Instruments in the Bible – Bells

By | March 29, 2015

HandbellsIt turns out that we have two bell concerts on the Trinity Concert Series this year ( Just this past weekend we welcomed handbell soloist Kristine Stout ( to our church and on May 17, Dr. John Behnke will bring the Alleluia Ringers from Concordia University, Wisconsin for a concert.

Bells are mentioned only seven times in Scriptures and only in one context.1 However, it is obvious from the context that they are very special to God. Although bells were not used then as they are today – in church towers and by choirs in pitched sets – they were a part of every temple worship ceremony and sacrifice. In fact, bells were the only musical instrument that were taken into the Holy of Holies. When God proscribed for Moses the construction of the tabernacle, the Holy Spirit went even so far as to detail how the high priestly garments were to be made. In those instructions we read the following:

On its hem you shall make pomegranates of blue and purple and scarlet yarns, around its hem, with bells of gold between them, a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, around the hem of the robe. And it shall be on Aaron when he ministers, and its sound shall be heard when he goes into the Holy Place before the Lord, and when he comes out, so that he does not die.

Exodus 28:33-35

In other words, there were bells sewn all around the bottom of the high priestly garments. Every time the High Priest took a step, there would be the jingling of those bells. Note from the end of the quotation above that the main of the purpose of these bells was so that the High Priest would not die when he entered the Holy of Holies.2

The Apostle Paul reminds us that because of what Jesus did for us, we are able to enter the holy places.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Hebrews 10:19-22

So, when we begin our worship services with the ringing of bells, we recall the bells on the bottom of high priestly garments and announce to all those present and to God Himself that we have entered a Holy Place. In this Holy Place, God offers His mercy and grace just as he did when the High Priests entered the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle and the temple.

So thanks to all of you who ring our bells for worship, both the ushers and the members of our handbell choirs. Whenever you ring your bells for the Divine Service, you remind us that because of Christ we do not die in the presence of our God, but rather live in and through Him. Considering how special bells are to the Lord, perhaps we should sew some on the bottom of our pastors’ robes as well just like they did in the Old Testament. Now wouldn’t that be something.

  1. Click here for a list of all seven occurrences.
  2. You might recall that God warns Moses and Aaron that no one was to touch or even look upon the sacred objects in the Holy of Holies or they would die (see Numbers 4:15-20).