A composition, lyrical or musical, expressing deep sorrow, such as the grief occasioned by the death of a friend or loved one; an elegy. In the New World Translation the rendering “dirge” usually is from the Hebrew word qi·nahʹ, which denotes a mournful composition, an elegy, or a lamentation.
The Hebrew term shig·ga·yohnʹ in the superscription of Psalm 7 is also translated “dirge” and may denote a highly emotional song with rapid changes of rhythm. (NW ftn) A plural form of the Hebrew word appears in Habakkuk 3:1, where it is rendered “dirges.” Because of their nature, dirges are associated with moaning and wailing (Eze 2:10), and at least some of them were written down and preserved. Second Chronicles 35:25 reports that Jeremiah chanted over deceased King Josiah and indicates that there once existed a collection of dirges (Heb., qi·nohthʹ), for it is there stated: “All the male singers and female singers keep talking about Josiah in their dirges down till today; and they have them set as a regulation over Israel, and there they are written among the dirges.”
Dirges are linked with mourning, as when Jehovah told unfaithful Israel: “I will turn your festivals into mourning and all your songs into a dirge.” (Am 8:10) Hence, taking up a dirge signified intoning an elegy, or mournful composition, perhaps one denoting rejection by Jehovah or contrasting earlier favorable circumstances with a later unhappy situation. (Jer 7:29; Eze 19:1-14) A dirge would be chanted, often by women.—Eze 27:32; Jer 9:20.
Some dirges were of the historical type, being composed after an event, such as the death of a cherished acquaintance. An example of this kind is the dirge David chanted in sorrow over Saul and Jonathan, who had fallen in death upon Mount Gilboa during warfare with the Philistines. (2Sa 1:17-27; 1Sa 31:8) King David also chanted over Abner after that one’s burial. (2Sa 3:31-34) While dirges relating to a person’s death may have been composed partly to afford some consolation to survivors, among faithful servants of God these were not for the purpose of glorifying the deceased.—Ec 9:5, 10.
The book of Lamentations is a dirge written by Jeremiah after the destruction of Jerusalem at Babylonian hands in 607 B.C.E. While it expresses grief over that desolation, it also reflects faith and hope in Jehovah; and the fifth chapter opens with an appeal to God to remember his people who had become “mere orphans without a father.”—La 3:22-27; 5:1-3; see LAMENTATIONS, BOOK OF.
Some Biblically recorded dirges are prophetic and graphically portray coming calamity, sometimes as though it had already been accomplished. Prophetic dirges were raised up against Tyre and its king (Eze 26:17; 27:1, 2; 28:11-19), as well as against Pharaoh and Egypt. (Eze 32:2-16) The raising up of a dirge over Judah and Jerusalem is mentioned in connection with their desolation.—Jer 9:9-11.