Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary
The two roots שגג (shagag) and שגה (shaga) are officially separate but a reader may wonder whether the ancient practitioners of the Hebrew language were aware of this. Both root-verbs mean to go astray or to err, and the applications are only slightly specialized per root.
Note that these two roots occur side by side in Job 12:16, "With him are strength and sound wisdom, the misled — from שגג (shagag) — and the misleader — from שגה (shaga) — belong to him":
As verb this root occurs only four times - in Leviticus 5:18 and Numbers 15:28 it's tied into the word meaning "unintentionally". Psalm 119:67 speaks of a going astray that was rectified by getting subsequently afflicted (or an affliction contracted from going astray), and Job 12:16 speaks of the misled and the misleader - but the derived noun שגגה (shegaga) occurs more frequently.
Originally this noun must have meant something like an error or deviation, but in the Bible it's one of the words for sin, occurring nineteen times. The principle word for sin is חטא (het), which occurs thirty five times. But the root of the latter, חטא (hata), meaning to miss or miss the way, is used about 580 times. That means that in the Bible the concept of sin was seen as missing the point or missing your purpose, much rather than deviating from an ethical or moral standard, or making a blunder of some sort.
As with its twin, the emphasis of the root-verb שגה (shaga) is on sin done inadvertently. Interesting are Scriptures' instructions on how this state of unrealized sin comes about:
- Through wine and strong drink (Isaiah 28:7, Proverbs 20:1).
- Through seductive women as opposed to one's loving wife (Proverbs 5:23).
- Through ceasing to pay heed to discipline (Proverbs 19:27).
This verb yields two derivatives:
- The feminine noun שגיאה (shegia), meaning error (Psalm 19:13).
- The masculine noun משגה (mishgeh), meaning mistake. This word lies at the hart of the Yiddish word mesjogge, which is used to mean mistake or being crazy. In the Bible it occurs only in Genesis 43:12.