This series explores the different “shades” of praise and worship that we see throughout the Bible. Where in English we might only see the word translated as “praise” – there are several different meanings that can apply.
One of the most common uses of the word “praise” to us in church is the halal. Not because we really know what it means, but because we use it almost every Sunday in our church services. It’s a hebrew word which we translate into English.
You might be more familiar with the commonly used churchy phrase “Hallelujah.”
Hallelujah is basically a mashup of 2 words: Halal and Jah.
Jah means (the Lord).
Halal means to be clamorously foolish, it means to boast loudly, to laud, to celebrate, to shine.
In english we translate it as to praise. Man how much we miss by simply using that bland descriptor. Hallelujah does mean “praise the Lord” but somehow it’s lost it’s rich and expressive meaning and become more of a cliche that we toss around like a nerf football at a picnic.
In today’s current culture, probably the best visual picture of the halal is this guy:
We get pretty foolish at our sports events. Now before you all throw the reverence book at me, I’m not suggesting that we show up to lead worship or to a prayer meeting dressed like this, especially the ladies, but I am suggesting that it’s the “spirit” of what makes a “fan” (short for fanatic) that is something to take a look at.
They are wholly devoted to their team. They will go into the team’s “presence” any time they can to have an “encounter” with the team. They will deck themselves out in apparel that SHOUTS dedication to the team. They will shout, clap, cheer, laugh, cry, boast, and go through just about every range of emotional expression as a result of what their team does.
And when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six steps, he sacrificed an ox and a fattened animal. And David danced before the Lord with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the horn. As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord , and she despised him in her heart. (From 2 Samuel 6 ESV)
This is the Halal. Hallelujah doesn’t simply mean “praise the Lord.”
Hallelujah screams out total devotion. It reflects a commitment, a dedication, a devotion.
Hallelujah means “a clamorously foolish, boastful, celebratory, shining, outward display of praise to and for the Lord.”
Halal (haw-lal’) 1984:
This is what Strong’s Concordance says about “Halal”
to be clear (orig. of sound, but usually of color); to shine; hence, to make a show, to boast; and thus to be (clamorously) foolish; to rave; causatively, to celebrate; also to stultify:–(make) boast (self), celebrate, commend, (deal, make), fool(- ish, -ly), glory, give (light), be (make, feign self) mad (against), give in marriage, (sing, be worthy of) praise, rage, renowned, shine.
So any time we see (or use) the word hallelujah, the literal meaning that should be reflected is one of boastful, celebration, shining, foolish raving – it’s really a very outward expression of worship.
Something to think about: Halal is clearly an outward PHYSICAL expression of praise and worship to God. But I wonder sometimes if my very LIFE is also a halal to God. Is my heart wholly devoted? Is my life a shining boast of God’s work in, around, and through my life? Do others SEE my life outside of my “singing halals” as a laud or celebration of who God is?
Do you halal much?
Russ Hutto is the Associate Director of Worship & Media at St. Simons Community Church where he mentors, oversees and helps lead Family and Student worship environments. He is also the content curator and editor here at The Worship Community.