Praising and Exalting

February 6, 2024

This verse, like many others in the book of Psalms, is a seemingly repetitive poetic couplet. The first half of the verse and the second half of the verse appear to be saying the same thing in slightly different words. Zion is another name for Jerusalem. Exalt and praise are basically synonyms. Upon closer examination we will find that, while it is true that both phrases are calling upon Jerusalem, or her inhabitants, to praise and exalt God, the subtle differences in syntax reveal a deeper meaning to the verse.

Let us first point out that God is referred to as “your God” in the second phrase. This possessive description of God could have been avoided. The verse could have said,

Exalt the Lord, O Jerusalem; praise God, O Zion.

Why the possessive “your God”?

Praise vs. Exalt

Praise implies acceptance and awareness of greatness. When I praise something or someone, this means that I am reacting to something that I have witnessed, known, or understood. This is obvious. If someone is praising God, it must mean that he believes in Him.

The Hebrew word root for exalt in our verse is ShBCh. This word also means to raise in value. To say that something has value means that it matters; that it has an effect. Simply put, it is worth something. In other words, to praise is to acknowledge a greatness that I have witnessed, to exalt implies that this greatness has meaning for me; that I value it beyond the experience of seeing it.

While praise and exalt are synonyms, the connotations are different. This difference is in terms of the extent of the integration of the experience. I am arguing that exalt is more integrated and more personal than praise. To sum up this point, praise expresses awareness of greatness, whereas exalt expresses that one values that greatness more than before, i.e., it has been raised in value.

Jerusalem vs. Zion

I would like to suggest that our verse makes two subtly different points. Jerusalem represents the built and populated city. Jerusalem is the name that implies the word of God spreading to all peoples and all nations. The name Zion refers to the unique Jewish relationship to the city. This distinction is implied by numerous verses in the Bible. To cite one well-known example,

The law will go out from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. – Isaiah 2:3

The law – the Torah – is God’s covenant with the people of Israel. Only Israel is obligated to live under the Torah, and so the word Zion is used in connection with the Torah. The word of the Lord, on the other hand, relates to all people. It is therefore associated with Jerusalem.

Here too, in our verse in Psalm 147, Zion refers to the people of Israel. For this reason, the verse uses the possessive, your God concerning Zion, implying the specific relationship of Israel to God.

The meaning of our verse

“Exalt the Lord, O Jerusalem” – the rebuilt and repopulated city itself declares the greatness of God and broadcasts His greatness to the world. The multitudes among the nations stream into the city to connect with the God of Israel. The fulfillment of the Biblical promises of the rebuilding of the city raises the value of the Lord in the eyes of all. Those who previously did not believe and had no relationship with Him are now believers who value God for the first time.

“Praise your God, O Zion” – But for the Jewish people, the children of Israel, whose relationship with him has been forever unchanged, there is gratitude and praise for the return to their homeland. There is praise of their God, the God who looked after them throughout all the generations of exile. There is no raising of value in their eyes, for their faith in Him had never wavered.

The rebuilding of Jerusalem and the ingathering of Israel stand in testimony to the greatness of God. This is a message not only for those who believe in Him from tradition. Those of us who recognize the greatness of what God has done in Jerusalem must use this as tool to raise the value and status of faith in God to others who do not yet know Him.

 

Israeli soldiers are risking their lives to protect us all from Islamic terrorism. But they need our help. Sign up for Israel365 Action to receive updates on how YOU can help fight Hamas and its supporters in the United States and around the world. 

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki is the Executive Director of Israel365 Action and the author of Verses for Zion and Cup of Salvation: A Powerful Journey Through King David's Psalms of Praise. He is a frequent guest on Erick Stakelbeck's The Watchman and a regular contributor to Israel365news.com and The Jerusalem Post.

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki is the Executive Director of Israel365 Action and the author of Verses for Zion and Cup of Salvation: A Powerful Journey Through King David's Psalms of Praise. He is a frequent guest on Erick Stakelbeck's The Watchman and a regular contributor to Israel365news.com and The Jerusalem Post.

Subscribe

Sign up to receive daily inspiration to your email

Recent Posts
Naso – When God ‘Shines His Face’ Towards Us
Remembering Sara Blaustein: A True Woman of Valor
Lost in Translation

Related Articles

By: Rabbi Elie Mischel

Subscribe

Sign up to receive daily inspiration to your email