Genesis 4:21 - “And his brother's name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and ORGAN.”
Some have criticized the King James Bible of being in error because it mentions the “organ” some four times in the Old Testament (Genesis, book of Job and Psalms), and they tell us that the pipe organ was not invented until much later in history. Of couse, they are thinking of the fairly modern organ with electronic key board and huge pipes.
I have often found that simply getting out a good dictionary of the English language to find out what a specific word really means goes a long ways in clearing up what may at first sight appear to be “an error”.
The word “organ” appears four times in the King James Bible. It is the English translation of the Hebrew word # 5748 goo-gahv, which is only used four times in the Old Testament.
It is found in Genesis 4:21 (already quoted), twice in the book of Job - 21:12 reads: “They take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ.” and in Job 30:31- ”My harp also is turned to mourning, and my organ into the voice of them that weep.” and finally in Psalm 150:4 - “Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.”
The Definition of an “organ”.
Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary - Etymology: Middle English, partly from Old English organa, from Latin organum, from Greek organon, literally, tool, instrument; partly from Anglo-French organe, from Latin organum; akin to Greek ergon work. Date: before 12th century.
1 a archaic : any of various musical instruments; especially : wind instrument b (1) : a keyboard instrument in which sets of pipes are sounded by compressed air and produce a variety of timbres —called also pipe organ (2) : reed organ (3) : an electronic keyboard instrument that approximates the sounds and resources of the pipe organ (4) : any of various similar cruder instruments.
Webster’s New World College Dictionary - Organ -
1. a large wind instrument consisting of various sets of pipes which, as they are opened by corresponding keys on one or more keyboards, allow passage to a column of compressed air that causes sound by vibration
2. any of several musical instruments producing similar or somewhat similar sounds
3. Archaic - any musical instrument; esp., a wind instrument
Funk and Wagnalls Standard College Dictionary - Organ - 1. A musical instrument consisting of a collection of pipes and reeds made to sound by means of compressed air controlled by one or more keyboards and by various knobs used to vary registration: often called 'pipe organ'. 2. Any musical instrument resembling this, either in sound or in some aspect of its mechanism.
In other words, the word "organ" is a generic term which is applied to any type of air blown pipes or reeds. This would be in contrast to percussion or stringed musical instruments.
American Tract (Easton’s) Bible Dictionary - ORGAN Psalms 150:4, a wind instrument apparently composed of several pipes. It cannot, however, mean the modern organ, which was unknown to the ancients; but refers probably to the ancient syrinx, or pipes, similar to the Pandean pipes, a series of seven or more tubes of unequal length and size, closed at one end, and blown into with the mouth at the other, Genesis 4:21, Job 21:12.
Holman Bible Dictionary - Organ - KJV term for a musical instrument which modern translations identify as a pipe or shrill flute (Genesis 4:21; Job 21:12; Job 30:31; Psalms 150:4). At the time of the KJV translation organ designated any wind instrument. The modern pipe organ was not known in the biblical period, though primitive organs were used in the Jerusalem Temple after 100 B.C. and provided music for Roman games and combats.
Smith’s Bible Dictionary - organ - Genesis 4:21; Job 21:12; 30:31; Psalms 150:4) The Hebrew word thus rendered probably denotes a pipe or perforated wind-instrument. In (Genesis 4:21) it appears to be a general term for all wind-instruments. In (Job 21:12) are enumerated three kinds of musical instruments which are possible under the general terms of the timbrel harp and organ.
After having looked at numerous bible transaltions, both old and modern, English and Foreign Language, I would not even say the word “organ” meaning “any type of wind instrument” is archaic. After all, as a fellow King James Bible believer pointed out at our Which Version club - ”Isn't a harmonica also called a "mouth organ"? No one said it had to be a Hammond or Wurlitzer. That's a basic enough concept and I have no doubt Jubal could've manufactured one.”
The Bible Versions, both old and modern - A somewhat confused mess.
The NKJV 1982, along with the NIV 1984, New Living Translation 2007 have - “His brother's name was Jubal. He was the father of all those who play the harp and flute.”
Versions like the RSV, NRSV, ESV, NASB read differently with: “His brother's name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe.”
And some versions that came after the King James Bible read differently still. The ASV of 1901, RV 1881, Darby, and the World English Bible read:
“And his brother's name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and pipe.”
