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VIOL (, lit. "skin"):

Musical instrument; next to the "kinnor," it was the one most used by the Israelites. The Old Testament furnishes no description of it, and resort must therefore be had to conjectures regarding it. The viol is commonly identified with the santir (corresponding to the "pesanṭer" [= ψαλτήριον] of Dan. iii. 5), an instrument which is in use among the Arabs at the present time. The santir consists of a low, oblong box with a flat bottom and a somewhat convex sounding-board, over which the strings are stretched. The player sits on the ground, or on a low stool, and holds the viol in his lap.

A similar instrument is represented in a picture found in the palace of Kuyunjik, which shows a band of musicians, both men and women, who are followed by other women singing or beating time with their hands as they go to greet the returning conqueror, Assurbanipal. One of these musicians, with a plectrum in his right hand, plays an instrument consisting of a hollow box with strings stretched over it. Whether the left hand likewise plucks the strings (as is most probable), or presses them down to gain the desired pitch, is not clear. The name "nebel" would be very appropriate for such an instrument, with reference either to the convex shape of the sounding-board, or to the fact that the sounding-board consisted of animal membrane. The term "pi ha-nebel" in Amos vi. 5 would suggest the opening in the sounding-board across which the strings are stretched. Riehm, however, prefers to associate this term with the portable, many-stringed harp which is represented, on the picture at Kuyunjik, as having its sounding-box placed on the broad, upward-slanting upper portion of the frame. Yet Riehm himself points out that the shape of the Jewish nebel must have been somewhat different; for under any other hypothesis the name of this instrument becomes inexplicable. How many strings ("minnim") the instrument generally had is unknown. The "nebel 'asor" mentioned in Ps. xxxiii. 2 was probably different from the ordinary nebel; otherwise the additional word "'asor" is superfluous. The instrument of later times is known to have had twelve strings (comp. Josephus, "Ant." vii. 12, § 3).

E. G. H. W. N.
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