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Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [1]

1: ᾨδή (Strong'S #5603 — Noun Feminine — qde — o-day' )

"an ode, song," is always used in the NT (as in the Sept.), in praise of God or Christ; in  Ephesians 5:19;  Colossians 3:16 the adjective "spiritual" is added, because the word in itself is generic and might be used of songs anything but spiritual; in   Revelation 5:9;  14:3 (1st part) the descriptive word is "new" (kainos, "new," in reference to character and form: see NEW), a "song," the significance of which was confined to those mentioned (ver. 3, and 2nd part); in   Revelation 15:3 (twice), "the song of Moses ... and the song of the Lamb," the former as celebrating the deliverance of God's people by His power, the latter as celebrating redemption by atoning sacrifice.

King James Dictionary [2]

SONG, n.

1. In general, that which is sung or uttered with musical modulations of the voice, whether of the human voice or that of a bird. 2. A little poem to be sung, or uttered with musical modulations a ballad. The songs of a country are characteristic of its manners. Every country has its love songs, its war songs, and its patriotic songs. 3. A hymn a sacred poem or hymn to be sung either in joy or thanksgiving, as that sung by Moses and the Israelites after escaping the dangers of the Arabian gulf and of Pharaoh or of lamentation, as that of David over the death of Saul and Jonathan. Songs of joy are represented as constituting a part of heavenly felicity. 4. A lay a strain a poem. The bard that first adorn'd our native tongue, tun'd to his British lyre this ancient song. 5. Poetry poesy verse. This subject for heroic song pleas'd me. 6. Notes of birds. See Def. 1. 7. A mere trifle. The soldier's pay is a song. Old song, a trifle. I do not intend to be thus put off with an old song.

Webster's Dictionary [3]

(1): ( n.) A lyrical poem adapted to vocal music; a ballad.

(2): ( n.) Poetical composition; poetry; verse.

(3): ( n.) An object of derision; a laughingstock.

(4): ( n.) A trifle.

(5): ( n.) That which is sung or uttered with musical modulations of the voice, whether of a human being or of a bird, insect, etc.

(6): ( n.) More generally, any poetical strain; a poem.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [4]

( שׁיר , shı̄r , שירה , shı̄rāh ): Besides the great collection of sacred songs contained in the Psalter, as well as the lyric outbursts, marked by strong religious feeling, on great national occasions, it is natural to believe, and we have evidence to show, that the Hebrews possessed a large number of popular songs of a secular kind. Song of Songs (which see) of itself proves this. Probably the very oldest song or fragment of song in the Old Testament is that "To the well" (  Numbers 21:17 ).

W. R. Smith ( Religions of the Semites , 167) regards this invocation of the waters to rise as in its origin hardly a mere poetic figure. He compares what Cazwini 1,189, records of the well of Ilabistan  : "When the water failed, a feast was held at its source with music and dancing, to induce it to flow again." If, however, the song had its origin in an early form of religious belief, it must have been secularized later.