So far among these modern versions we have “harp and flute”, “lyre and pipe” and “hard and pipe”. But wait, there’s more variety out there to be had. We also have the generic “instruments of music” and “the guitar and harp”, and “the harp and the horn”.
The Bible in Basic English 1961 simply has “And his brother's name was Jubal: he was the father of all players on instruments of music.”
And Lamsa’s 1936 translation has: - “And his brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the guitar and harp. “
New Life Bible 1969 - “His brother's name was Jubal. He was the father of all those who play the harp and the horn.”
Many Bible Translations Agree with the King James Bible
Agreeing with the King James Bible’s use of the word “organ” to denote any wind instrument in contrast to the stringed and percussion instruments are the following bible translations.
Wycliffe Bible 1395 - “and the name of his brother was Tubal, he was the fadir of syngeris in harpe and orgun.”
Tyndale translated the book of Genesis in 1534 and he also had the word “organs” in 4:21 - “And hys brothers name was Iubal: of hym came all that excercyse them selves on the harpe and on the organs".
The Great Bible (Cranmer) of 1540 likewise reads "His brothers name was Thubal, whych was the father of such as handle harpe & organe."
The Bishops’ Bible 1568 - “His brothers name was Iubal, which was the father of such as handle Harpe and Organ.”
The Geneva Bible 1587, 1599 - “And his brothers name was Iubal, who was the father of all that play on the harpe and organes.”
The 1610 Douay-Rheims bible, the Lesser Bible 1853, the 1936 Jewish translation from the Hebrew Publication Society, Young's Literal Translation, Webster’s 1833 translation, Green’s 2000 literal translation, and the 1994 King James 21st Century version all read like the King James Bible - “and the name of his brother is Jubal, he hath been father of every one handling harp and organ.”
Foreign language Bibles that agree with the King James Bible’s “organ”
Jerome’s Latin Vulgate of 382 A.D. - “et nomen fratris eius Iubal ipse fuit pater canentium cithara et organo.”
The Latin Vulgate 405 A.D. - et nomen fratris eius Iubal ipse fuit pater canentium cithara et organo.
It should be obvious that the word “organ” way back in 382 - 405 A.D. did not refer to the large, electronic Pipe Organ found in some churches built in the 18th to 20th centuries, but rather referred to a wind instrument where the sound was produced by blowing through tubes or pipes of wood.
Spanish Sagradas Escrituras (1569) - “Y el nombre de su hermano fue Jubal, el cual fue padre de todos los que tocan arpa y órgano.”
Spanish Reina Valera (1909) - “Y el nombre de su hermano fué Jubal, el cual fué padre de todos los que manejan arpa y órgano.”
Spanish Reina Valera Gomez 2004 - “Y el nombre de su hermano fue Jubal, el cual fue padre de todos los que tocan arpa y órgano.”
Italian Diodati 1649 - “E il nome del suo fratello fu Iubal. Esso fu padre di tutti coloro che maneggiano la cetera e l’organo.”
The French Martin Bible 1744 - “Et le nom de son frère fut Jubal, qui fut père de tous ceux qui touchent le violon et les orgues.”
Bible Commentators -
Bible commentator Adam Clarke says regarding Genesis 4:21 - “The inventor of musical instruments, such as the kinnor, which we translate harp, and the ugab, which we render organ; it is very likely that both words are generic, the former including under it all stringed instruments, and the latter, all wind instruments.”
John Gill comments: “he was the father of all such that handle the harp and organ: he was the inventor of instrumental music, both of stringed instruments, such as were touched by the fingers, or struck with a quill, as the "harp"; and of wind instruments, such as were blown, as the "organ"
John Wesley comments: “Jubal was a famous musician, and particularly an organist, and the first that gave rules for that noble art or science of music.”
Old Testament commentary in 5 volumns edited by Charles John Ellicott says regarding Genesis 4:21 - “Jubal was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ." Of these instruments, the kinnor, always translated " harp " in our version, was certainly a stringed instrument, a guitar or lyre. The other, in Hebrew 'ugab, is mentioned only in Job. xxi. 12, xxx. 31; Ps. cl. 4. It was a small wind instrument, a reed or pipe.”
The King James Bible is not at all in error for translating the Hebrew word as “organ”. By comparing all the verses, and especially Psalm 150:4 “Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.” we can easily see that the musical instruments were divided into three main groups - the percussion, the stringed and the wind instruments, which generically were called “organs”.