Hallelujah. This word is used in the scriptures at least twenty-eight times. The Psalmists sang it, and the great multitude gathered around the throne will cry out — Hallelujah (Revelation 19:1-8). We say it, we sing it, and many people use it flippantly, but what does it mean?
Hallelujah is a Combination of Two Hebrew Words
Hallelujah (הַלְלוּיָהּ) is a combination of 2 words.
- 1. Halal (הָלַל) – This root form is translated throughout the Bible as:
- to be clear; to be brilliant; to shine; to flash forth light; to praise, boast, be boastful;
- interestingly, in some forms it denotes the meaning of: to make a fool of; to make into a fool; to act madly; act like a madman (Ecclesiastes 1:17, 2:12, 7:25 10:13).
The word specifically used in Hallelujah is l’hallel (לְהַלֵל), which means to praise or to glorify.
Note for language-lovers: hallelu (הַלְלוּ) is the masculine plural imperative form of the piel verb, so it is the positive command “you [must] praise”. I think a simple example would be the applause cue card at a live show. When the card is raised, people clap. Similarly, when hallelu is said, people praise.
- 2. Yah (יָהּ), the shortened form of Gods name Yahweh (יְהוָֹה).
You Shall Not Take the Name of Yahweh in Vain
In my opening statement, I said that some use this word flippantly. An example of this is the song “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen. If you do a little research into his reason for writing this song, you’ll see that he wanted to take the word out of its religious context and make it a word that anyone can use. In my experience as a musician, it is so easy to get caught up in the feelings and emotions of a song without considering what’s actually being said. Words mean things, and if we are to believe that we will be held accountable for what we say, it’s important to be careful and wise with our words. Hallelujah intrinsically has the name of God in it, and the 3rd commandment says:
“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
In conclusion, as we ponder the meaning of the word Hallelujah, let’s also consider the following words of Yeshua:
“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words, you will be condemned.”
Want to dive deeper into your Hebrew word studies? Join us in some of our additional writings.
Start with our article on 'Why Should I Study Hebrew Words.'
After that feel free to join us as we look into the name of Yeshua and the Hebrew word for hearing - Shama.
This is absolutely beautiful & so accurate. Praise Yeshua. May God continue to bless your intricate word studies in bringing further clarification to Hebrew words.
In my opinion what Dan says about Cohen’s purpose in writing the song does not go far enough. “…its a cold and its a broken Halleluja.” is saying in typical old-school Jewish fashion that God is a stern, if not cruel taskmaster and we are obliged to praise his lordship, power and glory but we necessarily do it unhappily, reluctantly. This is NOT fitting to be sung in church or for a serious Christian, at all!
I agree with what you’re saying. However, The goal of this study was to explore the meaning of the word Hallelujah. My example of Cohens song was not exhaustive. I’m sure there is much more that could be said to unpack his reasons for writing the song.
Thank you Daniel!
Liked this explanation of what Hallelujah means.
Very good explanation, I appreciate your research and the heart for concern for the Name of God and for how it is used by the people.
With our words, I notice amen was added to the Bible. For myself I now use the word emet instead which means truth in Hebrew. What are your thoughts on This?
Amen is found in the Greek and Hebrew writings of the Old and New testaments in various forms (Deuteronomy 27:15, Nehemiah 8:6, Psalm 41:13, John 5:24, Philippians 4:20, Revelation 3:14).
Amen denotes the meaning of truly, certainly, or ‘so be it’. Emunah is the Hebrew word for faith. Ne’eman means faithful. These are all built off of the same root aleph mem nun (אמן). In the Gospels, when Yeshua would say “Truly, Truly I say to you…”, the word translated as ‘truly’ is amen.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with saying emet, but there is also nothing wrong with saying amen. To say it at the end of prayers, or after someone says something that is truthful, is to say “may it be so!” It is important to understand the meaning of the words that we are using.
Thanks Daniel for this informed and spirit filled insight. I am a young woman and I am excited and supportive when I meet young people in my generation that fit the qualities in Daniel 1:4.
I love music and worship especially…I love to know the spirit behind worship songs. Now I know how to say Hallelujah with meaning. Glory be to God!
Let me respectfully disagree with your assessment of Leonard Cohen’s song, Daniel. The lyrics spin out narratives of broken individuals who nevertheless cry out their praises in the midst of their pain. If you’ll look again at the lyrics, you’ll see that they say nothing about God’s character… they’re all about HUMAN failings, frailties, foibles, and sin…in the midst of which those broken people nevertheless cry out their broken hallelujahs. As such, I think those lyrics are entirely appropriate for lovers of God to sing… I think many believers have had a dark night of the soul–or experienced a moral abyss like David’s–from which he or she nevertheless clings tenaciously to God and in his or her pain sings praise to God.
Thank you for being respectful about it. Cohen himself described his purpose for writing the song, that is not an opinion of mine. He said that he wanted to remove “hallelujah” from its religious context and make it available for everyone. As I mentioned in the article, Yahweh’s name is not something to be used idly and without reverence. It doesn’t really matter how we feel about it. There is no shortage of music that will make you feel good, but if it is not based in the truth of Gods word then it is not fit to be used in worship.