The Bible makes it clear that Satan was the most beautiful and powerful being ever created. He was the supreme archangel, surpassing heavyweights like Gabriel and Michael. No red suits, pitchforks, or horns for this guy – he was, and probably still is, drop dead gorgeous.
He also may have been the first worship leader.
The idea that Satan was a master musician comes from Ezekiel 28:13. The New King James Version of the Bible (NKJV), speaking of Satan, says, “The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes was prepared for you on the day you were created.”
Modern music history seems to support the idea that Satan has profound musical ability. It’s not a hard to imagine a supernatural being helping artists create beats and melodies we humans find irresistable. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that artists who promote things contrary to the Bible often enjoy a meteoric, even supernatural rise.
All that seems to make sense, but what proof, if any, do we have that Satan is musically gifted or if he was a worship leader in Heaven before his fall?
Let’s go to the Bible and find out.
Biblical Clues about Satan’s Musical Ability
Some clues about Satan’s role arise if you examine the word “workmanship” in Ezekiel 28. Elsewhere in the Bible the word is translated “work”, as in labor, job, skill, or even profession. Genesis 2:2 uses the same Hebrew word: “And on the seventh day God ended his work.” (KJV) Proverbs 18:9 says, “He who is slothful in his work is a brother to him who is a great destroyer.” (NKJV) These and many other OT examples hint that Ezekiel is talking about not just God’s handiwork in creating Satan, but Satan’s official role.
This is where things get a little tougher to determine. The words in Ezekiel 28:13 “timbrels and pipes” are translated “settings and mountings” in the NIV and “settings and engravings” in the RSV. These translations and most others seem to let the air out of the Satan-as-worship-leader theory.
But because I take all translations with a grain of salt, I want to see if I could dig up any clues from the original language.
The word rendered “timbrels” and “tabrets” – toph in Hebrew – most certainly refers to a musical instrument. The word appears in Exodus 15:20: “Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took the timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances.” (NKJV)
There’s no ambiguity to this term. I can’t imagine Miriam dancing to the lovely sound of “settings.” Even the NIV, which translates toph as “settings” in Ezekiel, translates it “timbrels” in Exodus. Now you can see why I don’t take any translation as Gospel – so to speak.
The next word rendered “pipes” by the KJV and NKJV is a bit tougher nut to crack. First of all, this verse in Ezekiel is the only place in the entire Bible that translators bother to come up with an English word for it. The Hebrew word – neqeb – appears elsewhere only in Joshua, but translators simply sound out in English – “Nekeb” – because it’s the name of a location. So we can’t even use other contexts within Bible itself to determine the true meaning.
Strong’s concordance defines the Hebrew word as a jeweller’s term – a setting, socket, or hole for a gem. This interpretation falls in line with the first part of Ezekiel 28:13 that talks about the myriad of precious stones with which Satan is adorned.
There are three apparent justifications for the KJV and NKJV translation “pipes”: 1) the term directly preceding is certainly a musical term, and; 2) the word can mean “cavern” or something hollow (think wind instrument), or; 3) it could come from a root word meaning “to bore through”, a pipe being a likely candidate.
In short, there are two valid arguments for and against the idea that Satan was a music leader in Heaven. I’ll present the two points of view and you can choose which one you believe.
The Argument For Satan as Worship Leader
The verse in Ezekiel names a musical instrument, “timbrels”, a musical term used throughout the Old Testament. Immediately following the word, is another word that is quite possibly another musical term.
The Ezekiel account could likely mean, “Satan, you have been prepared for an occupation using praise tambourines and pipes.”
The Argument Against Satan as Worship Leader
The verse contains one musical term buried within a gem-related context. The preceding portion of Ezekiel 28:13 says “every precious stone was your covering.” (NKJV) Most translations render a word that generally means “tambourines” as “settings” in this instance because it seems to flow with the theme.
Ezekiel is probably using the image of tambourines to describe the extravagance of Satan’s beauty: He is so laden with jewels that he is like tambourine fixed not with cheap metal pieces but with jewels.
Satan as Worship Leader – Does it Matter?
Whether or not Satan was in charge of music before he fell from glory is probably of little consequence. The real takeaway is why he fell — pride.
The reason I tend to think of Satan as a former worship leader is the powerful connection between music and pride. I can’t imagine any other skill that would make a created being so full of himself as to think he could overthrow God himself.
While at a lesser scale, worship leaders are susceptible to similar mistakes. Each week our voices are amplified and we sing cool songs and get thanks and “nice-jobs” from congregants. Especially talented worship leaders leave the church altogether to follow careers in the mainstream market. According to VH1, Usher, Katy Perry, John Legend, Carrie Underwood and many others started in church.
Not saying that these artists are the devil – indeed many keep their standards and make a positive impression on the mainstream market. The point is, there is a lot of personal glory to be had for excellent musicians. That fact could be just the lasting legacy of the first musician in the universe – Satan himself.
Tim Lucas has been leading worship for more than 20 years around the Pacific Northwest, USA. Starting as a worship leader at the age of 15, he has ministered to churches, youth groups, and camps, locally and as far away as Australia. Tim now leads worship at his local church and lives in Washington State with his wife, Laura, and two kids. Sign up for email updates about new posts, worship advice, and new worship songs below.