I think that if I understand how to really praise God, I will deepen my walk with Him and live a more positive, victorious life. The professor in my college Bible class made the comment that not all the words for “praise” in the Bible really mean “praise.” She mentioned that there were several different Hebrew words which are often translated as “praise” but in fact have deeper and multiple meanings. Could you please elaborate?

Thank you, Jennifer

Dear Jennifer,

Your professor’s right. Not all the words translated as “praise” are equal. Some words translated as “praise” mean “to throw up the hands.” Others describe loud shouting. Some refer to playing the guitar. Others describe hope in the midst of hopelessness, anticipating God’s saving grace while we are still in our troubles.

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Let me share with you eight of the most often used words for praise in the Bible.

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1. Hallah

"Hallah” is the most common word for praise. This word simply means to boast, brag, or rave about God even to the point of appearing foolish. People who attend football games and shout and scream for their favorite team are called fans.

Unfortunately, for most of us, if we shout and scream and brag on God we may be labeled as fanatics, as if something is wrong with us.

“Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live...” (Psalm 63:3-4). 

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2. Yadah

“Yadah” means to worship with extended hands.

“Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord” (Psalm 134:2).

(Psalm 43:1-5; 134:2; 2 Chronicles 20: 1- 21; Nehemiah 8:6; 1 Timothy 2:8)

Yadah pictures a three-year-old child, hands raised, running towards daddy, crying, “Hold me, daddy, hold me!”

Yadah is often translated as, “giving thanks.”

Yadah is often a cry for help. Yadah praise is used when we are in desperate straits and need a victory from the Lord.

Raising the hands is one of the most explosive and meaningful expressions of praise.

Raising the hands is an international sign of surrender. A worshiping person raises hands in adoration and surrender to God.

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3. Barak

“Barak” is used to denote blessing. 

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21).

(Judges 5:1-2; Psalm 72:15)

Barack suggests the transcendent privilege of blessing the Lord. 

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4. Tehillah

“Tehillah” means to sing or to laud.

“Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises” (Psalm 22:3).

(Exodus 15:2; Isaiah 61:3; Deuteronomy 10:21)

Tehillah involves music and singing-especially singing. Singing is vital to the worship of God. There are over 300 Bible mandates to sing. This word suggests that God himself is a song of praise. We might say it like this, “God is our song.”

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5. Zamar

“Zamar” means to pluck the strings of an instrument.

“For the director of music. Of David the servant of the Lord. He sang to the Lord the words of this song when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.”

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge… I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies” (Psalm 18:1-3).

(Nehemiah 8:10; Psalm 18:1-4, 46-50; 68:1-4; Ephesians 5:19)

Zamar speaks of rejoicing. It is involved with the joyful expression of music. Zamar means to sing praises or to touch the strings. It speaks of involving every available instrument to make music and harmony before the Lord. It is God’s will that we be joyful. Use Zamar when you are rejoicing after God has done something great for you.

Zamar is translated into the New Testament has “Psallo”.

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“Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19).