Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hallelu-Yah!! - Dr. Bill Duerfeldt

From the desk of Dr. Bill Duerfeldt

Hallelu-Yah !!
            There are two Hebrew words which have remained un-translated in virtually every language on the face of the earth, yet their meaning is the same as the original Hebrew.  The first of these is “Amen” (Let it be so.).  The second is “Hallelujah”, which is actually a combination of two words – Hallelu (You Praise) and “Jah” or “Yah” (the abbreviated form of Yahweh, ie – the LORD).  In other words, “Hallelu-Yah” is an exhortation to “Praise the LORD”.  It’s important to note that this exhortation is not praise for just any god.  Rather, it is a call to praise a specific God -- “Yah” – the God of Israel.
            In Hebrew we have single words which have multiple English translations – such as “chesed”, a word I discussed in an earlier article.  Now we’re going to look at the opposite situation.  I want to look at a single word in English – praise – which has multiple variations in Hebrew.  In fact, “Hallal” is only one of nine words in the Hebrew language which is translated as “praise” in English.  As you would expect, each of these nine words is subtly unique from the others, and each conveys different concepts of how our praise to God should vary.  Let’s take a closer look at these nine words.
            Since we’ve already started with Hallal, let’s continue with that one.  Hallal occurs 165 times in the Tanak, and is, by far, the primary word translated as “praise” in the English Scriptures.  This word carries with it the concept of clarity and brilliance – something shiny and pure – such as a clear, sharp tone, or sound.  Hallal also means to sing and to celebrate.  Hallal praise is pure, clear, glorious and celebratory praise to God.   It’s interesting that hallal can also mean “foolish” or even in extreme cases – “madness”.  In other words, our praise to the LORD may at times be so exuberant that it may appear as foolishness or madness to someone else.  I’ve been in worship services like that, especially in Israel during the Festival of Sukkot!  The joy of the LORD is, indeed, a “Divine Madness”, and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

            The next word is zamar and is most often translated as “sing praise”.  It can also mean to make music or to play a musical instrument.  One great example of zamar and hallal together is Psalm 104:33-35:  “I will sing to the LORD as long as I live, I will zamar to my God while I have my being.  My meditations of Him will be sweet because I love Him…bless Thou the LORD O my soul, Hallelu-yah!  Other examples can be found in Psalm 17:7, 9:2, and 98:4 to name only three.  Because the word means praising with song and music it is not surprising that with only two exceptions, zamar occurs predominantly in the Psalms.

            Shabach means to laud, to boast of, or to commend to someone.  It can also mean to stroke or to smooth, to make still – the picture of someone stroking an animal to calm it.  Therefore shabach is a form of quiet, peaceful praise; a praise of satisfaction and contentment.  Psalm 63:3-5 is a good example:  “Because Thy chesed is better than life, my lips shall shabach Thee.  I will bless Thee while I live, and lift up my hands in Thy Name.  My soul shall be satisfied…”

            The word yadah occurs almost as often in the Tanak as does hallal.  The root of yadah is yad  (hand), and the concept of yadah is to throw, cast, or to shoot (such as shooting arrows), actions one does with the hands.   In the majority of cases in which yadah is translated “praise”, it is in the context of corporate worship, and is as if the worshipers are throwing their praises heavenward to the LORD.  Good examples can be found in Psalm 100:4: “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise, give yadah unto Him and bless His name”; Psalm 35:18: “I will give Thee thanks in the great congregation; I will yadah Thee among Thy people”; and Psalm 138:4: “All the kings of the earth shall yadah Thee O LORD when they hear the words of Thy mouth.”  In 39 instances the word yadah is translated “thanks” or “thanksgiving”, such as in 1 Chronicles 16:34: “O give yadah to the LORD for He is tov and His chesed endures forever.”
            The word barak occurs in the Tanak three hundred and thirty times, more than hallal and yadah combined.  However, in nearly all instances the word is translated “bless” or “blessed”, rather than “praise”.  The concept is one of bending or kneeling down in adoration.  In only one verse in the KJV is barak translated as praise – Psalm 72:15.  Nevertheless, the Scriptures are replete with hundreds of examples of unadulterated praise using the word barak.  Such familiar examples are “Barak the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His Holy Name.” (Psalm 103:1); Baruk be the LORD God, the God of Israel, who only does wondrous things.” (Psalm 72:18); and “The LORD lives, and barak be my Rock and let the God of my salvation be exalted.” (Psalm 18:46).  The word baruk – a derivative of barak –is a common expression heard frequently in Israel today.  For example “Baruk HaShem” – which literally means “Blessed be The Name” – is the way many Jewish people convey their thanks to the LORD, without fear of blaspheming the Divine Name.  Baruk also appears in many of the Jewish prayers, such as Baruk atah ADONAI Eliheynu Melek HaOlam… “Blessed are You O LORD our God, King of the Universe.”

