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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Nehiloth

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Nehiloth

(Heb. Nechiloth', נְחַילוֹת, with the art. the plur. of נְחַילָה, which, however, is not found), occurs only in the title of Psalms 5, where the A.V. renders "upon Nehiloth" (אֶלאּהִנְּחַילוֹת ). The Sept., Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion translate ὑπέρ τῆς κληρονομούσης , and the Vulgate, "pro ea quae haereditatent consequitur," by which Augustine understands the Church. The origin of their error was a mistaken etymology, by which Nehiloth is derived from נָחִל , nachdl, "to inherit." Hengstenberg maintains that the title with this derivation has a mystical or spiritual meaning, "for the inheritance," or "upon the lots," i.e., of the righteous and the wicked. Other etymologies have been proposed which are equally unsound.

In Chaldee נְחַיל, nechil, signifies "a swarm of bees." and hence Jarchi attributes to Nehiloth the notion of multitude, the psalm being sung by the whole people of Israel. R. Hai, quoted by Kimchi, adopting the same origin for the word, explains it as an instrument, the sound of which was like the hum of bees, a wind instrument, according to Sonntag (De tit. Psalm page 430), which had a rough tone. Michaelis (Suppl. ad Lex. Heb. page 1629) suggests, with not unreasonable timidity, that the root is to be found in the Arab. nachala, "to winnow," and hence to separate and select the better part, indicating that the psalm, in the title of which Nehiloth occurs, was " an ode to be chanted by the purified and better portion of the people." It is most likely, as Gesenius and others explain, that it is derived (instead of נְחַלֹּת ) from the root חָלִל , chalal, "to bore, perforate," whence חָלַיל, chall, a flute or pipe (1 Samuel 10:5; 1 Kings 1:40), so that Nehiloth is the general term for perforated wind-instruments of all kinds, as Neginoth denotes all manner of stringed instruments. The title of Psalms 5 is therefore addressed to the conductor of the Temple choir who played upon flutes and the like, and these are directly alluded to in Psalms 87:7, where ( חֹלַים, cholelim) "the players upon instruments" who are associated with the singers are properly "pipers" or "flute-players." SEE FLUTE. Others, like Aben-Ezra among rabbinical commentators, and Hitzig among living scholars, understand it to be the name of an air to which the psalm was sung, "after, or according to, the inheritance." Furst suggests that Nehiloth was a musical choir, having their chief seat at a town which bore a cognate name, perhaps Hilen (1 Chronicles 6:58; comp. his explanation of Neginoth). The use of the preposition אֵל in this connection does not justify the rendering "upon," but requires us to understand that the psalm under consideration was to be chanted in imitation or in the style of (a la) the air or musical instrument in question. SEE PSALMS.

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Nehiloth'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/n/nehiloth.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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