What does Hallelujah mean?

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Leonard Cohen: Hallelujah Meaning

Song Released: 1984


Covered By: Rufus Wainwright (2007)


Hallelujah Lyrics

Lyrics removed by the request of NMPA

  1. 1TOP RATED

    crissy
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    Feb 1st, 2009 2:27pm report


    Most of the interpretations I have heard refer to biblical stories and of course it is impossible to ignore the analogies with King David and Bathsheba. However,I think these can obscure the meaning of the song and I would rather go beyond them. Analyzing a poem line by line sometimes misses the core of meaning which may actually be not fully realized by the poet himself.What after all was Kubla Khan, Coleridges poem about? It came out of a drug-induced reverie and the words are impossible to interpret literally.

    What I see in the poem is a man who finds it hard to reconcile his own singular personal quest for truth as a spiritual seeker and as a creative artist with earthly love.He is "overthrown" by the beauty of the woman bathing on the roof and intoxicated with desire for her yet with that comes compromise.Being tied to a kitchen chair suggests being bound to domesticity and having his hair cut recalls Samson whose strength was lost when Delilah cut his hair.He feels he has sacrificed his power for ephemeral sexual desire,emotional needs and freedom from the burden of loneliness.

    And inevitably the hallelujah, the ecstasy fades and withit bitterness and disillusionment since his lover has no feeling for creativity as evidenced by her lack of interest in music,his explanation of which seems to fall on deaf ears.

    At the same time,the sexual magnetism, "down below" has diminished or even gone in the way that the energy of many relationships weaken into dead habit.

    So there is a sense he has been left with nothing, doubting a god above and likening earthly love to a gunfight.It is as if he has betrayed his deepest yearnings and is only left with a cold and broken hallelujah, an empty exhortation, a state of inner desolation.

    Yet the tone of the song is so bittersweet, so beautiful and sad that there might be a suggestion that he has reconciled those feelings and accepted the limits of the relationship,knowing that even sharing a life with someone cannot assuage his inner loneliness.

    Hallelujah is a beautiful,ironic and melancholy masterpiece.



  2. 2TOP RATED

    anonymous
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    Mar 27th, 2010 3:45pm report


    The first time I heard this song it touched me. Both the melody and the words are really powerful. This is my interpretation.

    The logic of the song is there can be many different hallelujah's. Hallelujah can be said in many different circumstances.

    Lennard Cohen uses this theme to talk about the hardships of love.

    There are many biblical references in the song (King David, Samson and Delilah). I will not go in to them, other have already explained these references in great detail.

    There are many versions of this song. Even LC did not always sing the same verses.
    I believe the version he performed during his 2008 tour (maybe still does) is the most logical (complete):

    Verse 1:
    Now I've heard there was a secret chord
    That David played, and it pleased the Lord
    But you don't really care for music, do you?
    It goes like this
    The fourth, the fifth
    The minor fall, the major lift
    The baffled king composing Hallelujah

    David loves music, but his love does not. He does not understand this (is baffled) and tries to explain (the cords are matched by the actual song), thus composing the Hallelujah.
    I believe this is about unmatched intrests in a relationship.

    Verse 2:
    Your faith was strong but you needed proof
    You saw her bathing on the roof
    Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
    She tied you
    To a kitchen chair
    She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
    And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

    The man (David) falls in love, but the relation is not a healty one. It ends up with him submitting and losing his powers. It is a distructive relationship and the Hallelujah is one of dispair.

    Verse 3:
    Maybe there's a God above
    But all I've ever learned from love
    Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya
    And it's not a cry that you hear at night
    It's not somebody who's seen the light
    It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

    Maybe the most "black" verse, reflecting on the bitterness of love. When you hear a Hallelujah it's probably not because of joy (seeing the light), but because someone is hurting.

    Verse 4:
    Baby I have been here before
    I know this room, I've walked this floor
    I used to live alone before I knew you.
    I've seen your flag on the marble arch
    Love is not a victory march
    It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

    The relationship still exists, but it's hollow. It is like it was when he was alone. He has seen the glorious side of love (the flag on the marble arch), but the love is not lasting and his hart is broken, therefore the Hallelujah is cold and broken.

    Verse 5:
    There was a time you let me know
    What's really going on below
    But now you never show it to me, do you?
    And remember when I moved in you
    The holy dove was moving too
    And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

    He remembers when things were good, how their lovemaking made him feel like they were really together, and their Hallelujahs were those of joy and ecstasy.

