Hebrew Word for Joy: Simchah

by | Feb 7, 2024 | Blog | 0 comments

The word Joy appears at least 165 times in the King James Version, 182 times in the New American Standard Bible, and 218 times in the New International Version. Other variations of the same word appear even more. For instance, joyful, rejoice and joy all appear at least 430 times in the English Standard Version. 

So, what is the Hebrew word for joy?

Simchah is the Hebrew word for joy. Jews commonly use simchah to express joyous occasions, celebrations, and festivities. Within the Old Testament, there are several references to a deeper, eternal joy that transcends temporary circumstances. Sason, simchat, and sameach are other Hebrew words that provide additional context and contribute to a deeper understanding of simchah.

The Meaning of Simchah

Simchah, pronounced as sim-khaw means joy, mirth, rejoicing, and gladness. It also refers to blithesomeness or glee related to religious festivals. One example of where the word simchah occurs in the Bible is: “And the city of Susa held a joyous celebration. For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy (simchah), gladness and honor” (Esther 8:15–16).

Sameach, the adjective form of simchah, means merry, rejoicing, or happy.

Examples of Where These Two Hebrew Words Appear in the Bible

  • “The Lord Himself is the Good Shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep to search for the one who has strayed, and when he finds it, he joyfully (sameach) puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice (simchah) with me; I have found my lost sheep” (Luke 15:4–6).
  • “All the people followed him, playing flutes and rejoicing (sameach) with such a great joy (simchah) that the ground shook with the sound” (1 Kings 1:39–40).

Sason is another Hebrew word that carries a similar meaning to simchah. When sason is translated in Scripture, it means joyfulness, gladness or triumphant elation. Here is an example from scripture of the word use:

“The sounds of joy (season) and gladness (simchah), the voices of bride and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord” (Jeremiah 33:10–11).

Simchat, a truncated form of simchah, occurs as a prefix in compound words or phrases to convey a joyful celebration, for example, Simchat Torah (Joy of Torah) or Simchat Chayim (Joy of living).

Biblical Usage of Simchah

Joy (simchah) is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23). Joy is more than temporary happiness. It is a lasting attitude. People associate joy with happiness, victory, and positive outcomes, particularly when things go well. However, to have joy, no matter the circumstance, is a constant battle, and the struggle often gets real.

That’s because our circumstances tend to influence our feelings and emotions. Joy stems from our minds, so if we are in a good mood, we are happy; when things are going the way we want, we are happy. On the other hand, when we experience negative events such as loss, failure, feeling inferior, or trauma, it’s hard to be happy.

In fact, in the Old Testament, powerful men and servants of God, including David, Elijah, and Job, struggled to have lasting, consistent, or long-term joy. (Psalm 55:6–8; 1 Kings 19:4; Job 3:11–13). The Bible also warns that anyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).

However, the Bible reminds us that seasons of grief, loss, and weeping are always followed by joy. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning and those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! (Psalm 30:5; 126:5–6).

So, joy as the fruit of the Spirit endures even in hardships (1 Thessalonians 1:6). In fact, when God is the source of our joy, nothing can diminish its flow.

We can experience joy when we give heartfelt praise. David wrote that the study of God’s Word can bring us joy (Psalm 19:8). When we focus on God, His Word, and anything excellent or praiseworthy- whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable – we experience never-ending joy (Philippians 4:8; Psalm 19:8). The Bible calls this type of joy everlasting (Isaiah 61).

God is the Source of Never Ending Joy

A joy that is never ending or everlasting is a joy that transcends all circumstances. This type of joy is a gift from God and a fruit of the Holy Spirit that we receive with gratitude and hearts filled with praise. When we praise God out loud, our minds and hearts are shifted, and our mood changes, regardless of what we might be feeling or experiencing. So praise and joy are often interlinked. The Bible says, “Shout to the Lord, all the earth; break out in praise and sing for joy!” (Psalm 98:4)

The Bible also says that in God’s presence, there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). When we give thanksgiving to God, He gets the praise while we get joy, and because of God’s promise; everlasting joy can truly be ours (Isaiah 61:7). That means when we follow God, there is a joy that never ends, the joy that transcends suffering and supersedes circumstances.

Living in a fallen world as Christians means we will experience trials and tribulations that can rob us of happiness (John 16:33). But we should remember that the sufferings of this world are temporary, and because of redemption, we have hope because God Himself has promised to redeem all of creation (Isaiah 44:22; Psalm 111:9; 130:7).

And the ultimate promise for the redeemed will be ours: “They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away (Isaiah 35:10). A similar message is reiterated in Isaiah 51:11.

Simchat Torah a Joyous Festival

Simchah, the Hebrew term for joy or happiness, is closely associated with the name of an important Jewish holiday, Simchat Torah.

Simchat Torah, also known as the joy of Torah or the rejoicing of the Torah, celebrates the conclusion and restart of the annual Torah reading cycle. Sheer joy characterizes this holiday and involves marching and dancing with the Torah scrolls around the reading table in the synagogue.

On this joyous day, it is customary for every person to take part in the celebration by receiving an aliyah. The word aliyah means two things: to ascend in relation to immigrating to Israel and the honor of being called up to recite one of the blessings over the Torah. Jews consider Israel a holy and elevated place. It is an area where the Holy Temple stands, and with the advent of the Messianic era, it’s where the third temple will be rebuilt.

Jews also believe that each time they go to the synagogue to pray, it elevates the person. That’s because the synagogue contains an elevated platform in the center of the room called the Binah, where people read from the Torah scroll. The person who is called to the Torah gets an aliyah.

While Simchat Torah is a joyous day, it is also a major holiday (yom tov) in which most forms of work are prohibited, such as writing, driving, and switching on electronic devices. One notable aspect of the Simchat Torah is that women and girls light candles on preceding nights to usher in the holiday and recite the appropriate blessings. Nonetheless, for Jews, Simchat Torah conveys two crucial messages about the Torah: it is both a source of Jewish identity and a precious gift from God.

Conclusion

Often, our joy seems circumstantial. We feel joyful when life goes as planned, yet when circumstances change, we fall apart. The Hebrew word for joy, simchah, teaches us that because of God’s promise, everlasting joy can truly be ours.

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About: Ronie

Ronnie Amaya has been actively involved in ministry since his high school and university days where he served as a Christian union leader. After graduation, he worked as an itinerary minister preaching in Schools, Universities, Street Evangelizations, and Churches. In 2018, he led a team in planting a new church in Nairobi, Kenya where he is currently serving as the lead pastor.
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Ronie

Ronnie Amaya has been actively involved in ministry since his high school and university days where he served as a Christian union leader. After graduation, he worked as an itinerary minister preaching in Schools, Universities, Street Evangelizations, and Churches. In 2018, he led a team in planting a new church in Nairobi, Kenya where he is currently serving as the lead pastor.

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