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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Shiggaion

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(Heb. Shiggayon', ]שְׁגָּיוֹ; Sept. ψαλμός; Vulg. Psalmus [Psalms 7:1]), a particular kind of psalm, the specific character of which is not now known. In the singular, number the word occurs nowhere in Hebrew except in the inscription of the above psalm; and there seems to be nothing peculiar in that psalm to distinguish it from numerous others, in which the author gives utterance to his feelings against his enemies and implores the assistance, of Jehovah against them, so that the contents of the psalm justify no conclusive inference as to the meaning of the word. In the inscription to the ode of the prophet Habakkuk (Habakkuk 3:1), the word occurs in the plural number; but the phrase in which it stands, al shigyonoth is deemed almost unanimously, as it would seem, by modern Hebrew scholars, to mean "after the manner of the shiggaion, and to be merely a direction as to the kind of musical measures by which the ode was to be accompanied. This being so, the ode is no real help in ascertaining the meaning of shiggaion; for the ode itself is, not so called, though it is directed to be sung according to the measures of the shiggaion. Indeed, if it were called a shiggaion, the difficulty would not be diminished; for, independently of the inscription, no one would have ever thought that the ode and the psalm belonged to the same species of sacred poem.

And even since their possible similarity has been suggested, no one has definitely pointed out in what that similarity consists, so as to justify a distinct classification. In this state of uncertainty, it is natural to endeavor to form a conjecture as to the meaning of shiggaion from its etymology; but, unfortunately, there are no less than three rival etymologies, each with plausible claims to attention. Gesenius and Furst (s.v.) concur in deriving it from שַׁגָּה (the Piel of שָׁנָה ), in the sense of magnifying or extolling with praises; and they justify, this derivation by kindred Syriac words. Shiggaion would thus mean a hymn or psalm; but its specific, meaning, if it have any, as applicable to Psalms 2, would continue unknown: Ewald (Die poetischen Bucher des alten Bundes, 1, 29), Rodiger (s.v. in his continuation of Gesenius's Thesaurus), and Delitzsch (Commentar uber den Psalter, 1, 51), derive it from שָׁגָה, in the sense of reeling, as from wine, and consider the word to be somewhat equivalent to a dithyrambus; while De Wette (Die Psalmen, p. 34), Lee (s.v.), and Hitzig (Die zwolf kleinen Propheten, p. 26) interpret the word as a psalm of lamentation, or a psalm in distress, as derived from Arabic. Hupfeld, on the other hand (Die Psalmen, 1, 109, 199), conjectures that shiggaion is identical with higgaion (Psalms 9:16), in the sense of poem or song, from הגה, to meditate or compose; but even then no information would be conveyed as to the specific nature of the poem.

As to the inscription of Habakkuk's ode, עִל שַׁגְיֹנוֹת, the translation of the Sept. is μετὰ ᾠδ ης, which conveys no definite meaning. The Vulgate translates pro ignorantiis, as if the word had been shegagoth, transgressions through ignorance (Leviticus 4:2; Leviticus 4:27; Numbers 15:27, Ecclesiastes 5:6), or shegioth (Psalms 19:13), which seems to have nearly the same meaning. Perhaps the Vulgate was influenced by the Targum of Jonathan, where shigyonoth seems to be translated כשלותא . In the A.V. of Habakkuk 3:1, the. rendering is "upon shigionoth," as if shigionoth were some musical instrument. But under such circumstances al (על ) must not be translated "upon" in the sense of playing upon an instrument. Of this use there is not a single undoubted example in prose, although, playing on musical instruments is frequently referred to and in poetry, although there is one passage (Psalms 92:3) where the word might be so translated, it might equally well be rendered there "to the accompaniment of" the musical instruments therein specefied; and this translation is preferable. Some writers even doubt whether al signifies "upon" when preceding the supposed musical instruments Gittith, Machalath, Neginath, Nechiloth, Shushan, Shoshannim (Psalms 8:1; Psalms 81:1; Psalms 84:1; Psalms 53:1; Psalms 88:1; Psalms 56:1; Psalms 5:1; Psalms 55:1; Psalms 45:1; Psalms 69:1; Psalms 80:1). Indeed, all these words as regarded by Ewald (Poet. Buch. 1, 77) as meaning musical keys, and by Furst (s.v.) as meaning musical bands. Whatever may be thought of the proposed substitutes, it is very singular, if those six words signify musical instruments, that not one of them should be mentioned elsewhere in the whole Bible. (See PSALMS).

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

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