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Plowing through History from the Aleph to the Tav

Topics Definition of Hebrew Words

By Jeff A. Benner
הלל halal

The Hebrew word often translated as "praise" is הלל (H.L.L). To begin this study we need to examine how this word was written in its original pictographic script - . This word is derived from the parent root by doubling the second letter . The letter is a picture of a man with his arms raised up looking and pointing at an amazing sight. The letter is a shepherd staff that is used to move the flock toward a direction. When combined these two letters mean to "look toward a sight".

This word, written as הל in the Modern Hebrew script, is an ancient word meaning "look toward". It is commonly used in Biblical Hebrew, in its shortened form - ה, as the definite article and prefixed to the noun and is translated as "the". For instance the word הבית (habeyt) means "the house" and would have originally been written as two words - בית הל (hal beyt). By using the prefix ה the author is causing the reader to "look toward" a specific house.

While there is no actual evidence for this other than contextual interpretation I believe that the original meaning of the word הל is the "North Star". This star is always in the same northern location in the night sky every night and used as a guide to the traveler. It is a light that is "looked toward" to find direction.

The verb הלל (halal) means to "shine" as seen in Isaiah 13:10 - " and the moon shall not cause its light to shine ". This same word is also translated as "praise" as in Psalm 117:1 - "Praise Yahweh, all you nations! Extol him, all you peoples! " The full meaning of this verse is that all people are to look to God as the light of their journey that will guide and lead them on life’s journey. Throughout the Tanakh/Old Testament our life is seen as a journey such as in Exodus 18:20 - "and you shall teach them the decrees and the Torahs, and make them know the path in which they must walk and what they must do". Just as the North Star is the shining light that guides the traveler, God is the shining light that guides us on our journey.

Strong's: #1984

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