What does Hallelujah mean?

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Leonard Cohen: Hallelujah Meaning

Song Released: 1984


Covered By: Rufus Wainwright (2007), Jordan Smith (2015), Pentatonix (2016)


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  1.  

    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



  2.  

    anonymous
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    Sep 27th, 2013 9:45pm report


    A lot of people see this song as a song about faith. I see it as a cynical look at faith.
    In every verse, it's about someone who has either lost their faith, or is in the process of losing their faith.
    People don't praise God when things are going good. They praise God when they have no where left to turn.
    A few other notes: You say I took the name in vain, but I don't even know the name: This is a reference to the 3rd Commandment, thou shalt not take the Lord's name in vain. In Jewish tradition, the actual name of God is never spoken. Most Jewish cultures use the term Adonai meaning "Lord" while orthodox Jews use the term Hashem meaning "Word".
    The person in this song has lost all faith, but even if it all went wrong, he'd stand before the Lord Of Song with nothing on his tongue but Hallelujah.-Until he stands before God, he has lost faith. If he's proven wrong, all he'll have to say is Hallelujah.



  3.  

    gbcobra
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    Feb 25th, 2013 2:32am report


    This is a great song, composed by one of the best composers of the past centuries, and hes a canadian brother...
    This song has touched me, and has done the same for many others in society, even though lnerd cohen does not have the best voice, he sure knows how to make you feel what hes saying and he makes you think abou it while the sond is playing, not many songs do this for me.
    This song is insperational and just plain amazing.



  4.  

    laura.burtthorpe
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    Feb 10th, 2013 2:30pm report


    It is amazing how many people think they are an authority on the meaning of this song. We all seem to take different things from it. Many do not understand that the "Hallelujah" is a Hebrew word which is a mini doxology to God. It is being said in many different contexts by people without them really understanding the meaning. Sorry, you can try and change the meaning all you want, but the original definition has not changed to please you. Cohen, if you read some of his bio, is Jewish, a practicing Jew. Even though he is also a Buddist monk. He justifies this by saying Buddism does not worship a god so it is not in conflict with his judism. That is his choice and only he knows why he wrote the song as he did. It also says he kept writing verse after verse, about 100 of them, but kept many of them out, obviously for good a reason, no one has a song that long. I think we all need to appreciate the song for what it provides each one individually and not say there is an "absolute" interpretion for it for anyone else. None of us are an authority on how someone else should interpret a work of art, even the artist. This is where freedom applies lavishly.



  5.  

    anonymous
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    Jan 28th, 2013 1:41pm report


    Perhaps the best way to interpret this song is to just get it from the horses mouth. Anyone find Leonard Cohen's interpretation?



  6.  

    anonymous
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    Dec 15th, 2012 12:57pm report


    Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen (Hallelujah is a Hebrew word meaning "Praise God." This song praises God in the very good times and in the very bad times.
    Verse 1:
    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 is a biblical reference; David plays the harp to sooth King Saul, but the music doesn't help, King Saul moves to kill David. The Lord God Himself is pleased by David. However; the baffled King Saul has a mixture of jealousy, unhealthy love and envy for David. Ultimately King Saul loses his throne to David and David becomes King. King Saul has been brought to his knees and his Hallelujah is a lament to what he could have been in God's eyes.

    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

    This verse speaks to me in that King David was a man after God's own heart, King David's faith in God was strong, but in a moment of weakness his head is turned by the beautiful Bathsheba. King David sins against God when he has her husband killed and removed so David can take her as his wife. The sinful lust David has for Bathsheba removes him from favor with God and brings David to his knees. David is so broken, all he can do is cry out to God, praising Him and begging for forgiveness to once again be in God's favor.
    Another reference is to Sampson, whom God had blest with great strength, God loved Sampson, but Sampson too is lured into a relationship with a beautiful woman that is his enemy. God has told Sampson not to take Delilah as his own, and ultimately Delilah ruins Sampson by tying him up and cutting his hair, and removing his source of strength. Sampson is captured by his enemies, his eyes burned out and is made to grind wheat like an animal. He too laments to God, a broken Hallelujah, praising God and begging His favor once more.

