Reproduction by permission of the Palestine Exploration Fund

A musician shoulders a harp as he marches behind a flutist in a third-century B.C. fresco from a burial cave at Mareshah, in south central Israel. Similar harps appear frequently in ancient reliefs and paintings, but this type of handheld harp has long since disappeared, evolving into the large, standing instrument we know today. Although the King James translators mistakenly rendered the Aramaic word sabk as “sackbut,” a kind of trombone—probably because the names sound alike—author Mitchell suggests that sabk, like the Greek sambukeµ (a hand-carried stringed instrument), may refer to a similar small harp.