    Verse 6:
    I did my best, it wasn't much
    I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
    I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
    And even though
    It all went wrong
    I'll stand before the Lord of Song
    With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

    The conclusion of the song: Here LC turns from looking back to looking forward.
    We try, but often fail in love. We start with the best intentions and though it can go wrong, we need to try. In the end it is worth it. This Hallelujah is optimistic, because it shows that the hardships have not defeated him.

    This last verse is not included in most covers, but for me the last verse makes the song complete. It takes it full circle, bringing back the biblical relationship between the subject and a (the) Lord. It also gives the song a hyperbolic ending, which I prefer.



  3. 3TOP RATED

    anonymous
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    May 20th, 2009 5:07pm report


    Interpreted by : Francis O'Brien
    **Many times Cohen says hallelujah in many different contexts; this is the core of the song and will be explained at the end of the analysis.

    For the first part:

    Now I've heard there was a secret chord
    That David played, and it pleased the Lord
    But you don't really care for music, do you?
    It goes like this
    The fourth, the fifth
    The minor fall, the major lift
    The baffled king composing Hallelujah

    This relates to the story of King David who was had an intimate relation with god and was also a great harp player (secret cord/pleased the lord). The hallelujah at the end of this verse is a happy and spiritual one.


    Second part:
    Your faith was strong but you needed proof
    You saw her bathing on the roof
    Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
    She tied you
    To a kitchen chair
    She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
    And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

    In this part Cohen relates to the story of David and Bathsheba when David was walking on the roofs he saw her bathing and seduced her ending up committing adultery and lost a lot of influence and weakened his link with god (broken throne). Then we move to the story of Samson who gets his hair cut and loses all his powers, once again, a broken throne. In this verse, the hallelujah is a very sad and desperate one.
    Third Part:
    Baby I have been here before
    I know this room, I've walked this floor
    I used to live alone before I knew you.
    I've seen your flag on the marble arch
    Love is not a victory march
    It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah
    In this part Cohen talks about the ambivalence of love and its effect on your faith. It can be glorious like a flag on a marble arch or it can be cold and broken. And when in heart break you may lose or strengthen your faith, in this case it is strengthened because he still praises the lord in the end. In this case, the hallelujah is (obviously) cold and broken.

    Fourth Part:
    There was a time you let me know
    What's really going on below
    But now you never show it to me, do you?
    And remember when I moved in you
    The holy dove was moving too
    And every breath we drew was Hallelujah
    This is an obvious reference to sexuality and that even through an act as disgraceful as sex you can still praise the lord. In this verse the hallelujah can be interpreted as an “orgasmic” one.



    Fifth Part:
    You say I took the name in vain
    I don't even know the name
    But if I did, well really, what's it to you?
    There's a blaze of light
    In every word
    It doesn't matter which you heard
    The holy or the broken Hallelujah
    This is a reference to one of the ten commandments and through this Cohen is trying to make the listener understand that religion and faith is not etched in stone and that every one should interpret the holy texts and religion in his own way and that there is no “Right Way” to believe. This is an uncertain hallelujah, meaning that he is not sure what to believe but he believes anyway.
    Sixth Part:
    I did my best, it wasn't much
    I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
    I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
    And even though
    It all went wrong
    I'll stand before the Lord of Song
    With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah
    In this part, he has found what to believe in and realizes his past errors but he is ready to face the lord because he now has complete faith. This hallelujah is one of total faith and love for “the lord”.

    Hallelujahs:
    The song revolves around the word Hallelujah, which is a Hebrew word which means praise Yah/Jah or the Lord. And through the song, he says that all Hallelujahs are of equal value no matter the circumstance or the cause of the act. Weather it is in complete blissful faith or is from broken desperation, all ways and goals to prise the lord mean the same and are all equal.



  4.  

    anonymous
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    Oct 13th, 10:31pm report


    I think all the interpretations are overwrought. I bet even if Leonard wrote it with some serious meaning in mind, he lost sight of it, because it is about everything written above and about nothing. I think one should stop trying so hard to interpret and just listen or sing it with the gusto each verse demands, the religious fervor, the sexual fervor, the daily life fervor (which I do not think it is about AT ALL). I think it is about LOVE, both sacred and profane, God and a woman, spirituality AND sex, both kinds of love are good and demand a Hallelujah, because they all take work and effort and faith. Neither is perfect, neither can be depended upon, neither will save us (whatever that may mean). Love is good. Period. Don't try to interpret any further than that. It's not necessary for an appreciation of this beautiful song that sounds so religious, but isn't.



