You must be wondering why so many blogs on just two words – “happiness” and “joy.” They must be a couple of such wonderful things we just can’t get enough of them. Happiness is exciting, brings us to a high that is, alas, short-lived, and joy is supposed to be nothing but an intense version of that. Well, that is what our secular dictionaries say as we covered in my previous blog, “Joy and Gladness.”
But today I will go deeper on joy, the kind of “joy” Bible-believers have been made to believe – “the inner peace that comes from knowing you are doing the will of God, despite the basic requirements of happiness not being met.” So far, we (if you agree with me) have come to the conclusion that, “Happiness happens when the level of pleasure we are experiencing is high enough to relegate to the subconscious whatever pain we are having, plus, having excitement or a sense of wonder.” Based on that statement we can say that, “Pure happiness is the absence of pain, plus excitement or a sense of wonder.” So, why am I so keen on finding this “joy” that Bible-believers have been made to believe? I actually believe I have that joy, I have found it, but I am just curious where that “concept of joy” came from, because it is very different from the secular definition of joy that we know – “intense happiness.”
Thus, I made a survey and found that “joy” in the Bible is something that is quite beyond our comprehension, just like “love” and “peace” in the Bible. I wrote about that in my previous blog, ” ‘Joy’ in the Bible.” However, just as Paul had exhorted us to pray to have a revelation of the greatness of God’s love, I believe it would bless or do us good, too, to pray for a revelation of the greatness of God’s joy (and peace). Since three of the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit are “love, joy, peace,” this is part of our pursuit as believers of the God of the Bible – to obtain and grow in these fruits of the Spirit. I read my Bible a lot and I observe that the more I pray for the Holy Spirit to teach me, as He is really our Teacher, the more I get out of my Bible reading. I believe that prayerfully reading and studying the Bible, even relating the passages we read to our everyday experiences, would help us in understanding the Bible concept of “joy.” Besides, remaining in a teachable attitude towards the Holy Spirit is really how we grow in depth in our relationship with God.
Hence, I went into the original words in Hebrew and Greek, words that get translated into “joy,” “happy” or “joyful,” “rejoice,” etc., in our English Bibles, in the hopes that we will unravel more on the mystery of how Bible-believing Christians came up with their definition of joy as, “having an inner peace knowing that you are doing, or living in, the will of God.”
First, I looked in the Old Testament which was originally written in Hebrew. The most common word for the noun “joy” in the Old Testament is the noun “simchah” (Strong’s 8057). It means “joy,” “gladness,” “mirth.” Strong’s exhaustive concordance says it means, “exceedingly, gladness, joyfulness, mirth, pleasure, rejoicing.” It occurs 93 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. It gets translated into English as “exceedingly, gladness, joyfulness, delight, mirth, pleasure, rejoicing;” also, “festival.” This is the word used in verses that talk of the joy and rejoicing that come with the set times of festivals and celebrations the Israelites had in the Old Testament, their times of sacrifices and offerings before the Lord, and their times of thanksgiving to God due to successes and blessings from Him. “Simchah” comes from the primitive root word “samach” (Strong’s 8055), a verb which means “to rejoice, be glad.” There are 150 occurrences of “samach.” The Strong’s exhaustive concordance also defines “samach” as “to cheer up, be make glad, have, make joyful, be make merry, cause to, make to rejoice, very.” It’s a primary root word which means “to brighten up, be blithe or gleesome.”
Here are some examples on the usage of “simchah.”
After the epic victory of the lad David when he killed the giant Goliath:
1 Samuel 18:6 When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful (literally, “with joy” – “simchah”) songs and with tambourines and lutes.
To describe the joy the Israelites had when they all rallied together to turn Saul’s kingdom over to David:
1 Chronicles 12:38 All these were fighting men who volunteered to serve in the ranks. They came to Hebron fully determined to make David King over all Israel. All the rest of the Israelites were also of one mind to make David king.
39 The men spent three days there with David, eating and drinking, for their families had supplied provisions for them.
40 Also their neighbors from as far away as Issachar, Zebulun and Naphtali came bringing food on donkeys, camels, mules and oxen. There were plentiful supplies of flour, fig cakes, raisin cakes, wine, oil, cattle and sheep, for there was joy (“simchah”) in Israel.
At the celebration of bringing the ark of the covenant to the tabernacle of David:
2 Samuel 6:12 Now King David was told, “The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So David went down and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing (literally, “gladness” – “simchah”).
1 Chronicles 15:1 After David had constructed buildings for himself in the City of David, he prepared a place for the ark of God and pitched a tent for it…
v16 David told the leaders of the Levites to appoint their brothers as singers to sing joyful songs (literally, “to raise the voice of joy” – “simchah”), accompanied by musical instruments: lyres, harps and cymbals.
25 So David and the elders of Israel and the commanders of units of a thousand went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD from the house of Obed-Edom, with rejoicing (literally, “with joy” – “simchah”).
