Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary
The two forms חגג (hgg) and חוג (hwg) are obviously related in form and meaning:
The root-verb חגג (hagag) describes a gathering up of people in order to celebrate or hold a feast, specifically any of the three main pilgrimage feasts that Israel was to celebrate (Exodus 23:14-16). These feasts were huge affairs that caused the entire daily economy to cease for many days and pretty much the whole population to be on the move; this to the great delight of the Israelites but much to the chagrin and bewilderment of the various occupying forces (who had trouble enough with the Hebrew insistence on a whole day off per every seven). The three main feasts were:
- The Feast of Unleavened Bread, better known as Pesah or Passover. This feast was held at the beginning of the agricultural year.
- The Feast of the Ingathering of First Fruits. This feast was held at the beginning of the productive season.
- The Feast of the Harvest, to be held when the harvest was done.
Our verb may also denote festive behavior as if one was at a feast (1 Samuel 30:16). The Arabic equivalent means "to betake oneself to or towards an object of reverence" (says BDB Theological Dictionary) and this verb returns in the prescribed pilgrimage to Mecca: the Hadj.
In Psalm 107:27 our verb is used in the meaning of to reel; to whirl around. Since the object of the verb is sailors in a storm, the connection to festive swirling may not seem very clear. Here at Abarim Publications we surmise that our verb deals with the same kind of circular and symbiotic dependency as does the verb זבח (zabah), meaning to sacrifice. The action of the verb then describes the transition from a large and slow circular motion to a concentrated, small and fast one; the large circular motion would constitute life in its daily symbiotic synchronicity, whereas the smaller, faster one would result from people gathered for their feast.
This verb demonstrates that feasts and storms form virtually in the same way and for the same reason: to alleviate tension and release energy.
Note that the verb חול (hul I), which means to whirl, reflects dancing as much as writhing in agony or shuddering in fear.
This root yields one, maybe two derivatives:
- The masculine noun חג (hag) means feast or festival gathering, with the same scope as the verb (Exodus 23:14, Judges 21:19, 1 Kings 12:32).
- The feminine noun חגא (haga), meaning a reeling. It's a curious word which is spelled like the Aramaic equivalent of an unused Hebrew word חגה (haga); the feminine version of חג (hag). This noun is used only once, in Isaiah 19:17, and HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament declares "derivative from hagag unsure". But since Aramaic elements of the Bible are all late, it may reflect the modern usage that also appears in Psalm 107.
The root-verb חוג (hug) means to draw round or make a circle, and appears to be closely related to the secondary (or perhaps primary) meaning of our previous verb. It occurs only in Job 26:10, where God is said to have drawn a circle on the surface of the waters. Many commentators take this to denote the horizon, but here at Abarim Publications we're pretty sure from the textual context and the relation to the previous verb that the hydrologic cycle is meant. Its derivations are:
- The masculine noun חג (hug), meaning circle or circuit. It's used a mere three times, twice to denote the hydrologic cycle (Job 22:14, Proverbs 8:27) and once to describe the "cycle of the earth," which appears to denote the more fundamental thermodynamic cycle (Isaiah 40:22).
- The feminine noun מחוגה (mehuga), meaning compass or an instrument for circle-drawing. It's used only once, in Isaiah 44:13.