Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen
I first heard the song Hallelujah while watching Shrek. I know, but that’s when I heard it first, and immediately, I loved it. I assumed it was a song about faith and God’s love. Wow, I was wrong. I’ll admit, I’m a lyrics guy. I want to know what the lyrics are and what they mean. I’ve researched the song by Leonard Cohen and remain baffled. It goes to show you, that religion fascinates many an intelligent person, but intelligence is not enough to grasp religion and faith.
First, if you’re going to sing Hallelujah, assume your listeners are going to think religion. Its not just a nice word, Hallelujah, it means an expression of worship or rejoicing. Often, this word means praising God. Cohen uses it to express sex, apparently what he worships and put first before the Lord our God. It would ALMOST be fine that Cohen uses the word in Hallelujah if he didn’t wrap in biblical references.
The first 2 verses are clearly a reference to David and Bathsheba although Cohen starts referencing Samson and Delilah. Either way, neither are enviable or admiral romances.
The first verse is:
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
Cohen seems to suggest that David found some magical secret chord that God was wowed by. Ha!
When David danced before God, it was in reckless abonnement of pure joy for God. He was not baffled. His wife Michal was jealous that David danced naked before all including the Ark of the Covenant (God) and chastised him for his actions, but David responds, “I was dancing before the Lord” Sam 2:21. Michal is struck barren for her evil jealously and perverting David’s intentions.
These actions by David don’t appear to show him as baffled, as Cohen suggest.
The next verse starts that David needed proof (assumingly that God existed?).
Here is Cohen’s verse lines:
Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya
Clearly, David does not sleep with a married woman out of his need to prove God’s existence? Here are the Biblical lines in question:
“From the roof, he (David) saw a woman bathing, who was very beautiful. David had inquiries made about the woman and was told, “She is Bathsheba, daughter of Eliam, and the wife of Uriah the Hittite. Then David sent messengers and took her. When she came to him, he had relations with her.” Sam 2:2-4.
There are suggestions in this song that Bathsheba seduced him, but David is far from innocent and clearly, seems to be the one doing the taking here! David is a flawed man and he sins here. This is not a high point for David and he pays dearly with the Lord God taking the life of his son he sires with Bathsheba; it should be noted that David has Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, killed in battle to cover up for his sin. When we turn from God through grievous sin, we pay a price. People like to pretend that sin is no big deal but the Bible suggests different; God allows us to feel the effects of sin, and those effects are not nothing. When we travel far from the protection of the Lord, the Devil can get you, as it does with King David.
Here is the end of the song:
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the hallelujah
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
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
I like a song about a bad break up or a romance gone wrong. I like a song that deals with pain. I like a song that is raw and emotional. Cohen’s song is romance gone wrong, standing before the Lord our God stinking of sin and shoving it in His loving face (I’ll stand before the lord of song) in defiance. Stand before the Lord, stinking of sin, and scream – have Mercy. Scream, forgive me! Scream, Help Me! Never scream, I did it, deal with it! God will allow you to feel the effects of sin right here on earth – and possibly after death too!
I think Cohen’s point is, he had a relationship and he did it all wrong and in the end, he stood before the Lord and said Rejoice (Hallelujah)! I think he’s trying to suggest, he did just like King David or Sampson, but he misses that those two didn’t do well at these points in their lives, paid dearly and repented, receiving God’s mercy. King David and Sampson were not proud of their sins, but Cohen seems to be in this song.
I don’t care for a song that tries to warp a Biblical story into a justification for their own horribleness. The message of the Bible is ALWAYS Good News. The story of David and Sampson is Good News but not if you misinterpret it. See David’s sin, see what happens, see David repenting and see the forgiveness of God.
See the Goodness of the Lord! He is there – scream the right words to Him!