Praise and Thanksgiving Praising God is the activity of God’s creatures in honoring God because of the acts and the nature of God. Thanksgiving is an expression of gratitude to God for his care and concern, especially as shown through his redemptive acts. Concept Summary In the OT, there are five main groups of words that convey the ideas of “praise” and “thanksgiving.” The most frequently occurring word for this concept is the verb הָלַל (hālal, “to praise”); its family also includes the noun תְּהִלָּה (tĕhillâ, “praise”). Thanksgiving is primarily expressed with the verb יָדָה (yādâ, “to give thanks”) and the related noun תּוֹדָה (tôdâ, “thanksgiving”). Additionally, other verbs which express the action of praising and giving thanks are רָנַן (rānan, “to cry out in praise”), זָמַר (zāmar, “to sing praise”), and שָׁבַח (šābaḥ, “to praise”). In the NT, there is also a variety of words for these concepts, some of which occur only once or twice in the NT. Common words for this concept include the verbs εὐχαριστέω (eucharisteō, “to give thanks”) and εὐλογέω (eulogeō, “to bless”). Theological Overview Praise and thanksgiving in the OT and NT involves both personal and corporate prayer, musical expression, singing, exhortation, exaltation, and literary expressions of gratitude and worship to God for who he is and for what he has done for creation, his covenant people, and ultimately for every tribe, nation, and tongue of the world through Jesus Christ. Quite often praise and thanksgiving is described, commended through exhortation, and/or carried out in the Bible in accompaniment with a grounding reason for the praise provided by the person who is praising the Lord. These include such praiseworthy and thanks-evoking elements as: God’s righteousness, faithfulness, goodness, his covenant-keeping, steadfast love, and the person and work of Jesus Christ. For example, in Psalms, the people of God praise him because: He is their hope and salvation (Psa 43:5); he is holy and his name is great (Psa 99:3); and his law is characterized by “righteous rules” (Psa 119:62); they also praise him because of his wonderful works (Psa 139:14) and steadfast love (Pss 63:3; 147:12). Other times the authors of Scripture exhort the people to thank and praise God, as in Psa 100:4, where the psalmist exhorts the people, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving (תּוֹדָה, tôdâ), his courts with praise (תְּהִלָּה, tĕhillâ). Give thanks (יָדָה, yādâ) to him; bless his name!” (see also Pss 22:23; 107:32; 147:7; Isa 42:12). Additionally, the Scripture contains proclamations in which a worshiper declares an intention to praise God. For example, in Psa 35:18 the psalmist declares: “I will give thanks (yādâ) to you in the great assembly; among the mighty people I will praise (הָלַל, hālal) you” (see also Pss 69:30; 106:48; 109:30). The psalms also praise God continually using the exclamation הַלְלוּ־יָהּ (hallû-yāh, “Praise Yah”), which is often transliterated from the Hebrew and Greek as “Hallelujah” and “Alleluia” (e.g., Psa 111:1; 117:2; 146:10; 150:6). The Scriptures also present nonhuman entities—such as heaven and earth—as praising the Lord (Psa 69:34; compare Psa 89:5) and all God’s works (Psa 145:10). Corporate groups such as “the nations” (Psa 45:17) and broad expanses of geographical regions such as the ends of the earth (Psa 48:10) are said to participate and to be represented in giving praise and thanks to God. On the other hand, the realm of death called Sheol (Isa 38:18), the dust, (Psa 30:9), and carved idols (Isa 42:8) are all said to be unable to offer praise to God. In the NT, this awareness and gratitude to God, expressed in praise and thanksgiving, continues. Jesus himself gives thanks at the Last Supper (e.g., Matt 26:27; John 6:11, 23) and at the miracle of the feeding of the 4,000 (Matt 15:36; Mark 8:6). Likewise Jesus offers thanks to the Father in Matt 11:25 (compare Luke 10:21; John 11:41). Throughout the NT, groups of people continually praise God (e.g., Matt 21:9; Luke 19:38; Rom 14:6; 1 Cor 14:17; 2 Cor 1:11), Paul thanks God (e.g., Col 1:3; 1 Thess 2:13; Acts 28:15), healed people praise God (Luke 18:43), and prayers are written that center on the blessing, praising, and thanking of God (Eph 1:3, 6, 12, 14; 4:8). Lexical Information Old Testament הָלַל (hālal). vb. to praise. Describes the act of praising God through prayer, instruments, and singing both corporately and individually. This verb usually refers to the act of praising but can also mean “to shine” or “to boast” (e.g., Psa 49:6). It can be used of praising humans (e.g., Gen 12:15; 2 Sam 14:25) but in the OT is mostly used for praising God. The Scriptures attest to singers praising (hālal) God (2 Chr 5:13) and musicians offering praise (hālal) to God with lyres (1 Chr 25:3); harps (Psa 71:22); and the trumpet, lute, tambourine, dance, strings, pipe, and cymbals (Psa 150:3–5). The Scriptures offer