Hebrew for Christians
The Confession of Praise

B'H l'Yeshua

The Confession of Praise

Hodu la'Adonai ki Tov

by John J. Parsons

Psalm 118:1

"O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good:
because his mercy endureth for ever."
Psalm 118:1

In Modern Hebrew the word todah means "thanks," though in Biblical Hebrew the root (yada') means to "praise" or even "confess." The phrase hodu la'Adonai might better be translated as "give praise to the Lord," or "acknowledge the Lord," or even "confess to the Lord." The acknowledgement of God's goodness is the fitting response to the truth about who God is and what He has done. We are instinctively grateful when we understand that our life is a gift given to us by the love of God.

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Note that the psalmist praises God because "his mercy endures forever." The word chesed means loyal devotion, faithful love, and steadfast passion.  Ruth was praised for her chesed when she loyally remained by her mother-in-law Naomi's side, despite the hard circumstances of her life.  God's goodness is like that to us as well. He never leaves nor forsakes us, despite the difficulties we often face.

Of the thirteen attributes of the Lord listed in Torah, two are joined together. God is said to be rav chesed ve-emet, "abounding in faithful love and truth" (Exod. 34:6).  Faith confesses that God's steadfast passion is eternally present for us – despite the circumstances of our present condition. And that's another reason to say, hodu la'Adonai ki tov!


Psalm 118:1 (BHS) Transliteration

hodu la'Adonai ki tov, ki le'olam chasdo


A basic principle in Bible interpretation is to note repeated occurrences of a word or phrase. This is sometimes referred to as the "law of recurrence."  The assumption here is that since God is the Consummate Communicator, if a word or phrase is restated in Scripture, there is surely a good reason.  In some cases the function appears to be didactic (such as the two sets of instructions given for building the Mishkan (tabernacle) in Exodus; in other cases it appears to be exclamatory: God doesn't repeat Himself without the intent of getting our attention.

Psalm 118:1

Now this exact phrase, hodu la-donai ki-tov, ki le'olam chasdo ("Give thanks to the LORD for He is good, for His stedfast love endures forever") appears no less than 5 times in Scripture (1 Chr. 16:34; Psalm 106:1; Psalm 107:1; Psalm 118:1,29; Psalm 136:1). Since the genre of each of these instances is tehillah (praise), it is clear that the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) is emphasizing something of great spiritual significance, namely, God's goodness to us -- His chesed -- is profound reason for us to give Him thanks (in Psalm 136, the refrain, "ki le'olam chasdo" occurs 25 times, as well as elsewhere in Scripture, for example Ezra 3:11; Jer. 33:11).

The verb hodu is the imperative of yadah, and therefore could also be understood as "confess" or "acknowledge" that the LORD is good.  We also get from this root the Hebrew word todah, meaning "thank you."

The Thanksgiving Holiday certainly has its roots in the Jewish tradition of giving thanks to God. How much more should we, who are trusting in God's chesed as expressed in the gift of His Son Yeshua, give heartfelt thanks?

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