Viol the rendering in the A.V. at Am 5:23; Am 6:5, of the Heb. נֶבֶל, nebel, which is elsewhere rendered "psaltery." It is a musical instrument, used chiefly in worship (1Ki 10:12; 1Ch 15:16; 1Ch 25:1; 2Ch 5:12; 2Ch 29:25; Mishna, Succoth, 10:4), but also in worldly festivals and banquets (2Ch 20:28; Isa 5:12; Isa 14:11), and is hence often connected with chinnor', כַּנּוֹר, the harp or cithara (Ps 71:22; Ps 108:2; Ps 150:3). It passed from the East to the Greeks, and they retained the name nábla, νάβλα; Lat. nablium (Ovid, Ars Amat. 3, 327; comp. Athen. 4:175; Strabo, 10:471). The original form of the instrument is uncertain; it was not, however, a proper harp, but more like the cithara, which, as Josephus says (Ant. 7:12, 3), had twelve strings, and was played by the hand. But the expression נֶבֶל עָשׂוֹר, nebel asôr, a nebel or "instrument of ten strings," in Psalm 33:2; 154:9, seems to make against this view, if we render it thus, with the Sept. (δεκάχορδον), and the number of strings may anciently have been fewer, or even varying. From another meaning of nebel, leather bottle or sack, some understand the instrument pictured by Niebuhr (Taf. 26; see Pfeiffer, p. 23), but this is more probably the kinnôr, בַּנּוֹר. If Augustine was right (on Ps 31; Ps 26), cithai'a and psalterium (nablium) differed in this: that the latter had the sounding-box, to which the strings were fastened, on the upper side; and accordingly Cassiodorus and Isidorus (Orig. 3, 75) compared it to an inverted Δ, so that the instrument resembled a vessel enlarging upwards. Such instruments are seen sometimes on Egyptian monuments (Wilkinson, 2, 280, 282, 287). On the other hand, the form of the most ancient cithara compared by Thenius (Sachs. exeget. Stud. 1, 100 sq.) has but a remote resemblance. Cases for the nebelare mentioned in the Mishna (Chelim, 16:7). SEE PSALTERY.
The old English viol, like the Spanish viguela, was a six-stringed guitar. Mr. Chappell (Pop. Mus. 1246) says "the position of the fingers was marked on the finger-board by frets, as in guitars of the present day. The 'chest of viols' consisted of three, four, five, or six of different sizes; one for the treble, others for the mean, the counter-tenor, the tenor, and perhaps two for the bass." Etymologically, viol is connected with the Dan. Fiol and the A.-S. fioele, through the Fr. viole, Old Fr. vielle, Med. Lat. vitella. In the Promptoriun Parvulorumi we find "Fyvele, viella, fidicina, vitella." Again, in North's Plutarch (Antonius, p. 980, ed. 1595), there is a description of Cleopatra's barge, "the pope whereof was of gold, the sailes of purple, and the owers of silver, which kept stroke in rowing after the sound of the musicke of flutes, howboyes, cytherns, volls, and such other instruments as they played upon in the barge." SEE MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS.