An updated version of this post can be found here.
Tehillah is derived from Halal and essentially means to sing Halal or sing a song of praise. In the complex task of translating Hebrew poetry into English this idea of singing is often lost. It is common to translate this word as “praise” unless the context specifically mentions music. So, for instance, in Psalm 66:8 the English Standard Version says,
Bless our God, O peoples;
let the sound of his praise be heard
The second phrase could actually be translated
let the sound of our songs of praise be heard
Psalm 71:8 in the ESV says,
My mouth is filled with your praise,
and with your glory all the day.
The first phrase could be translated to say
My mouth is filled with songs of praise
The word Tehillah occurs 57 times in the Old Testament and in most of these instances the singing aspect of the word is hidden by the translation.
Translators have many difficult decisions to make when choosing the right words for a translation, so this is not intended to criticize the translators. My point is not that the translations are incorrect. My point is that because we don’t have an equivalent word in English, the translation tends to hide one aspect of the word. When we use the word “praise” we could mean singing or we could just mean speaking. The word Tehillah is similar to the word “praise” except the idea of singing is its primary meaning.
What can we learn from this?
- God loves singing. Not only are we encouraged to speak our praise, but we are also encouraged to sing our praise. In fact, in a previous post I pointed out that even God sings!
- Singing should be a significant part of our worship. Colossians 3:16 tells us that when the Word dwells in us fully we will sing songs of praise. Ephesians 5:19 informs us that when we are filled with the Spirit we will sing songs of praise. Worship leads naturally, or maybe I should say supernaturally, to singing!
- Everyone should sing. We are all encouraged to sing. Tehillah is not about talent but about our heart overflowing with praise so much so that we must sing it out!
- The Bible talks about singing more than we realize. Many times in our English Bibles, due to the difficulties of translation, we are ignorant of the encouragement to sing that is in the original text.
So, take time to sing your praise!
Why do you think some are so resistant to singing their praise to God? Please leave a comment.
by Jerry Wyrick, President of Worship Arts Conservatory