I like to sing songs in Hebrew. Since I don’t speak that language, I’m not very good at it, but I like to do it anyway. It’s the language of the Bible, or at least the parts of the Bible written in poetry and song.
Be filled with the Ruach, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your heart to the Lord— always giving thanks for everything to God the Father, in the name of the Lord Yeshua the Messiah (Ephesians 5:18-20 TLV).
Let the word of Messiah dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another with all wisdom in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with gratitude in your hearts to God (Colossians 3:16 TLV).
Some Easy Favorites
One of the first Hebrew songs many of us in congregations and home fellowships learned is Hinei Ma Tov, taken directly from Psalm 133:1. This traditional hymn has been sung by Jewish families and groups for many generations to a number of different melodies. I usually sing it to a popular Jewish folk tune, but one could assume it has been sung in some form all the way back to the time King David wrote it. It’s pretty easy to remember both the Hebrew and English words, although for one line we aren’t singing the same thing. And there is an easy and fun dance that men, women and children can enjoy in a circle.
Hinei ma-tov u’ma-naiym shevet achiym gam yachad
Behold, how good and how pleasant is the dwelling of brothers, moreover, in unity.
(Psalm 133:1 Stone Edition Tanach)
Here is a popular recording by Paul Wilbur, and a couple of other variations by Joshua Aaron and Harry Belafonte.
Another song we frequently sing is Mi Kamocha. The Hebrew words are taken from the Song of Moses in Exodus 15:11 and again there is a variety of tunes. It is often used in liturgy during worship services, and I’ve written a little about that here.
Mi kamocha ba’elim Adonai
Mi kamocha nedar ba’qodesh
Nora tehillot oseh fele
Who is like You among the gods, O LORD?
Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
Awesome in praises, working wonders?
When we sing it, usually we repeat the last two words in Hebrew to fill out the measures of the music. Then when we sing it in English, we make a few more adjustments to make it fit. That is why it is important to know the actual meaning of the Hebrew words you are singing.
You can listen to Mi Kamocha here.
Another of my favorites is Hinei Lo Yanum from Psalm 121:4.
Hinei lo yanum v’lo yishan
Behold, He neither slumbers nor sleeps,
The Guardian of Israel
(Psalm 121:4 Stone Edition Tanach)
Listen to Hinei Lo Yanum here.
The first time I heard Hinei Ke’einei Avadim I was captured by the music before I ever knew what the words were. This one has Hebrew words that weren’t quite as familiar, but after a very short time I was singing them with understanding. Several artists have recorded it.
Hinei ke’einei avadim el yad adoneihem
Ke’einei shicha el yad g’virta
Ken eineinu el Adonai Eloheinu ad sheyechaneinu
Behold, as the eyes of servants (look) to the hand of their masters,
As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress
So our eyes (look) to the Lord our God until He is gracious to us.
Listen to Hinei Ke’enei Avadim here.
More Scripture Songs
Hebrew songs are a good way to learn passages of Scripture in the original language. When we learn them, we should always know what they mean in English (or whatever your native tongue is) and where they come from in the Bible.
Some of my favorite Messianic music comes from Steve McConnell. I reviewed his recordings here, and these are some great examples of setting Hebrew Scriptures to music. Among the most beautiful of these songs is Verestikhli L’olam from Hosea 2:21-22 (in the Tahakh, the Hebrew Bible; Christian Bibles are generally numbered differently and this is Hosea 2:19-20).
V’erestikhli b’tzediq uv’mishpat
And I will betroth you to Me forever
Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice,
In lovingkindness and in compassion.
And I will betroth you to me in faithfulness.
Then you will know the LORD.
You can listen to V’erestikhli L’olam here.
Another great Steve McConnell song helpful in learning Hebrew Scripture is Vayikra Sh’mo, from Isaiah 9:7 (in the Tanakh, Isaiah 9:6 in the Christian Old Testament).
