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Concepts like raising our hands or being expressive with worship go far beyond modern "worship culture" and actually find their roots in Old Testament instruction on worship.

Perhaps you’ve wondered about praise and worship and where we get concepts like raising our hands or being expressive with worship. These go far beyond modern “worship culture” and actually find their roots in Old Testament (OT) instruction on worship. In this topic, we’ll explore several types of praise found in the Bible which will help broaden your understanding of the roots of modern worship and also help to bring more depth to your personal praise and worship.


Tehillah (תְּהִלָּה) means “to praise vocally with songs or shouts” and is closely related to the Hebrew name for the Book of Psalms – Tehilim (תְּהִלִּים). Tehillah is a type of praise that is primarily heard, whereas other types of praise are seen. It is used in Psalm 22:3 where it says that God is enthroned on the praises of his people or takes up residence in the praises of his people.

Psalm 34:1 I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak his praises.


Interestingly enough, the word halal (הָלַל) refers to a boastful and loud praising of God and is found often in the OT – ninety-six times in total. Originally, the word had to do with “shining.” The word hallelujah comes from this word. It also means “to boastfully worship” in a way that can even make you look foolish!

Psalm 113:1-3 Praise the LordPraise the Lord, you his servants; praise the name of the LordLet the name of the Lord be praised, both now and forevermore. From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised.


Whereas halal is a boisterous clamoring of praise, shavach (שָׁבַח) is a more dignified manner of speaking, as if speaking to royalty in a lofty and loud way. It is also described as a battle cry; a victorious shout. But it goes beyond just shouts; it implies that your whole being is behind these praises, expressed through these vocal declarations.

Psalm 117:1-2 Praise the Lord, all you nations. Praise him, all you people of the earth. For his unfailing love for us is powerful; the Lord’s faithfulness endures forever.


Yadah (יָדָה) means to publicly worship with the vigorous extending of hands in giving worship or adoration; the verb can mean “to cast forth,” as in “casting forth” praise or “casting forth” our hands in worship. It can carry the idea of a child reaching for their parents in full need and surrender.

2 Chronicles 20:21 After consulting the people, the king appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the Lord and praising him for his holy splendor. This is what they sang: “Give thanks to the Lord; his faithful love endures forever!”

Psalm 138:1 I give you thanks, O Lord, with all my heart; I will sing your praises before the gods.


Barak (בָּרַךְ) means to bow down or kneel before the Lord in quiet worship and adoration. It carries the sense that the physical posturing of the body in humble kneeling reflects the posture of the heart that God alone is king and that we yield to him. It also carries the sense that we posture ourselves in this way to bless God with our worship. We see a practical example of this in Psalm 103 by remembering the virtues of God and praising Him for them.

Psalm 103:1-5 Let all that I am praise the Lordwith my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lordmay I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies.He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!


Towdah (תּוֹדָה) means “to praise with an outstretched hand in agreement with what has already been done” or what will be done in the future; this word actually comes from the word yadah above and is often translated simply as “thanksgiving.” This word carries the concept of praising the Lord with a “sacrifice of praise” – praising him in the midst of challenges and trials – even before experiencing the breakthrough of God’s promise. That is why this type of praise takes great faith and is seen as a sacrifice of praise. This concept is also seen in the New Testament as in Hebrews 13:5 where it encourages us to “…Continually offer to God the sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name.”

Psalm 50:23 But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me. If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God.


Zamar (זָמַר) means “to sing with instruments or to make music accompanied by the voice,” and is often translated “make music.” It also refers to playing a stringed instrument skillfully, mostly in rejoicing. We see this word used a lot in the Psalms, as in Psalm 92:1:

Psalm 92:1 It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High, proclaiming your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night, to the music of the ten-stringed lyre and the melody of the harp.

These types of praise inform how and why we do what we do in our modern worship services. If we look throughout the pages of scripture for insight on how we worship God, we will find a wealth of information to apply in our personal lives as well as on the worship teams we serve.

Article for this topic by Ashton Abbott.

Key Points:

  • Many of the worship practices found in our modern worship services go beyond worship culture and find their roots in the Bible.
  • Tehillah means to praise vocally with songs or shouts and is a type of praise that is primarily heard.
  • Halal is the root word of “hallelujah” and means to boastfully worship the Lord in a way that can make you look foolish.
  • Shabach is a dignified type of vocally declarative praise as if honoring royalty which involves a whole-being expression.
  • Yadah means to worship publicly with the extension of the hands to symbolize worship, adoration, and full need and surrender.
  • Barak means to bow down or kneel before the Lord in quiet worship, adoration and blessing of the Lord which symbolizes our posture of the heart.
  • Towdah means to praise with an outstretched hand in agreement with what has already been done or what will be done in the future and is connected to the concept of a “sacrifice of praise.”
  • Zamar means to sing with instruments, to make music accompanied by the voice, or to play an instrument skillfully.

Quote This:

Psalm 34:1 I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak his praises.

See Also: Worship Teams

Talk About It
  1. What is your initial reaction to this topic? What jumped out at you?
  2. Which type of praise do you think of most often out of this list?
  3. Which type of praise seems most foreign to you or the ministry you’re involved in?
  4. How does aligning with biblically prescribed praise change the way you worship?
  5. For worship leaders: How do these concepts of praise change the way you lead worship?
  6. How does this impact your desire to study more about praise and worship in the Bible and apply it to your life?
  7. Write a personal action step based on this conversation.