Hebrew Words For Worship

At Open Worship, we looked at the seven most common Hebrew words used for “worship”.  These words are translated it many different ways: worship, praise, shout, bless, thanks, sing, etc.  Each word has a different meaning and context in which it is applied.

It’s interesting that of the seven words, only two have anything to do with music: zamar, which means to play an instrument as an expression of worship to God, and tehillah, which means to sing a spontaneous song of praise to God out of an overflowing of the heart.  It is most interesting to me that tehillah is the specifically referencing spontaneous worship, and there is no other word for singing a pre-composed song to the Lord.  Of course, I don’t think there is anything wrong with singing our favorite worship songs or planning the music of a worship service.  However, I must acknowledge that there is an both a scriptural anointing and an intimacy found in the vulnerability of spontaneous worship.

Here are the notes on each of the seven Hebrew words for worship:

Barak – to kneel or bow, to give reverence to God as an act of adoration, implies a continual conscious giving place to God, to be atuned to him and his presence

  • Psalm 34:1 I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
  • Psalm 100:4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise. Be thankful to him, and bless his name.
  • Psalm 95:6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our maker.

Hallal – to praise, to make a show or rave about, to glory in or boast upon, to be clamorously foolish about you adoration of God (as in Hallelujah)

  • Psalm 22:23 You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, glorify him, and fear him, all you offspring of Israel!
  • Psalm 44:8 In God we boast all day long, and praise your name forever. Selah
  • Psalm 63:5 My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise you with joyful lips.

Shachah – to depress or prostrate in homage or loyalty to God, bow down, fall down flat

  • Psalm 29:2 Give unto the Lord the glory due to his name; Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
  • Psalm 66:4 All the earth shall worship you and sing praises to You; They shall sing praises to your name.” Selah
  • Psalm 95:6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our maker.

Tehillah – to sing hallal, a new song, a hymn of spontaneous praise glorifying God in song

  • Psalm 34:1 I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
  • Psalm 40:3 He has put a new song in my mouth – praise to our God; Many will see it and fear, and will trust in the Lord.
  • Psalm 149:1 Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, and his praise in the assembly of saints. 

Todah – an extension of the hand, avowal, adoration, a choir of worshipers, confession, sacrifice of praise, thanksgiving

  • Psalm 50:14 Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High.
  • Psalm 69:30 I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.
  • Psalms 100:4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise. Be thankful to him, and bless his name.

Yadah – to use, hold out the hand, to throw (a stone or arrow) at or away, to revere or worship (with extended hands, praise thankful, thanksgiving)

  • Psalm 33:2 Praise the Lord with the harp; Make melody to him with an instrument of ten strings.
  • Psalm 61:8 So I will sing praise to your name forever, that I may daily perform my vows.
  • Psalm 18:49 Therefore I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the Gentiles, and sing praises to your name.

Zamar – to touch the strings or parts of a musical instrument i.e. play upon it, to make music accompanied by the voice, to celebrate in song and music, give praise, sing forth praises, psalms

  • Psalm 66:2 Sing out the honor of his name; Make his praise glorious.
  • Psalm 71:22 Also with the lute I will praise you — and your faithfulness, O my God! To you I will sing with the harp, O Holy One of Israel.
  • Psalm 144:9 I will sing a new song to you, O God; On a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to you…

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