The Bible isn’t a songbook, but did you know there are at least 185 songs in the Bible? Battles, coronations, funerals, cities being sacked, and seas splitting up—you can find songs in the Bible for all kinds of occasions.
Granted, 150 of these songs are in the book of Psalms, which actually is a songbook written by many Israelite leaders over the centuries. Six more of these songs come from the other two songbooks of the Bible: Song of Solomon and Lamentations.
But you can find 35ish more songs, chants, dirges, and hymns scattered across the Old and New Testaments. (I say 35ish because some of those songs are very similar to Psalms, and other pieces of poetry may or may not have been sung.)
I’ve pulled those non-Psalms together in one place for your reference. (With a little help from Logos Bible Software.) Your worship leader will probably give you a high five if you share this with them. =)
We’ll kick things off with a few stats about the songs in the Bible, then examine each of the non-psalms one by one. And just in case you’re curious, you’re welcome to check out the piece I wrote on the different kinds of Psalms.
Only 185? Well …
You may read through these and notice a few songs missing: the Magnificat, Hannah’s prayer, etc.
I left them out because I wanted to list the pieces that are explicitly called songs (or kinds of songs). It may very well be that Samson sang his poem about the donkey’s jawbone in Judges 15:16 …
With the jawbone of a donkey,
Heaps upon heaps,
With the jawbone of a donkey
I have killed a thousand men.
… but he also may have just put together a witty little poem with no music.
This list just sticks with the pieces that are explicitly called songs, lamentations, and dirges—as well as poems that the Bible says people sing or chant.
All the (non-Psalm) songs in the Bible, in order
The song of Moses and Miriam
(Exodus 15:1–18, 21)
The first song in the Bible happens after one of its greatest miracles. God parts the Red Sea, allowing the children of Israel to cross on dry ground, escaping Pharaoh’s army. When the Egyptians pursue them, God shuts the sea over them, washing away chariots and horsemen.
Then Moses leads the men in a song of praise to God, while Miriam leads the women in the chorus:
Sing to the LORD, for He is highly exalted;
The horse and his rider He has hurled into the sea.
The song of wells in the wilderness
As Israel wanders through the wilderness in the book of Numbers, they come to a place called Beer. “Beer” is Hebrew for “well,” and (surprise, surprise) there’s a big well there where the whole nation refills its water supply.
It’s a pretty happy occasion, and the Israelites break into song:
Spring up, O well! Sing to it!
The well, which the leaders sank,
Which the nobles of the people dug,
With the scepter and with their staffs.
Song of Moses and Joshua
(Deuteronomy 31:19–22, 30, 32:1–43)
Int he book of Deuteronomy, Moses recommissions the nation of Israel to love and obey the Lord when they enter the promised land. He lays down the law, appoints Joshua as the new leader, and makes the people swear their allegiance to their God.
Then Moses sums it all up in a song, which he and Joshua teach to the people. It’s a covenant song of God’s faithfulness: He is the righteous Rock of Israel. The song reminds Israel of the the Lord’s blessings, and warns them of the consequences of disobeying him.
The Rock! His work is perfect,
For all His ways are just;
A God of faithfulness and without injustice,
Righteous and upright is He.
The Song of Deborah and Baruk
Another victory song—and one of the oldest texts in the Bible.
Deborah, a prophetess, leads a small Israeli militia against their Canaanite overlord’s well-armed forces. Her field officer Baruk meets the enemy commander, Sisera, on the battle field. Baruk wipes out Sisera’s forces, but Sisera escapes on foot.
He doesn’t get too far. Sisera takes a nap in a local woman’s tent, and that woman nails his head to the ground. It’s super effective.
With the battle won, Deborah and Baruk write a song of praise to God, rejoicing over God’s deliverance. They also sing about the battle heroes, and even wonder what it must be like to be Sisera’s mom.
Thus let all Your enemies perish, O LORD;
But let those who love Him be like the rising of the sun in its might.
Song of David’s victory
(1 Sa 18:7)
After young David kills Goliath, he and king Saul triumphantly return from the battle. The women of the cities are super excited about the victory, and they meet King Saul with musical instruments, dancing, and a new song:
Saul has slain his thousands,
And David his ten thousands.
The song becomes a hit—even the Philistines, Israel’s enemies, know the tune (1 Sa 21:11). Saul is immediately jealous of David. This one little song drives a wedge between the two of them for the rest of Saul’s life.
The song of the bow
(2 Samuel 1:17–27)
This is the first song of lament in the Bible. Thus far, we’ve seen songs about victory and covenant and wells, but this is the first of many sad songs.