Temple worship at the time when Hezekiah purified the temple and spearheaded a revival of turning his and the whole nation of Israel’s hearts back to the Lord (after a long period of apostasy), at the offering of sacrifices and the celebration of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, was characterized by joy (“simchah”):
2 Chron 29:30 King Hezekiah and his officials ordered the Levites to praise the LORD with the words of David and of Asaph the seer. So they sang praises with gladness (“simchah”) and bowed their heads and worshiped.
2 Chron 30:21 The Israelites who were present in Jerusalem celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days with great rejoicing (literally, “with great gladness / joy” – “gadol simchah”; “gadol” is an adjective which means “great”), while the Levites and priests sang to the LORD every day, accompanied by the LORD’s instruments of praise.
v.23 The whole assembly then agreed to celebrate the festival seven more days; so for another seven days they celebrated joyfully (literally, “with gladness” – “simchah”).
At the rebuilding of the temple after the exiles came back to repair the walls of the city of Jerusalem and to rebuild the temple in the time of Ezra, the joy of the people to see the foundations of the rebuilt temple being laid down was described as “simchah”:
11 With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the LORD:
“He is good; his love to Israel endures forever.”
And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.
12 But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy (“simchah”) .
13 No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy (“simchah”) from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.
The “joy” found in the presence of the Lord is “simchah”:
Psalm 16:11 In His presence is fullness of joy (“simchah”).
For the word “joyful” I found “sameach” (Strong’s 8056), a verbal adjective which translates into English as “glad, joyful, merry.”It occurs 27 times. Both “simchah” and “sameach” come from the same root word “samach” (Strong’s 8055), a verb which means “to rejoice, be glad.” “Sameach” is also used mostly in verses pertaining to celebrations and and occasions of triumph or victory, usually, together with “simchah”:
Deut 16:15 For seven days celebrate the Feast to the LORD your God at the place the LORD will choose. For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy (“sameach”) will be complete (literally, “you shall surely rejoice”).
On the occasion of Solomon being anointed as king of Israel:
1 Kings 1:40 And all the people went up after him, playing flutes and rejoicing greatly (literally, “rejoice with great joy” – “sameach gadol simcha”; where “gadol” means “great”), so that the ground shook with the sound.
Right after the occasion of the dedication of the temple of Solomon:
1 Kings 8:66 On the following day he sent the people away. They blessed the king and then went home, joyful (“sameach”) and glad (literally, “cheerful, beautiful, good” -“towb,” (Strong’s 2896) adjective, verb noun) in heart for all the good things the LORD had done for his servant David and his people Israel.
(“Towb” is not very often used for this meaning of being “cheerful” or “glad,” as it means many other things like “beautiful, best, better, bountiful, at ease, fair word, be in favor, fine, good, graciously, kindly, etc.” It occurs 562 times and is the word for “good” in Genesis 1:4,10,18, passages that say ”…and God saw that it was good.”)
When Joash was proclaimed as king in the temple:
2 Kings 11:14 She looked and there was the king, standing by the pillar, as the custom was. The officers and the trumpeters were beside the king, and all the people of the land were rejoicing (“sameach”) and blowing trumpets. Then Athaliah tore her robes and called out, “Treason! Treason!”
Here “sameach” is translated as “gloat”:
Psalm 35:26 May all who gloat (“sameach”) over my distress be put to shame and confusion; may all who exalt themselves over me be clothed with shame and disgrace.
It is interesting that the word “happy” in the following verses are actually “sameach” (“joyful”) in the original Hebrew:
1 Kings 4:20
[ Solomon’s Daily Provisions ] The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore; they ate, they drank and they were happy (“sameach”).
Esther 5:14 His wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, “Have a gallows built, seventy-five feet high, and ask the king in the morning to have Mordecai hanged on it. Then go with the king to the dinner and be happy (“sameach”).” This suggestion delighted (literally, “pleased” – “panim” or “paneh” Strong’s 6440) Haman and he had the gallows built.
Psalm 113:9 He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy (“sameach”) mother of children. Praise the Lord.
Proverbs 15:13 A happy (“sameach”) heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.
Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy (“sameach”) about the plant.
It seems that so much impact was lost from those verses above just because the shallow word “happy” was used instead of “joyful” or “merry,” which are the more accurate translations of “sameach.”
Finally, “sameach” is the “joyful” (heart) that is good for your health!
Proverbs 17:22 A cheerful (‘sameach”) heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
Proverbs 17:22 (One New Man Bible) A merry heart does good like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.
According to the Glossary in the One New Man Bible the word for “broken spirit” here is “na-ke-ah” (Strong’s 5218) and it means “depressed.” Depression is bad for our health. “Sameach” (“joyful”) is the opposite of a depressed heart. The Glossary notes also say that “Depression is caused by a number of things, one of which is drawing away from the Lord.” I totally agree! If we want to be “joyful” we must draw near to the one who is “joy”! Remember, in my last blog, “‘Joy’ in the Bible,” we found out that ”God is love,” “God is peace,” and “God is joy”!
