Please welcome my special guest, Dvora, who has graciously shared some deep, thought-provoking thoughts on a word we use often, sometimes, I daresay, without thought about what it really means. Sit back and be enlightened. Hope you find it as interesting as I did.
Thoughts on the Word Hallelujah
by Dvora Hemstreet, aka Dvora Elisheva
You would think that writing about so simple a word as “Hallelujah” would be easy. But it’s not. I remember years ago hearing a respected preacher say that the root of the word meant “thousands” and so “Hallelujah” means to praise the Lord a thousand times. I objected and was told that obviously my Hebrew was lacking!
Yes, my Hebrew is lacking. However my understanding was not. I decided to see what others are saying about the word Hallelujah, and found so many different spins on this word, that my head was spinning! Since that incident, I’ve heard and read many other misrepresentations of the literal meaning of this word, and catch myself wondering—is it due to an over exaltation of the Hebrew language?
Clearly, since so many people are talking about the “real” meaning of hallelujah, it’s time to take a look at it and see what all the fuss is about.
My favorite Bible search program, Accordance Bible Software, helped me learn another interesting fact. Hallelujah appears 27 times—28 if you count the one time the word is hyphenated. Coincidentally, there are 22 standard letters of the Hebrew alphabet, with 5 special “ending” letters—27 letters in all. “Hallelujah” is appears ONLY in the book of Psalms, and then, only from Psalm 102. From here it appears in various places through to Psalm 150. Hallelujah is actually two words in Hebrew: “Hallel” (praise) and “yah” (a short form of the name of God the creator of all). This short form of “Yah” actually appears for the first time in Exodus 15:2 (The Lord is my strength and song…”).
But now it gets interesting. In the New Testament, Hallelujah appears only in Revelation 19:1,3,4,6, ending with the resounding statement of God’s total reign: “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the almighty reigns.” There is nothing remarkable in the Greek word—it is a transliteration of the Hebrew word. What is remarkable is this: It is the ONLY place the word appears in the New Testament!
We all know what “praise” means, but let’s be sure we are all on the same page: to say or write good things about someone, to express approval of, to express thanks, love, or respect to God. (Note to my readers, the Webster learners dictionary is MUCH better than the standard one!)
We all think we know what “yah” is, but let’s think again. This specific shortened form of God’s name appears only 50 times in the Old Testament, and in each instance, it refers only to the holy name of God, the ‘YHVH’ (Jehovah/Yahweh). This is important because there are many names in the Old Testament that incorporate the name of God, for example, Elijah, is My God is Lord. (Eli+jah). But this is all one name, not a separate stand-alone instance of “yah.” “Yah” is a word that would have caught the reader’s or listener’s attention. Perhaps they would have looked up in wonder considering what a mighty God they were in relationship with—the One who created the sun, the moon, the starts, and themselves.
The next time you say “Hallelujah,” slow down. Split it into two words and picture it in your mind, “hallelu” “yah” – Praise —God——the creator of the universe who revealed His unique name so long ago, the one who IS. He never was not. He was and is and is to come. The only God worthy of being praised.
I’ve learned that Hallelujah is a serious word. It should not be said lightly, for I am offering my thanks, my reverence, and respect to God, saying He alone is worthy of true praise and that there is none beside Him.
As the Psalmist said, “Bless the Lord oh my soul, Praise the Lord (Hallelujah).” (Psalm 104:35 NASB)
Prayer: Father in heaven, help me not to take your words and make something more or less of them than what they are. Thank you for this reminder that you are not just a god—you are the God of creation, the one who formed the universe with your hands, the one who fashioned me uniquely, with knowledge and wisdom no one else has. When I consider your wonders, how can I not join with the Psalmist and cry out to you Hallelujah! Truly You alone are worthy to be praised. May the wonder and glory of who You are fill my heart with a song of praise. In Jesus name. Amen.
This devotional has been modified from a longer and more detailed blog post, “The Power of Words: Hallelujah” on Hope-Challenged.com, Dvora’s blog.
Dvora Hemstreet (aka Dvora Elisheva), is an author, blogger, and technical communicator. She is passionate about communication, and loves to see how good communication can touch people’s lives—from the communication of God to humankind through the Bible—to our own communication of His message to others.
She has written an autobiography, testifying to God’s greatness in her life (Connecting the Dots of a Disconnected Life: Hope for a Fractured Soul), and maintains an active blog, “Hope for the Hope-Challenged). Her prayer is that her writings would encourage others and point them to a deeper walk with God through Jesus Christ.
You can connect with Dvora via her blog (www.hope-challenged.com) or author website (www.dvoraelisheva.com).