David writes the song of the bow when he learns that Saul and Jonathan have died in battle. It’s a sad day for David and the whole nation: Jonathan was David’s best friend, and Saul was the anointed king of Israel.
So David chants a dirge for Saul and Jonathan. It’s called the song of the bow, and David has the sons of Judah learn it. David may have named it in honor of Jonathan, who was a skilled archer (2 Sa 1:22).
Your beauty, O Israel, is slain on your high places!
How have the mighty fallen!
David’s lament for Abner
(2 Samuel 3:33–34)
There’s a seven-year civil war between Judah and the rest of Israel after Saul dies. Judah names David their king, while the rest of the country serves Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son.
However, Ish-bosheth ticks off his own general, a warrior named Abner. Abner defects to David, swearing to make him king of all Israel. David accepts Abner’s alliance, and it looks like the war will finally come to an end.
There’s just one problem: Abner killed one of David’s men in an earlier battle, and now that man’s brother Joab wants revenge. So Joab pulls Abner aside at the city gate for a private chat—and murders Abner.
David is appalled, and writes a funeral chant for Abner.
Should Abner die as a fool dies?
Your hands were not bound, nor your feet put in fetters;
As one falls before the wicked, you have fallen.
Song of David’s deliverance
(2 Samuel 22, Ps 18)
Remember that song we looked at earlier: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands”? It really eats at Saul. The king realizes that the kingdom—his kingdom—will pass to David.
So Saul spends a good deal of his reign hunting David down.
Eventually, however, God delivers David from Saul—and the king pens a psalm of praise to his Savior.
This song is actually recorded twice in the Bible: once in Second Samuel, and again in the book of Psalms ( Ps 18).
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge;
My savior, You save me from violence.
Asaph’s psalm of praise
(1 Ch 16:7, Ps 105)
When David commissions the temple’s construction, he ordains the house of Asaph to be the family of worship leaders. Asaph and his sons hold to their duties for hundreds of years. In fact, his family wrote 12 of the pieces in the book of Psalms.
This is the one David had them sing when the temple was commissioned. Like David’s psalm of deliverance, this one show s up in both a book of history and the book of Psalms (Ps 105).
Oh give thanks to the LORD, call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples.
Sing to Him, sing praises to Him;
Speak of all His wonders.
Asaph’s song for the temple’s completion
(2 Chronicles 5:13)
Here’s the shortest song in the Bible: just 10 words long in the original Hebrew.
The temple construction is finished, and the ark of the covenant is brought to the holy of holies. The sons of Asaph praise the Lord, and God’s glory fills the temple.
He indeed is good for His lovingkindness is everlasting.
Jehoshaphat’s battle song
(2 Ch 20:21)
King Jehoshaphat is outnumbered by his enemies, so he pleads with God for help. A man of the tribe of Levi brings Jehoshaphat a message from God: “Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s” (2 Ch 20:15).
So when they go to battle the next day, they put on the front lines not soldiers, but singers. And the singers cry out:
Give thanks to the LORD, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.
The Lord ambushes Jehoshaphat’s enemies, and saves his people once again.
The Song of Songs
Solomon is credited with 1,005 songs (1 Ki 4:32), but one of them stands high above the rest. We know it as the Song of Solomon. The Bible calls it the “Song of Songs,” the greatest of all songs .
It’s an epic love song between a man, a woman, a wedding, and a wedding night. We’re not sure if it was originally written as just one song or if it’s an anthology of smaller love songs that Solomon string together.
I am my beloved’s,
And his desire is for me.
The five Lamentations
The Bible has three songbooks, documents made up entirely of lyrics. The first (and largest) is Psalms. The second is Song of Solomon. The third is Lamentations.
Unlike Psalms and Song of Solomon, Lamentations never claims to be a songbook. However, when the book was translated into Greek (the Septuagint), it was called a book of dirges.
This book mourns Jerusalem after she falls to the Babylonians. Each of the five chapters is a new poem—four are acrostics using the Hebrew alphabet.
How lonely sits the city
That was full of people!
She has become like a widow
Who was once great among the nations!
She who was a princess among the provinces
Has become a forced laborer!
Isaiah’s vineyard song
The prophet Isaiah was tasked with preaching both judgment and comfort to the people of Israel. One of his messages uses a song as a parable.
My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill.
He dug it all around, removed its stones,
And planted it with the choicest vine.
And He built a tower in the middle of it
And also hewed out a wine vat in it;
Then He expected it to produce good grapes,
But it produced only worthless ones.
It’s a metaphor: the Lord is the one who built Israel, just as a man builds a vineyard. And instead of following the ways of God, Israel killed the innocents and perverted justice (Is 5:7).