    Verse 3:
    Now, maybe there's a God above
    As for me all I've ever learned from love
    is how to shoot somebody who outdrew you
    but it's not a cry that you hear tonight
    It's not some pilgrim that claims to have seen the light
    It's a cold and it's a very broken Hallelujah

    The writer of these lyrics has had a love relationship that has ended and he too is broken, all he can say is a "broken hallelujah." This reflects on the bitterness of love, his love interest has hurt him very deeply.


    Verse 4:
    Oh people I've been here before
    I know this room, I've walked this floor
    You see, I used to live alone before I knew you.
    And I've seen your flag on the marble arch
    But listen, love is not some kind of victory march
    It's a cold and it's a very lonely Hallelujah

    The writer has been in love many times, and it has turned out badly. This verse speaks of the very human love relationship, in this instance his love has declared victory and has placed a flag on the marble arch. Love is not a competition to see who wins most of the time, this love is not lasting either and his heart is broken once again, bringing him to his knees where all he can do is proclaim a very lonely Hallelujah.

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

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

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

    In the end, the writer realizes he's made mistakes, he's told the truth and he doesn't want to appear he is something he is not. He comes before the "Lord of Song" which is a reference to God I believe. He stands before the Lord with nothing on his tongue but Hallelujah, praising God realizing that God is all sufficient and deserves his honor and praise in everything.



  7.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Dec 15th, 2012 12:33pm report


    Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen (Hallelujah is a Hebrew word meaning "Praise God." This song praises God in the very good times and in the very bad times.
    Verse 1:
    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 is a biblical reference; David plays the harp to sooth King Saul, but the music doesn't help, King Saul moves to kill David. The Lord God Himself is pleased by David. However; the baffled King Saul has a mixture of jealousy, unhealthy love and envy for David. Ultimately King Saul loses his throne to David and David becomes King. King Saul has been brought to his knees and his Hallelujah is a lament to what he could have been in God's eyes.

    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

    This verse speaks to me in that King David was a man after God's own heart, King David's faith in God was strong, but in a moment of weakness his head is turned by the beautiful Bathsheba. King David sins against God when he has her husband killed and removed so David can take her as his wife. The sinful lust David has for Bathsheba removes him from favor with God and brings David to his knees. David is so broken, all he can do is cry out to God, praising Him and begging for forgiveness to once again be in God's favor.
    Another reference is to Sampson, whom God had blest with great strength, God loved Sampson, but Sampson too is lured into a relationship with a beautiful woman that is his enemy. God has told Sampson not to take Delilah as his own, and ultimately Delilah ruins Sampson by tying him up and cutting his hair, and removing his source of strength. Sampson is captured by his enemies, his eyes burned out and is made to grind wheat like an animal. He too laments to God, a broken Hallelujah, praising God and begging His favor once more.

    Verse 3:
    Now, maybe there's a God above
    As for me all I've ever learned from love
    is how to shoot somebody who outdrew you
    but it's not a cry that you hear tonight
    It's not some pilgrim that claims to have seen the light
    It's a cold and it's a very broken Hallelujah

    The writer of these lyrics has had a love relationship that has ended and he too is broken, all he can say is a "broken hallelujah." This reflects on the bitterness of love, his love interest has hurt him very deeply.


    Verse 4:
    Oh people I've been here before
    I know this room, I've walked this floor
    You see, I used to live alone before I knew you.
    And I've seen your flag on the marble arch
    But listen, love is not some kind of victory march
    It's a cold and it's a very lonely Hallelujah

    The writer has been in love many times, and it has turned out badly. This verse speaks of the very human love relationship, in this instance his love has declared victory and has placed a flag on the marble arch. Love is not a competition to see who wins most of the time, this love is not lasting either and his heart is broken once again, bringing him to his knees where all he can do is proclaim a very lonely Hallelujah.

