International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
praz (tehillah, "psalm," "praise," todhah, "confession" "thanksgiving," shabhach, "to praise" "glorify," zamar, yadhah, "to stretch out the hand," "confess"; aineo, epaineo, (epainos):
1. Its Meaning:
The word comes from the Latin pretium, "price," or "value," and may be defined generally as an ascription of value or worth. Praise may be bestowed upon unworthy objects or from improper motives, but true praise consists in a sincere acknowledgment of a real conviction of worth. Its type may be seen in the representation given in the Apocalypse of the adoration of God and of the Lamb, which is inspired by a sense of their worthiness to be adored (Revelation 4:11; Revelation 5:12).
2. With Man as Its Object:
Man may be the object of praise, and may receive it either from God or from his fellow-men. In the former case (Romans 2:29 1 Corinthians 4:5) the praise is inevitably just, as resting on a divine estimate of worth; in the latter case its value depends upon the grounds and motives that lie behind it. There is a praise which is itself a condemnation (Luke 6:26), an honor which seals the eyes in unbelief (John 5:44), a careless use of the epithet "good" which is dishonoring to God (Luke 18:19). This is the "praise of men" which Jesus warned His followers to shun as being incompatible with the "praise of God" (Matthew 6:1-4; compare John 12:43 Galatians 1:10 1 Thessalonians 2:6). On the other hand, there is a praise that is the instinctive homage of the soul to righteousness (Luke 23:47), the acknowledgment given to well-doing by just government (Romans 13:3 1 Peter 2:14), the tribute of the churches to distinguished Christian service (2 Corinthians 8:18). Such praise, so far from being incompatible with the praise of God, is a reflection of it in human consciousness; and so Paul associates praise with virtue as an aid and incentive to holy living on which the mind should dwell (Philippians 4:8).
3. With God as Its Object:
In the Bible it is God who is especially brought before us as the object of praise. His whole creation praises Him, from the angels of heaven (Psalm 103:20 Revelation 5:11) to those lower existences that are unconscious or even inanimate (Psalm 19:1-4; Psalm 148:1-10 Revelation 5:13). But it is with the praises offered to God by man, and with the human duty of praising God, that the Scriptures are principally concerned. In regard to this subject the following points may be noticed:
(1) The Grounds of Praise.
Sometimes God is praised for His inherent qualities. His majesty (Psalm 104:1) or holiness (Isaiah 6:3) fills the mind, and He is "glorified as God" (Romans 1:21) in view of what He essentially is. More frequently He is praised for His works in creation, providence, and redemption. References may be dispensed with here, for the evidence meets us on almost every page of the sacred literature from Genesis to Revelation, and the Book of Psalms in particular, from beginning to end, is occupied with these themes. When God's operations under these aspects present themselves, not simply as general effects of His power and wisdom, but as expressions of His personal love to the individual, the nation, the church, His works become benefits, and praise passes into blessing and thanksgiving (Pss 34; 103; Ephesians 1:3 1 Peter 1:3).
(2) The Modes of Praise.
True praise of God, as distinguished from false praise (Isaiah 29:13 Matthew 15:8), is first of all an inward emotion-a gladness and rejoicing of the heart (Psalm 4:7; Psalm 33:21), a music of the soul and spirit (Psalm 103:1 Luke 1:46 f) which no language can adequately express (Psalm 106:2 2 Corinthians 9:15). But utterance is natural to strong emotion, and the mouth instinctively strives to express the praises of the heart (Psalm 51:15 and passim). Many of the most moving passages in Scripture come from the inspiration of the spirit of praise awakened by the contemplation of the divine majesty or power or wisdom or kindness, but above all by the revelation of redeeming love. Again, the spirit of praise is a social spirit calling for social utterance. The man who praises God desires to praise Him in the hearing of other men (Psalm 40:10), and desires also that their praises should be joined with his own (Psalm 34:3). Further, the spirit of praise is a spirit of song. It may find expression in other ways-in sacrifice (Leviticus 7:13), or testimony (Psalm 66:16), or prayer (Colossians 1:3); but it finds its most natural and its fullest utterance in lyrical and musical forms. When God fills the heart with praise He puts a new song into the mouth (Psalm 40:3). The Book of Psalms is the proof of this for the Old Testament. And when we pass to the New Testament we find that, alike for angels and men, for the church on earth and the church in heaven, the higher moods of praise express themselves in bursts of song (Luke 2:14 Ephesians 5:19 Colossians 3:16 Revelation 5:9; Revelation 14:3; Revelation 15:3). Finally, both in the Old Testament and New Testament, the spirit of song gives birth to ordered modes of public praise. In their earlier expressions the praises of Israel were joyful outbursts in which song was mingled with shouting and dancing to a rude accompaniment of timbrels and trumpets (Exodus 15:20 2 Samuel 6:5, 14). In later times Israel had its sacred Psalter, its guilds of trained singers (Ezra 2:41 Nehemiah 7:44), its skilled musicians (Pss 42; 49, etc.); and the praise that waited for God in Zion was full of the solemn beauty of holiness (Psalm 29:2; Psalm 96:9). In the New Testament the Psalter is still a manual of social praise. The "hymn" which Jesus sang with His disciples after the Last Supper (Matthew 26:30) would be a Hebrew psalm, probably from the Hallel (Pss 113-118) which was used at the Passover service, and various references in the Epistles point to the continued employment of the ancient psalms in Christian worship (1 Corinthians 14:26 Ephesians 5:19 Colossians 3:16 James 5:13). But the Psalter of the Jewish church could not suffice to express the distinctive moods of Christian feeling. Original utterance of the spirit of Christian song was one of the manifestations of the gift of tongues (1 Corinthians 14:15-17). Paul distinguishes hymns and spiritual songs from psalms (Ephesians 5:19 Colossians 3:16); and it was hymns that he and Silas sang at midnight in the prison of Philippi (Acts 16:25 the Revised Version (British and American)). But from hymns and songs that were the spontaneous utterance of individual feeling the development was natural, in New Testament as in Old Testament times, to hymns that were sung in unison by a whole congregation; and in rhythmic passages like 1 Timothy 3:16 Revelation 15:3, we seem to have fragments of a primitive Christian hymnology, such as Pliny bears witness to for the early years of the 2nd century, when he informs Trajan that the Christians of Bithynia at their morning meetings sang a hymn in alternate strains to Christ as God (Ep. x.97).
(3) The Duty of Praise.
Praise is everywhere represented in the Bible as a duty no less than a natural impulse and a delight. To fail in this duty is to withhold from God's glory that belongs to Him (Psalm 50:23 Romans 1:20 f); it is to shut one's eyes to the signs of His presence (Isaiah 40:26), to be forgetful of His mercies (Deuteronomy 6:12), and unthankful for His kindness (Luke 6:35). If we are not to fall into these sins, but are to give to God the honor and glory and gratitude we owe Him, we must earnestly cultivate the spirit and habit of praise. From holy men of old we learn that this may be done by arousing the soul from its slothfulness and sluggishness (Psalm 57:8; Psalm 103:1), by fixing the heart upon God (Psalm 57:7; Psalm 108:1), by meditation on His works and ways (Psalm 77:11), by recounting His benefits (Psalm 103:2), above all, for those to whom He has spoken in His Son, by dwelling upon His unspeakable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15; compare Romans 8:31, 1John 3:1).
See also WORSHIP.
J. C. Lambert