Song of the harlot
I bet you weren’t expecting this one to be in the Bible—I wasn’t!
Isaiah is prophesying that the nearby land of Tyre will be forgotten and desolate for 70 years. The Babylonians will plunder her, and her harbors and fortresses will be ruined. but after that time, Tyre will engage in trade again, like an old harlot trying to be remembered by her suitors.
Take your harp, walk about the city,
O forgotten harlot;
Pluck the strings skillfully, sing many songs,
That you may be remembered.
Song of Judah’s protection
Isaiah’s songs aren’t all sad ones. The prophet says that there will come a time when the Lord will once again protect Judah from her foes. In that day, the people will sing of how God shields and sustains her cities.
We have a strong city;
He sets up walls and ramparts for security.
Lament for the princes of Israel
Ezekiel mourns Israel’s captivity—the lion-like nation has been hunted, captured, and dragged away.
They put him in a cage with hooks
And brought him to the king of Babylon;
They brought him in hunting nets
So that his voice would be heard no more
On the mountains of Israel.
The international lament for Tyre
A good deal of the book of Ezekiel concerns God’s judgment on the Ancient Near East nations. One city that will fall to the Babylonians is Tyre, a rich city for sailors and traders. When the trading city of Tyre is sacked, Ezekiel predicts that the princes of the world will sing a song of lamentation for the fallen city.
How you have perished, O inhabited one,
From the seas, O renowned city,
Which was mighty on the sea,
She and her inhabitants,
Who imposed her terror
On all her inhabitants!
Now the coastlands will tremble
On the day of your fall;
Yes, the coastlands which are by the sea
Will be terrified at your passing.
Ezekiel’s lament over Tyre
The Lord tells Ezekiel to take up another dirge for Tyre, one which describes her downfall more thoroughly.
Your wealth, your wares, your merchandise,
Your sailors and your pilots,
Your repairers of seams, your dealers in merchandise
And all your men of war who are in you,
With all your company that is in your midst,
Will fall into the heart of the seas
On the day of your overthrow.
Sailor’s lament for Tyre
This one’s a song within a song. While Ezekiel’s making his own lament for the city of Tyre, he says that the sailors and captains of the sea will sing their own song about their fallen city.
Who is like Tyre,
Like her who is silent in the midst of the sea?
Ezekiel’s second lamentation over the king of Tyre
Ezekiel isn’t done with his sad news for Tyre—God has him take up yet another lamentation for the king.
The lyrics have given rise to a few different interpretations. Some read this song as a judgment on the human ruler of Tyre. Others see this as the story of Satan’s fall from grace, since Ezekiel describes the king as “an anointing cherub who covers” who was “in Eden, the garden of God.”
Of course, it could refer to both.
Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty;
You corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor.
I cast you to the ground;
I put you before kings,
That they may see you.
Ezekiel’s lament for Pharaoh
Tyre finally gets a break, but only because God’s also bringing judgment to the land of Egypt. The Lord tells Ezekiel to take up a lamentation song over Pharaoh, too.
You compared yourself to a young lion of the nations,
Yet you are like the monster in the seas;
And you burst forth in your rivers
And muddied the waters with your feet
And fouled their rivers.
Amos’ dirge for the house of Israel
The Lord has a message for the Northern Kingdom of Israel, so he sends them a shepherd named Amos. The Lord roars forth his message of justice: Israel must pay for the way they’ve mistreated the poor in the land.
The message is a harsh one, and the shepherd Amos sings a dirge over Israel.
She has fallen, she will not rise again—
The virgin Israel.
She lies neglected on her land;
There is none to raise her up.
The book of Habakkuk is only three chapters long. In the first two chapters, God and the prophet Habakkuk go back and forth about how God will deal with the violence and injustice in the land of Judah. It goes something like this:
Habakkuk: “How long, O Lord, before you put a stop to my people’s wickedness?”
God: “Don’t worry: I’m bringing the Babylonians against Jerusalem.”
Habakkuk: “Really? Those guys are even worse than we are!”
God: “And their judgment will be harsher than yours.”
Then Habakkuk writes the last song of the Old Testament: a psalm that praises God and begs for his compassion.
LORD, I have heard the report about You and I fear.
O LORD, revive Your work in the midst of the years,
In the midst of the years make it known;
In wrath remember mercy.
Worthy is the Lamb!
In the book of Revelation, John records a scene in God’s heavenly throne room. There’s a book bound shut by seven seals, and no one is worthy to open it.
Until a Lamb appears.