.As for the verb “to rejoice,” there are so many Hebrew words used, I think it is a shame that the English language does not have a direct equivalent for each one of them! Foremost would be the word “samach” (Strong’s 8055), which gets translated into our English Bibles as, “rejoice,” “be glad.” It is a primitive root which means “to brighten up,” “be blithe” or “be gleesome,” “be glad,” “be joyful,” “be merry,” “rejoice.” It occurs 150 times and is the verb used when God commanded the Hebrews to rejoice (“thou shalt rejoice…” in the King James Version) before Him in the festivals and celebrations He instituted for them; the rejoicing in His presence, in His city of choice – Jerusalem. (Lev 23:40, Deut 12:7, 12, 18; Deut 14:26, 16:11,14; Deut 26:11, Deut 27:7) As I stated earlier above, the noun “simchah” and adjective “sameach” both come from the root word “samach,” “to rejoice.” That means that for the Hebrew language and culture, it is quite apt to say that “joy” and “to be joyful” always have connotations of “to rejoice” or “rejoicing”! For the Hebrew mind, the word “joy” always pertains to an outward manifestation of great delight and pleasure. It is not just a feeling that can be contained without physical manifestation; “joy” is always associated with an act of rejoicing.
Leviticus 23:40 On the first day you are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice (“samach”) before the LORD your God for seven days.
Deuteronomy 12:7 There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice (“samach”) in everything you have put your hand to, because the LORD your God has blessed you.
Samach is similarly used in those verses mentioned above: Deuteronomy 12:12,18; Deut 14:26, 16:11,14; Deut 26:11, Deut 27:7. Now let’s look at other passage where “samach” is found.
In the following verse it says the instructions and commands of our LORD are a source of “joy”!
Psalm 19:8 – The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy (literally, “giving rejoicing” – “samach”) to the heart…
It is also the “joy”of a father / parent over a righteous son:
Proverbs 29:3 A man of wisdom brings joy to his father (literally, “makes his father rejoice” – “samach”) but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth.
It has the same usage in Proverbs 15:20, Prov 23:15.
Man rejoicing over the fruits of his labors:
Eccle 5:19 Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy (literally, “rejoice” – “samach”) them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work – this is a gift of God.
After the repairs on the breaches in the wall of Jerusalem was finished in the time of Nehemiah, the Israelites offered great sacrifices with rejoicing and the words used are “samach” and “simchah.”
Nehemiah 12:43 And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing (“samach”) because God had given them great joy (literally, rejoicing with great joy – “samach gadol simchah”). The women and children also rejoiced (“samach”). The sound of rejoicing (“simchah”) in Jerusalem could be heard far away.
The corporate joy was so great over everyone’s willingness to contribute their wealth when King David announced to the people his intention to build the temple of the Lord, and his own generous contributions to this great cause, that the words “samach” and “simchah” were used together:
1 Chronicles 29:9 The people rejoiced (“samach”) at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the LORD. David the king also rejoiced greatly (lit. “rejoiced with great joy” – “gadol samach simchah”, where “gadol” is an adjective which means “great,” “samach”, a verb meaning “rejoice” and “simchah,” a noun meaning “joy”).
Another verse where “samach” and “simchah” are used together:
Ecclesiastes 8:15 So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad (“samach”) . Then joy (“simchah”) will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun.
Also, on the occasion of Solomon being anointed as king of Israel, “sameach” and “simcha” are used together.:
1 Kings 1:40 And all the people went up after him, playing flutes and rejoicing greatly (literally, “rejoice with great joy” – “sameach gadol simcha”), so that the ground shook with the sound.
So, we have looked at the noun “simchah,” the verb “samach” and the verbal adjective “sameach” which are all related, since “simchah” and “sameach” both come from the same root word, “samach.” Are you confused yet? Well, there’s more. I have discovered 3 other Hebrew words for the noun “joy” and they are “sason,” “masos” and “chedvah.” Indeed, the Hebrew language has so many words for “joy” and alas, the English language has only one!
As for the verb “rejoice” I found five more! They are “gil” and its feminine form “gilah,” “alats” and “alaz” which have essentially the same meaning, “sus or sis” and “chadah.” Then there is the adjective “alliz,” the root word of which is the verb “alaz.”
The noun “sason” (Strong’s 8342) occurs 22 times and its root word is the verb “sus or sis” (Strong’s 7797) which means “to rejoice, exult.” “Sason” means “exultation,” “rejoicing.” It gets translated into our English Bible as “gaiety, gladness, joy, joyously, rejoicing.” The Strong’s exhaustive concordance says it means, “gladness, joy, mirth, rejoicing.” “Sason” is the kind of joy used in the passages that talk of the “oil of joy”:
Psalm 45:7 You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy (“sason”).