          Todah.  Isaiah 51:3 prophecies these words regarding the return of the Jews to Israel – “For the LORD will comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places, and will make her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness will be found in her – todah and the voice of song.”  I believe it is more than coincidence that the word todah is the word in contemporary Hebrew for “Thank You”.  As Isaiah prophesied, when you visit Israel you hear this word dozens of times every day.  Todah appears in the Tanak more than 30 times, and is usually translated either “thanksgiving” or “praise”.  The word connotes a “thank offering” or a “sacrifice of thanksgiving” – a praise to God in gratitude for something He has done on our behalf.  In a Scripture already mentioned above – Psalm 100:4 – the Hebrew says, “Enter His gates with todah and into His courts with praise, give yadah, unto Him and bless His name.”  Or this beautiful verse from Psalm 147:7:  “Sing unto the LORD with todah; zamar upon the harp unto our God.”
Hil’lul carries with it the sense of rejoicing and making merry; a public display of thanksgiving and celebration.  This word appears only twice in Scripture.  In Leviticus 19:24 we read, “But in the fourth year the entire crop must be consecrated to the LORD as a celebration of praise (hil’lul).”  The other is found in Judges 9:27 – “And they went out into the fields and gathered their vineyards, and trod their grapes, and made hil’lul…”.  Although the word is not mentioned in Scripture pertaining to the week-long celebration of Sukkot, I believe the festivities during the Feast of Tabernacles would definitely qualify as hil’lul !

The Hebrew word mahalal is used only once in Scripture, in Proverbs 27:21 – “As fire tests the purity of silver and gold, so a man is tested by the praise (mahalal) he receives.”  The word connotes “flattery” or “boastfulness” rather than true praise.  It is not a word used in the praise of ADONAI.

A hymn or song of praise is a tehillah, a word which also derives from the word hallal.  The Hebrew name of the Book of Psalms is Tehillim (Songs of Praise).  This wonderful word appears over fifty times in the Tanak and is found in such beautiful Scriptures as Psalm 22:3-- “But You O LORD are holy, enthroned on the telillim of Israel.” and in Isaiah 61:3 – “To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of tehillah for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified."
And finally, I will quote Psalm 104:3 for the third time – now with all of its words of praise in place – “Enter His gates with todah, and His courts with tehillah, give yadah unto Him and barak His name.”

An arctic people in northern Scandanavia – the Saami – have hundreds of words for snow.  This aspect of their language reflects the critical nature that snow, in its many varieties, has upon their culture.  In the same manner, the praise of Almighty God is a critically important part of the ethnicity, religion, and culture of the Jewish people, and has been from time immemorial.  Indeed, the word Ye’huda (from which English derives the word “Jew”) means in Hebrew “praised” or “one who praises”.  Therefore, to those of us who have been grafted into the Olive Tree, who are now adopted into the family of Abraham, we too can rejoice in the God of Israel through all the various manifestations of praise so richly preserved for us in the Hebrew language.  Baruk HaShem

Dr. Bill Duerfeldt
Asheville, North Carolina

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Thanks for sharing. Blessings on your head from the Lord Jesus, Yeshua HaMashiach.

Steve Martin
Love For His People
Charlotte, NC USA