Terms of Praise in the Old Testament

Featuring Worshipedia Posted on May 10, 2010

Vocal expressions of praise abound in the Scripture; many of these terms apply to musical as well as spoken celebration. The biblical worshiper expresses praise to God aloud. A verb frequently used is halal, in the intensive form hillel, meaning “praise” or “boast about” (1 Chronicles 29:13; Psalms 44:8; 56:4; 84:4; 99:3; 111:1; 150:1–6). The expression “Hallelujah!” means “Praise the Lord!” and is a combination of hillel and a short form of the Lord’s personal name, Yahweh. The reflexive construction hithallel (Psalms 34:2; 105:3) means “to make one’s boast in the Lord.” An often-associated term is the verb yadah, in the causative form hodah, meaning “to confess allegiance to Yahweh,” but generally translated “give thanks” (Psalms 9:1; 67:3; 92:1; 100:4; 111:1; 136:1). Yadah also yields the noun todah, thanksgiving (1 Chronicles 29:13; Psalms 95:2; 100:4). David appointed Asaph and his family specifically to celebrate by praising and giving thanks (hillel, hodah, 1 Chronicles 16:4–7).

Equally common is the expression “bless [or praise] the Lord” (berekh, Nehemiah 9:5; Psalms 103:1; 104:1; 134:1–2); although this is the same word as “kneel,” in most cases it no longer has that meaning, since God may also bless his people (Psalm 67:1). Another verb for praise is shibbah (Psalms 63:6; 96:3; 145:4). The worshiper desires to “make high,” to extol or exalt the Lord (Psalms 34:3; 99:9; 118:28; 145:1); the related noun (Psalm 149:6) indicates “high praises”; he or she seeks to glorify the Lord (Psalm 22:23) and magnify him (Psalm 34:3). All are summoned to give or ascribe to God greatness (Deuteronomy 32:3) and glory (Psalm 29:1–2).

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