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After reading commentaries on Psalm 8:1 regarding the "Gittith" possibly representing a winepress, I was curious if the bible specifically mentions what the Gittith instrument did. Was a winepress used by King David to make music?

The YLT and KJV versions of Psalm 8:1 differ, but the word "Gittith" is the same:

To the Overseer, 'On the Gittith.' A Psalm of David. Jehovah, our Lord, How honourable Thy name in all the earth! Who settest thine honour on the heavens." - Psalm 8:1 (YLT)
To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm of David. O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens. - Psalm 8:1 (KJV)

On biblehub.com I found this commentary from Scofield Reference Notes :

Gittith= "winepress," and so, of the harvest, in the sense of judgment Isa 63:3 Rev 19:15 Ps 7:1, to which the title of Psalm 8. properly belongs, is a Psalm of judgment.
  • If the winepress theory from commentaries on Psalm 8 is true, then what historical evidence is there to demonstrate an instrument was made from a winepress?

What else can we getteth from the bible regarding the Gittith in Psalm 8?

  • Thanks, scholars!
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    Welcome to BH.SE ! Great first question. I'll try to research on it. In the meantime, the footnote from the ESV translation may provide a clue: Probably a musical or liturgical term – GratefulDisciple Nov 19 at 14:58
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The Hebrew word גִּתִּית (gittith) occurs only three times in the OT and always in the title of a psalm, namely Ps 8, 81, 84. Its meaning is uncertain but it appears to be either:

  • a musical term of some kind (eg a tune or method of performance?), or, -
  • The name of an instrument

The latter possibility appears far more probable. If this is true, then, the form of the word suggests that it be translated something like: The Gittite Lyre, or possibly the Gittite melody.

[Note: anything "gittite" means it come from Gath the name of one of the five main Philistine towns. Since David's personal body-guard of 600 elite soldiers forming the gittite regiment (2 Sam 15:18-22, 1 Chron 18:17), it is entirely possible that these men brought instruments and tunes from their homeland.]

Thus, the most probable meaning of גִּתִּית (gittith) is either "gittite instrument (lyre etc)" or "gittite melody". This is also the suggestion of BDB reproduced below.

The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary suggests:

Ps 8:1-9. Upon [or according to the] Gittith, probably means that the musical performance was directed to be according to a tune of that name; which, derived from Gath, a "wine-press," denotes a tune (used in connection with gathering the vintage) of a joyous character. All the Psalms to which this term is prefixed [Ps 8:1; 81:1; 84:1] are of such a character.

APPENDIX - BDB entry for גִּתִּית (gittith)

גִּתִּית feminine of foregoing (si vera lectio) only in phrase עַלהַֿגִּתִּית in three Psalm titles: Psalm 8:1; Psalm 81:1; Psalm 84:1; upon the Gittite (lyre) so ᵑ7,to the Gittite (melody) Ew Ol De, or either of these Hup Pe; ᵐ5 ᵑ9 הַגִּתֹּת wine-presses, whence Bae and others at the wine-presses, i.e. (Bae) a song for the feast of booths.

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Gittith can be also found in Psalms 81

God’s Goodness and Israel’s Waywardness. For the music director; on the Gittith. A Psalm of Asaph.

and 84

Longing for the Temple Worship. For the music director; on the Gittith. A Psalm of the sons of Korah.

and probably refers to an instrument characteristic of Gath («one of the cities of the Philistine pentapolis which disappeared mysteriously by some unexplained disaster hinted at in Amos 6:2», The New Unger's Bible Dictionary).

From the information in the Blue Letter Bible, this matches what Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon mentions

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and Strong's Definitions goes even further, saying that it's a "Gittite harp".

Then for other less likely options, FSB mentions

Gittith may alternatively refer to a winepress (and therefore perhaps the harvest), someone or something from Gath, or even a person as in 1 Chronicles 13:13-14

13 So David did not take the ark with him to the city of David, but took it aside to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. 14 And the ark of God remained with the family of Obed-edom in his house for three months; and the Lord blessed the family of Obed-edom and all that he had.

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The 'Instrument'

What is clear from scripture, in relation to the musical instruction (Psalms 8, 81 and 84) ' upon Gittith', is an association with Gath, the geographical source of the instrument, where it was designed and crafted. What exactly it was, is not clear from scripture and, therefore, can be regarded as irrelevant. We have been given enough for our spiritual inquiry : we need no more.

Sung worship is expressed God-ward, either privately or corporately, and just as the musician chooses an appropriate instrument to match a particular sung piece, so a singer in regard to heart-worship, will frame the content with a suitable disposition in order to give full expression to what is lifted heaven-wards in song.

Paul twice refers to singing and neither time does he mention physical instruments, nor even the audible noise : he exhorts only with regard to a melodious and gracious heart, Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16.

Thus it is the heart and the understanding that form the 'instrument' - the humanity - which expresses the content. This instrument is adaptable, for several purposes, and can be framed aright, under the direction of the Chief Musician (who is evidently Christ for, 'in the midst of the church, will I sing praise unto thee' Psalm 22:22 and Hebrews 2:12).

Those who sojourn a while in Gath, and endure the privations thereof, and learn from the affliction, will be able, from their experience, to remember what it was like and to hold that thought as they sing, giving depth of expression to what is breathed upwards to heaven in these three psalms.

The Application

In the case of 'Gittith-type' singing, what we know is that all three psalms, 8,81 and 84, are addressed to the Chief Musician : one is titled 'of David', one 'of Asaph' and one 'for the sons of Korah', a range of source and application, therefore not restricted in terms of person and a general application would be reasonable to suppose rather than a close, specific focus to something individualistic.

The Speciality

What is especial about 'Gittith-type' singing will be seen in what is known of Gath in scripture : the type of inhabitants and the history : the capture and release of the ark, the sojourn of King David, and who comes out of Gath.

Gath is the environment of Philistines. It is that which took over the testimony of Israel and absorbed it into itself, leaving Israel destitute of that which made it particular. This trial had to be endured until Samuel was ready to be shown to Israel.

Then King David, in escaping from Saul, hoped to find respite in Gath. But it could not be, there was no place for him there, and he had to dribble in his beard and make himself like a mad man to escape with his life.

Yet out of Gath comes Ittai the Gittite - loyal and faithful and honest and true, who loves the King and will not leave him.

All this and more, for time fails to convey it all.

The Content

Psalm 8 is an expression of what God is to the whole earth. 'In all the earth'; 'what is man ?' ; 'all sheep and oxen' ; 'in all the earth'. He is God over all, excellent is his name, and humanity (it is not specified exactly how this shall be) shall have dominion and all shall be under his feet.

Psalm 81 catalogues God's dealings with Israel, all his goodness, yet the disappointment that they would not hearken. Even those who hated the Lord would have shown a submission, had they had the opportunity ; but not so Israel. Yet he would have fed them the finest.

Psalm 84 longs for the courts of the Lord, for the birds nest in the broken down altar, and where the fire of sacrifice should arise, they peacefully bring forth their young. But blessed is he in whose heart (if not in outward reality) are God's ways. They go from strength to strength, increasing. Even one day, when it arrives, is better than a thousand, if spent in the courts of the Lord.

The whole earth, Israel and its failure, the captive people.

In this varied pilgrimage, rises a song, from a melodious heart despite its restrictions. Hope looks, love yearns and patience endures.


(To the Chief Musican, upon my stringed instruments.)

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