exhortations to praise God, such as Psa 107:32: “Let them exalt him in the congregation of the people, and praise (hālal) him in the assembly of the elders” (compare Psa 22:23; 106:48). People also declare that they will praise God, as in Psa 146:2: “I will praise (hālal) Yahweh while I live; I will sing praises (זָמַר, zāmar) to my God while I am still alive” (compare Psa 35:18; 69:30). Reasons for praising God are often given, including: God’s righteous rules (Psa 119:164), God’s goodness (Psa 135:3), the exalted nature of his name and his majesty (Psa 148:13), and his mighty deeds and excellent greatness (Psa 150:2). Even nonhuman and nonbiological entities are exhorted to express praise to God, including the angels, all God’s hosts, the sun, moon, stars, highest heavens, waters, sea creatures, and the deep (Psa 48:2–4, 7). The Psalms often use the expression הַלְלוּ־יָהּ (hallû-yāh, “Praise Yah”), which combines hālal with יָהּ (yāh), the shortened form of God’s name יהוה (yhwh, “Yahweh”; e.g., Psa 11:1; 135:21; 146:1; 148:1). This expression does not occur in the OT outside the Psalms. תְּהִלָּה (tĕhillâ). n. fem. praise, thanksgiving. Describes praise and thanksgiving to God. This noun is related to the verb הָלַל (hālal, “to praise”). It usually refers to praise offered to God. Sometimes a worshiper declares an intent to praise God, as in Psa 71:14: “I will hope continually and increase your praise (tĕhillâ)” (see also Psa 51:15; 106:47; Isa 42:12; 43:21). In other instances, the word is used in an exhortation to praise the Lord (e.g., Psa 66:8: “Bless our God, O peoples, and cause sound of his praise (tĕhillâ) to be heard”). In several instances, the Scriptures attest to a process by which God enables worshipers to become “a praise (tĕhillâ).” For example, in Isa 61:11 Yahweh “will make righteousness sprout, and praise (tĕhillâ) before the nations” (see also Jer 13:9; Deut 26:19), and in Zeph 3:19, he empowers the people such that their shame is turned into praise (tĕhillâ). Ultimate praise is suitably directed only to God, not to idols (Isa 42:8). יָדָה (yādâ). vb. to give thanks, praise. Describes the act of giving thanks and praise to God. This verb primarily refers to giving thanks; the majority instances of yādâ in the OT are in Psalms. Like other terms with similar meanings, yādâ is often accompanied by an explanation of the reason for the thanks or praise. Reasons for which people thank (yādâ) God include the birth of Leah’s son (Gen 29:35), the righteous rules of God (Psa 99:3), the righteousness of God (Psa 7:17), the goodness of God (Psa 54:6), and the great and holy name of God (Psa 99:3). The verb can be used in an exhortation inviting people to thank (yādâ) God, as in Psa 97:12: “Be glad in Yahweh, you righteous, and give thanks (yādâ) to his holy name” (see also Psa 30:4; 105:1; 118:29). The intent and act of praise and thanksgiving can also be declared by the worshiper in a statement like that in Psa 86:12: “I will give thanks (yādâ) to you, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and glorify your name forever” (compare Psa 108:3). However, Sheol and the dead cannot praise God (Isa 38:18). תּוֹדָה (tôdâ). n. fem. thanksgiving, sacrifice of thanksgiving, thank offering. Describes the giving of thanks to God, thank offerings, exhortations, and declarations of praise and thanksgiving. This noun is related to the verb יָדָה (yādâ, “to give thanks”). It can refer to thank offerings (e.g., Lev 7:12; 2 Chr 29:31; Psa 56:12; Jer 17:26) and to general thanks given to God (Isa 51:3; Neh 12:38; Jonah 2:9; Psa 42:4). The word is also used by the scriptural authors to convey declarations of praise, as in Psa 69:30: “I will … magnify him with thanksgiving (tôdâ)” as well as in exhortations to offer praise and thanksgiving, e.g., Psa 95:2: “Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving (tôdâ)” (see also Psa 100:4; 147:7). רָנַן (rānan). vb. to cry out in joy or praise. Describes the crying out of a worshiper in joy or praise. This verb indicates crying aloud in joyful praise or “singing for joy” as in Psa 95:1: “Come let us sing for joy (rānan) to Yahweh!” and Psa 89:12b, which states: “Tabor and Hermon shout joyfully (rānan) over your name.” זָמַר (zāmar). vb. to sing praise. Indicates the act of singing praise and praising the Lord. This verb means “to sing praise,” and occurs almost exclusively in Psalms, as in Psa 104:33b: “I will sing praise (zāmar) to my God while I remain alive” (see also Psa 7:17; 9:2; 21:3; 30:12; 138:1). שָׁבַח (šābaḥ); Aram. שְׁבַח (šĕbaḥ). vb. to praise. Describes the act of giving thanks and praise. The Hebrew verb šābaḥ means “to praise.” In Psalm 63:3 the psalmist declares: “Because your loyal love is better than life, my lips will praise (šābaḥ) you.” (compare Psa 147:12). The Aramaic equivalent šĕbaḥ has the same meaning, as in Dan 2:23. New Testament εὐχαριστέω (eucharisteō). vb. to give thanks. Describes