What Does Hallelujah Mean in the Bible?

The word "Hallelujah" comes from the Hebrew phrase "praise the Lord." Read the Bible uses of Hallelujah and learn its meaning in scripture.

Updated Apr 26, 2024
What Does Hallelujah Mean in the Bible?

"Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns" - (Revelation 19:6 ESV)

Meaning of Hallelujah

Hallelujah, also spelled alleluia, is a Hebrew liturgical phrase commonly translated in English as “praise the Lord.” It occurs in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) in multiple Psalms, usually at the beginning or end of the Psalm or both. As a direct call to worship and adoration, the word hallelujah serves as a vibrant refrain.

Hallelujah in the Bible

The Easton's Bible Dictionary gives the following definition of the biblical word "Hallelujah": praise ye Jehovah, frequently rendered "Praise ye the LORD," stands at the beginning of ten of the psalms (106,111-113,135,146-150), hence called "hallelujah psalms" (See below). 

From its frequent occurrence, it grew into a formula of praise. The Greek form of the word (alleluia) is found in Revelation 19:1, Revelation 19:3, Revelation 19:4, and Revelation 19:6.

Furthermore, the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia provides the following information about "Hallelujah": The word is not a compound, like many Hebrew words composed of the abbreviated form of "Yahweh" and some other words, but has become a compound word in Greek and other languages. Even if the Jews had become accustomed to using it as a compound, it is never written as such in the text. In some Psalms, Hallelujah is an integral part of the song (Psalms 135:3), while in others, it simply serves as a liturgical interjection found either at the beginning (Psalms 111) or the close (Psalms 104) of the psalms or both (Psalms 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 liturgical 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 the beginning of the psalms. Hallelujah seems to be an integral part of the psalms in all other cases (Ps 115; Ps 116; Ps 117). 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 (Revelation 19:1). The word is generally preserved as a liturgical interjection by the Christian church.

The Hallelujah Psalms

The Psalms, often referred to as the hymnbook of ancient Israel, utilize "hallelujah" in a variety of contexts, emphasizing the breadth and depth of God’s influence and presence. These "Hallelujah Psalms" are not just poems; they are prayers, praises, and profound reflections on the nature of God, humanity, and the interplay between the divine and the earthly. The placement of "hallelujah" at the beginning or end—or sometimes both—of a Psalm elevates the text, framing the verses with a clear call to praise that is meant to resonate with the faithful across generations.

For instance, Psalm 106 begins and ends with "Hallelujah," encapsulating a narrative that spans gratitude, historical confession, and a plea for salvation. This framing by "hallelujah" underscores the continuous cycle of human fallibility and divine grace, urging the worshipper to maintain a posture of reverence and thankfulness regardless of circumstance.

Here are several notable "Hallelujah Psalms" that you might explore to truly appreciate the depth and vibrancy of this expression in biblical worship:

  • Psalm 111: A praise of God for his works and deeds, it starts with "Hallelujah," setting a tone of gratitude and awe right from the outset.
  • Psalm 112: Similar in form to Psalm 111, it again starts with "Hallelujah" and details the blessings that befall the man who fears the Lord and delights in his commands.
  • Psalm 113: Often recited at Jewish festivals, this Psalm begins and ends with "Hallelujah," celebrating God's supremacy and kindness.
  • Psalm 150: The final Psalm, which uses "Hallelujah" to both open and close a symphony of praise, calling for everything that has breath to praise the Lord with a variety of musical instruments.

Each of these Psalms, with "hallelujah" as their critical anchor, invites believers into a state of worship and contemplation, reminding them of the power of praise and the enduring presence of the divine in everyday life. Whether chanted in a solemn ritual or sung in a moment of joyful celebration, "hallelujah" continues to be a profound expression of faith, gratitude, and spiritual connection.

Rejoicing in Heaven: Hallelujah in Revelation 19

This chapter of Revelation begins with the "Rejoicing of Heaven," a title found in the ESV Bible for the first 5 verses. As previously mentioned, Hallelujah developed from the phrase "Praise the Lord" as found in the Hallelujah Psalms.

Rejoicing in Heaven

After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants." Once more they cried out, "Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever." And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, "Amen. Hallelujah!" And from the throne came a voice saying, "Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great." (Revelation 19:1-5)

The Marriage Supper of the Lamb

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns." (Revelation 19:6)

In contrast to the song of doom for Babylon (Revelation 18), the scene returns to the heavenly liturgy with an outburst of celestial triumph. Hallelujah, or Alleluia, appearing in the New Testament only in this chapter, is from the Hebrew for "Praise the Lord." It was used in the Great Hallel (Praise) of the Jerusalem temple liturgy (Psalm 104-106, Psalm 110-117) and in the synagogue as a response by the people. Within Christendom, Hallelujah has been a part of liturgical and private prayers since the earliest times.

Usage of Hallelujah in Music

In Hymns and Worship Songs

In traditional and contemporary Christian music, "hallelujah" is used frequently as an exclamation of praise and worship. It's a key part of many hymns and modern worship songs, serving as a powerful expression of joy, reverence, and thanksgiving towards God.

  1. "Hallelujah! What a Savior" (Philip P. Bliss, 1875) - This hymn uses "hallelujah" to reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus and His role as a savior in Christian theology. It’s a proclamation of gratitude and awe.

  2. "Hallelujah, Salvation and Glory" (traditional, often performed in Gospel style) - This song is a staple in many worship services, particularly in the Gospel tradition. It praises God’s attributes explicitly, with the congregation often joining in on the resounding "hallelujahs."

  3. "King of Kings" (Hillsong Worship) - A modern worship song that narrates the gospel story from Christ's birth through His resurrection and the birth of the Church. The chorus triumphantly uses "hallelujah" as a response to the salvation history recounted.

In Cultural Songs

Outside the church, "hallelujah" has been adopted in various genres, from rock and pop to folk and beyond, often carrying connotations that range from the spiritual to the profoundly personal or even ironic.

  1. "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen - Probably the most famous cultural usage, Cohen’s song explores themes of love, betrayal, and redemption, with "hallelujah" serving as a refrain that's both bitter and hopeful. The song has been covered by numerous artists, each bringing their own interpretation to its complex emotions.

  2. "Hallelujah" by Jeff Buckley - Buckley's cover of Cohen’s song is one of the most acclaimed versions, noted for its emotional depth and vocal performance. Here, "hallelujah" becomes an almost ethereal exaltation.

  3. "Broken Hallelujah" by The Afters - This song uses "hallelujah" in a more personal and introspective sense, reflecting on the struggles of life and maintaining faith through trials.

In wrapping up, the journey through the meaning and power of "hallelujah" reveals it as much more than a mere expression; it's a potent symbol of praise, emotion, and spiritual depth. Originating from ancient religious texts and evolving through centuries of worship and cultural adaptation, "hallelujah" stands as a testament to the enduring need for humans to express their highest joys, deepest sorrows, and most profound reverence. Spoken, sung, or whispered, this word carries with it an extraordinary capacity to unite, inspire, and comfort. Whether lifting spirits in a song or grounding us in prayer, "hallelujah" resonates far beyond its biblical roots, reaching into the very core of human experience. As we continue to face life's challenges and celebrate its triumphs, "hallelujah" remains a powerful reminder of our shared humanity and the transcendent moments that shape our lives.

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