genesis 31:27 “Why didn’t you tell me, so I could send you away with joy and singing to the music of tambourines and harps?”



The tambourine was played in a multitude of different places: in the home, on the battlefield, at feasts and celebrations etc. There is evidence that the priests in the temple took the tambourine at one time and even used it in the temple, however, when this happened it was taken away from the common people.

Psalms 68:25 “The singers went before, the players on instruments followed after; among them were the maidens playing timbrels.”



Although there were times in the Bible when men played the tambourine, especially the priests in the temple, it was usually associated with women and at times children. It is especially associated with maidens and young girls.

Exodus 15:20 “Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing.



As the Jewish religion allowed for no images to be recorded, we do not know for sure how the tambourine was played, however, from studying neighbouring nations surrounding Israel it is thought that the tambourine was held in one hand while it was hit on the membrane with the other hand in a rhythmic manner. It was often accompanied by dance, especially when women played it.



Isaiah 5:12, II Samuel 6:5, Judges 11:34, I Samuel 10:5I, Samuel 18:6, Job 21:12, Psalm 149:3, Psalm 81:2, Psalm 150:4, Isaiah 30:32, Ezekial 28:13, Jeremiah 31:4, I Chronicles 13:8.

Miriam with her Tambourine

“And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances.” (Exodus 15:20). Illuminated manuscript, Tomić Psalter, 1360/63, Moscow State Historical Museum