  5.  

    anonymous
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    Oct 1st, 10:36pm report


    David was one of the few men who learned to bring the Church into Praise and Worship. Worship is our LOVE response to our Creator. We LOVE God because He first LOVED us. We don't know what LOVE really is until we meet God, and LOVE is one of His Characteristic. When we feel like we've violated that trust and LOVE we feel empty and lost without our TRUE LOVE. David and Bathsheba both should have been STONED to death. But here we see God's marvelous LOVE through God's GRACE toward them. Isn't it wonderful to find that secret (chore)that hiding place where you meet with God in your life that no one else knows. Only to think you've lost it. Even to sing Hallelujah seems empty when you have separated that LOVE by sin. God cannot have sin in HIS Presence, but when David came to say he was sorry he found his song again. I will confess my sin unto the LORD, Who is Faithful and Just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Not just some unrighteousness, but ALL of it. God is not mad at mankind, but He would like us to learn from our mistakes (SIN). Jesus came to restore LIFE to us not to punish us. If you will draw near to Me, I will draw near to you.



  6.  

    anonymous
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    Sep 24th, 9:27am report


    The meaning is significant to the artist basic faith. The meaning transcends all belief system, because in the end all is vanity.



  7.  

    anonymous
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    Sep 10th, 9:26pm report


    King David's gift of a lifeline to G-d through all ... the Praise of Him:


    At the height of the Jewish Kingdom King David composed/played (for Israel) the most beautiful of songs praising The Creator who is pleased by it, even though He [The Creator] doesn't care about [seek] praise, baffling David, yet...

    We Praise You
    We Praise You

    You want clarity:
    Babylon enticed me (Israel) to stray, then humiliated me and destroyed my kingdom and grandeur [exiled me], and brought out of me...

    We Praise You
    We Praise You

    I was not always grand, I had been without You before, but now I see that in the praise which comes in sorrow, is a love that was lacking in the praise that came in grandeur, and now...

    We Praise You
    We Praise You

    It's real to me now...
    I knew this when all was grand, yet now in the darkness [exile] You have hidden it, I still remember when we [Israel and The Creator] were as one, and my soul was moved, and in everything I did was...

    We Praise You
    We Praise You

    In a further darkness with a faith in doubt, through praising You insofar, in my praise I overcome those [Babylon] who overthrew you, with my exiled Praise [which they tried to eradicate]...

    We Praise You
    We Praise You

    Now [so deep in exile] I (Israel/Leanord Cohen) know nothing, not even Your name which I seemingly am taking in vain [in this contemporary song], but [with chutzpah] don't you not care [as you don't for praise], so praising you is praising you whether holy or ignorant, so [here and now]...

    We Praise You
    We Praise You

    It's all I have here in my coldness, this praise [with "your name in vain"] is how I reach for you, that's what's up! Even though we've gotten here [to the deepest darkest exile, by our own doing!?], here I stand before You ... with nothing [empty] ... with nothing [of our ways] ... with nothing at all, but... King David's...

    We Praise You
    We Praise You
    We Praise You
    We Praise You
    We Praise You
    We Praise You
    We Praise You
    We Praise You........



  8.  

    anonymous
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    Aug 31st, 8:58pm report


    I can only add to two additional points, as I think overall the interpretations are good. The reference to Samson is mistaken. Cutting of hair is a loss of power. David lost power in his love for Bathsheba.

    Also in the prior verse, regarding music, there are minor and major chords but the fifth is referred to as the "perfect fifth" and maybe this is an inability to see perfection that surrounds us through the Creator.



  9.  

    anonymous
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    Aug 27th, 8:56pm report


    I can't be the only one who thinks this:

    ***Maybe there's a God above
    But all I've ever learned from love
    Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya***

    means that despite a probable existence of a supreme being, all I have learned from my experiences is how to survive. Isn't it obvious that the writer was talking about shooting a gunslinger who is faster in drawing his gun out, than the writer himself is? Just my $0.02.

    Disclaimer: I have only read first two pages of various amazing top voted interpretations of this song but I did not find anybody referring to this 'how to shoot somebody who outdraws you" metaphor.



  10.  

    anonymous
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    Aug 27th, 8:06am report


    In the context of the cease fire the song sung by IDF soldiers is a metaphor for the love of Isreal. If you think of it that way it brings tears to your eyes.