the act of giving thanks. This verb means “to give thanks.” It is used in the NT only of giving thanks to God, except for one occasion where it is unclear whether the person giving thanks to Jesus believed him to be God (Luke 17:16). It is used when Jesus gives thanks (eucharisteō) at the Last Supper (e.g., Luke 22:17, 19; John 6:11, 23) and before the miracle of the feeding of the 4,000 (Matt 15:36; Mark 8:6). Paul often gives thanks (eucharisteō), especially for the faith and salvation of the churches to which he is ministering and writing (e.g., Rom 1:8; Col 1:4). He also expresses thanks that he did not baptize many at Corinth (1 Cor 1:14) and that he speaks in tongues more than all of the members of the Corinthian church (1 Cor 14:18). In Revelation, the living creatures in the heavenly realm give thanks (eucharisteō; Rev 4:9; 11:17). Sinful people do not give thanks (Rom 1:21), and hypocritical religious leaders sometimes give thanks (eucharisteō) in an arrogant, presumptuous fashion (Luke 18:11). The related adjective εὐχάριστος (eucharistos, “thankful”) occurs one time in Col 3:15, where Paul exhorts the Colossians to be thankful (eucharistos). εὐχαριστία (eucharistia). n. fem. thanks, thanksgiving. Describes the expression and experience of being thankful and the action of giving thanks. This noun is related to εὐχαριστέω (eucharisteō) and refers generally to giving thanks to God. Ephesians 5:4 recommends thanksgiving (eucharistia) in place of “obscenity,” “foolish talk,” and “coarse jesting.” Likewise, in Philippians 4:6, Paul exhorts the church at Philippi to not be anxious but rather “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving (eucharistia) to let your requests be made known to God.” Christians are to abound in thanksgiving (eucharistia) in light of their rootedness in Christ (Col 2:7). Thus the Scriptures indicate that thanksgiving is a central Christian virtue, intended to replace despair, anxiety, and worldly ways. εὐλογέω (eulogeō). vb. to praise, bless. Indicates the action of blessing God, in the sense of offering praise to God. This verb means “to praise.” It often indicates the offering of, the wish for, or the activity of a blessing from God. However, when humans bless God, this is equivalent to offering him praise. Thus, after Jesus’ ascension, his disciples “were continually in the temple courts praising (eulogeō) God” (Luke 24:53), and during the triumphant entry, the crowds shouted to Jesus, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed (eulogeō) is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Matt 21:9; see also Matt 23:39; Mark 11:9; Luke 19:38; John 12:13). αἰνέω (aineō). vb. to praise. Denotes the act of expressing praise. This verb is the most common Septuagint translation of the Hebrew הָלַל (hālal, “to praise”) and is used in the NT only of praising God. In Luke’s account of the triumphal entry the people following him, rejoice, and “praise (aineō) God with a loud voice for all the miracles that they had seen” (Luke 19:37). There are two instances in which the verb is used to express an exhortation to praise: Rom 15:11 (“Praise [aineō] the Lord, all the Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise [ἐπαινέω, epaineō] him”) and Rev 19:5 (“Praise [aineō] our God, all his slaves, and those who fear him, the small and the great”). ἔπαινος (epainos). n. masc. praise. Describing the quality and action of praise and honor. This noun is used in the NT both of praise or approval given to humans (e.g., Rom 2:29; 1 Cor 4:5) and of praise given to God and his qualities (e.g., Phil 1:11). It occurs repeatedly in Eph 1, where the author uses it in a prayer to God which is offered “to the praise (epainos) of the glory of his grace” (Eph 1:6) and “to the praise (epainos) of his glory” (Eph 1:12, 14). A similar use occurs in Phil 1:11, where Paul prays that the believers might be “filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise (epainos) of God.” ἐξομολογέω (exomologeō). vb. to confess, profess, offer praise. Describes the confession or proclamation of the praise of God. This verb is the usual Septuagint translation of the Hebrew יָדָה (yādâ, “to give thanks”). In some instances it refers to giving thanks to God, including three main instances in which Jesus thanks the Father (Matt 11:25; Luke 10:21; John 11:41). In other cases it refers to confessing sin (e.g., Matt 3:6). ψάλλω (psallō). vb. to sing praise. Conveys the act of singing praise. This verb is the usual Septuagint translation of the Hebrew זָמַר (zāmar, “to sing praise”). It occurs five times in the NT, where it denotes singing praise to God (e.g., 1 Cor 14:15; Jas 5:13). ὑμνέω (hymneō). vb. to sing praise. Conveys the act of singing praise. In the NT, this verb always refers to the singing of praise by the people of God (Matt 26:30; Mark 14:26; Acts 16:25; Heb 2:12). JOHN FREDERICK John Frederick, Lexham Theological Wordbook, 2014.

