My daughter had a friend over last night. I grilled. My wife made sides. We made a fire in the fire-pit outside for the girls to roast marshmallows and make smores. Then a late-night movie. It was a fun night. We eat every day, but I don’t always grill. The kids ask for treats all the time, but I don’t always start a fire for smores. When we have a guest, we do a little extra. Like many folks, we celebrate a little more when we do it with more people. We are thankful for the money to be able to get extra sweets. We are thankful for the friends in our lives. We are thankful for the time together. So, we make a fire that we normally wouldn’t and set marshmallows to flame. This is how we show thankfulness and celebration with friends at my house. One might call such behavior with fire for celebration a ritual.
The fourth chapter in Holy Roar is about the BH word תודה /todah/. Following Strong’s, the authors have transliterated this as /towdah/, but I’m not going to do that because representing a holem-vav (a vowel “o”) with a “w” at all is funny to me (check out the ancientbiblepodcast if you want to know why). However, like with every other letter of BH in this book, the authors have printed in Hebrew the word /hadot/ (which is not a word in BH).
The authors cite Strong’s Concordance for their definition of this word. They say (on p56) that /todah/ means “An extension of the hand. Thanksgiving. A confession. A sacrifice of praise. Thanksgiving for things not yet received. A choir of worshippers.”
However, one of these things does not come from Strong’s. The phrase “thanksgiving for things not yet received” does not come from Strong’s Concordance. You don’t have to trust me. The authors tell you this themselves in the Notes. On p124, the authors give the full entry from Strong’s for /todah/. The phrase “thanksgiving for things not yet received” is not in there. And yet, on p56, the authors have added in this phrase to the definition of /todah/ as if it came from Strong’s. This is very unethical and dishonest. This phrase does not come from Strong’s. This phrase is one of Whitehead’s pastoral interpretations and it seems he has added that to the definitions from Strong’s. This misleads people into thinking that this phrase comes from Strong’s when really it is Whitehead’s own thoughts. Not only have the authors mishandled information from Strong’s, now they are creating their own information and calling it “Strong’s”. This is shameful.
/Todah/ does not mean an “extension of the hands” despite what Strong’s says. /Todah/ is a noun that is derived from the verb /yadah/ which we covered in the first post of this series. Because of this etymological connection and /yadah/’s multiple usages (some of which have to do with shooting or throwing ), some resources like Strong’s make a connection through etymology where there is none in real usage. More reliable lexica like HALOT, DCH, or Gesenius 18 do not claim that /todah/ has anything to do with hand movement or posture.
Hebrew nerds: /yadah/ is a I-position yod/vav verb. This means that the I-position yod used to be a vav in older Hebrew. Thus, the original root for /yadah/ and /todah/ was not even /ydh/ at all, rather, the root was /vdh/ and that old I-vav shows itself in the derived noun form of /todah/. So, if you wanna get crazy with etymology, start at least with the right etymology.
The authors then use two examples from Psalms that allegedly show the connection between being thankful and raising your hands to show your thankfulness. This two-part connection is the /todah/ kind of praise, according to the authors. To support this point, the authors use the NKJV in both instances. This is likely to avoid having to explain what a /todah/ sacrifice is since the NKJV ignores the sacrificial context for modern readers.
NET: Whoever presents a thank-offering honors me.
To whoever obeys my commands, I will reveal my power to deliver.
NKJV: Whoever offers praise glorifies Me;
And to him who orders his conduct aright
I will show the salvation of God.
What the KJV has translated simply as “offers praise” the NET Bible has more specifically translated “presents a thank-offering”. In BH, this is /zo-be-ach todah/. /Zo-be-ach/ is a substantive participle. That means it’s a verb that gets used as a noun. Kind of like how we put -er on verbs to make them nouns in English (run/runner, for example). So, the verb /zabach/ means “to sacrifice” or “to offer a sacrifice” and making it into a participle turns it into “the sacrificer” or “the one who sacrifices/offers a sacrifice”. This phrase with /todah/ specifies the kind of sacrifice that the sacrificer will offer: a /todah/ sacrifice.
This does not mean “a sacrifice of praise” in the way modern people take it. For many, a sacrifice of praise means to sing songs and (incorrectly blamed on the Bible) to lift up your hands while you sing to show your sincerity. Rather, this means to kill an animal as a way to show that you are thankful for what God has done. This is a sacrificial ritual that is set out formally in Leviticus 7:11-15 (for starters). In the larger context of sacrifices in Leviticus, we learn that /todah/ sacrifices are a type of /shelamiym/ sacrifices. Most translate this as a “peace offering” or “offering of well-being”. These are unlike burned sacrifices or sin offerings. Those other sacrifices are obligatory, but the kinds of peace offerings, like the /todah/ sacrifice, are voluntary.
The /todah/ offering is the sacrifice of the party. If you had enough resources to have a party, Leviticus tells you how to party right. Not everyone can afford to throw a party. The /todah/ sacrifice reminds us of this and prepares us for the party in the right way. The right way to party is with a thankful attitude for the ability to party. So, if someone had an animal for slaughter and wanted to cook that animal for family and friends, simply because it’s fun to feed your family and friends when you have the means, Leviticus 7 instructs that person to sacrifice that animal in a special way that thanks God for providing the abundant food. To reduce this to some kind of rule for praise and worship time is not only incorrect and completely misses the idea of being voluntary, it cheapens the idea of celebration in the Bible.
Psa 56:11-12 is likewise translated “praise” in an obscure manner than veils the sacrificial language for most English readers. While this is indeed a use of /todah/, it does not mean to lift your hands while singing. It means to kill an animal as a way to say thanks to God for what he has provided.
We made a fire and cooked special food last night at my house because that is a way to celebrate the abundance that God has provided. We didn’t used to have a house, much less friends in the area and extra ribs and smores to share. Now we do, so we celebrate. And as I started the fire last night, I thought about how unnecessary it was. I could save that wood for next winter. The kids don’t need more sugar. It’s not cold outside, so there’s no reason for a fire. Plus, there’s a fire in the BBQ pit, so why make another in the fire-pit in the backyard? Because we can and we were celebrating that we can. We are thankful for what God has provided and we celebrated it.
This also runs counter to what the authors teach that /todah/ means. One has to create the notion and add it to Strong’s that /todah/ means to be thankful for something that hasn’t happened yet. Its true that this is the context in the life of David in Psa 56. But that does not mean that’s what the word /todah/ means. This is why Strong’s never claimed that and the authors had to add it.
Actually, as we see from Leviticus, the /todah/ offering is retrospective. It looks back at what God has already done and reminds us to be thankful for that. We might, like David, plan on a future party once something great we want to happen actually does happen. But even then, the /todah/ sacrifice is still looking backwards on a significant event and showing thankfulness for it. So, if you can, plan a /todah/ party. Have some friends and family over. Make a fire. Cook special food. Party well and be thankful for your ability to celebrate what God has done in your life.