8 All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia; from palaces adorned with ivory the music of the strings makes you glad.
Psalm 45 is a royal wedding song, so this refers to the king, who in the Old Testament would have to be anointed. For instance, Saul, the first king, was anointed with oil by the prophet Samuel. So, this anointing of “oil of joy” was not figurative but literal. In the Old Testament, the Priests, i.e., Aaron and his sons, had to go through a process of consecration which included washing of the body, changing into priestly garments and being anointed by scented oil, to install them into the office of Priest. This particular anointing oil was holy and was used to anoint not only the priests but also the Tent of Meeting, the Ark of the Testimony, the other furniture and utensils used in the worship before the LORD. It was made with olive oil mixed with myrrh, sweet cinnamon, sweet calamus and cassia. The LORD’s instruction was that this holy anointing oil could not be poured on human flesh, except on the priests. (Exodus 30:22-33) So, when God instructed Samuel to anoint Saul as king, and subsequently David, too, he must have used the same sacred anointing oil, although it was only previously intended for priests, for that was how they officially installed people into service in those days. Prior to Saul, Israel had no king and God did not plan for them to have a king because He was their King! So, when God gave the instructions to Moses in Sinai concerning their manner of worship (the Tabernacle worship, the Ark of the Covenant, the scrolls, the Aaronic priesthood, the Ten Commandments and other laws, etc.,) there was no instruction concerning kings and anointing of kings. Hence, when they clamored for a king and God told Samuel to anoint Saul to be king the only anointing oil there was available was the anointing oil for priests. Thus, being anointed priest or king was a sacred ceremony and it carried authority and legitimacy. Later on, Jehu was also anointed with this sacred oil by one of the prophets as instructed by Elisha (2 Kings 9:1).
1 Samuel 16:13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power….
Psalm 89:20 I have found David my servant; with my sacred oil I have anointed him.
The other verse in the Old Testament that has “oil of joy” is in Isaiah 61, a Messianic chapter.
1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness (“sason”) instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.
The above passage refers to Jesus, the Messiah. In fact, it is the passage he read publicly in the synagogue and He proclaimed that it was being fulfilled by Him right there and then (Luke 4:18-21). The “oil of joy” referred to here was the sacred anointing oil of the priests. Indeed, God had separated Israel (and all believers) for Himself, to be a kingdom of priests. (Exodus 19:6, 1 Peter 2:9, Revelations 5:10)
“Sason” is also the joy of God’s salvation that David implored the LORD to restore to him after he repented from his sin of adultery with Bathsheba:
Psalm 51:12 Restore to me the joy (“sason”) of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
“Sason” is also the joy that describes the word of God as the joy of a believer’s heart:
Psalm 119:111 Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy (“sason”) of my heart.
Jeremiah 15:16 When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy (“sason”) and my heart’s delight (“simchah”) , for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty.
“Masos” (Strong’s 4885) is another Hebrew noun equivalent to joy in our English Bibles and it means “exultation, rejoicing.” It also comes from the verb “sus or sis” (Strong’s 7797) which means “to exult, rejoice.” “Masos” gets translated into English as, “delight, exceedingly, gaiety, gladness, joy, joyful, rejoice.” It occurs 17 times. Strong’s exhaustive concordance says it means, “joy, mirth, rejoice.”
It is the word that describes Mount Zion as the joy of the whole earth:
Psalm 48:2 It is beautiful in its loftiness, the joy (“masos”) of the whole earth. Like the utmost heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion, the city of the Great King.
Lamentations 2:15 All who pass your way clap their hands at you; they scoff and shake their heads at the Daughter of Jerusalem: “Is this the city that was called the perfection of beauty, the joy (“masos”) of the whole earth?”
“Masos” is the word often used for gaiety or merriment in general::
Isaiah 24:8 The gaiety (“masos”) of the tambourines is stilled, the noise of the revelers has stopped, the joyful (“masos”) harp is silent.
:Isaiah 62:5… as a bridegroom rejoices (“masos”) over his bride,…
Lamentations 5:15 Joy (“masos”) is gone from our hearts; our dancing has turned to mourning.
Hosea 2:11 I will stop all her celebrations (“masos”) : her yearly festivals, her New Moons, her Sabbath days – all her appointed feasts.
These verses show that “masos” is indicative of very active and showy expressions of exultation and rejoicing which were often found in the Hebrew festivals and appointed feasts. It includes music, dancing, merrymaking, sharing of food, etc.
The Hebrew noun “chedvah” (Strong’s 2305) for “joy” is an Aramaic word and it occurs only once:
Ezra 6:16 Then the people of Israel – the priests, the Levites and the rest of the exiles – celebrated the dedication of the house of God with joy (“chedvah”).