  11.  

    anonymous
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    Aug 14th, 8:47pm report


    It's a spiritual, but not necessarily religious song. It's pretty evident from the lyrics that he is not particularly devout or faithful, in particular with the lyrics "Maybe there's a God above" (lack of faith) and the ending of "I'll stand before the Lord of Song", indicating that even without his faith he still has his music.



  12.  

    anonymous
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    Aug 13th, 8:25am report


    Just because the word Hallelujah is used in the song and its title does not make this a religious song, praising god. Far from it.

    Most uses of the word in the song is done so sarcastically as the song is about finding and losing love to the typical battles in a relationship, describing how those battles soured what was once a passionate romance.

    The lyrics themselves even say that the writer isn't a believer in god and how, in the end, all he has is his music.



  13.  

    anonymous
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    Jul 25th, 7:10pm report


    Simply put-Praise god in everything!!



  14.  

    Rj
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    Jun 20th, 6:05pm report


    This might be too short to measure up to the many profound and detailed interpretations of this haunting, yet hopeful song. It is the author's reflective and revealing meditation toward God. Hallelujah is a term used to express praise to God. The author paints a rather impersonal and Holy God, (though He is), but rather a treatise on the unholiness of all humanity. Samson, David (a man after God's own heart), the author's imperfections in good times, troubled times, cynical and skeptical times are offered as the events in life in which we reflect fallen mankind rather than God's Holiness.
    In all of these situations and seemingly failed occasions, the author does not turn from God, mock His Holiness, or disbelieve His existence. Instead he chooses to bring His crippled, broken, inadequate offering to The Lord anyway... His broken Hallelujah... Trusting God to understand that "we are but dust". (Psalm 103:14) in other words... God, you created man to bring you praise... and he has screwed up from the beginning of time (from the who's who of Biblical history til now) But I lift my song to you anyway...cuz it is all I have! HALLELUJAH,



  15.  

    boje.terma
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    Jun 15th, 6:57am report


    love,love ,love,god,god,god....NOPE
    i analyzed the whole song almost to a words but there was no need for it...

    I've heard there was a secret chord(puppet artists)
    That David played, and it pleased the Lord(corporation)
    But you don't really care for music, do you?

    The minor fall, the major lift
    The baffled king(leo. cohen) composing Hallelujah

    our faith was strong but you needed proof
    You saw her bathing on the roof
    Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you
    She tied you to a kitchen chair
    She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
    And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

    the whole verse goes on he'm being bought by astuning things and actually tied by that ''gifts''...

    Baby(them) I have been here before
    I know this room, I've walked this floor
    I used to live alone before I knew you.
    I've seen your flag on the marble arch
    Love(the game) is not a victory march
    It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

    he's been an artist before but only now he got ''in the business'' and seen that
    love (aka the game) isn't what it seems to be...

    There was a time when you let me know
    What's really going on below.....
    that verse saying how he lost the connection and how it was before when he did something it was real and connected with people...

    Maybe there’s a God above
    But all I’ve ever learned from love
    Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
    It’s not a cry you can hear at night
    It’s not somebody who has seen the light
    It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

    again ,how ''it,the game'' works,he just lost the will to fight...

    You say I took the name in vain(god aka truth)
    I don't even know the name
    But if I did, well, really, what's it to you?(illuminati)
    There's a blaze of light(truth) in every word
    It doesn't matter which you heard
    The holy or the broken Hallelujah

    he's speaking to ''them,he(the big man)''

    I did my best, it wasn't much
    I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
    (he didn't believe the consp. theories and tried to do music,but he investigated that)

    I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
    And even though it all went wrong
    I'll stand before the Lord of Song
    With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

    just humbly saying that he doesn't wish war with ''them/he'' that he just had to say what he said and that's all...

    ty all for reading ,sorry if i ''fooled'' you're minds with my thinking of meaning of this song....appreciate

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway


  16.  

    anonymous
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    May 30th, 5:14pm report


    So much analysis, so much, to my mind, missing the point - wrapping up the purity of the song with complexity. I suspect Cohen's battle to finish the lyrics was this very same tension - how to express an idea that is so simple, so intrinsic, that we have to resort to metaphors to get close to it.

    For myself, I find the most succinct explanation in these two lines:

    It doesn't matter which you heard
    The holy or the broken Hallelujah

    By sketching out all these different expressions of the word (or if you prefer 'The Word'), look not to what the differences between the emotions or the rationale for each of the verses; only by looking on what is _constant_ in each and every Hallelujah does the simple purity shine through.

    So is this song directly about some concept of God, Yahweh, G-D etc, or not???

