Recently as I was reading my Bible, I was struck at how many times the word “thanks” is used. In the Psalms, I Chronicles, and New Testament, just so much. “Give thanks for He is good.” “Give thanks for His mercy endures forever.” “In all things, give thanks…” “It is good to give thanks to the LORD.”
Not sure if you do this too, but sometimes I take a step back, and just wonder, “where did we get to using this word?” For example, where did “OK” come from? Did our ancestors say “OK” five generations back, or did it come about recently like trendy words like “rad”, “dude”, or “psychedellic”! So I went to http://www.etymonline.com to check out the linguistic history of our gratitudinous word “thanks”. It’s nothing too impressive, but earliest accounts show that it was a way of showing gratitude by wishing them “good thoughts, gratitude”. Early Danish “takke” or early German “danken” were a modern form of the root word “thankoz”, which simply meant “good thoughts, gratitude”.
As you know the Biblical culture of the Hebrews is gone. Jew’s stopped speaking Hebrew a long time ago, and it wasn’t til recently, shortly after Israel was re-instated as a country that Hebrew became an official language of a state (people have spoken Hebrew through the ages, it is true, but we are not absolutely certain how the Hebrews of 2,000BC spoke). Today we have word associations that are embedded into our culture. For example, Trump = money, 50cent = Rap, CD = music, iPod = portable music. Whenever a slow rock ballad with cathartic overtones is played at a concert, people pull out their lighters. When we want to express elation to a performance or an exquisitely delivered speech, we clap.
My goal in all of this? I wanted to explore the idea of what was going through an Israelites head when he gave “thanks” to God. It’s almost synonymous with praise; almost every time there is an exhortation to praise, there is an exhortation to thanks. This is where we get into the ideology of thanks in the Hebrew mind. The word used for “hand”, (H30217) יד yad, is the root for the word “thanks” (H3034) ידה yada.
I’m not going to pretend I know all the answers or that mine are definitive. But after looking at all the occasions in which this word yada appears it’s interesting to note that there is a connection between “hands” and “thanks”. When the word yada is used in terms of thankfulness, it is sometimes insinuated that your hands are raised (we extend our hands horizontally to each other, but we extend our hands heavenward in thanks to God). One thing is certain, the word for thanks, is definitely a word also used to describe other motions of the hand, “to throw down” or “to cast out”.
What does this all mean? Not sure to be honest. We definitely cannot substitute one word in for the other, for one is derived from the other. For example we can’t subsitute “hand” for “thankfulness”; “By Gods [thankfulness] he delivered Israel out of the Philistines land.” No, but one thing I think it does do, is beautifully intensify worship. We have an urge to lift our hands during worship. We have a lot of unexplained instincts, but this one drives to the core of our spiritual being. It may be that lifting our hands in thanks to God, may be as natural as a hug for an old friend, or a kiss between lovers. We just know what to do! When we thank another human being, we shake hands, grasp their shoulder, extend a hand in their direction; but when our thankfulness is turned towards God, our hands go up in worshipful thanks!! O give Him thanks for He is good! “O give thanks to the Lord, for you are good O Most High.” – Psalm 92:1