Praise And Worship: What Are They

Praise and Thanksgiving

Praising God is the activity of God’s creatures in honoring God because of the acts and the nature of God. Thanksgiving is an expression of gratitude to God for his care and concern, especially as shown through his redemptive acts.

Concept Summary

In the OT, there are five main groups of words that convey the ideas of “praise” and “thanksgiving.” The most frequently occurring word for this concept is the verb הָלַל (hālal, “to praise”); its family also includes the noun תְּהִלָּה (tĕhillâ, “praise”). Thanksgiving is primarily expressed with the verb יָדָה (yādâ, “to give thanks”) and the related noun תּוֹדָה (tôdâ, “thanksgiving”). Additionally, other verbs which express the action of praising and giving thanks are רָנַן (rānan, “to cry out in praise”), זָמַר (zāmar, “to sing praise”), and שָׁבַח (šābaḥ, “to praise”). In the NT, there is also a variety of words for these concepts, some of which occur only once or twice in the NT. Common words for this concept include the verbs εὐχαριστέω (eucharisteō, “to give thanks”) and εὐλογέω (eulogeō, “to bless”).

Theological Overview

Praise and thanksgiving in the OT and NT involves both personal and corporate prayer, musical expression, singing, exhortation, exaltation, and literary expressions of gratitude and worship to God for who he is and for what he has done for creation, his covenant people, and ultimately for every tribe, nation, and tongue of the world through Jesus Christ. Quite often praise and thanksgiving is described, commended through exhortation, and/or carried out in the Bible in accompaniment with a grounding reason for the praise provided by the person who is praising the Lord. These include such praiseworthy and thanks-evoking elements as: God’s righteousness, faithfulness, goodness, his covenant-keeping, steadfast love, and the person and work of Jesus Christ. For example, in Psalms, the people of God praise him because: He is their hope and salvation (Psa 43:5); he is holy and his name is great (Psa 99:3); and his law is characterized by “righteous rules” (Psa 119:62); they also praise him because of his wonderful works (Psa 139:14) and steadfast love (Pss 63:3; 147:12). Other times the authors of Scripture exhort the people to thank and praise God, as in Psa 100:4, where the psalmist exhorts the people, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving (תּוֹדָה, tôdâ), his courts with praise (תְּהִלָּה, tĕhillâ). Give thanks (יָדָה, yādâ) to him; bless his name!” (see also Pss 22:23; 107:32; 147:7; Isa 42:12).
Additionally, the Scripture contains proclamations in which a worshiper declares an intention to praise God. For example, in Psa 35:18 the psalmist declares: “I will give thanks (yādâ) to you in the great assembly; among the mighty people I will praise (הָלַל, hālal) you” (see also Pss 69:30; 106:48; 109:30). The psalms also praise God continually using the exclamation הַלְלוּ־יָהּ (hallû-yāh, “Praise Yah”), which is often transliterated from the Hebrew and Greek as “Hallelujah” and “Alleluia” (e.g., Psa 111:1; 117:2; 146:10; 150:6).

The Scriptures also present nonhuman entities—such as heaven and earth—as praising the Lord (Psa 69:34; compare Psa 89:5) and all God’s works (Psa 145:10). Corporate groups such as “the nations” (Psa 45:17) and broad expanses of geographical regions such as the ends of the earth (Psa 48:10) are said to participate and to be represented in giving praise and thanks to God. On the other hand, the realm of death called Sheol (Isa 38:18), the dust, (Psa 30:9), and carved idols (Isa 42:8) are all said to be unable to offer praise to God.

In the NT, this awareness and gratitude to God, expressed in praise and thanksgiving, continues. Jesus himself gives thanks at the Last Supper (e.g., Matt 26:27; John 6:11, 23) and at the miracle of the feeding of the 4,000 (Matt 15:36; Mark 8:6). Likewise Jesus offers thanks to the Father in Matt 11:25 (compare Luke 10:21; John 11:41). Throughout the NT, groups of people continually praise God (e.g., Matt 21:9; Luke 19:38; Rom 14:6; 1 Cor 14:17; 2 Cor 1:11), Paul thanks God (e.g., Col 1:3; 1 Thess 2:13; Acts 28:15), healed people praise God (Luke 18:43), and prayers are written that center on the blessing, praising, and thanking of God (Eph 1:3, 6, 12, 14; 4:8).

Lexical Information

Old Testament

הָלַל (hālal). vb. to praise. Describes the act of praising God through prayer, instruments, and singing both corporately and individually.

This verb usually refers to the act of praising but can also mean “to shine” or “to boast” (e.g., Psa 49:6). It can be used of praising humans (e.g., Gen 12:15; 2 Sam 14:25) but in the OT is mostly used for praising God. The Scriptures attest to singers praising (hālal) God (2 Chr 5:13) and musicians offering praise (hālal) to God with lyres (1 Chr 25:3); harps (Psa 71:22); and the trumpet, lute, tambourine, dance, strings, pipe, and cymbals (Psa 150:3–5). The Scriptures offer exhortations to praise God, such as Psa 107:32: “Let them exalt him in the congregation of the people, and praise (hālal) him in the assembly of the elders” (compare Psa 22:23; 106:48). People also declare that they will praise God, as in Psa 146:2: “I will praise (hālal) Yahweh while I live; I will sing praises (זָמַר, zāmar) to my God while I am still alive” (compare Psa 35:18; 69:30). Reasons for praising God are often given, including: God’s righteous rules (Psa 119:164), God’s goodness (Psa 135:3), the exalted nature of his name and his majesty (Psa 148:13), and his mighty deeds and excellent greatness (Psa 150:2). Even nonhuman and nonbiological entities are exhorted to express praise to God, including the angels, all God’s hosts, the sun, moon, stars, highest heavens, waters, sea creatures, and the deep (Psa 48:2–4, 7).

The Psalms often use the expression הַלְלוּ־יָהּ (hallû-yāh, “Praise Yah”), which combines hālal with יָהּ (yāh), the shortened form of God’s name יהוה (yhwh, “Yahweh”; e.g., Psa 11:1; 135:21; 146:1; 148:1). This expression does not occur in the OT outside the Psalms.

תְּהִלָּה (tĕhillâ). n. fem. praise, thanksgiving. Describes praise and thanksgiving to God.

This noun is related to the verb הָלַל (hālal, “to praise”). It usually refers to praise offered to God.

Sometimes a worshiper declares an intent to praise God, as in Psa 71:14: “I will hope continually and increase your praise (tĕhillâ)” (see also Psa 51:15; 106:47; Isa 42:12; 43:21). In other instances, the word is used in an exhortation to praise the Lord (e.g., Psa 66:8: “Bless our God, O peoples, and cause sound of his praise (tĕhillâ) to be heard”). In several instances, the Scriptures attest to a process by which God enables worshipers to become “a praise (tĕhillâ).” For example, in Isa 61:11 Yahweh “will make righteousness sprout, and praise (tĕhillâ) before the nations” (see also Jer 13:9; Deut 26:19), and in Zeph 3:19, he empowers the people such that their shame is turned into praise (tĕhillâ). Ultimate praise is suitably directed only to God, not to idols (Isa 42:8).

