Worship from a Hebraic Perspective

posted: February 18, 2006 Twitter Facebook Print   |   ... more

[This article is taken from the archives of the Ancient Hebrew Research Center. It explains the Biblical meaning of worship much better than I am able.]

Webster's Dictionary defines "worship" as:

1. The reverent love and devotion accorded a deity, an idol, or a sacred object.
2. The ceremonies, prayers, or other religious forms by which this love is expressed.

As I have stated many times but worth repeating, when we read the Old Testament/Tanach we must define our words from a Hebraic perspective, not English. Unfortunately, when we see the word "worship" in the Bible we automatically assume the above definition causing misinterpretation of the Biblical text.

If I asked the average Christian/Jew/Messianic, "Is it okay to worship a man?", The answer would be, "Absolutely not, we are only to worship God.".

The first question we must ask is, "What is the Hebrew word behind the English word 'worship' and what does it mean?". Below are a couple of verses in English using the word "worship".

"And the man bowed down his head, and worshipped the Lord." Genesis 24:26

"So Samuel turned again after Saul; and Saul worshipped the Lord." 1 Samuel 15:31

"Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness." Psalm 29:2

In each of these verses the Hebrew word behind the English word "worship" is "shahhah" (the hh is pronounced hard like the ch in the name Bach). This Hebrew word appears 172 times in the Biblical text but is only translated as "worship" 99 times in the KJV. Below are some other translations of this same word.

"Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee." Genesis 27:29

In this passage other nations will bow down/worship the descendents of Jacob.

"And Moses went out to meet his father in law, and did obeisance, and kissed him; and they asked each other of [their] welfare; and they came into the tent." Exodus 18:7

In this passage Moses bowed down/worshiped his father-in-law.

"So king Solomon sent, and they brought him [Adonijah] down from the altar. And he came and bowed himself to king Solomon: and Solomon said unto him, Go to thine house."

In this passage Adonijah was found righteous when he bowed down/worshiped Solomon.

Whenever the Hebrew word "shahhah" is used as an action toward God, the translators translate this word as "worship". But, whenever this same Hebrew word is used as an action toward another man, the translators translate this word as "obeisance", "to bow" or "bow down". As you can see, the translators are preventing the reader from viewing the text in its proper Hebraic context. The literal meaning of the Hebrew word "shahhah" can be seen in Numbers 22:31: "and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face". "Shahhah" means to bow down with the face to the ground.

The concept of "worship" as defined by Webster's Dictionary is not Hebraic in any way and is not found in the Bible. We would be better off to remove the idea of "worship" from our Biblical vocabulary and replace it with "bow down". The only true way to bow down/worship God or a man from a true Hebraic perspective is to bow down with the face to the ground. Of course, this concept of bowing is an eastern custom that is not practiced in our western culture.

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