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 is the meaning of praise in the Bible – i.e. to praise God?
The large majority of references are in the Old Testament so we will mainly search there. In any particular verse containing the word ‘praise’, we can gain some clarification by checking out the original word in the Hebrew or Greek text. We can still grasp the original word which held the meaning of praise even if we can’t read Hebrew or Greek. It takes just a concordance paired with a Hebrew and Greek lexicon (dictionary)
Research the meaning of praise
Of course, we can find the meaning of praise in English using an English dictionary. Or even simply “Google it”. But is there more to the meaning of praise built into the original word/s used in the original texts. So I grabbed my copy of Strong’s Concordance with both a Hebrew and Greek dictionary built-in. It’s pretty easy once you ‘get the hang of it’.
I must say, this concordance is an amazing book. Especially considering the one compiled by James Strong was published in 1890! In it, he indexed all the words in the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. The list included a record of all the verses in which that word appears. Plus he provided a numerical identifier of each word that was used in the original text. The Hebrew dictionary for the Old Testament verses and the Greek dictionary for verses in the New testament. Consequently, we can find any particular Hebrew or Greek word by its number and voila!!!! The original word and its meaning that was translated as “praise” in a particular verse
So 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 praise and 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, each having a meaning of praise ‘in their own right’
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
Greek meaning of Praise
Similarly, Strong’s Concordance with Lexicon identifies a number of words in the Greek version of the Scriptures that have been translated as “praise”. Depending on context, most of these words have also been translated as “glory” or “honour” or “worship” etc. As you can see from their respective Strong’s reference numbers, their meanings are all slightly different. Yet they appear as “praise” in some version of the English text at least once. The Greek words include:
G133 = ainesis (pronounced ah’-ee-nes-is) – the act of praising – especially offering thanks (derived from G134)
Sample: Hebrews 13:15
G134 = aineo (pronounced ahee-neh’-o) – to praise God (derived from G136)
Samples: Luke 2:13, 20, 19:37, 24:53, Acts 2:47, 3:8, 9, Romans 15:11, Revelation 19:5
G136 = ainos (pronounced ah’-ee-nos) – a tale or story of praise –or a proverb of praise, but used for praise of God
Samples: Matthew 21:16, Luke 18:43
G1867 = epaineo (pronounced ep-ahee-neh’-o) – to applaud – to commend, laud, praise (derived from G134)
Samples: Luke 16:8, Romans 15:11, 1 Corinthians 11:2, 17, 22
——- as indicated, these first four Greek words are interrelated ——-
G239 = allelouia (pronounced al-lay-loo’-ee-ah) – an adoring exclamation: alleluiah of Hebrew origin; praise Jehovah
Samples: Revelation 19:1, 3, 4, 6
G437 = anthomologeomai (pronounced anth-om-ol-og-eh’-om-ahee) – to come to an agreement and hence, to confess openly thanks and praise as a response.
Sample: Luke 2:38
G703 = arete (pronounced ar-et’-ay) –praise for moral excellence, virtue
Samples: Philippians 4:8, 1 Peter 2:9
G1391 = doxa (pronounced dox’-ah) – ascribe glory – majesty, dignity, honour, praise, worship
Samples: John 9:24 (KJV), John 12:43, 1 Peter 4:13 (KJV), (used 151 times in the KJV and was translated as “glory” many more times than “praise”)
G2127 = eulogeo (pronounced yoo-log-eh’-o) –to speak well of – to praise, to thank or invoke blessings upon someone
Sample: Luke 1:64
G5214 = humneo (pronounced hoom-neh’-o) – to sing a religious ode – to praise, to celebrate God in song e.g. a hymn.
Samples: Psalms 113-118, Psalm 136, Matthew 26:30, Acts 16:25, Hebrews 2:12
What About “Worship”?
While on the topic, I couldn’t resist checking the Hebrew words that landed as ‘worship’ in English…
H5456 = sâgâd (pronounced saw–gad’) – to prostrate oneself in homage – fall down
Samples: used mainly by Daniel 3:5, 10, 12, 14, 15, 18, 28
H6086 = âtsab (pronounced aw–tsab’) – to worship with a sense of grief
Sample: only used once, by Jeremiah 44:19 referring to idol worship
H7812 = shâchâh (pronounced shaw–khaw’) – to prostrate reflexively in homage – bow down, fall down flat
Sample: Exodus 34:14 and many others (used 172x in the KJV)
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 noisy 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 cerebral love – in the mind
What Conclusions can we draw re the meaning of praise?
In short, different English versions of the Scriptures may use a different word for “praise” in a particular verse. For example, alternatives include “bless the Lord”, “magnify His Name”, ”exalt the Lord” or even ”give Him Glory” etc. Consequently, we see that the meaning of praise comes from a large variety of Hebrew and Greek words with differing inflections. Each of which seems to have lost something of its detail in the translation. None the less, all express a heart of love, joy, thankfulness and/or awe.
As you would have noticed, they are not all just about singing. The original words for praise include a variety of actions from dancing to applauding to kneeling. Shouting, expressing adoration, thankfulness and ascribing glory and majesty are all part of the meaning of praise in both Hebrew and Greek
Whatever you feel about the emotions behind each word that lands as “praise” in English texts. Whatever your doctrinal 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 the Hebrew words for Praise along with their meaning into a foot-tapping song back in the last century. “7 Ways To Praise” was the song’s title. It was used in the movie “Righteous Invasion Of Truth” (“R. I. O. T.”). Have a listen …
- 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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