יָדָה (yādâ). vb. to give thanks, praise. Describes the act of giving thanks and praise to God.

This verb primarily refers to giving thanks; the majority instances of yādâ in the OT are in Psalms.

Like other terms with similar meanings, yādâ is often accompanied by an explanation of the reason for the thanks or praise. Reasons for which people thank (yādâ) God include the birth of Leah’s son (Gen 29:35), the righteous rules of God (Psa 99:3), the righteousness of God (Psa 7:17), the goodness of God (Psa 54:6), and the great and holy name of God (Psa 99:3). The verb can be used in an exhortation inviting people to thank (yādâ) God, as in Psa 97:12: “Be glad in Yahweh, you righteous, and give thanks (yādâ) to his holy name” (see also Psa 30:4; 105:1; 118:29). The intent and act of praise and thanksgiving can also be declared by the worshiper in a statement like that in Psa 86:12: “I will give thanks (yādâ) to you, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and glorify your name forever” (compare Psa 108:3). However, Sheol and the dead cannot praise God (Isa 38:18).

תּוֹדָה (tôdâ). n. fem. thanksgiving, sacrifice of thanksgiving, thank offering.

Describes the giving of thanks to God, thank offerings, exhortations, and declarations of praise and thanksgiving. This noun is related to the verb יָדָה (yādâ, “to give thanks”).

It can refer to thank offerings (e.g., Lev 7:12; 2 Chr 29:31; Psa 56:12; Jer 17:26) and to general thanks given to God (Isa 51:3; Neh 12:38; Jonah 2:9; Psa 42:4). The word is also used by the scriptural authors to convey declarations of praise, as in Psa 69:30: “I will … magnify him with thanksgiving (tôdâ)” as well as in exhortations to offer praise and thanksgiving, e.g., Psa 95:2: “Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving (tôdâ)” (see also Psa 100:4; 147:7).

רָנַן (rānan). vb. to cry out in joy or praise.

Describes the crying out of a worshiper in joy or praise.

This verb indicates crying aloud in joyful praise or “singing for joy” as in Psa 95:1: “Come let us sing for joy (rānan) to Yahweh!” and Psa 89:12b, which states: “Tabor and Hermon shout joyfully (rānan) over your name.”

זָמַר (zāmar). vb. to sing praise. Indicates the act of singing praise and praising the Lord.

This verb means “to sing praise,” and occurs almost exclusively in Psalms, as in Psa 104:33b: “I will sing praise (zāmar) to my God while I remain alive” (see also Psa 7:17; 9:2; 21:3; 30:12; 138:1).

שָׁבַח (šābaḥ); Aram. שְׁבַח (šĕbaḥ). vb. to praise. Describes the act of giving thanks and praise.

he Hebrew verb šābaḥ means “to praise.” In Psalm 63:3 the psalmist declares: “Because your loyal love is better than life, my lips will praise (šābaḥ) you.” (compare Psa 147:12). The Aramaic equivalent šĕbaḥ has the same meaning, as in Dan 2:23.

New Testament

εὐχαριστέω (eucharisteō). vb. to give thanks. Describes the act of giving thanks.

This verb means “to give thanks.” It is used in the NT only of giving thanks to God, except for one occasion where it is unclear whether the person giving thanks to Jesus believed him to be God (Luke 17:16). It is used when Jesus gives thanks (eucharisteō) at the Last Supper (e.g., Luke 22:17, 19; John 6:11, 23) and before the miracle of the feeding of the 4,000 (Matt 15:36; Mark 8:6). Paul often gives thanks (eucharisteō), especially for the faith and salvation of the churches to which he is ministering and writing (e.g., Rom 1:8; Col 1:4). He also expresses thanks that he did not baptize many at Corinth (1 Cor 1:14) and that he speaks in tongues more than all of the members of the Corinthian church (1 Cor 14:18). In Revelation, the living creatures in the heavenly realm give thanks (eucharisteō; Rev 4:9; 11:17). Sinful people do not give thanks (Rom 1:21), and hypocritical religious leaders sometimes give thanks (eucharisteō) in an arrogant, presumptuous fashion (Luke 18:11). The related adjective εὐχάριστος (eucharistos, “thankful”) occurs one time in Col 3:15, where Paul exhorts the Colossians to be thankful (eucharistos).

εὐχαριστία (eucharistia). n. fem. thanks, thanksgiving. Describes the expression and experience of being thankful and the action of giving thanks.

This noun is related to εὐχαριστέω (eucharisteō) and refers generally to giving thanks to God.

Ephesians 5:4 recommends thanksgiving (eucharistia) in place of “obscenity,” “foolish talk,” and “coarse jesting.” Likewise, in Philippians 4:6, Paul exhorts the church at Philippi to not be anxious but rather “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving (eucharistia) to let your requests be made known to God.” Christians are to abound in thanksgiving (eucharistia) in light of their rootedness in Christ (Col 2:7). Thus the Scriptures indicate that thanksgiving is a central Christian virtue, intended to replace despair, anxiety, and worldly ways.

εὐλογέω (eulogeō). vb. to praise, bless.

Indicates the action of blessing God, in the sense of offering praise to God.

This verb means “to praise.” It often indicates the offering of, the wish for, or the activity of a blessing from God. However, when humans bless God, this is equivalent to offering him praise. Thus, after Jesus’ ascension, his disciples “were continually in the temple courts praising (eulogeō) God” (Luke 24:53), and during the triumphant entry, the crowds shouted to Jesus, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed (eulogeō) is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Matt 21:9; see also Matt 23:39; Mark 11:9; Luke 19:38; John 12:13).

