Kevin G Cook

Theology | Worship | Resources

Hebrew Words for Worship

March 5, 2014  |  worship

Let’s look 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.

Halal - 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.

*For More on spontaneous worship, see my post here.

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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17 Comments


  1. Hi. Iam a messiahnic worshiper. for my higher study’s hebrew word worship thank you.i got the word.shalom.

  2. Hello thanks for the enlightenment. I was encourage by my neiobour to look the hebrew word worshish.thank you

  3. Nkosinathi Sibiya

    I thank you for giving use the enlightment on worship

  4. God bless you, this study was very helpful!

  5. What is the hebrew word and meaning for the word serve/worship in exodus 23:25. ?

    • The word you’re referring to is transliterated as Avad, which more accurately means to serve. The NIV translates it as Worship, but the KJV, RSV, ESV, NASB, and others all translate it to “serve”. Strong’s defines this in several ways, but most commonly as “to labour, work, do work”. This can be associated to worship in the same manner liturgia (from which we get the word “liturgy”, meaning the work of the people). Worship is a corporate verb.

  6. Thanks! Through trials and tribulations needed to experience the presence of GOD! What a blessing!

  7. Great article and especially “thanks” for the comment on the meaning and word, “Avad” …. precisely what i was looking for and didn’t really even know it!!!
    Thank you!!!

  8. Thank you for helping me to understand the 7 different meanings of worship, worship is a passion for me.

  9. Thank you so much for this article – talking about the meaning of worship and this will lead to some wonderful discussion!

  10. Great articles Kevin :)Thanks.

    I was looking for a hebrew word for my first worship album based on Romans 12:1, (living sacrifice, our life itself a worship etc). Preferably a single Hebrew / Greek word which captures the essence of Romans 12:1. Thanks and blessings!

  11. Thanks Kevin! I was wondering if you could suggest some hebrew or greek words based on Romans 12:1 (or similar) for the album title :)

  12. hi! i am blessed by this words. hoping to learn more hebrew words brother :)

  13. Sharon Slaughter

    Thank you for this post. I wondered how halal was defined. I come across the word while reading a book on healing. You were helpful.

    I live in a small rural county in Virginia. I am a Christian. You will be a revolutionary if you become a Methodist Pastor. I am not an unhappy Methodist. I am a concerned Christian who is a happy member of another church, but is concerned by the teachings I’ve discovered in some Methodist churches not only in my state but in West Virginia. The Methodist Church I attended in Hampton, West Virginia near the town of Buckhannon, WV is dying out. At one time the local Pastor had 3 churches on the same charge. I spoke to a dear friend there, an older gentleman, who is so sad about the condition of the church. My heart went out to him.

    30+ years later I live in Mathews County, Virginia. This is also a rural area. A Methodist church down the road boasts a Socialists woman preacher who will NOT pray for Israel. That Methodist Church is indicative of the problem with today’s mainline church denominations in many locations. Many have become politically motivated rather Jesus motivated. Often this is combined with the religion of environmentalism. I find all of this not just disturbing, but tragic. Thus, I wish you well in your studies, and most of all I will pray that you take Bible literally as it is intended.
    Thank You,
    Sharon Slaughter

  14. Very helpful article,thanks,am writting from Lilongwe,Malawi

  15. Kevin, would like to continue the conversation on worship via email. I am working on a dissertation project about worship and need some expert help with language study. email me at dhboady@gmail.com Thanks.

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