Higgaion: A Note We All Need March 17, 2023

Higgaion, Psalms, Hebrew word study

Unlike my wife, I do not read music. Though the notes on the page mean little to me, I know a good note or a bad note when I hear it! As you open the Hebrew Hymnal, known as the Psalms, there are certain notes that are very definitely sounded. We do not know the tune the psalms were written in, but we most certainly know the tone.

This week as I was reading devotionally in Psalm 9 I came to a word that I did not know. As I studied more about this rare word I discovered that this word is actually a note all of us need to hear. Listen to David’s song…

The LORD is known by the judgment which he executeth: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. Higgaion. Selah” (Psalm 9:16).

It is a strange word, found only once in our copy of Scripture. But, what does it mean? And what could be its message to us?

In fact, the same Hebrew word is found three other places in the Word of God. In Psalm 19:14 it is the word “meditation.” Psalm 92:3 refers to it as “a solemn sound.” And Lamentations 3:62 speaks of it as a “device.” By comparing Scripture with Scripture we come to a better understanding:

  • Higgaion is a meditation. When David uses it in Psalm 19:14 it is “the meditation of my heart” – the higgaion of the heart. What a deep well the secret thoughts of our hearts. Only God knows. The first time it is used in Psalms 9:16 the word Selah follows it – a double pause for meditation!
  • Higgaion is a meditation that is to be expressed. What is in our hearts comes out as a “solemn sound.” Here it is connected to worship – joyful and serious!
  • Higgaion is a meditation that is to be expressed, and a means of conveying those thoughts to others. In Jeremiah’s case in Lamentations that mediation was the whisper and accusation of the enemy being used against him. If we turn it around, it could also be a “device” for us to use against our enemy in the spiritual battles of life.

Let’s return to the first mention of Higgaion in Psalm 9:16. One word from the Word often opens to us great spiritual truth for our daily lives.

  1. Higgaion is a meditation. Sometimes you just need to stop and think. Consider. And be very careful what you think about! The verse is really a summary of the entire Psalm. We are called on to think about two great extremes: “the LORD” and “the wicked.” God always has the last say and the wicked are always judged in the end. In a world filled with injustice and inequity, for people facing persecution and accusation, this is a much needed reminder! Think on these things. Higgaion.
  2. Higgaion is a murmuring. There are two Hebrew words for meditation. One means to muse and the other to murmur. The first is easy to understand. It is the opposite of amuse. Amusement is a distraction that requires little thinking, but musing is an intentional concentration on something. We have to use our heads! The second word is unique and unexpected because we typically think of murmuring in the negative, but it depends on what you are saying. We all talk to ourselves at times, and it matters what you say to yourself! We are to speak truth, to rehearse God’s promises. As we talk about Him we think more deeply on Him. Remind yourself of what you know to be true from God’s Word. Higgaion.
  3. Higgaion is a musical pause. In the Psalms, it is believed that this word is used as an interlude, a pause in the music for reflection. Some believe it is actually the murmuring tone of the harp as it is being played. In other words, the mediation is a song! Few things are more influential in a person’s thought life than the music they listen to. Songs are powerful conveyors of truth (or lies). Choose your music carefully. Carry a song in your heart and on your lips through the day to help you remember some great truth about God. Music is a tremendous teacher and an amazing memory device. I have a friend who selects a hymn every day to sing, to think on, and to share. Perhaps it would do us all well to use a song throughout each day as a means of keeping our thoughts on Christ. Higgaion.

So choose a Scripture, choose a truth, choose a song today! Meditate on it. Talk about it. Sing it. It will be good for you and for those around you. This is a note we all need.


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  1. Erin Poff on March 17, 2023 at 11:57 PM

    Thank you for this encouragement to focus, rehearse His truth throughout the day, and sing! Amen!

    • scottpauley on March 20, 2023 at 10:58 AM

      God bless you!

  2. Jonathan Stewart on March 19, 2023 at 6:01 AM

    What an interesting word. Thank you for helping make it so practical and applicable to us as believers. God continue to bless you and your team.

    • scottpauley on March 20, 2023 at 10:58 AM

      We really appreciate it!

  3. Randy Engesetter on March 19, 2023 at 9:15 AM

    Am enjoying your devotional thoughts. Thank you for sharing this with me. Reminds me of Philippians 4:6-8!

    • scottpauley on March 20, 2023 at 10:58 AM

      Thank you sir.

  4. Jamie on October 10, 2023 at 4:24 PM

    Fantastic stuff. I stumbled in this article after Googling the word, and it was simply a breath of fresh air. Thank you for this wonderful little piece of research and the devotional to accompany it. God bless you! Higgaion.

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