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

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

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

    In the end, the writer realizes he's made mistakes, he's told the truth and he doesn't want to appear he is something he is not. He comes before the "Lord of Song" which is a reference to God I believe. He stands before the Lord with nothing on his tongue but Hallelujah, praising God realizing that God is all sufficient and deserves all his honor and praise in each and every aspect of life.



  8.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Dec 13th, 2012 12:23am report


    Hallelujah: Praise God (Yahweh)

    This song speaks to me of the brokenness of (wo)man. First Saul is broken by God through David, the only thing that soothes his soul and calms him is David's harp (which pleased the Lord). Then David is broken (separated from the blessings of God and his love relationship with God) by his adultery with Bathsheba, in the same sentence there is a reference to Sampson who was broken and separated from God by his lust for Delilah. Both these men were separated from the blessings of God through sin. Then the writer goes on to explain his brokenness and separation from his love interest and how he is also is brought to his knees with Hallelujah on his lips. He has nothing left but to praise God. I belive the final verse speaks of mans separation from God, how can sinful man be reconciled to a holy and righteous God? All man can say in his separation and brokenness to cry out to God (the Lord of Song) a broken and contrite Hallelujah. Each instance shows a brokenness and separation from love and how we are separately and collectively brought to our knees with only a broken Hallelujah on our lips as our only and sometime final recourse. This speaks to me as our eternal struggle until we reconcile ourselves to a holy and righteous God. Hallelujah!



  9.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Dec 11th, 2012 12:47am report


    Okay, heaps of people are doing other ones so mine will be quick.

    The word 'Hallelujah' means 'faith.'


    Your faith was strong but you needed proof
    You saw her bathing on the roof
    Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you

    This part is about David and Bathseba, their story is at 2 Samuel 11

    Bathesba was a married woman that King David saw on the roof one night when she bathed. He had her brought to him, they slept togethor and she fell pregnant. Her husband died and she married David and God wasn't a happy about his chosen king's behaviour.

    She tied you
    To a kitchen chair
    She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
    And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

    This references Samson and Delilah. Samson made an oath when he was very young to God that made him REALLY strong as long as he never cut his hair, or his strength would be diminished to its length. Delilah was a prostitute that he visited and fell in love with. However, Delilah's loyalties lied with the Phillistines, and after asking again and again what was the source of his strength and though knowing she was probably working for the enemy he told her the truth. Delilah waited for him to fall asleep in her lap and she cut off his hair. He was arrested and forced to work grinding wheat, but his hair began to grow and no-one cut it. He was summoned to entertain his Phillistine captors and as soon as he was no longer shackled he pushed against one of the support pillars, causing the building to collapse and killing hundreds of Phillistine men and women. This was the first time Samson ever prayed to God, and God helped him with his final task, giving him the strength he needed.



  10.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Oct 24th, 2012 10:45pm report


    I just want to comment on a couple specific lines. I've read through a few interpretations and so far. Nobody has gotten the same message from these lines.

    First:
    "I've seen your flag on the marble arch"

    This line implies that his lover has claimed "victory" in love which is impossible. Hence the next line.

    "Love is not a victory march"

    I take this line to mean that being in love is not the end game in and of itself. Relationships are like a battle. They can be lost if celebrated as a victory while still underway. Ultimately that victory march could never happen because the only two possible outcomes are that you die while still together (you can't celebrate if you're dead) or you split up (not a victory).

    P.S. The Jeff Buckley version is my favorite.