Apparently, there is another noun “chedvah” (Strong’s 2304), and it occurs twice. It also means “joy, gladness” and its root word is “chadah” (Strong’s 2302) a verb which means “to rejoice – make glad, be joined, rejoice”:
Exodus 18:9 King James Version (KJV) And Jethro rejoiced (“chadah”) for all the goodness which the Lord had done to Israel, whom he had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians.
Job 3:6 King James Version (KJV) As for that night, let darkness seize upon it; let it not be joined (“chadah”) unto the days of the year, let it not come into the number of the months.
Psalm 21:6 (KJV) For thou hast made him most blessed for ever: thou hast made him exceeding glad (“chadah simchah”) with thy countenance.
The “countenance” here refers to the countenance of God – being in the presence of God. “Chedvah” is the kind of joy that is related to or comes from being “enjoined” with others or someone. It has the connotation of being “in fellowship” with the rest of the people of God and / or with God Himself.
1 Chronicles 16:27 Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy (“chedvah,” Strong’s 2304) in his dwelling place.
“Strength” here is the noun “oz” (Strong’s 5797) which comes from the word “azaz.” “Oz” means “strength, might.” It is used in other places in the Bible but translated as “stronghold, defense, safety, protection, rock, helmet, fortress.” The Strong’s exhaustive concordance says it means “force, fortress, rock, strengthen, most strong hold.”
“Chedvah” is the kind of joy in the phrase we believers often mouth (and I suspect, without much understanding) – “the joy of the LORD is your strength” :
Nehemiah 8:10 Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. do not grieve, for the joy (“chedvah”, Strong’s 2304) of the LORD is your strength.”
“Strength” in this verse is “maoz” or “mauz” (Strong’s 4581) which means “a place or means of safety, protection.” Its short definition is “stronghold”, and it’s used in other places in the Bible but translated as “stronghold, defense, safety, protection, rock, helmet, fortress;” its exhaustive definition is “force, fortress, rock, strengthen, most strong hold.”
Apparently, “chedvah, Strong’s 2304” is the kind of joy that you get when you are being joined with the LORD and it is also a place of safety and protection, a fortress. Hence, it is quite safe to say from these last two verses above that, “the joy of being in the presence of the LORD” is our “stronghold, defense, protection.” So, let’s stay just right there!
Prior to writing this blog, whenever I quoted or read this verse I always had in mind the “strength” that is the “physical strength” of our body, as in, the “strength” in the muscles of my arms, or, “strength of heart” due to a cheerful disposition given by God. How far that is from the real meaning! Now with this new knowledge, I realize how fantastic this verse is! How truly awesome is our God!
Now let’s look at the verbs – “gil, gilah, sus or sis, alaz, alats,” and the adjective “alliz.”
“Gil” (Strong’s 1523) is a verb which means “to rejoice” and it occurs 45 times. “Gilah,” (Strong’s 1525) is its female version which has the same meaning and it occurs two times, both in the book of Isaiah. It gets translated in our English Bibles as “cry, exult, glad, rejoice.” It is a primitive root and it means, properly, “to spin round (under the influence of any violent emotion) usually rejoicing or as cringing fear; it means “to be glad, joyful, rejoice, joy.” I do not think the English language can properly express this kind of rejoicing. I guess it will sound like, “rejoicing in frenzy.” You can just imagine how intense and violent that kind of rejoicing is – so much joy, intense happiness, rather, if expressed in our secular English language!
I come from an Asian country which has many languages because we are made up of many islands and various ethnic origins. According to Wikipedia, ”there are some 120 to 175 languages in the Philippines, depending on the method of classification. My language, Hiligaynon, has probably a close translation to “gil”. We say, “tirik” – to run around in a frenzy due to panic or sheer rejoicing. It’s the kind of rejoicing (or panic) that does not allow you to think, your body just reacts instantly to it. For other cultures, the North Americans probably have their “victory dance” and the New Zealanders have their “hakka” that would come close to this. When my children were small I used to decorate our house to celebrate their birthday parties. Usually, I would do it in the middle of the night when everyone was asleep, because that was the only time when I could do it. I did it every year and yet my children were still overjoyed whenever I put up those decorations. One time, I remember when my oldest child woke up early in the morning on his birthday, he saw the decorations and he didn’t say anything but he smiled and started running around all over the house! He kept running for a few minutes without saying anything or even laughing, but just having a big grin on his face. I could have asked him, “Why are you running around?” but I realized that would have spoiled the moment as that was the only way he could express his excitement and joy over the decorations, and probably, the prospect of what the day held for him when the party actually rolled in! (Just imagine the kind of satisfaction I had after having worked all night on those decorations.)
This will be the kind of joy the Hebrews will have when God restores Zion / Jerusalem:
Isaiah 35:1 The desert and the parched land will be glad (“sus” or “sis”); the wilderness will rejoice (“gil”) and blossom.
Isaiah 35:2 Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice (“gil”) greatly and shout for joy (“gilah”). The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God.