αἰνέω (aineō). vb. to praise.

Denotes the act of expressing praise.

This verb is the most common Septuagint translation of the Hebrew הָלַל (hālal, “to praise”) and is used in the NT only of praising God. In Luke’s account of the triumphal entry the people following him, rejoice, and “praise (aineō) God with a loud voice for all the miracles that they had seen” (Luke 19:37). There are two instances in which the verb is used to express an exhortation to praise: Rom 15:11 (“Praise [aineō] the Lord, all the Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise [ἐπαινέω, epaineō] him”) and Rev 19:5 (“Praise [aineō] our God, all his slaves, and those who fear him, the small and the great”).

ἔπαινος (epainos). n. masc. praise.

Describing the quality and action of praise and honor.

This noun is used in the NT both of praise or approval given to humans (e.g., Rom 2:29; 1 Cor 4:5) and of praise given to God and his qualities (e.g., Phil 1:11). It occurs repeatedly in Eph 1, where the author uses it in a prayer to God which is offered “to the praise (epainos) of the glory of his grace” (Eph 1:6) and “to the praise (epainos) of his glory” (Eph 1:12, 14). A similar use occurs in Phil 1:11, where Paul prays that the believers might be “filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise (epainos) of God.”

ἐξομολογέω (exomologeō). vb. to confess, profess, offer praise.

Describes the confession or proclamation of the praise of God.

This verb is the usual Septuagint translation of the Hebrew יָדָה (yādâ, “to give thanks”). In some instances it refers to giving thanks to God, including three main instances in which Jesus thanks the Father (Matt 11:25; Luke 10:21; John 11:41). In other cases it refers to confessing sin (e.g., Matt 3:6).

ψάλλω (psallō). vb. to sing praise.

Conveys the act of singing praise.

This verb is the usual Septuagint translation of the Hebrew זָמַר (zāmar, “to sing praise”). It occurs five times in the NT, where it denotes singing praise to God (e.g., 1 Cor 14:15; Jas 5:13).

ὑμνέω (hymneō). vb. to sing praise.

Conveys the act of singing praise.

In the NT, this verb always refers to the singing of praise by the people of God (Matt 26:30; Mark 14:26; Acts 16:25; Heb 2:12).

John Frederick, Lexham Theological Wordbook, 2014.


Worship

Worship is the awed response to the saving acts and praiseworthy character of God.

Concept Summary

Worship is the reverential response of creation to the all-encompassing magnificence of God (Isa 6:1–6; Exod 15:11; Psa 148:1–14). In the OT, worship encompassed a variety of activities. Bringing forward an offering to God was an act of worship (קָרַב, qārab). Bowing down in the presence of God was an outward display of an inner attitude of reverence before the Creator (חָוָה, ḥāwâ). The verb רוּם (rûm) could indicate that a person was “lifting up” or “exalting” God with praise. Together, these last two terms provide a rich image of worship: People both bow before God and lift him up in praise and wonder. The verb הָלַל (hālal) could be used to designate the act of celebrating God. The word “hallelujah” is derived from the Hebrew phrase הַלְלוּ־יָהּ (halĕlû-yāh), meaning “praise Yahweh.” This praise could involve זָמַר (zāmar, “singing”). Worship could also be described as “serving” (עָבַד, ʿābad) God. The ritual life of devotion was emblematic of a whole life given over to God.

The NT carries over many of the actions described as worship in the OT. The verb προσκυνέω (proskyneō) means to bow down as an act of worship, while κάμπτω (kamptō) signifies bending the knee or bowing in reverence to God. Other words for praising God include δοξάζω (doxazō), for the act of giving God glory, and εὐλογέω (eulogeō), for praising or blessing God.

Theological Overview

The only proper object of worship is the one God who created and redeemed humanity (Deut 5:6–7; 6:4; 1 Cor 8:5–6; Isa 40:18–23; Col 1:15–20). In the earliest times, worship involved sacrifice at an altar (Gen 8:20–21; 12:6–7). During this stage of Israel’s history, there does not seem to be any limitation on the location of worship as long as Yahweh was the object of worship. During the exodus narrative, Israelite worship came to be centered on the tabernacle (Exod 40:1–36) and occurred wherever the tabernacle was located (2 Sam 7:6). Before the choice of Zion during the Davidic monarchy, worship also took place at various high places, as long as it was not worship associated with other deities (1 Kgs 9:16–24). These were outlawed after God chose Jerusalem as his preferred place of worship (Pss 78:68; 132:13). The Prophetic literature includes prophecies of the nations coming to Jerusalem to worship God; these texts also predict that the word of God will go forth to the nations (Isa 2:3; 49:6; Zech 8:20–23; Mal 1:11).

The forms of worship are diverse. Worship can take place in the context of confession, lament, praise, thanksgiving, and adoration. Confession is a form of worship recognizing that people are sinners who stand in need of God’s grace (Psa 51:1–19). Lament is a type of worship that recognizes the distance between the world as experienced, and as it should be, given God’s goodness, power, and love (Psa 44:1–26). It is a request for God to complete his project of making all things new. Praise of God can be in response to his character or his saving acts (Exod 15:1–21). Thanksgiving functions as a means of showing gratitude for what God has done (Psa 138:1–8). Adoration involves contemplating and lauding God for who he is (Psa 8:1–4). Worship could manifest itself in many activities, including song, dance, ritual, preaching, and prayer. The people of Israel sang and played instruments in praise of God (1 Chr 25:6); King David danced before the Lord (2 Sam 6:14). God gave the Israelites a series of festivals that were meant as annual reminders of his saving deeds in the past and his continual provision in the present (e.g., Lev 23; Deut 16:1–17). Physically, worship could involve bowing the knee, lying prostrate, or lifting hands before God (e.g., 1 Sam 1:26; Jer 18:20; 2 Chron 6:13; Ps 5:8; 28:2; 99:5; Isa 1:15).

