Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen (1934-2016) is a very beautiful song. (See video below.) In Hebrew it means praise the LORD. Cohen said that Psalm 150:6 was the inspiration for the song.

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD!

It is Jewish tradition that David wrote Psalm 150 because of its many references to using musical instruments to praise the LORD. David was quite the musician; and you’ll remember how he would play the lyre to calm King Saul.

[The Psalm is read during Rosh Hashanah and in the daily call to Jewish prayer.]

Cohen’s lyrics bring to mind David’s musical gifts that pleased the LORD, but were seen as contemptible by David’s wife, MichalBut you don’t really care for music, do you? 

The lyricist gives nod to David’s triumphs and failures including his indiscretion with Bathsheba, but he seems to conjoin David’s sin with Samson’s shame in one verse … She broke your throne, she cut your hair …

Cohen, though Jewish, was an ordained Zen Buddhist monk. Hallelujah, written in 1984, evolved over the years as did Cohen’s interpretation of the piece. He couldn’t escape the religious overtones, and would often change the lyrics to make them sound less religious. Cohen once said, “David’s Hallelujah was still a religious song.”

Cohen penned 80 original verses in addition to a number of rewrites. There are as many secular versions of the song as there are artists who have covered it, but I choose to hear the Scriptural influence every time I listen.

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

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, she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

The video has special meaning to me. Anna Clendening performed these two stanzas on America’s Got Talent (2014). She suffers from acute anxiety disorder and was bedridden for two months before she made this appearance.

I was housebound four years with the same condition. It is a terrible affliction to live in such fear that you can’t leave the house. Some people cope with alcohol and drugs, but what has worked for me is clinging to Jesus Christ. The Lord is my strength and refuge. Hallelujah!

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