Hallelujah is an expression of gratitude and adoration. In the Hebrew language, it is “halal,” which is a word of praise, and “Yah,” which is short for Yahweh, joined as one word. So, halelu-Yah means “praise ye Yahweh” (Psalms 104:35; Psalm 113). In the 3rd century BCE, the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek so, ”Hallelujah” became ”Allelouia,” which became the shortened form ”alleluia” in Latin later. The Greek-influenced form “Alleluia” appears in Wycliffe’s Bible, the Knox Version and the New Jerusalem Bible.
Most English versions of the Hebrew Bible translate the Hebrew “Hallelujah” as “Praise the LORD” (Psalm 150:1). Like another Hebrew word “amen,” “hallelujah” has been adopted into the English language practically unchanged.
This word is used 24 times in the Hebrew Bible in the book of Psalms and 4 times in the New Testament in the book of Revelation. The Hallelujah Psalms are a group of Psalms that begin with ‘praise ye Jehovah’ or ‘praise ye the LORD’ (Psalm 106, 111-113, 117, 135, and 146-150).
In Revelation 19: 1–7, the word is used in the wedding supper of the Lamb and is composed of two chorales and two responses. It is used to praise God for His final judgment on all evil. John writes: “I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God! For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her…”
From the verses of scripture in Revelation 19:1-7, Charles Jennens formed the Hallelujah Chorus in Handel’s Messiah, where all the singers unite in singing praise to the Lord. In contemporary worship among Protestants, expressions of “Hallelujah” and “Praise the Lord” are acceptable phrases of praise, happiness, and thanksgiving to all what God has done.
In Jewish circles, the word “hallelujah” is sung as part of the Hallel Psalms. In Tractate Shabbat of the Talmud, it is taught that the Pesukei dezimra Psalms should be recited daily. Thus, Psalms 145–150, are included in the liturgy for the traditional Jewish Shacharit, morning service. Also, it is sung in the three Pilgrimage Festivals, the new moon and Hanukkah.
Praise the Lord!
I will praise the Lord with my whole heart,
In the assembly of the upright and in the congregation.
The works of the Lord are great,
Studied by all who have pleasure in them.
His work is honorable and glorious,
And His righteousness endures forever.
He has made His wonderful works to be remembered;
The Lord is gracious and full of compassion.
He has given food to those who fear Him;
He will ever be mindful of His covenant.
He has declared to His people the power of His works,
In giving them the heritage of the nations.
The works of His hands are verity and justice;
All His precepts are sure.
They stand fast forever and ever,
And are done in truth and uprightness.
He has sent redemption to His people;
He has commanded His covenant forever:
Holy and awesome is His name.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
A good understanding have all those who do His commandments.
His praise endures forever” (Psalm 111).
The Psalmist uses the phrase “praise the Lord” as an expression of joyous gratitude to God for all His many miracles, for His caring, for His mercy, for His steadfast love, and for His eternal salvation. The praise Psalms are songs to tell of God’s faithfulness to His covenant despite Israel’s stubbornness, rebellion, apostasy, and sin.
Appreciation Leads to Praise
How can a person praise the Lord from the depths of his heart? The secret and origin of all genuine praise and gratitude is found in experiential understanding and appreciation to who God is as revealed in His Word. Such knowledge leads to a joyful and thorough submission to His will (Psalm 40:8). Thus, a true knowledge of God’s goodness and holy character forms a deep desire to copy His character (2 Corinthians 3:18). Also, a sense of the great cost of salvation calls for the believer to praise God, so that it becomes the his highest joy to live in line with the values of His merciful Redeemer (Isaiah 61:10).
In His service,