Psalm 14:7 and Psalm 53:6 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice (“gil”) and Israel be glad (“samach”)!
It is only rightly so because God Himself is restoring Israel for He rejoices over them with singing:
Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you (literally, “he will rejoice over you with joy” – “sus” or “sis,” “simchah”), he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice (“gil”) over you with singing.”
These expressions of delight and rejoicing over each other, between God and His people, are so intense, showy and candid!
The kings of Israel were exhorted to serve the LORD in the dichotomy of fear (and trembling) and violent rejoicing! It sounds insane, but both attitudes of the heart were demanded of them in their worship to God. That also applies to all believers! We are to fear the LORD with reverent fear and yet, also rejoice “violently” when we worship Him:
Psalm 2:10 Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth
11 Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice (“gil”)with trembling.
“Gil” should characterize our rejoicing when we appreciate His help and deliverance in our time of predicament and extreme need:
Psalm 31:7 I will be glad(“gil”) and rejoice (“samach”) in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul.
8 You have not handed me over to the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place.
Psalm 32:10 Many are the woes of the wicked, but the LORD’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him.
11 Rejoice (“samach”) in the LORD and be glad (“gil”), you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!
Psalm 35:9 Then my soul will rejoice (“gil”) in the LORD and delight (“sus” or “sis”) in his salvation.
10 My whole being will exclaim, “Who is like you, O LORD? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them.”
This is also the kind of rejoicing our Messiah, the Lord Jesus had, knowing that God would raise Him from the dead and He could rest secure, even though He had to go through physical death. This should be our joy, too, since we are looking forward to our resurrection from the dead, even though we die!
Psalm 16:9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices (“gil”); my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
“Gil” is also the kind of rejoicing of those who have learned to walk in the presence of the LORD:
Psalm 89:15 Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD.
16 They rejoice (“gil”) in your name all day long; they exult (literally, shall be exalted – “rum” Strong’s 7311) in your righteousness.
Psalm 89 is a “covenant chapter;” it describes the covenant relationship that God cut with David, promising him a throne that would endure forever and this is fulfilled in the “Son of David,” Jesus Christ. All believers too, are in a covenant relationship with God. Hence, this is also related to Psalm 16:9,10, because part of God’s covenant promises to all believers is the promise of resurrection and life eternal in His Kingdom.
“Gil” is also the rejoicing believers are supposed to have knowing that the LORD reigns even though we see injustice and unrighteousness seemingly reigning over us; the LORD will one day come to make things right. (See the context of the following verse in Psalm 96:10-13):
Psalm 96: 11 Let the heavens rejoice (“samach”), let the earth be glad (“gil”); let the sea resound, and all that is in it;
It is also the word for “rejoice” in these two famous passages:
Psalm 118:24 This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice (“gil”) and be glad (“samach”) in it.
Habakkuk 3:17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice (“alaz”) in the LORD, I will be joyful (“gil”) in God my Savior.
Whether it’s just another boring day or even a day of great poverty and need, we are supposed to “spin in rejoicing”!!!
The verb “sus or sis” (Strong’s 7797) means “to exult, rejoice.” It gets translated into English as “delight, exult, glad, rejoice.” Strong’s exhaustive concordance says it means, “be glad, greatly, joy, make mirth, rejoice.” It is a primitive root word which means “to be bright, cheerful.” It occurs 27 times.
The Lord’s delight over His people is expressed as “sus or sis” :
Deuteronomy 30:9 …The LORD will again delight (“sus or sis”) in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted (“sus or sis”) in your fathers.
The King James and One New Man Bible versions are more accurate, as they use the word “rejoice” rather than “delight.”
God’s joy over Jerusalem when she is restored by Him:
Isaiah 62:5 As a young man marries a maiden, so will our sons marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices (“masos”) over his bride, so will your God rejoice (“sus or sis”) over you.
Isaiah 65:18 But be glad (“sus or sis”) and rejoice (“gil”) forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight (“gilah”) and its people a joy (“masos”).
Isaiah 65:19 I will rejoice (“gil”)over Jerusalem and take delight (“sus or sis”) in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.
Isaiah 66:10 “Rejoice (“samach”) with Jerusalem and be glad (“gil”) for her, all you who love her; rejoice greatly (literally, “rejoice for joy” – ”sus/sis,” “masos”) with her, all you who mourn over her.
The One New Man Bible says, “Rejoice Jerusalem! Rejoice excitedly with her, all you who love her! Display joy with her, all you who mourn for her!”
Isaiah 66:14 When you see this, your heart will rejoice (“sus” or “sis”) and you will flourish like grass; the hand of the LORD will be made known to his servants, but his fury will be shown to his foes.
“Sus or sis” is also a verb used in expressing the believer’s “joy” in the salvation of the LORD:
Psalm 40:16 But may all who seek you rejoice (“sus or sis”) and be glad (“samach”) in you; may those who love your salvation always say, “The LORD be exalted!”
