Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary
The verb חגב (hagab) isn't used in the Bible, so we don't know what it might have meant. A comparable verb in Arabic means to cover or conceal and a comparable noun in Syriac describes a shrine, or that which conceals. The sole extant derivation of this root in Hebrew is the noun חגב (hagab), meaning grasshopper:
The noun חגב (hagab) means grasshopper — perhaps one that covers the land and conceals all crop, or perhaps as a reference to some veneration of the grasshopper as holy animal in adjacent cultures. Our noun occurs a mere half a dozen times in the Bible. The much more common locust was described by the noun ארבה (arbeh), from the verb רבב (rabab), to be or become many or much or great, hence too the familiar Greek term ραββι (rabbi), meaning Rabbi. But note that the wings of angels (and birds too, probably) didn't so much give them the power of flight but much rather the power of protection (see this explained in our article on the noun αγγελος, aggelos, angel). That suggests that the noun חגב (hagab) indeed initially described a kind of protecting agent — whose agency, like that of the Rabbi, was primarily that of protecting the populace: like the "shepherd" whose job it was to keep watch over the flocks by night (compare Ezra 7:25 to Matthew 2:1 and Luke 2:8) — and only secondarily came to denote the insect.
The חגב (hagab), or grasshopper, is listed among the kosher insects and was allowed to be eaten (Leviticus 11:22). But more so, the grasshopper signified the lasting cycles of nature (Ecclesiastes 12:5), but one which came in huge numbers and ate everything (2 Chronicles 7:13).
When the spies saw the Nephilim, they felt like grasshoppers (Numbers 13:33; compare Isaiah 40:22), and although a significant difference in size is implied, the grasshopper is used in juxtaposition to the word מדה (midda), measurement ("men of measurement"; see 13:32), from the verb מדד (madad), to measure. That means that the grasshopper was the epitome of the unmeasured, or in modern terms, the not formalized: the "amateur" scholar, the natural mystic, the naive artist or the self-taught tinkerer (see our article on the Nethinim, the "laity" temple servants, as contrasted by the Cohanim, the formal priests).
This very same dynamic is played out when Peter and John were recognized as formally unlearned men by their formally educated audience (Acts 4:13), which appears to hail back to the original relationship between the stammering but naturally called Moses and his smooth-talking and wholly formalized brother Aaron (Exodus 4:10-17; compare Isaiah 28:11). An obviously similar dynamic occurs between the formally numbered 144,000 Israelites versus the "great multitude which no one could count" (Revelation 7:4 and 7:9).
Poets licensed with freedom and a sense of humor would possibly connect our verb חגב (hagab) with the formally unrelated verb עגב ('agab, see below), which describes a massive and collective desire, not unlike that native to swarms of grasshoppers and the enthused laity:
The verb עגב ('agab) means to have inordinate affection or lust (in the ever reserved terms of Brown, Driver and Briggs). But instead of a pivot in lascivity (as most commentators seem to detect), here at Abarim Publications we find that our verb rather talks about an uncritical descent into a collective spirit, with the obvious implication that such a spirit is often not a spirit of virtue and reason but rather one of wanton, lowered barriers and disgrace.
Our verb is curiously rather rare in the Hebrew Bible and occurs only in Jeremiah 4:30 (substantially: your "lovers") and in Ezekiel 23:5-20, which tells of the parable of the two lusty sisters. From this verb come:
- The noun עגב ('agab), meaning lust (only in Ezekiel 33:32, which speaks of a song of lust).
- The noun עגבה ('agaba), meaning lustfulness (Ezekiel 23:11 only, again in the parable of the two sisters).
- The noun עוגב ('ugab), which described a kind of flute or pipe, which is precisely the kind of instrument that was in the Greek arena ascribed to Pan (Genesis 4:21, Job 21:12, Psalm 150:4 only). As its uses in the Hebrew Bible demonstrate: of course one can use the flute in communal worship of the Lord, even though in pagan theatres this same sort of music may lead to ruin and emptiness. Note that the music of the flute comes from one's breath (and nouns רוח, ruah and πνευμα, pneuma both also mean spirit), whereas the music of the harp comes from one's hands and is rather a "work".