1 Chronicles 15:21
And Mattithiah, and Elipheleh, and Mikneiah, and Obededom, and Jeiel, and Azaziah, with harps on the Sheminith to excel.
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(21) The six lute-players.

With harps on the Sheminith.With lutes (or lyres) in the bass.” Literally, after the mode of the eighth—i.e., an octave below the tenor—al ottava bassa.

To excel.To lead the orchestra, to precent. (Comp. Psalms 6, heading.)

1 Chronicles 15:21. With harps on Sheminith — Some think Sheminith signifies a harp with eight strings. But perhaps, as was said of Alamoth, it might be the name of a tune, or note, or part in music. Or it might be the beginning of some psalm much used. Its signification is very doubtful, nor is it necessary to know it. To excel — The original word לנצח, lenatzeach, being derived from נצח, natzach, to overcome, is thought by Strigelius to signify an extension or elevation of the voice above all the rest.

15:1-24 Wise and good men may be guilty of oversights, which they will correct, as soon as they are aware of them. David does not try to justify what had been done amiss, nor to lay the blame on others; but he owns himself guilty, with others, of not seeking God in due orderHarps on the Sheminith - "Sheminith" properly means "the eighth," and has been compared with the modern musical term "octave." Further, "Sheminith" and "Alamoth" are regarded as contrasted, and the harps of Mattithiah and his companions are supposed to have been pitched an octave below the psalteries of Zechariah and his brethren.

The word translated "to excel," is taken as meaning "to lead," and Mattithiah, etc., as leaders of the singers.

16-24. David spake to the chief of the Levites to appoint … the singers with instruments—These eminent Levites were instructed to train the musicians and singers who were under them, for the solemn procession. The performers were ranged in three choirs or bands, and the names of the principal leaders are given (1Ch 15:17, 18, 21), with the instruments respectively used by each. "Ben" (1Ch 15:18) is omitted (1Ch 15:20). Either it was used merely as a common noun, to intimate that Zechariah was the son of Jaaziel or Aziel, or Ben is the same as Azaziah [1Ch 15:21]. See Poole "1 Chronicles 15:20".

To excel: the word may be here added to note the excellency of that instrument, or note, or part of music; or that there was a greater extension or elevation of the voice than in the former.

And Mattithiah, and Elipheleh, and Mikneiah, and Obededom, and Jeiel, and Azaziah,.... These six were appointed to sound:

with harps on the Sheminith to excel; which Sheminith some take to be an harp with eight strings, or the beginning of a song, or a musical tone, the bass; see the title of Psalm 6:1.

And Mattithiah, and Elipheleh, and Mikneiah, and Obededom, and Jeiel, and Azaziah, with harps on the {k} Sheminith to excel.

(k) Which was the eighth tune, over which he that was most excellent had charge.

21. Azaziah] a name not found in 1 Chronicles 15:18.

on the Sheminith to excel) R.V. set to the Sheminith to lead. Cp. Psalms 6 (title, R.V. mg.).

1 Chronicles 15:21These singers formed three choirs, according to the instruments they played. Heman, Asaph, and Ethan played brazen cymbals להשׁמיע (1 Chronicles 15:19); Benaiah and the seven who follow played nablia (psalteria) עלמות על (1 Chronicles 15:20); while the last six played lutes (harps) לנצּח השּׁמינית על (1 Chronicles 15:21). These three Hebrew words plainly denote different keys in singing, but are, owing to our small acquaintance with the music of the Hebrews, obscure, and cannot be interpreted with certainty. נצּח, going over from the fundamental signification glitter, shine, into the idea of outshining and superior capacity, overwhelming ability, might also, as a musical term, denote the conducting of the playing and singing as well as the leading of them. The signification to direct is here, however, excluded by the context, for the conductors were without doubt the three chief musicians or bandmasters (Capellenmeister), Heman, Asaph, and Ethan, with the cymbals, not the psaltery and lute players belonging to the second rank. The conducting must therefore be expressed by להשׁמיע, and this word must mean "in order to give a clear tone," i.e., to regulate the tune and the tone of the singing, while לנצּח signifies "to take the lead in playing;" cf. Del. on Psalm 4:1. This word, moreover, is probably not to be restricted to the singers with the lutes, the third choir, but must be held to refer also to the second choir. The meaning then will be, that Heman, Asaph, and Ethan had cymbals to direct the song, while the other singers had partly psalteries, partly lutes, in order to play the accompaniment to the singing. The song of these two choirs is moreover distinguished and defined by עלמות על and השּׁמינית על. These words specify the kind of voices; עלמות על after the manner of virgins, i.e., in the soprano; השּׁמינית על, after the octave, i.e., in bass - al ottava bassa. See Del. on Psalm 6:1; Psalm 46:1. In 1 Chronicles 15:22-24 the still remaining priests who were engaged in the solemn procession are enumerated.
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