The Lamb represents Jesus throughout the book of Revelation, and he is able to open the book. The others in the throne room bow down before the Lamb, taking up their harps to sing a new song.
Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals;
For You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God;
And they will reign upon the earth.
The last song of Moses and the Lamb
Remember the first song of Moses—the one he sang after crossing the Red Sea? The last song in the Bible is like it.
Toward the end of the book of Revelation, John sees the Christians who are victorious over the beast. They sing a new song of Moses, one with different words, but a similar message: God has conquered the enemy, and he deserves praise.
Great and marvelous are Your works,
O Lord God, the Almighty;
Righteous and true are Your ways,
King of the nations!
Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
For You alone are holy;
For all the nations will come and worship before you,
For your righteous acts have been revealed.
Other songs the Bible mentions
In addition to all these, the Bible alludes to more songs without including the lyrics:
- Solomon wrote 1,005 songs (1 Ki 4:32). The Bible doesn’t record them all, but we have a good idea which one Solomon thought was best: the Song of all Songs (Sol 1:1).
- When king Hezekiah repairs the temple, the trumpeters kick off a song to the Lord (2 Ch 29:27).
- Jeremiah writes a dirge for the fallen king Josiah, but this may be one of the chapters in Lamentations (2 Ch 35:25).
- Some of the Levites who return from exile in Babylon are specifically responsible for songs of thanksgiving (Ne 12:8).
- Jesus and the apostles sing a hymn in the upper room after Christ’s last supper (Mt 26:30).
- Paul and Silas sing a hymn when they’re in prison—before God breaks them out (Ac 16:25).
- The 144,000 redeemed witnesses in John’s revelation sing a song before the throne of God, the living creatures, and the elders—a song only the 144,000 know (Re 14:3).
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Jeffery…just an outstanding piece of work and investigation. I certainly appreciate the distinctions between singers and songs.
We are all very thankful for what you have put together.
Blessings to You!
What about the 4 servant songs in Isaiah? Isaiah 42:1–9; 49:1–7; 50:4–9; and 52:13–53:12
Good questions! I stuck with pieces that are explicitly called songs in the text. =)
Can’t begin to thank you enough for what you’ve done!!! I’m preaching at Music Day this weekend and the information in your blog is nothing short of a miracle.
Thank you Sir
Profound explanation. Using it for my personal study. Thrilling, inspiring, and mind blowing. You have nailed it on my head. Glory to God in the Highest. May God bless you and use you for the extension of His Kingdom.
I’m not sure if the Carmen Christi would count as I think some scholars not too long ago suggest that it could also be an early church hymn
Great work indeed. It hooked me back on my seat. I must definitely sing to my God tonight. Splendid and cool. Thanks so much.
I enjoyed thus blog. I was talking with my daughter and a friend and the question came up about a Christmas sermon series on songs. The pastor preached on Mary’s Magnificat, and Simeon’s song. Our bible doesnt call them songs so how do we know they sang these? Thanks.
We don’t. =)
But the poetry of the Magnificat and Hannah’s prayer (1 Samuel 2) are very similar to other psalms in the Bible—assuming they were sung isn’t exactly a stretch.
This was such a blessing, you really made the topic of “songs” interesting. We must understand how important music is to the Lord. Even those like me who have no musical inclination whosoever except to listen and enjoy. And oh, make a joyful noise.
I love this! Thank you for making this post!
Great text! Thanks a lot!
Yes thank you for all your work!
Hi, I’m curious as to why Mary’s song (Luke 1:46-55) and Zechariah’s song (Luke 2:68-79) didn’t make the cut! Or did I miss something glaringly obvious, either in your article or in the text…?!
A Bible geek??? A BIBLE GEEK?? **Another** Bible GEEK???? I thought I was alone in this world of Bible geekdom! I never dreamed there were others who salivate over every morsel, factoid, gleaning, list-making and good-to-know kinda stuff in scripture! I HAVE FOUND MY TRIBE!!!!! Woot! You have made my day, bro. Seriously. I’m in!
This made me smile. Welcome aboard, and keep your eyes peeled for some crazy geeky Bible stuff coming in December. ;-)
Glad it made you smile. I posted a link to your site and alerted my FB posse. It is so refreshing to find others who take pleasure in the meat of the Word, and cultivate the skill of searching a matter out. Told them I totally blissed out exploring this site! Delicious!
you just save me more than an hours research time. (and I wouldn’t have had all of this) Excellent . Thank you.
Glad it helped!
And hey, feel free to float any research ideas my way for future posts. ;-)
Thank you for this insightful work given free. God bless you and may you not lose your reward.
I also say you saved me hours of research. Thanks.