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.
Zamar (zaw-mar’) 2167:
This literally means to pluck the strings, to celebrate in song and music.
Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon says zamar means to “properly, to touch the strings or parts of a musical instrument, i.e. play upon it; to make music, accompanied by the voice; hence to celebrate in song and music:–give praise, sing forth praises, psalms.”
Basically it’s probably the most common form of “praise” we have across the world in our wide variety of churches. Most every church has some form of musical instrument to accompany the singing.
Zamar is most commonly expressed as singing lyrics to music. It can also refer to praise and worship through just playing instruments as well.
1 Chronicles 16:9 (ESV) refers to this type of praise: “Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!”
The word “praises” in this scripture is zamar and it makes the verse literally read like this: “Sing to him, praise him with singing that is accompanied by the playing of musical instruments…”
Psalm 57:9 (ESV) says, “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations.”
The word “praises” in this verse is zamar. It doesn’t just mean to simply “sing praises,” it means to sing songs that are accompanied by musical instruments!
One of my favorite things about zamar praise is that it combines nicely with halal praise. Halal praise is a praise that boasts and celebrates in the Lord with a “shining” heart song, a joyful and exuberant heart song, and even clamorously foolish heart song. Combine that attitude of praise with the accompaniment of musical instruments and you have a full on worship rock band of epic proportions. Or it could be polka. Or reggae. Or classical. Or bluegrass. Or hip hop…yes, hip hop.
The point is this: there is a great deal of variety in the genres of music that the people of God relate to and can use as expressions of their inward hearts of worship. The beauty of the Body is that there is diversity. This means that a zamar type of praise WILL look different as you move from culture to culture and even geographic location to location.
The musical accompaniment shouldn’t be the focus…the PRAISE should be.
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.