Isaiah 61:10 I delight (“sus or sis”) greatly (“sus or sis”) in the LORD; my soul rejoices (“gil”) in my God For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness,
The One New Man Bible says,” I shall greatly (“sus or sis”) rejoice (“sus or sis”) in the LORD! My soul will be enthusiastically joyful (“gil”) in my God, for He has clothed me with garments of deliverance, He has covered me with the robe of acts of loving kindness, like a bridegroom covers himself with ornaments and like a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
Literally, I say this can be translated as, ”I will exultantly rejoice in the LORD! My soul will spin around in joy in my God,…”
Whoa! These are incredibly intense emotions over salvation! Who among us truly rejoices in his/her salvation that way? Too often we wake up in the morning thinking, “My, I have a long day ahead. Lord, help me to survive another day.” Or, “I wonder what’s for breakfast. Hope it’s not oatmeal or fried eggs again….” Or, “Will something exciting happen to me today? Nothing wonderful ever happens to me…” Instead, we should be jumping out of bed, singing praises, doing jumping jacks and rejoicing, for our salvation “draweth nigh” (draws near) every time a new day dawns!!!
The verb “Alaz” (Strong’s 5937) means “to exult”; it occurs 16 times. It gets translated into English as, “become jubilant, jubilant, exult, rejoice.” Strong’s exhaustive concordance says it is a primary root word that means “to jump for joy,” i.e. “exult – be joyful, rejoice, triumph.” “Alaz” is used in the following verses:
Psalm 28:7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy (“alaz”) and I will give thanks to him in song.
Psalm 60:6 and Psalm 108:7 God has spoken from his sanctuary: “In triumph (literally, “I will rejoice” – “alaz”) I will parcel out Shechem and measure off the Valley of Succoth.
(Psalm 60:5-12 is exactly repeated in Psalm 108:6-13.)
Psalm 68:4 Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds –
his name is the LORD – and rejoice (“alaz”) before him.
Significantly, “alaz” is the word used in this universally favorite passage:
Habakkuk 3:17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice (“alaz”) in the LORD, I will be joyful (“gil”) in God my Savior.
Literally, verse 18 can be translated as, “yet I will jump for joy in the LORD, I will spin around for joy in God my Savior.” Despite the lack of provision and blessings, despite the barrenness and seeming absence of God, Habakkuk’s hope and faith in God as His Savior was so he great he could rejoice with such violence, knowing that God will still come through and deliver them!
Related to “alaz” is another verb, “alats” (Strong’s 5970), which means “to rejoice, exult” and it occurs 8 times. It is a primitive root word which also means “to jump for joy,” i.e. exult – be joyful, rejoice, triumph. It gets translated into our English Bibles as “exult, rejoice, triumph.”
It is found in the following verses:
1 Samuel 2 :1 Then Hannah prayed and said: “My heart rejoices (“alats”) in the LORD; in the LORD my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight (“samach”) in your deliverance.
1 Chronicles 16:32 Let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant (“alats”) , and everything in them!
Psalm 5:11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad (“samach”); let them ever sing for joy (“ranan”). Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice (“alats”) in you.
Psalm 9:2 I will be glad (“samach”) and rejoice (“alats”) in you; I will sing praise (“zamar”) to your name, O Most High.
Psalm 25:2 in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph (“alats”) over me.
Psalm 68:3 But may the righteous be glad (“samach”) and rejoice (“alats”) before God; may they be happy and joyful (literally, “exult with joy” – “sus” or “sis,“simchah”).
Proverbs 11:10 When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices (“alats”); when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy (“rinnah”).
Proverbs 28:12 When the righteous triumph (“alats”), there is great elation (“tiphara” (Strong’s 8597)); but when the wicked rise to power, men go into hiding.
“Alliz” (Strong’s 5947) is an adjective which means “exultant, jubilant.” It comes from the primary root verb, “alaz.” It gets translated into English as, “exultant, exulting ones, jubilant, revelers.” It occurs 7 times.
Example of usage:
Isaiah 24:8 The gaiety (“masos”) of the tambourines is stilled, the noise of the revelers (“alliz”) has stopped, the joyful (“masos”) harp is silent.
So there, we have pretty much covered the most-used words for “joy,” “joyful,” and “rejoice” in the Bible. Then you wonder, what about those passages, especially in the Psalms and Prophets, that say, “shout for joy,” “sing for joy,” “shouts of joy,” “rejoice with singing,” etc.? I found the words “rua, teruah, ranan, rinnah, renanah” for those phrases.
,“Ranan” (Strong’s 7442) is a verb that means “to give a ringing cry.” It is a primitive root word which means “to creak,” i.e. to shout aloud for joy, cry out, be joyful, rejoice, sing, triumph. It occurs 54 times.
