Hallelujah



From the Hebrew word meaning “praise ye Yah(weh)”; the Greek and Latin versions transliterated it as alleluia, whence the alternative English spelling. In the Bible it occurs only in the latter part of the Psalter and in Revelations 19:1-6. The precise phrase is found only in hymnic context, and only as the beginning or conclusion of a cultic acclamation (with a single exception). All the Psalms containing the phrase appear to be relatively late (none is ascribed to David), and it seems evident that the term became a fixed part of the later temple liturgy. The preponderance of occurrences is at the beginning of individual psalms, and it may be inferred from Psalms 135:19ff. that the Levites had special responsibility for uttering it, probably as a summons to praise. 1 Chronicles 16:36 suggests that the congregation uttered it in response, at the close of hymns of praise. Revelation 19 (as also Tobit 13:18) uses the term in eschatological context. The Hallelujah Psalms had considerable use in the synagogue liturgy by NT times, and the Christian Church also adopted the term (in transliteration) from the earliest times. It has played its part throughout the history of Christian liturgy (for which see s.v. “Alleluia” in the New Catholic Encyclopedia) and in Christian hymnody.


HALLELUJAH hal’ ə lōō’ yə (הַֽלְלוּ־יָֽהּ, praise Yahweh; ἀλληλουιά).

Structure.

The Heb. word for “Hallelujah!” is derived from halal, “to boast,” “to praise.” In the OT, hallelu-yah is invariably tr. “Praise the Lord,” but never “Hallelujah!” In Heb. it is a hyphenated word and never a compound, as are many Heb. words composing an abbreviated form of Yahwah and Elohim. However, it may be that the Jews became accustomed to considering it a compound, even though it was never written as such. Anyway, it became a compound in Gr. and in other languages. The Gr. allelouia is an obvious transliteration from the Heb., and bears the identical meaning. “Hallelujah!,” like “Amen,” has practically become a universal word. It is an acclamation of praise of the highest order, praising God in man’s most elegant expression in reverence, awe, and humility. Its use is limited altogether to songs of praise, appearing only in Psalms and Revelation.

Nature.

Hallelujah, “Praise the Lord,” is a liturgical interjection, and an exclamation. Like other interjections, it is not grammatically connected with accompanying sentences; however it has vital spiritual and worshipful connections where used. Its common use was as a call to praise God at the beginning of songs and as a shout of spiritual exultation at the end. Some scholars point out that in occasional instances where it appears at the end of a Psalm, it properly belongs at the beginning of the following Psalm (see Pss 104; 117). In one instance, it illogically follows the Doxology when it should precede it (Ps 106).

Restriction.

The Heb. word hallelu-jah is used sparingly in the OT, occurring only about fifteen times, and that only in the Psalms. Other words for praise, hillel and hallel, are used dozens of times throughout the OT, but not Hallelu-jah. In the Heb. mind it prob. held a certain sacred distinctiveness that restricted its frequent use. It is strictly a religious term and consequently limited to personal and congregational worship.

Festival shout.


Personal praise.


Heavenly chorus.

“Hallelujah” appears four times (all in one ch.) in the NT (Rev 19:1, 3, 4, 6). Here the Gr. is transliterated “Hallelujah,” and is the only tr. as such in the Eng. VSS of the Bible. As the Heb. Psalter closes with God’s chosen people singing “Hallelujah,” the NT closes with God’s redeemed in heaven singing “Hallelujah.” John heard in the heavenly choir “what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals, crying ‘Hallelujah!’” (v. 6).

Christians through the centuries, in the tradition of the Jews and the early Christians have held “Hallelujah” in liturgical esteem; and, today it is sung in churches over the world.

Bibliography

The Oxford Annotated Bible (1962), 736-740, 744-747, 766-768; R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel (1962), 510-512.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

The word is not a compound, like many of the Hebrew words which are composed of the abbreviated form of "Yahweh" and some other word, but has become a compound word in the Greek and other languages. Even if the Jews perhaps had become accustomed to use it as a compound, it is never written as such in the text. In some Psalms, Hallelujah is an integral part of the song (Ps 135:3), while in others it simply serves as a liturgical interjection found either at the beginning (Ps 111) or at the close (Ps 104) of the psalms or both (Ps 146). The Hallelujah Psalms are found in three groups: 104-106; 111-113; 146-150. In the first group, Hallelujah is found at the close of the psalm as a lit. interjection (106:1 is an integral part of the psalm). In the second group, Hallelujah is found at the beginning (113:9 is an integral part of the psalm depending on the adjective "joyful"). In the third group, Hallelujah is found both at the close and at the beginning of the psalms. In all other cases, (Pss 115; 116; 117) Hallelujah seems to be an integral part of the psalms. These three groups were probably taken from an older collection of psalms like the group Psalms 120-134. In the New Testament Hallelujah is found as part of the song of the heavenly host (Re 19:1 ). The word is preserved as a liturgical interjection by the Christian church generally.