The Nevel (Membrane Lyre)
BIBLICAL INSTRUMENT SERIES
10 String Nevel Conception
Round body design - Square body design
Similar to N'velah, meaning carcass or body. Named as such because of the skin membrane. Note: Some have interpreted "Nevel" as "Skin bottle and given some credit to this - there appear that there may have been some Nevels made of clay with a skin involved in sound reproduction of some manner.
What is a Nevel?
Translated Psaltery in the English bible translations, the Nevel has a vessel type body with strings arranged most likely horizontally across the surface like a guitar or banjo.
The Nevel Asor (10 stringed variety, Psalm 144:9) was popular however not all Nevels had 10 strings.
Nevels can have round or square bodies.
Nevels may have evolved to hard bodies in later time. The "Silver Lyre" from Ur shows a bulls head and with close examination it indicates the attachment of a a leather skin. I think that the Bulls Head on the instrument celebrates that the sound is influenced by the skin of the bull. This practice is still followed today by bagpipes having goats heads on the chanter due to the bag of the instrument being made of goat skin.
Where is the Nevel mentioned in the bible?
1st Samuel 10:5, 2nd Samuel 6:5, 2nd Kings 10:12, 1st Chronicles 13:8, 15:16, 15:20, 15:28, 25:1, 25:6
2nd Chronicles 5:12, 9:11, 20:28, 29:25, Nehemiah 12:27
Psalm 33:2, 57:8, 81:2, 92:3, 108:2, 144:9, 150:3
Isaiah 5:12, 14:11, Amos 6:5, 5:23
There were other types of Harps used in Davidic worship:
The Kinnor (Davidic Harp) was used extensively in worship. There were other forms of harps and stringed instruments that are still being researched.
So why does some literature compare the Nevel to the Triangular Harp?
The common Triangular harp was been connected with the Nevel and Kinnor in much early Christian and some Jewish literature. However, this is a myth. The association of the Triangular Harp and the Nevel were put in place about two thousands years after the Psalms of David were written. This misconception has caused numerous pieces of European artwork to put the Triangular harp in David's hands rather than the real Nevel or Kinnor. (The Kinnor was probably David's favorite, based on the usage).
Note: "Triangular Harp" is referring to the classic harp of Ireland (and other countries) and depicted much in European literature
Some scholars today are beginning to speak on these findings. A good example is this write-up at Harpa.com. Note, many people associate the term harp where a lyre should be used. A harp is defined as having strings arranged perpendicular to the instrument body. A lyre has the strings arranged in a parallel fashion. Lyres are actually far more common in ancient cultures than harps.
My conception drawing of the biblical Nevel is based on several sources of information. The music instruments of nearby cultures in that period, the word study on Nevel, similar music instruments of recent history in the Middle East and Africa.
The 2nd picture below is a 10-string modern Nevel design. I have also recently built a more squarish design - the sound box cover is painted mylar instead of leather, it is quite loud. My Nevel is left-handed, since I am left-handed – the bridge would tilt the other direction for right-handed musicians.
Note: After much consideration, I am convinced that tuning on ancient biblical instruments are likely the same modes handed down through chazanut (cantorial music). Many have suggested ideas on tuning, but too often the ideas are approached with a western music thinking mind.
For further interpretations on biblical lyres, see this other biblical instruments site:
Additional suggestions, links may be submitted to the E-MAIL listed.
Updated: Daniel Bingamon 05/12/2005