The paradigmatic picture of early Christian worship has long been Acts 2:42. The church gathered to hear the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to break bread (observing the Lord’s Supper; compare 1 Cor 11:23–26), and to pray. Other accounts indicate that early Christian worship included offerings, songs, and the felt presence of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 16:1–2; Eph 5:19; Gal 3:1–5). Worship encompassed the entirety of one’s life lived in obedience to God (Rom 12:1–2). Every act of obedience to Christ, no matter how mundane, when done to his glory, is an act of worship (e.g., Col 3:17). This worship will find its consummation when people from every tribe, tongue, and nation join with the rest of creation in adoration before the throne of the Lamb (Rev 5:11–14).

Lexical Information

Old Testament

חָוָה (ḥāwâ). vb. to bow down, worship.

Refers to bowing down in an act of worship, reverence, or respect.

In the OT this verb occurs only in a rare grammatical stem (הִשְׁתַּחֲוָה, hištāḥăwâ; now commonly considered a Hishtaphel; see NIDOTTE 2:42). The verb describes the act of bowing or making oneself bow before a superior. It was the custom in the ancient Near East to bow before a perceived superior as a sign of respect (Gen 18:2; 23:7; 42:6). Depending on who was addressed, the bow could be a greeting (Gen 18:2), a symbol of submission (Ruth 2:10), an act of worship (Psa 95:6), or a means of showing honor (1 Sam 25:23). This bowing down could consist of bowing the face to the ground (Gen 48:12; Num 22:31, Josh 5:14) or bending the knee (Psa 95:6). As it relates to worship, it symbolized the believer’s grateful response to a promise made or kept by God (Gen 24:48; Exod 4:31). Israel bowed down at the manifestation of the presence of God (Exod 33:10; 2 Chr 7:3). Israel was repeatedly told not to bow down to other gods or idols, because doing so would mean that Israel acknowledged another as worthy of the same respect as their Creator (Deut 5:9; Lev 26:1). As sole Creator and redeemer of Israel, Yahweh alone deserved worship (Deut 8:11–19).

הָלַל (hālal). vb. to praise.

The act of listing and celebrating the positive attributes or actions of someone (often God).

Hālal is the celebration of the positive attributes of human or divine figures. For the nation of Israel, praise is directed to God and forms a vital part of their identity as Yahweh’s chosen people. They are the people who praise God (Psa 22:22–23). This praise often takes the form of a shout or song (Psa 145:1). In some cases, a specific cause for praise is not evident, and merely reflecting about God led to praise. Praise is the proper response to a saving act as well as to calamity (Psa 56:1–4). God dwelled among the people of Israel, and, in every situation or at every realization of this reality, praise remained a natural response (Psa 113:1–3).

תְּהִלָּה (tĕhilâ). n. fem. praise, praise song.

Refers often to the praise or adoration due to God alone.

Tĕhilâ may describe a person’s praiseworthy characteristics. In Proverbs 31:28 the various positive attributes and deeds of the noble woman are her praise (tĕhilâ). God’s praiseworthy deeds or attributes include his power over creation, the provision of the scriptures, and his acts of salvation on Israel’s behalf (Isa 63:7; Pss 78:4; 119:171; 147:1–20). Rejoicing in these deeds in song or shout can also be called tĕhilâ (Isa 61:11; Pss 33:1; 100:4; Neh 9:5). God is to be praised for who God is; his character leads him to perform acts of salvation that in turn become the subjects of Israel’s songs.

קָרַב (qārab). vb. draw near, approach.

Refers to moving in the direction of someone or something, or to bringing something near, including bringing an offering to God.

In the causative stem (Hiphil), the verb qārab is used for the act of bringing an offering near to God (Psa 29:3; Lev 1:2; 4:14; 21:6). This offering or sacrifice was usually made by the Levitical priests (Lev 9:7) on behalf of the people (Lev 1:2) and, in so doing, brought the nation close to God (Num 16:9).

רוּם (rûm). vb. to lift up, exalt.

Often used to describe the raising of a person’s or God’s status due to an accomplishment or attribute.

The verb describes moving things to a higher place. When used in a worship context, it means to make much of God for what he has done (Exod 15:2; Pss 30:1; 99:5; Isa 25:1). In other cases, it speaks about God’s status as the one above everything, inspiring awe (Isa 6:1; 57:15). Others should not lift themselves too high or think too much of themselves (Isa 2:17; 10:12; Dan 11:36; Jer 48:29). The heights, in this sense, are a place reserved for God alone (Isa 2:11–12).

זָמַר (zāmar). vb. to sing, play an instrument.

Refers to playing an instrument, often a stringed one, or to singing in the context of worship.

The people of Israel sang or played musical instruments as a means of worship (Judg 5:3). Zāmar could describe the use of instruments in praise (Pss 33:2; 98:5; 149:3) or the use of voices and instruments in combination (Psa 71:21–22). This singing came as a reflection on God’s attributes (Psa 135:2) or his acts of salvation (Psa 30:11–12). Joyous singing and playing of music was a regular part of the Israelites’ worship experience (Pss 46:6–7; 138:1).

עָבַד (ʿābad). to work, serve, worship.