Ki-yeled yulad-lanu, ben nitan lanu
Vat’hi hamisrah al shichmo
Pele, Yo-etz, El Gibbor
For a child is born to us, a son is given to us
And it will be the government upon his shoulder
And shall be called his name
Wonderful, Counselor, God Mighty
Father everlasting, Prince of Peace
This song also includes a line not from Scripture as well as a couple of passages from Isaiah 53. I plan to use this song to learn those as well. Both Verestikhli L’Olam and Vayikra Sh’mo are entirely in Hebrew. The melodies help make them easy to remember.
Listen to Vayikra Sh’mo here.
It is also beneficial to have an interlinear Bible, preferably one with transliteration along with the Hebrew text. The Hebrew Interlinear Study Bible available in the MySword Bible app for Android devices is good. You may also find this Bible in E-Sword or The Word programs for Windows.
Contemporary Choruses and Good Old Hymns
Besides singing Scripture, several artists have recorded popular Christian hymns and contemporary worship songs with Hebrew lyrics. One of the most popular now is Joshua Aaron’s rendition of How Great Is Our God written by Chris Tomlin. The Hebrew words almost (the first person plural is changed to singular) correspond with the English lyrics.
How great is our God
Sing with me how great is our God
All will see how great, how great is our God
Shiru ki gadol Elohai
Kol echad yireh ki gadol Elohai.
Listen to Joshua Aaron sing Gadol Elohai here.
Sometime around mid 2007 I found a recording by Corban Chai (Living Sacrifice) with the song “Open The Eyes Of My Heart” in Hebrew. The recording is long out of print and I can’t find anywhere that you can listen to it, but here are the lyrics. Hopefully you can match the words to the tune. The Hebrew words correspond to what you know in English except for the line “Pour out Your power and love.”
P’kach et einei libi Adon
P’kach et einei libi
Ani rotze lir’ot otcha
Ani rotze lir’ot otcha
Lir’ot otcha ram v’nisah
Zoher b’or kodshecha
Sh’poch et ruchecha
K’she sharim Kadosh Kadosh Kadosh
Kadosh Kadosh Kadosh
Kadosh Kadosh Kadosh
Kadosh Kadosh Kadosh
Ani rotze lir’ot otcha
I’ve always loved the old Christian hymns. Last year I found a CD called תהלות tehillot “Praises” by Irit Iffert and Jael Kalisher having several familiar hymns that they sing in both English and Hebrew. The CD liner notes have all of the lyrics in both languages, and although they aren’t always word-for-word equivalents (probably to keep the cadence) they are beautiful. The recording is hard to find, but you can listen to most of the songs on YouTube. Here are a couple of my favorites:
The CD also includes a recording of Hinei Ke’einei Avadim, but I couldn’t find that on YouTube.
Many of the songs we already sing in English come right from Scripture
I will sing of the mercies of the LORD forever (Psalms 89:1 KJV).
Our LORD, I will sing of your love forever (Psalm 89:1 CEV).
Martin Smith of the Christian band Delirious? wrote the popular worship song “I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever.” I don’t know that he based it on Psalm 89:1, but it certainly expresses the same thoughts the Psalmist Ethan the Ezrahite had. Psalm 89:2 (the Hebrew verses are numbered differently) in Hebrew reads חסדי יהוה עולם אשׁירה chasdey Yahweh olam ashiyrah – “the lovingkindness of Yahweh forever I will sing.” Singing this song, you can sing this line either in English or in Hebrew and it fits the melody perfectly:
I could sing of Your love forever …
Chasdey Yahweh olam ashiyrah …
Of course, it isn’t always possible to match Hebrew lyrics and English lyrics to the same melody and cadence. One of our favorite songs at the prison where I minister to Messianic residents is Keith Green’s “Create In Me” with the words from Psalm 51:10-11. They guys really wanted to sing it in Hebrew, but I just couldn’t figure it out. But one of them did! I wrote about it here, where you can also listen to it sung.
These are some of the ways I like to learn Hebrew songs. You will likely find many others, so pick a method that works for you.
2 thoughts on “Singing Songs In Hebrew”
Oh my goodness! For some reason I had not read this blog post yet. Thank you for taking the time to put it altogether. I have a feeling I will be coming back to it frequently.