Praise and Thanks, Light and Hands – 1 and 2 Chronicles, Contd. [Totally Hip Gratitude]

2 Chronicles Bible with Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Hazelnut Toffee

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Today’s Passage1 Chronicles 16:4, 23:30-31, 25:3, 29:12-13, 2 Chronicles 20:21, 31:2

As we progress through the Bible in our study of thankfulness (whose stupid name is so stupid that I am not even going to mention it), we begin to see more instances of the word “thank,” especially in the two books of Chronicles. And the trend I observed in 1 Chronicles 16 continues throughout 1 and 2 Chronicles: wherever we see thankfulness, praise is not far behind. This may come as no surprise; after all, as Li’l Spicy said in his famous “Thanksgiving and Praise Are Like Our Right and Left Arms” speech, thanksgiving and praise are like our right and left arms. But why do they belong together so naturally? Let’s see if we can figure it out.

As soon as I noticed the trend, I checked the original Hebrew words translated as “praise” and “thank” in each of the above verses, because of course I did. And sure enough, each instance of “praise” here is the same Hebrew word, and each instance of “thank” is the same Hebrew word. And that’s no triviality! The choice to pair praise and thanksgiving in these verses isn’t merely a choice of the translator but a choice of the author of Chronicles himself. There’s a reason they so often come hand-in-hand.

So what exactly are the Hebrew words for these English words? We’ll begin with “thank;” as we’ve seen before, it’s יָדָה, yadah. It’s derived from the Hebrew word for “hand,” and depending on what form the verb takes, it can have a variety of meanings. It’s used for shooting arrows, casting an object, or confessing sin. When we see the form translated as “thank,” I think it means to suggest that the person in question is giving God his gratitude for the things God has given him. He may even have his hands physically raised. And although the majority of these verses involve the thanksgiving offered by ancient Hebrew priests, who were male, women can also give thanks. I’m not about to derail this post by reopening the can of worms that is whether women can teach in church, but there is no biblical basis for prohibiting women from giving thanks, and for that we men and women alike can be thankful.

Then we have the word for “praise”: הָלַל, halal. Again, it has several possible meanings, and depending on which form it takes, it might be translated as “shine,” “praise,” boast,” “celebrate,” or…”rage.” Huh. Strong’s Definitions defines its root as “to be clear (originally of sound, but usually of color),” and “shine” seems to be the most common sense in which it’s used. Based on my extraordinarily limited knowledge of Hebrew, which should be taken with as many grains of salt as there are stars in the sky, it seems that “praise” in this sense is recognizing God’s glory, acknowledging that God is spiritually shiny. Light is good, and that which is luminous, readily visible, clear in itself, and making clear those things around it is praiseworthy. And that’s God.

Thus, we see why the priests throughout Chronicles are so ready to praise God and thank him in the same breath. You’ve probably heard this distinction before, but I think the Hebrew words we’ve studied help illustrate its truth. To praise God is to recognize his inherent goodness and to thank him is to recognize his goodness toward us. The two go hand-in-hand because God, by nature, expresses his inherent goodness by doing good for us and giving us good things. A light source necessarily lights up the things around it, giving them the gift of its radiance; now, imagine that light source as a personal being, radiating its light because it chooses to, out of love for the things it illuminates.

When we praise God, we reflect his light back at him. When we thank him, we hand him our gratitude for the things he’s handed to us. Thank you for tuning in for Amateur Hebrew Language Hour; I’ve been your host, Jackson Ferrell. Tune in tomorrow for Once Again, More Prophets!

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