Refers to any regular task or work carried out, as well to worship or service done for God or other deities.

The OT did not make a strong distinction between secular and religious work (ʿābad). Adam and Eve were placed in the garden “to work” and keep it (Gen 2:5). Thus, work had a creational and redemptive role. The very fruitfulness of work reflected humanity’s positive relationship with God (Gen 3:17–19). This word can also refer to service for others, either forced (Exod 1:13; 5:18; Isa 14:3) or voluntary (Exod 21:5–6). It is then no surprise that one who offers service to God can be described as his worshiper or his servant (Pss 100:2; 102:22; 1 Chr 28:9; 1 Sam 7:3); similarly, the servants of false gods could be called their servants or worshippers (Deut 4:19; Judg 2:11; 3:7; 1 Kgs 22:5). The word could also be used to describe the various activities performed by the Levitical priests in the tabernacle or temple (Num 4:23; 7:5; 8:11).

New Testament

προσκυνέω (proskyneō). vb. to bow down, worship.

To bow down before a human as a sign of respect or before a divine figure as an act of worship.

In a few cases, proskyneō means bowing before a superior (Matt 9:18; 20:20). The NT, influenced by the use of proskyneō to translate חָוָה (ḥāwâ), uses proskyneō to describe worship properly given to God alone (John 4:20–24). In the book of Revelation, worship consists of hymns of adoration that praise the glorious character and actions of God (Rev 4:10–11; 5:11–14; 7:11–17). Early Christians would sometimes physically bow before God in prayer (1 Cor 14:25).

εὐλογέω (eulogeō). vb. to bless, praise.

Describes the act of showing gratitude to God or receiving favor from God.

In the NT, this verb’s most common meaning is to laud or magnify the mighty deeds of God (Luke 1:64, 68; 1 Cor 14:16). As Creator of the world and redeemer in Christ, God remains worthy of praise (Rev 7:12). Thus, he is the blessed (εὐλογητός, eulogētos) or praised one (Rom 1:25; Mark 14:61). Blessing God is the appropriate response to various events in life (Matt 14:19; 2 Cor 1:1–3; Jas 3:9). Paul typically uses eulogeō with the OT sense of God’s favor upon individuals or people (Eph 1:3; Gen 12:3).

εὐλογητός (eulogētos). adj. masc. blessed, praiseworthy.

Describes one who is blessed or praiseworthy.

This word is related to eulogeō. It is used exclusively in the NT to refer to God (Rom 1:25; 2 Cor 1:3; 11:31; 1 Pet 1:3). When writers of the NT want to sum up or introduce God, they often describe him as the blessed one (Luke 1:68–79; 2 Cor 11:31).

σέβω (sebō). vb. to worship.

Refers to respect shown to humans or to ceremonial acts of devotion to a deity.

In non-biblical Greek usage, sebō is an act of devotion done for the sake of a god. The focus was on performing external actions in order to gain favor. For this reason, it is rarely used in the Greek translation of the OT or the NT. When used, it often translates יָרֵא (yārēʾ, “fear”), which describes the fearful wonder that the believer has in God’s presence. In the OT, fearing God is the beginning of knowledge and leads to a transformation of one’s life and character (Deut 6:1–2; Josh 24:14). This use of sebō as the awe struck worshipers of the one God is seen in the description of the Gentile converts in Acts as the god-fearers or the devout (Acts 13:43, 50, 16:4).

θρησκεία (thrēskeia). n. fem. ritual act of devotion for a divine being.

Refers typically to external ritual acts that display commitment to a god.

Thrēskeia is rare, occurring only four times in the NT and four times in the Septuagint. It designates ritual acts of worship that show commitment to God. Paul, while responding to the accusation that he disregards Jewish customs, defends himself in Acts 26:5 by saying that he is a Pharisee, the strictest party of the Jewish “religion” (thrēskeia). In other words, he engaged in the actions and way of life that manifested a commitment to the God of the Jews. Paul also warns the church in Colossae against the idolatrous worship (thrēskeia) of angels (Col 2:18). A similar meaning could be seen in Jas 1:26. Since in the Gentile world thrēskeia emphasized the performance of liturgical acts, James clarifies what the term means in the context of following God. If one is religious (thrēskos) in the Christian sense of the term, it must include a change in manner of life. The religion (thrēskeia) that God values shows a concern for others that reflects God’s own character (Jas 1:27).

κάμπτω (kamptō). vb. to bow.

Refers to bowing as a sign of religious devotion.
Kamptō means to bow as a sign of humility before a divine figure. Paul uses it in Rom 11:4 while quoting 1 Kgs 19:8, where it refers to those who have remained faithful and not “bowed (kamptō) the knee to Baal.” Paul also describes himself as one who “bows” before God in prayer (Eph 3:14). He speaks of the coming day when all will bow the knee at the name of Jesus (Phil 2:10). This signifies the universal acknowledgement of Jesus and his divine identity (compare Isa 45:23). Much like proskyneō, this word emphasizes an outward action in worship or prayer that corresponds to an inward disposition.

 

δοξάζω (doxazō). vb. to praise, glorify.

Refers to the act of praising or glorifying God.

As it relates to worship, doxazō refers to the act of glorifying God in word or deed. Inasmuch as Christians pattern their lives after Jesus, they glorify God (1 Cor 6:20; Rom 12:1). The Christian life lived for Christ is an act of worship. This does not rule out acts of glorifying God in a variety of actual gatherings (Matt 5:16; 15:31; Acts 11:18; 1 Pet 4:11).

Esau McCaulley, Lexham Theological Wordbook, 2014.

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