  11.  

    anonymous
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    Oct 12th, 2012 10:27pm report


    I think it is incredibly bitter and sarcastic as song by LC himself. I've been through exactly the same stuff. am a prof. singer for 25 years. really well trained and educated. went thru a bitter divorce and have been suicidal, but live for my 19 yr. old son and my cat. am unemployed,flat broke and 20K in debt. I have not heard too many others sing this yet, but no one I have heard does it like LC, and at that deadly slow tempo! I've sung so many songs, and must do this one, but cannot find my guitar pegs. I believe in god, or at least angels, am not Jewish, but sang as a cantor at a reform synagogue- it is a profoundly beautiful religion. OH, the silent rage! It sounds so beauty-pageant-like(barf), but I strongly realize that I must use my music for peace and love, or I have not done my lifetime work. I am extremely ill(not fatal- except for possibly my very bad diabetes and stress/depression. This is one of the most profound songs I have ever heard, and baby, Ive heard a lot of songs! I really am sucky on the computer, 55 and female.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway


  12.  

    anonymous
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    Sep 26th, 2012 9:35am report


    I definitely love this song. With my "band" (long time ago, unfortunately) we performed a cover of this song and we discussed a lot about its meaning before set up our arrangement.

    For sure, it has something to do with the spiritual side of a person. But I would not reduce it to religion, sin or love.

    So, I would not focalize attention to single lines that remind the Bible, because they could hide the general meaning.

    I think this is what LC would say in front of the "Lord of Song", explaining all his relationship with Music (seen as a higher power or better an "ultima Thule" - this could explain why he used so many biblic phrases). A relationship that is almost sexual, in some part. And everyone who has ever walked a stage (even in a smoky pub, in front of ten people) can say that the sensation of playing music is a sensation that can't be described, like an orgasm.
    I think all the song can be summarize in a "Thank you music".

    However, as TS Elliot said (I think it was him), poetry must never be explained: everyone must find his own meaning.



  13.  

    anonymous
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    Sep 16th, 2012 9:25pm report


    To me, "Hallelujah" is a poetic and beautiful expression of the artist's soul... I think it's about how the creative mind is eternally restless, the music and life in its depths forever smothered by its love of something that can never entirely love it back- the artist is in love with his own imagination and ideals, his words and his melodies, but they are cold and unfeeling in response; he is in love with mankind and its complexity, but it fails to appreciate him and his creations; it's not so much about unreciprocated love as it is unreciprocated passion.

    As in, "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?" I believe the singer is referring to other people here; the biblical referrence lends the idea power, bringing forth people's strong feelings of faith and holyness and then associating those feelings with music. "It goes like this- the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, the major lift; the baffled king composing Hallelujah." Then, despite stating that "you" don't care for music, he goes on to show you the music anyway- the way that the artist's resiliant idealism and limitless faith in his music force him to come back to it, despite the fact that it falls on deaf ears.

    "Your faith was strong but you needed proof, you saw her bathing on the roof, and her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you." Now, this is where the metaphor begins to sound far-fetched, so bear with me. I believe that the girl being described in the song is a metaphor for art (I use the word "art" to refer to all forms of self-expression, primarily music in this context). The singer believed in the importance of his art- but perhaps believing wasn't enough, until he saw it in its raw beauty, realized how unbelievably gorgeous it was when it came forth - undisguised, unedited, unhidden - from inside of him, cast in stark moonlight. "She tied you to a kitchen chair; she broke your throne, she cut your hair, and from your lips she drew the Hallelujah." So now he is hopelessly in love with this art. But the art is not tangible, just a dream, and it shows him no mercy; when he gives it all of himself and it leaves him still attached to reality (the kitchen chair being an object of bland domesticity), it tears him from his "throne" - his sense of being above the rest of the world in his state of delusion - and crushes his pride ("cutting your hair" referring to a part of one's appearence that people take pride in). But even so, it draws from him an Hallelujah, because - cruel as it is - he has created something.

    "Baby, I've been here before; I know this room, I've walked this floor. I used to live alone before I knew you." Having lost his vision, he expresses that he has been a part of this "real" world before - he knows this place, or did at one time. He used to live the same restless, lonely existance before he'd found deliverance in art. Now he's been torn from that state. "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." This part, I think, implies that he still sees sparks of inspiration in places that strike him as poetically powerful; he is also reminded, however, of how desolate he feels at the loss of something that had been important to him- something that he'd loved.