    It doesn't matter which you heard
    The holy or the broken Hallelujah



  17.  

    anonymous
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    Jan 21st, 2014 1:48am report


    I’ve chosen not read the other analyses so i don't get influenced.
    All the below is a mere psychological approach to a written dramaturgy, I’m not even sure if LC knew why he wrote in this manner, the only way i see it, is more like a personal diary and this extract is regarding one of his relationship…

    the hallelujahs are calls to an emotion each verse has a different hallelujah,
    even though there is a lot of biblical references it’s not quite about faith or God

    1st verse: a hallelujah of Seduction, how far would you go to get what you want.
    2nd verse: a hallelujah of Wisdom for the young man becomes a man, freedom became compromises and lust became responsibilities.
    3rd verse: a hallelujah of Pain, he opened his eyes to himself being used by love
    4th verse: a hallelujah of pleasure, he remembers with regrets their embraces
    5th verse: a hallelujah of Pain, he’s learned that ignoring her will hurt her
    6th verse: a hallelujah of Trust, he is asking people to trust his decision
    7th verse: a hallelujah of Faith, for he praises god


    Looks like a psychological approach to some well-known mourning phases such as a lost love => denying, fighting, fearing, accepting and healing..

    The Song:
    I've heard there was a secret chord
    That David played, and it pleased the Lord*
    biblical reference to king David, meaning that music “his passion” can be beautiful

    But you don't really care for music, do you?
    It goes like this The fourth, the fifth
    The minor fall, the major lift
    The baffled king composing Hallelujah*
    Meaning, it’s disconcerting, how can she not love something this perfect.

    2nd:Your faith was strong but you needed proof*
    He was already in love but had yet to consume it( could be a reference to the forbidden fruit)
    You saw her bathing on the roof
    Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you*
    meaning that she was perfect at the perfect moment( could be compared to a glass of fresh water after 12 hours in the desert)

    She tied you To a kitchen chair*
    Meaning the end of celibacy.
    She broke your throne, and she cut your hair* Meaning he has to start compromises and biblical Samson who had power in his hair and got betrayed by his forbidden love when she cut it. in this song the ripped power is passion itself
    And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah*
    Meaning she exchanged his youth and freedom for her love.

    3rd: Baby I have been here before
    I know this room, I've walked this floor*
    Meaning the 3 sentences to say one thing
    "i’ am not scared"
    I used to live alone before I knew you.*
    Meaning, a strong warning that she also has to compromise
    I've seen your flag on the marble arch*
    well like in every relationship's disputes the winner is the one that will go further than reasonable
    Love is not a victory march*
    Meaning it's not because i love you that you own me
    It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah*
    meaning this Call is heartless and unfair ( he could have written it’ a her cold heart living him heartbroken)

    4th: There was a time when you let me know
    What's really going on below*
    Meaning, when in love she used to share her intimacy with him, physically and mentally..

    But now you never show it to me, do you?*
    Meaning she has retracted herself towards him

    And remember when I moved in you
    The holy dove was moving too
    And every breath we drew was Hallelujah*
    Meaning that when they made love it was blissful.

    5th Maybe there’s a God above*
    Meaning, he is not the master of his destiny
    But all I’ve ever learned from love
    Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
    Meanings he has learn how to get rid of his pain

    It’s not a cry you can hear at night*
    Meaning he has to stop thinking about it

    It’s not somebody who has seen the light*
    Meaning don’t ask God for help

    It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah*
    Here is a clever revenge, the solution is to not care so it hurts the other

    6th You say I took the name in vain
    I don't even know the name
    But if I did, well, really, what's it to you?
    There's a blaze of light in every word
    It doesn't matter which you heard
    The holy or the broken Hallelujah*

    This is not part of the relationship but more of a collateral, I would guess his close family
    Being judged by someone he tell them that it’s their problem whether they rather believe in god than in him referring to himself has “the broken”

    7th I did my best, it wasn't much
    I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
    I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
    And even though it all went wrong
    I'll stand before the Lord of Song
    With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

    Again he is talking to someone, maybe the world actually, saying that he wrote this song honest and humble
    with a broken heart hoping it would reach out (hey LC it did big time :))

    Alex



  18.  

    anonymous
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    Oct 27th, 2013 10:48pm report


    Perhaps the appreciation -- not interpretation -- on this page may interest some among us to love the song: http://www.jesusjazzbuddhism.org/for-david-after-his-love-affair-a-process-appreciation-of-leonard-cohens-hallelujah.html



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