TIMBREL or TABRET:
Musical instrument. In the Hebrew music of Old Testament times, as indeed in Oriental music to-day, rhythm was of much greater importance, in comparison with the melody, than it is in modern Occidental music. Accordingly instruments like the drum and tambourine, which serve principally to accentuate the rhythm, played the greatest part. The most ancient means of marking rhythm was the clapping of hands, a method which is still employed. Among the instruments of percussion, the timbrel or hand-drum ("tof") is the oldest and most popular. It is very simple, consisting of a broad or narrow hoop of wood or metal over which the skin of an animal is stretched. Sometimes small, thin pieces of metal are hung upon the rim, which jingle when the timbrel is shaken, as in the modern tambourine. The instrument is held high in one hand, while the performer beats on the drumhead with the fingers and the back of the other hand. The form of the instrument is similar to that of the modern tambourine, as is also the manner of playing on it.
The Egyptians and the Assyrians possessed this instrument. The pictures of the former show it only in the hands of women; among the Assyrians it was played by men also. Among the Hebrews it was usually played by women, as an accompaniment to joyful dancing (Judges xi. 34; I Sam. xviii. 6; Jer. xxxi. 4) and to songs (Gen. xxxi. 27; Ex. xv. 20; I Sam. xviii. 6). The timbrel is an instrument which in its whole character is inappropriate for mournful occasions, being in keeping only with cheerful songs and games, such as accompany weddings (I Mace. ix. 39), popular rejoicings (e.g., the reception of a victorious general; I Sam. xviii. 6 et seq.), banquets (Isa. v. 12), and religious festivals of a joyful and popular character (Ex. xv. 20; Ps. lxxxi. 2). It is more rarely found in the hands of men. All the prophets who speak at length of music refer to the hand-drum (I Sam. x. 5).
The tambourine apparently had no place in the Temple service, however; at least in the enumeration of the instruments of the Temple orchestra (II Chron. v. 12 et seq.) only the cymbals are mentioned among the instruments of percussion.