But it is in the headings of the Psalms that we find the most numerous traces of the popular songs of the Hebrews. Here there are a number of words and phrases which are now believed to be the names or initial words of such lyrics. In the King James Version they are prefaced with the prep. "on," in the Revised Version (British and American) with "set to," i.e. "to the tune of." We give a list: (1) Aijeleth Shahar the King James Version, the Revised Version (British and American) Aijeleth hash - shahar , 'ayyeleth ha - shaḥar . The title means (Revised Version, margin) "The hind of the morning," but whether the original song so named was a hunting song or a morning serenade it is useless to conjecture. See Hind Of The Morning . (2) Al - taschith (the King James Version), Al - tashheth (Revised Version), 'al - tashḥēth , i.e. "Destroy not,"   Psalm 57 through 59;   Psalm 75:1-10 , is apparently quoted in  Isaiah 65:8 , and in that case must refer to a vintage song. (3) Jonah elem rehokim or Yōnath'ēlem reḥoḳı̄m ( Psalm 56:1-13 ), the Revised Version margin "The silent dove of them that are afar off," or - with a slightly different reading - "The dove of the distant terebinths." (4) Maḥălath ( Psalm 53:1-6 ) and Maḥălath le‛annōth (Ps 88). Maḥălath may mean "sickness," and be the first word of a song. It might mean, on the other hand, a minor mode or rhythm. It has also been held to designate a musical instrument. (5) Mūthlabbēn (Ps 9) has given rise to many conjectures. Literally, it may mean "Die for the son," or "Death of the son." An ancient tradition referred the words to Goliath (death at the hand of the son (?), and they have been applied to the fate of Absalom. Such guesses need only be quoted to show their worthlessness. (6) Lastly, we have Shōshannı̄m = "Lilies" (Psalms 45; 69), Shūshan ‛Ēdhūth = "The lily of testimony" ( Psalm 60:1-12 ); and Shōshannı̄m ‛Ēdhūth = "Lilies, a testimony" (Ps 80), probably to be explained like the others.

The music to which these songs were sung is irretrievably lost, but it was, no doubt, very similar in character to that of the Arabs at the present day. While the music of the temple was probably much more elaborate, and of wider range, both in notes and expression of feeling, the popular song was almost certainly limited in compass to a very few notes repeated over and over in long recitations or ballads. This is characteristic of the performances of Arab minstrels of today. The melodies are plaintive, in spite of the majority of them being in major keys, owing to the 7th being flattened, as in genuine Scottish music. Arabic music, further, is marked by great variety and emphasis of rhythm, the various kinds of which have special names. See Spiritual Songs .

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [5]

(prop. שַׁיר , Shir, ( ᾨδή ) . Songs were generally used on occasions of thanksgiving and triumph, as the song of Moses at the deliverance from Pharaoh and his host ( Exodus 15:1); the song of Israel at the well of Beer ( Numbers 21:17); the song of Moses, in Deuteronomy (ch. 32); that of Deborah ( Judges 5:12); that of David on bringing up the ark ( 1 Chronicles 13:8); of Hannah (1 Samuel 2); of the Virgin ( Luke 1:46); of the four-and-twenty elders ( Revelation 5:8); of Moses and the Lamb ( Revelation 15:3). But a few also were sung on occasions of sorrow, such as that of David on Saul and Jonathan ( 2 Samuel 1:18, etc.); the Lamentations of Jeremiah, and the song he composed on the death of Josiah ( 2 Chronicles 35:25). It is said of Tyre, in  Ezekiel 26:13, as one mark of her desolation,

"I will cause the noise of thy songs to cease,

And the sound of thy harps shall be no more heard."

Songs and viols were the usual accompaniments of sacrifices among the Jews and heathens ( Amos 5:23).

"Sacrifica, dulces tibia effundat modos,

Et nivea magna victima ante aras cadat." (Senec. Troad. )

 Ecclesiastes 11:4, "And all the daughters of song shall be brought low," i.e. all the organs which perceive and distinguish musical sounds, and those also which form and modulate the voice; age producing incapacity of enjoyment, as old Barzillai remarks ( 2 Samuel 19:35); and as Juvenal notices, thus translated by Dryden:

"What music or enchantilg voice can cheer

A stupid, old, impenetrable ear?"

Psalms 68 describes the manner of Jewish musical festivities:

"The singers went before,

After came the players on instruments,

Between the damsels playing on timbrels."

In  Hosea 2:15 Singing implies the manifestation of the divine favor, where the Targum says, "I will work miracles for them, and perform great acts, as in the day when they ascended up out of the land of Egypt." In this sense a song denotes a great deliverance and a new subject of thanksgiving; so a new song, as in  Psalms 40:3;  Revelation 5:9, and elsewhere, implies a new work of salvation and favor, requiring an extraordinary return of gratitude and praise. (See Hymn); (See Psalm); (See Singing).