Q: #449. What does the word "shiggaion" mean in the title to Psalm 7 (or "shigionoth" in Hab 3:1)?
A: No one actually knows for sure what the Hebrew word shiggaion means in the title to Psalm 7, nor the plural of it (“shigionoth“) in (Hab 3:1). This being the case, there are a number of logical guesses as to the meaning.
The words that follow in the title to Psalm 7 “which he sang,” make it seem like it has something to do with a song. In (Hab 3:1), it says, “A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet upon Shigionoth.” If you look at the end of (Hab 3:1), you find the words “To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.” So, putting these together, perhaps we have a prayer that was sung. What kind of “prayer / song?” Let me quote some classic sources for definitions.
Smith’s Bible Dictionary: perhaps a “wild, mournful ode”
Hitchcock Dictionary: a song of trouble or comfort
Easton’s Bible Dictionary: denotes a lyrical poem composed under strong mental emotion; a song of impassioned imagination accompanied with suitable music; a dithyrambic ode
(Dithyramb = 1: a usu. short poem in an inspired wild irregular strain 2: a statement or writing in an exalted or enthusiastic vein – Webster’s Dictoinary)
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Derived from a verb meaning “to wander,” it is generally taken to mean a dithyramb, or rhapsody
Holman’s Bible Dictionary: Suggested translations include, “frenzied” or “emotional”
The NKJV Bible replaces the word “shiggaion” with the word “meditation.”
These words are used nowhere else in the Old Testament. Again, their meaning is uncertain.