I would like to introduce you to the Kinnor, or Davidic Harp as found in many verses of the Bible. There have been many forms of the Kinnor through the ages but they all center around a small portable multi-stringed instrument that has the different strings tuned to different notes or frequencies and music is produced from it with the fingers plucking a string tuned to the desired note. There are actually 3 different Hebrew words used for harp.
1) Kinnor – from the root word that refers to a “twang” sound – usually used for what we today call a Davidic Harp. These can have anywhere from 7 to 20 strings or more depending on the builder of the instrument. An interesting side is not that in modern Hebrew, the word Kinnor refers to the violin.
2) Nevel – from the root word for gourd – referring to the hollow sound box of this larger harp that also has more volume and more strings.
3) Asor – from the description of 10 strings – referring to a specific Kinnor that has 10 strings specifically.
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. (Some translations use the word “lyre” as well.)
Psalm 92:1-4 A Psalm or Song for the sabbath day. It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High: To shew forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night, Upon an instrument of ten strings, and upon the psaltery; upon the harp with a solemn sound. For thou, LORD, hast made me glad through thy work: I will triumph in the works of thy hands.
There are many other verses that could be included here, but I wanted to emphasize the 10-stringed Kinnor or Asor as it is known in these two verses of Psalms.
Some students of history believe that David’s Kinnor may have only had 7 strings because of the significance of the number 7 biblically. The number 7 represents creation, the colors of the rainbow, seven days in a week, seven years of a sabbatical cycle, etc. Other rabbis believe that the harps to be played in the Messianic Kingdom will have 8 strings which will be able to reach a higher and deeper level. Then in the World to Come, the 10-string harp that the two Psalms talk about will be the ultimate level of comprehending the divine. (Notes from “What is the Significance of King David’s Harp?” by Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin on the Chabad.org website.)
One of the reasons we call the Kinnor the Davidic Harp is because it is easy to see him carrying one around as he tends the sheep in the pastures. Since it is small and light it would be easy to transport, and it wouldn’t be necessary to have a very loud volume since he would usually be playing it to himself. The design is quite rugged so it could stand up to some abuse of knocking into rocks and trees during the day and still be able to give a pleasant sound when plucked.
I have many people ask me if I make the Davidic harps and I have made a few 10-string ones. The music that I do sounds best with more strings and deeper notes, so I use the modern Nevel for my recordings. However, I was blessed to be introduced to a craftsman named Richard Hale who lives in Indiana and saw some of his masterpieces. He makes Davidic Harps of all different string counts and sizes. He does custom work, and his carvings and decorations are amazing. I have agreed to put his information onto this page so that if any of you readers are interested in a custom Davidic Harp, you can contact him.