432. The Psaltery

Psalm 33:2; 1 Samuel 10:5; 2 Samuel 6:5; 1 Kings 10:12; 1 Chronicles 13:8; 1 Chronicles 15:16; 1 Chronicles 16:5; 1 Chronicles 25:1; Psalm 92:3; Psalm 144:9; Isaiah 5:12; Isaiah 14:11; Amos 5:23; Amos 6:5
These two instruments, the “psaltery” and “the instrument of ten strings” (see also Psa. 92:3; 144:93Upon an instrument of ten strings, and upon the psaltery; upon the harp with a solemn sound. (Psalm 92:3)
9I will sing a new song unto thee, O God: upon a psaltery and an instrument of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee. (Psalm 144:9)
) are supposed to have been the same, the one term being used to explain the other. The shape of the nebel, or psaltery, is unknown. Some suppose it to have been like an inverted Delta, Δ Others, from the name, imagine that it was shaped like a leathern bottle, the word nebel having that signification. A skin bottle inverted and an inverted Delta would in general shape be similar, so that both ideas may be correct. Others think that it was shaped somewhat like a guitar, and that it resembled that instrument in its general style. Josephus says, “The psaltery had twelve musical notes, and was played upon by the fingers” (Antiquities, Book 7, chap. 12, § 3). These twelve “notes” are supposed to have been represented by twelve strings, whereas the texts above cited speak of but ten. It may be that the number differed in different varieties of the instrument. If we suppose these varieties to have been designated by the number of their strings, we may find the reason for the explanatory clause of the Psalmist, the kind of psaltery to which he specially refers being the one known as “the ten-stringed.” The strings, whatever their number, were stretched over a wooden frame (2 Sam. 6:55And David and all the house of Israel played before the Lord on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals. (2 Samuel 6:5); 1 Kings 10:1212And the king made of the almug trees pillars for the house of the Lord, and for the king's house, harps also and psalteries for singers: there came no such almug trees, nor were seen unto this day. (1 Kings 10:12)).
When the nebel was invented and when it came into use among the Hebrews is unknown. It is first mentioned in connection with the inauguration of King Saul. When the company of young prophets met him, shortly after Samuel had anointed him, one of the instruments on which they played was the nebel (1 Sam. 10:55After that thou shalt come to the hill of God, where is the garrison of the Philistines: and it shall come to pass, when thou art come thither to the city, that thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp, before them; and they shall prophesy: (1 Samuel 10:5)). It was used in Divine worship. See 2 Samuel 6:55And David and all the house of Israel played before the Lord on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals. (2 Samuel 6:5); 1 Chronicles 13:8; 15:168And David and all Israel played before God with all their might, and with singing, and with harps, and with psalteries, and with timbrels, and with cymbals, and with trumpets. (1 Chronicles 13:8)
16And David spake to the chief of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers with instruments of music, psalteries and harps and cymbals, sounding, by lifting up the voice with joy. (1 Chronicles 15:16)
; 16:5; 25:1; Amos 5:2323Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. (Amos 5:23). It was also used on festive occasions. See Isaiah 5:12; 14:1112And the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine, are in their feasts: but they regard not the work of the Lord, neither consider the operation of his hands. (Isaiah 5:12)
11Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee. (Isaiah 14:11)
; Amos 6:55That chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of music, like David; (Amos 6:5). (In these last passages and in Amos 5:2323Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. (Amos 5:23), nebel is rendered viol in our English version.) From 1 Chronicles 13:8; 15:168And David and all Israel played before God with all their might, and with singing, and with harps, and with psalteries, and with timbrels, and with cymbals, and with trumpets. (1 Chronicles 13:8)
16And David spake to the chief of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers with instruments of music, psalteries and harps and cymbals, sounding, by lifting up the voice with joy. (1 Chronicles 15:16)
and Amos 5:2323Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. (Amos 5:23), it appears that the nebel was used to accompany the voice.