According to the Oxford dictionary the meaning of “praise” is to –
• express warm approval or admiration of;
• express one’s respect and gratitude towards (a deity), especially in song
I assume we all know how to praise a child or even a puppy. But what does it mean in the Bible to praise God ?
The large majority of references are in the Old Testament so we will look there. We can gain some clarification by checking out the original word in the Hebrew text. We can still grasp the original word for “praise” even if we can’t read Hebrew . It takes just a concordance paired with a Hebrew lexicon (dictionary)
Research meaning of praise
So I grabbed my copy of Strong’s Concordance with both a Hebrew and Greek dictionary. It’s pretty easy once you ‘get the hang of it’. I must say, the concordance is an amazing book especially considering James Strong’s was published in 1890! In it he lists all significant words in the Bible (like “praise”) with a record of all the verses in which that word appears. Plus I get the numerical identifier of the word in the Hebrew or Greek dictionary that was used in the original. Consequently, I can find that Hebrew or Greek word in the relevant dictionary by its number and voila!!!! I can find the original word that was translated as “praise” in any particular verse. Of course, I also see what it’s meaning was/is in Hebrew (or Greek if in the New Testament)
I looked up “praise” in the concordance and no surprise. There were over 250 instances in the King James Version, the first of which was in Genesis 29:35. Consequently, the concordance told me that the word translated as “praise” in that verse was word number H3034. The “H” meant of course it was in the Hebrew dictionary. So in the Hebrew dictionary I looked up “3034” and found yâdâh, a word that has actions in its expression of worship! (see below for details)
Meanwhile, you will find over 350 instances of “praise” In the NIV translation. Because some of the substitute words from the King James Version were simply replaced by “praise” in the NIV. For e.g. “extol”, “exalt”, “bless” etc
Hebrew meaning of ‘Praise’
Amazingly, 19 different Hebrew words translate to “praise”. (see Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon online). So there’s not just one meaning of praise in the Bible. I have included the most common Hebrew words below. As you can see, with the Strong’s Concordance reference numbers, their meanings are all slightly different. Yet they appear simply as “praise” in the English text:–
H1288 = Bârak (pronounced baw–rak) – to kneel to bless God as an act of adoration – used 302 times in the King James Version mostly as “bless” but sometimes as “praise” but in the NIV it is mainly translated as “praise”.
Samples: Judges 5:2, Psalms 18:46, 34:1, 63:4, 66:8, Ezra 3:12
H1974 = hillûwl (pronounced hil–lool) – to make merry in the sense of rejoicing such as a celebration of thanksgiving for harvest – used once in the King James Version as “praise”
Sample: Lev 19:24
H2167 = zâmar (pronounced zaw–mar) – play for Him a song – to strum the strings of a musical instrument and sing, or play other instruments like a trumpet or drums, hence celebrate in song and music, sing praises – used 45 times in the King James Version as “praise”
Samples: Judges 5:3, 2Sam 22:50, 1Chr 16:9, Psa 7:17, 9:2, 21:13, 47:6, 57:7, Isa 12:5
H3034 = yâdâh (pronounced yaw–daw) – let your hands be raised – to revere or worship with extended hands – used 53 times in the King James Version as “praise”, 32 times as “give thanks”
Samples: Gen 29:35, 49:8, Psa 7:17, 9:1, 28:7, 42:5, 45:17, 67:5 75:1 (67 times in Psalms)
[see previous post “… what’s with the hands?”]
H1984 = hâlal (pronounced haw–lal) – let your soul rejoice – to make a show, to celebrate, to be clamorously foolish [clamorous = so loud or insistent as to compel attention] & includes dance – used 117 times in the King James Version as “praise”
Samples: 2Sam 22:4, 1Chr 16:4, 16:25, 16:36, 23:5, 23:30, 25:3, 29:13, Psa 18:3, 22:22, 22:26, 34:2, 35:18, 48:1, 113:1–3, 149:3, 150, Joel 2:26
H7623 = shâbach (pronounced shaw–bakh) – shout for joy! – to address in a loud tone (related to triumph and glory) – used 5 times in the King James Version as “praise”
Samples: Psa 63:3, 117:1, 145:4, 147:12.
In fact, using two Hebrew words for “praise” in one sentence:
Psalm 106:47 triumph (shâbach) in thy praise (tehillâh),
and Psalm 117:1 O praise (hâlal) the Lord all ye nations: praise (shâbach) him all ye people.
Also, in Psalm 147:12 Praise (shâbach) the Lord O Jerusalem; praise (hâlal) thy God O Zion
H8416 = tehillâh (pronounced teh–hil–law’) – you can sing along – laudation specifically a hymn – used 57 times in the King James Version as “praise”
Samples: Exo 15:11, Deut 10:21, 1Chr 16:35, Psa 9:14, 22:3, 22:25, (30x in Psalms) Jer 33:11 Praise the Lord
H8426 = tôwdâh (pronounced to–daw)– sacrifice of praise – adoration specifically a choir of worshippers giving praise [based on Yâdâh –extending hands] – used 6 times in the King James Version as “praise”, 18 times as “thanksgiving”
Samples: Jer 17:26, 33:11 sacrifice of praise, Psa 42:4, 50:23, 56:12, 100:1 title
Psalm 47, attributed to the Sons of Korah, paints a clear picture of worship…..
1 Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.
2 For the Lord Most High is awesome, the great King over all the earth.
3 He subdued nations under us, peoples under our feet.
4 He chose our inheritance for us, the pride of Jacob, whom he loved.
5 God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets.
6 Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.
7 For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise.
8 God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne.
9 The nobles of the nations assemble as the people of the God of Abraham, for the kings of the earth belong to God; he is greatly exalted. [emphasis added]
This Psalm describes worship as being quite noisey and exuberant as adoration of God leads to expressions of love and gratitude that bring Him honour. Like all healthy relationships, the one depicted in this Psalm involves emotions not just love in the mind
In short, different English versions of the Scriptures may use a different word for “praise” in a particular verse. For example, some alternatives include “bless the Lord”, “magnify His Name”, ”exalt the Lord” etc. However, we see the meaning of praise comes from a large variety of Hebrew words related to praising God. Each of which seems to have lost something in the translation
None the less, whatever your position, “Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness; the nourishment of the mind with His truth; the purifying of the imagination of His beauty; the opening of the heart to His love; the surrender of the will to His purpose – and all this gathered up in adoration”. So wrote William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury (1942-1944)
… just sayin’
Oh, Carman put seven of these Hebrew words for Praise along with their meaning into a very foot-tapping, body-moving song back in the last century. “7 Ways To Praise” was the song title. It was used in the movie called “Righteous Invasion Of Truth” (“R. I. O. T.”). Enjoy the song …
- The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: together with Dictionaries of the Hebrew and Greek Words with references to the English words, by James Strong. Riverside Book and Bible House 93429837–8, Iowa Falls
- Photos from Unsplash website
- “7 Ways To Praise” by Carmen (YouTube) also on Spotify
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