“Rua” (Strong’s 7321) is another verb that means “to raise a shout, give a blast.” It is a primitive root word which means “to mar” (especially by breaking); figuratively, to split the ears (with sound), i.e. Shout (for alarm or joy) — blow an alarm, cry, destroy, make a joyful noise, smart, shout (for joy), sound an alarm, triumph. It occurs 45 times.
“Teruah” (Strong’s 8643) is a noun which means “a shout or blast of war, alarm, or joy.” It occurs 36 times. Strong’s exhaustive concordance says it means, “alarm, blowing of, the trumpets, joy, jubilee, loud noise, rejoicing, shouting.”
“Rinnah” (Strong’s 7440) is a noun which means “a ringing cry.” Its root word is “ranan” (Strong’s 7442). Strong’s exhaustive concordance says it means, “cry, gladness, joy, proclamation, rejoicing, shouting, singing, triumph.” It occurs 33 times.
“Renanah” (Strong’s 7445) is a noun which mean “a ringing cry.” It is also from the root word “ranan.” Its other meanings are,”joyful voice, singing, triumphing.” It occurs 4 times.
I’m sure there are other words that express joy and rejoicing in the Hebrew language but we have covered the most popular ones and we can see from this profusion of terms that the Hebrews were exuberant and lavish in their expressions for these emotions of elation. We know that in the Old Testament the Israelites did singing, dancing and played musical instruments in their festivals as they rejoiced before the Lord. In fact, as we have seen above, it was decreed by God that they were to hold His appointed festivals not in half-heartedness nor lack of enthusiasm, but in rejoicing. They were commanded to rejoice and the anointing of the priests and kings was an anointing called the “oil of joy”!
Psalm 149:2 Let Israel rejoice (“samach”) in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad (“gil”) in their King.
3 Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with tambourine and harp.
4 For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation.
5 Let the saints rejoice (“alaz”) in this honor and sing for joy (“ranan”) on their beds.
Now let’s look at passages where these words are used in liberality. The following passages are passages of joy over the restoration of Israel and the joy of the redeemed:
Zephaniah 3:14 Sing (“ranan”), O Daughter of Zion; shout (“rua”) aloud, O Israel! Be glad (“samach”) and rejoice (“alaz”) with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem!
Isaiah 35:10 and Isaiah 51:11 and the ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing (“rinnah”); everlasting joy (“olam simchah”– where “olam” means “everlasting”) will crown their heads. Gladness (“sason”) and joy (“simchah”)will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
Zechariah 8:19 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful (“sason”) and glad (“simchah”) occasions and happy (“towb”) festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.”
Isaiah 65:18 But be glad (“sus” or “sis”) and rejoice (“gil”) forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy.
19 I will rejoice (“gilah”) over Jerusalem and take delight (“masos”) in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.
Psalm 68:3 But may the righteous be glad (“samach”) and rejoice (“alats”) before God; may they be happy (“sus” or “sis”) and joyful (“simchah”).
Just to give us an idea what the “rejoicing” is like in the presence of the LORD, watch this Bar Mitzvah at the Western Wall in Israel. If you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, just drag the toggle to 16:00 and you will see and hear singing of Scripture, dancing, clapping, noisy merry-making, while the ceremony is going on. When it slows down a bit pull it again to 21:00 and you will see more of the “joyful” part. There is so much praying and reading of scripture but the atmosphere is so joyful and fun, so different from many “solemn” Christian rituals / ceremonies we know. The song at the end is beautiful, too!
So, where did the idea of joy as “having an inner peace that comes from doing the will of God” come from? Beats me! However, you must have noticed I said in paragraph 5 of this blog that “first” I went into the Hebrew words for “joy.” Your high school composition teacher must have told you that if you mention “first” in a piece of writing, there has to be a “second” (and third or more), or your writing would be deemed “epic fail.” Well, are you ready for “second” now? Huh, neither am I; this blog turned out to be so long, now I’m having a headache checking for typos. Thank you for reading this far and do watch out for the “second” installment. We just did kosher, we’ll do souvlaki next. Cheerio!!
For those not familiar with the Strong’s Concordance Numbering System, here’s a brief explanation: “For the concordance, Strong numbered every Hebrew or Greek root word which was found, for ease of reference. This numbering system (8674 Hebrew roots and 5523 Greek roots) is now widely used in the English speaking world and also widely available on the web, where it can be used with many translations, often in conjunction with other hermeneutic tools.” Quoted verbatim from: Wikipedia. (2015, May 05). James Strong (Theologian) [Article]. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Strong_(theologian)
The online Interlinear English-Hebrew Bible I used is at biblehub.com.
All Scripture quoted are from the 1984 New International Version, unless otherwise specified. Emphases in bold letters are mine.
If you wish to cite this blog, citation is as follows: PureJoyLand. (2015, Oct. 15). Hardcore Joy [Blog Post]. Retrieved from