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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Praise


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PRAISE is the recognition and acknowledgment of merit. Two parties are involved: the one possessing at least supposed merit, the other being a person who acknowledges the merit.

Men may praise men . Forms of praise may be used without genuine feelings of praise, and extravagant praise may be rendered Intentionally, because of the advantage that will be gained thereby. This is downright hypocrisy, and the whole burden of the moral teaching of the Bible, and especially of Christ, is against hypocrisy. Again, the estimate of values may be so completely false that praise may be felt and expressed genuinely in cases where it is undeserved. And Jesus’ whole influence is directed towards the proper appreciation of values so that only the good shall appear to us good.

In its common Biblical use, however, praise has God for its object . This restriction does not involve an essential difference either in the praise or in the sense of moral values. The difference lies rather in the greater praiseworthiness of God. Praise of God is of course called forth only as He reveals Himself to men, only as men recognize His activity and His power in the event or condition which appears to them adequate to call out praise. Men praise God in proportion as they are religious, and so have conscious relations with God. The praiseworthiness of a god is involved in the very definition of a god. If men postulate a god at all, it is as a being worthy to be praised. Every thought and act by which men come into relation with God is a thought and an act of praise. Petition is justifiable only if behind it is the belief that God is worthy of such approach. If the act is confession of sin, the same is true, for confession is not made to a being who does not hold a place of honour and praise. If some active service is rendered to God, this subjugation of ourselves to Him can be explained only by the conviction that God is in every way entitled to service.

Moreover, as in the case of praise of men, there is a very clear distinction to be drawn between genuine and hypocritical ascription of praise to God. The temptation to the latter is extreme, because of the immense gain presumably to be secured by praise; but the hypocrisy and the sin of it are equally great. Indeed, the seriousness of the offence is evident when one reflects that he who praises God knows full well the praiseworthiness of God, so that if he praises while the genuine feeling is lacking and the sincere act of praise is unperformed, only moral perversity can account for the hypocrisy.

In order to genuineness, praise must be spontaneous It may be commanded by another human being, and the praise commanded may be rendered, but the real impelling cause is the recognized merit of God. God may demand praise from His creatures in commands transmitted to them through prophets and Apostles, but if man praises Him from the heart, it is because of the imperative Inseparable from the very being and nature of God.

We are prepared, then, to find that in the Bible praise to God is universal on the part of all who acknowledge Him. It is the very atmosphere of both dispensations. It is futile to attempt to collate the passages that involve it, for its expression is not measured by special terms or confined to special occasions. The author of Genesis 1:1-31 , like every reader of the chapter, finds the work of creation an occasion for praising God. The chapter is a call to praise, though the word be not mentioned. We have but to turn to the Psalms ( e.g. Psalms 104:1-35 ) to find formal expression of the praise that the world inspires.

The legal requirements of the Law likewise depend for their authority with men upon the recognition of the merit of the Law-giver. ‘Ye shall be holy, for I Jehovah your God am holy,’ has no force except for him who acknowledges holiness in God who commands; and obedience is the creature’s tribute of praise to the holy God.

The whole history of Israel, as Israel’s historians picture it, has in it the constant element of praise to Israel’s God: we turn to the Psalms ( e.g. Psalms 102:1-28 ) or to other songs ( e.g. Exodus 15:1-27 ), and find the praise of the heart rising to formal expression.

In the NT, praise of Christ and of God in Christ is the universal note. It is the song of those who are healed of their sicknesses, or forgiven their sins; of Apostles who mediate on the gospel message and salvation through Christ; of those who rehearse the glories of the New Jerusalem as seen in apocalyptic vision.

We are also prepared by this universality to find that praise cannot form a topic for independent treatment. There is no technical terminology to be examined in the hope that the etymology of the terms used will throw light upon the subject, for in this case etymologies may lead us away from the current meaning of the common words employed. The history of praise in the OT and the NT is the history of worship, temple, synagogue, sacrifice, festivals. The literature of praise is the literature of religion, whether as the product of national consciousness or of personal religious experience.

It will suffice to mention one or two points of Interest which the student may well bear in mind as he studies the Bible and consults the articles on related subjects.

The Heb. word oftenest used for praise is hillçl , perhaps an onomatopoetic Semitic root meaning ‘cry aloud.’ An interesting feature is the use of the imperative in ascriptions of praise. Taken literally, these imperatives are commands to praise; but they are to be taken as real ascriptions of praise, with the added thought that praise from one person suggests praise from all. Cf. the doxology ‘Praise God from whom all blessings flow,’ which consists solely of four imperative sentences.

The imperative of the Hebrew verb, followed by the Divine name, gives us Hallelujah , i.e. ‘Praise ye Jah.’ The word is used at the beginning and end of Psalms, apparently with liturgical value. Cf. also the Hallel Psalms (113 118, 136). The noun from the same root appears as the title of Psalms 145:1-21 . See Hallel.

The form which praise took as an element of worship in Israel varied with the general character of worship. It was called forth by the acts of Jahweh upon which the Israelites were especially wont to dwell in different periods. For personal and family favours they praised Him in early times with forms of their own choosing. When the national consciousness was aroused, they praised Him for His leading of the nation, in forms suitable to this service. As worship came more and more to conform to that elaborated for, and practised in, the royal sanctuary the Temple at Jerusalem the forms of praise could not fail to share the elaboration and to become gradually more uniform. To what extent these modifications took place is to be studied in the history of OT religion.

Praise was certainly a part of the varied service rendered by the Levites in the Temple ritual of later Judaism, and an examination of that ritual will show how far praise was given over to them, and how much was retained by the congregation. The Psalms are certainly adapted to antiphonal rendering. Did the people respond to the priests, or were there two choirs ? [This word occurs in EV [Note: English Version.] only in RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] of Nehemiah 12:8 .] The element of praise in the synagogue worship is an interesting and disputed question. Cf. also Adoration, Hymn.

O. H. Gates.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Praise'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdb/p/praise.html. 1909.

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