What is Worship? Tehillah

Tehillah is a Hebrew word that encourages us to sing praise to God. On Thursdays I have been posting on the meaning of various words related to worship.  Here is a complete list of the words we are studying:

Worship Terms

Worship – What is the meaning of the English word “Worship?”
Shachah – The primary Hebrew word for worship
Proskuneo – The primary Greek word for worship
Halal – A Hebrew word for crazy exuberant praise
Shabach – A Hebrew word for loud praise
Tehillah – A Hebrew word for song of praise
Zamar – A Hebrew word for making music accompanied by strings
Yadah – A Hebrew word for extending the hands in thanksgiving and praise
Towdah – A Hebrew word for a thanks offering
Barak – A Hebrew word for kneeling before God in humble submission

Hidden Meaning in Psalm 100:4 - See how understanding these words enhances the meaning of this popular praise verse.

In this post I will continue the study of worship terminology by looking at the Hebrew word Tehillah. This post is very similar to a post I wrote in 2013 titled Seven Hebrew Words that Will Enhance Your Worship: Tehillah.


Definition of Tehillah from Bible Hub

Meaning of Tehillah

According to LexiConcordance.com Tehillah means "praise, song or hymn of praise."

Translation Problem

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


Doxology composed by Thomas Ken in 1674. The music is from the "Old Hundredth" Hymn in the Geneva Psalter, 1551. Image from www.prayerfoundation.org

The word Tehillah occurs 57 times in the Old Testament and in most of these instances the singing aspect of the word is obscured 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. 


Praise God accompanied by stringed instruments

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!

Three Questions to Ask Yourself

  1. Am I singing God's praise or just speaking it?
  2. Do I appreciate that singing is commanded (or at least highly encouraged) by God?
  3. What music do I sing? Do I use my singing voice to bring praise to God?

by Jerry Wyrick, President of Worship Arts Conservatory

Posted in General Worship and tagged , , , .