    "There was a time where 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." I think this verse talks about the fact that there was a time where he felt the magic beneath artistic expression, but now he feels no sense of it; that he used that sensation to explore and to comprehend (to move) and that the feeling was something sacred and special, and filled him with joy.

    "Maybe there's a God above, but all I ever learned from love was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you." So we've seen the artist in love with his craft, and then be pulled away from his lofty romanticism by a cold reality check; the world beat him to the punch and forced him to realize that his ideals are not the same as his reality; but this line implies, also, that he's still fighting for it (still "shooting at someone who outdrew you"). "It's not a cry you can hear at night; it's not a person who's seen the light; it's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah." I think this refers to the spectrum of emotions that art can express. Over the course of the song, the term 'hallelujah' is used to express a huge variety of emotions, whether celebratory or mournful- because with art comes emotion of all sorts, but he no longer experiences visions of cries in the night and people discovering enlightenment, and instead is left with his cold and broken hallelujah. There is no longer a story to tell; just a bitter memory of something he's lost.

    "You say I took the name in vain, but I don't even know the name. If I did, well, really, what's it to you? There's a blaze in every word; it doesn't matter which you heard- the holy or the broken Hallelujah." This one, I think, offers explanation for the disjointed - almost random - feel of the song. He is trying to say that these words contain power, and it doesn't matter whether they are showing you joy or sorrow, because they are there and they are blazing with the capacity to create something of beauty; he realizes that it doesn't much matter what his reality is meant to be ("what's it to you?") because he has found something with meaning and importance to him.

    "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 the end, he decides that he has something of magnificence in his life; he vows to live his life within that. He has done his best to let go of something "unreal" but it is a part of him- and that's why he'll go to his grave singing "Hallelujah!"



  14.  

    anonymous
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    Sep 11th, 2012 9:55am report


    I think this song is about a long term relationship that's at the tipping point - either the hurts are mended, or it's over.

    The first verse describes the singer's love by comparing it to the love King David had for God and how he found a way to show his love that was appreciated by God. The singer says he hasn't found an equally successful way to show his love yet.

    The second verse describes the initial love starting with lust and infatuation, that even though it wasn't perfect, still he loves her.

    The third verse describes the relationship drifting apart, the estrangement,the ultimate loneliness, but still, even though it makes no sense, the love.

    The fourth verse talks about his memory of happy times together, when she demonstrated her love for him. How wonderful and fulfilling their shared love and sex was. But now, she doesn't communicate at all.

    The fifth verse shows how the singer protects himself from rejection by rejecting her first. It doesn't make him feel better though. He still doesn't know how things went so wrong but he doesn't know how to turn back and despite it all, he still loves her.

    The sixth verse tells us that the partner has accused the singer of never really loving her in the first place. That its his fault everything is going wrong. He responds by saying she can believe what she wants, but he still knows that he has always, and still loves her.

    The last verse, the singer tells how much he loves her. He's sorry he hasn't found the one thing to demonstrate his love that she'll accept and understand but he's still doing his best, and trying his hardest to prove his never-ending love, through thick and thin.

    The repeated word hallelujah throughout is the singer saying "I love you" over and over in as many ways as he can as often as he can. His prayer that their love can be rekindled and the assertion that he will keep on loving her anyway.

    I believe they get back together and start having a better relationship after this revelationary song.



  15.  

    anonymous
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    Sep 9th, 2012 9:50am report


    I believe that this song is about a man who heard so many stories about the pains of love, and that made him synical yet he fell in love anyways. At first, the hallelujah is praising god for giving him this love, but as he loses his power, and as his relationship seems to diminish as his lover loses interest in him, his hallelujahs become sarcastic as he does not understand how god could send him such pain. In the end, the narrator resembles a broken hearted man that is unsure of how he, the man who doubted the benefits of love, has fallen for this woman and is now just like the subjects of all his stories. He wonders how he has gotten to this point, and although his faith is now wavering and uncertain, he still believes that a god exists.






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