Can Angels Sing?

Copyright © 2011,2015 by Daniel B. Sedory

 

The shortest answer is: Yes they can; we believe they've done so in the past, and will highly likely do so in the future. But to answer this question fully, we must also ask: When? So, we've searched the Scriptures for any passages which will allow us to be certain that angels can indeed sing.

Although there are two references where we might logically conclude that angels did and will indeed sing in the future (see below), surprisingly for some of you, no where in Scripture will you find the statement that one or more angels ever sang at the times and/or places you may think they did!

The first Scripture passage to contain 'sing,' 'sang' or 'song' and one or more angels is what's called a Hebrew 'parallelism' in Job 38:7, where we read starting with verse 4 (for context):

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you possess understanding! Who set its measurements--if you know--or who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its bases set, or who laid its cornerstone--when the morning stars{10} sang{11} in chorus,{12} and all the sons of God{13} shouted for joy?   [from The NET Bible]

______________________
{10} The expression morning stars (Hebrew: "stars of the morning") is here placed in parallelism to the angels, "the sons of God."  It may refer to the angels under the imagery of the stars, or, as some prefer, it may poetically include all creation.
{11} The construction, an adverbial clause of time, uses rānān, which is often a ringing cry, an exultation. The parallelism with "shout for joy" shows this to be enthusiastic acclamation. The infinitive is then continued in the next colon with the vav consecutive preterite.
{12} Hebrew "together." This is Dhorme's suggestion for expressing how they sang together.
{13} See Job 1:6. ("Now the day came when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD--and satan also came among them.")

So Biblically, it's a fairly safe conclusion to say the "morning stars" in this verse refers to angels, and they did sing when God created the heavens and the earth. We can also conclude that in Revelation where "a new song" is mentioned, that angels join in the singing (see Rev 5:9; 14:3).

HOWEVER, in the Nativity section of the Gospel of Luke (2:13), we find:

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, (AV)

Even here in the 'King James' version, the angels did *not* sing, but rather *said* ("saying") "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." (Luke 2:14) One cannot assume, just because we as humans often "praise God" in song that these angels must have done the same! So, technically, we cannot say for sure in this passage that the angels actually sang at that time. The phrase, 'Praising God,' does not necessarily imply singing: In Luke 23:47, our same author wrote:

"Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he began praising God, saying, 'Certainly this man was innocent.' "

Does anyone really believe he broke out into a song when he began "praising God" in order to state that Jesus was innocent?

Based on the passages above, and a few others where angels are only mentioned as 'saying'; not singing, something to or about God, a well-known Bible teacher concluded that it appears angels never sung after sin entered the world, nor will they sing again until the Lamb of God rules over the earth (as found in the book of Revelation). This may be true, but I don't think the evidence is completely conclusive to convince everyone. Considering the concept of Hebrew parallelisms, such as Job 38:7, we tried to find other passages in Scripture where "singing" and "saying" might be used synonymously. But the closest one we could find was Jeremiah 31:7 where we read:

"For thus says the LORD, 'Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, And shout among the chief of the nations; Proclaim, give praise and say, 'O LORD, save Your people, The remnant of Israel.' "

They were commanded to "sing," "shout," "proclaim," "praise" and "say" something. But this isn't really a 'parallelism' as much as the fact they were to praise God in every 'verbal way' humans possibly can. [Note: Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 are similar!]

On the other hand, Revelation 5:9 is itself a 'parallelism' similar to that in Job:

"And they _sang_ a new song, _saying_, ...."

Therefore, although we can not be completely dogmatic about this question (maybe it's possible the shepherds did hear the angels sing), it's certainly possible that the angels decided they will not actually sing praises to God until we can all join together in a blessed chorus of "Worthy is the Lamb" (cf. Re 5:8,9). Amen!

 

Further Notes:

רַנֵּ֥ן (rānan) cry out, shout for joy. rānan is a primary Hebrew root. Both the root and its verbal noun appear over fifty times in the OT. The most frequent occurrences are in Isaiah and the Psalms; generally in poetic passages.

" The initial use of rānan is in Lev 9:24 where the shout of jubilation is connected with a divinely appointed sacrifice. This usage of the term to describe the joy of Israel at God's saving acts is carried on throughout the OT. In all of the fourteen occurrences of rānan in Isaiah, it is the connotation of holy joy which is being celebrated by Israel's shouting (Isa 12:6). The cessation of such emotion is portrayed as one of the grimmest aspects of Moab's fall. There is little variation in meaning as the root appears in several different stems. The overwhelming respect of the verb is toward God. The one particularly difficult occurrence is found in Lam 2:19 where the specific form is similar to three other passages (Isa 54:1; Zeph 3:14; Zech 2:14). The Lam context has in view the tribulation and desolation and the prophet exhorts the daughter of the city to "cry out." However in all other passages it is to praise God that the root rānan is used. Here it is to supplicate, not to jubilate, that the cry is raised. The unifying factor in this and other usages is the fact that it is to God that the cry is raised. In Psa the root is developed to its fullest. rdnan appears in parallel poetry with nearly every term for "joy," "rejoicing" and "praise" but not clearly in any strict grammatical relationships. [It also occurs a few times in parallel with shr "sing" (Psa 59:16 [H 17]) and zmar "sing" (Psa 98:4). The jubilation which is the main thrust of the root is elsewhere also in a context of music (2Chr 20:22, cf. v. 21), and singing may well be indicated. In many cases the jubilation could equally well be expressed in shouting or song-either would suit the context. The KJV translates by "sing" half the time. in any case, Israel's song would have been somewhat different from ours and perhaps more similar to jubilant shouting. R.L.H.] Generally, rānan is the "A" or initial term in most parallel pairs of terms. The frequent employment of the term indicates decisively that the highest mood of OT religion was joy. "

From: Wagner, Norman E., in the Psalter, " VT 10:435-41, THAT, II, pp. 781- 85. W.W.

 


First Published: September 3, 2011. (2011.09.03)

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