Joyful Aramaic exclamation of praise, apparently specific to the major Jewish religious festivals (especially Passover and Tabernacles) in which the Egyptian Hallel (Psalms 113-118) was recited. Originally an appeal for deliverance (Heb. hosia na, Please save Psalm 118:25 ), it came in liturgical usage to serve as an expression of joy and praise for deliverance granted or anticipated. When Jesus came to Jerusalem for his final presentation of himself to Israel, the expression came readily to the lips of the Passover crowds.
In the Bible the expression occurs only in accounts of that event. Matthew, Mark, and John all transliterate it (Luke does not, but appears to paraphrase it with the Greek word for "glory": see his "glory in the highest, 19:38 ). According to Matthew, the crowd that accompanied Jesus that day shouted "Hosanna to the Son of David!" (21:9), as did the children later in the temple (v. 15). Mark ( 11:9 ) and John ( 12:13 ) do not have "to the Son of David, " but all three follow the opening cry with, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" (from Psalm 118:26 ). Matthew and Mark conclude the people's cries with "Hosanna in the highest" (apparently an echo of Psalm 148:1 ), which John omits. But Mark inserts "Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David" ( 11:10 ), and John adds, "Blessed is the King of Israel" ( 12:13 ). These appear to be interpretations of "he who comes in the name of the Lord." And they agree essentially with Luke's formulation of the people's words taken from Psalm 118:26, "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord" ( 19:38 ).
Those from whose lips "Hosanna" rose that day seem to have looked on Jesus as God's anointed one from the house of David of whom the prophets had spoken and through whom they hoped that all their messianic expectations would be fulfilled. However misguided their particular expectations may have been, their actions underscore the theme of the Gospels that Jesus is indeed the promised son of David through whom the redemption announced by God's prophets has come. In him the age-old cry, "Lord, save us, " has become the glad doxology, "Hosanna, " which equals: "Praise God and his Messiah, we are saved."
Most likely the authors of the Gospels transliterated "Hosanna" rather than translating it because it served on the people's lips as a joyful exclamation which, if translated, would have sounded like a prayer. In similar fashion, John transliterated "Hallelujah" in Revelation 19:1, 3, 4, 6 because it had become an exclamation of praise whereas originally it was a call to praise ("Praise the Lord").
John H. Stek
Bibliography. R. E. Brown, The Gospel According to John I-XII; G. F. Hawthorne, ISBE, 2:761.
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save I pray thee; keep; preserve
"Save now!"; "Save, I pray!".
On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, HOSANNA: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord. ( John 12:12-13 )
(save now ). "Save, we pray!" the cry of the multitudes as they thronged in our Lords triumphal procession into Jerusalem. ( Matthew 21:9 Matthew 21:15 ; Mark 11:9 Mark 11:10 ; John 12:13 ) The Psalm from which it was taken, the 118th, was one with which they were familiar from being accustomed to recite the 25th and 26th verses at the feast of tabernacles, forming a part of the great hallel. Ps. 113-118.
This Greek transliteration of a Hebrew word occurs 6 times in the Gospels as the cry of the people when our Lord entered Jerusalem as the Messiah represented by Zec (9:9), and of "the children" when He cleansed the temple (Matthew 21:9 bis,15; Mark 11:9; John 12:13). In Matthew 21:9 it is "Hosanna to the son of David!" followed by "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!"; in 21:15 it is also "Hosanna to the Son of David!"; in Mark 11:9 f it is "Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Blessed is the kingdom that cometh, the kingdom of our father David: Hosanna in the highest"; and in John 12:13 it is "Hosanna: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel." Thus in all the evangelists it is an acclamation or ascription of praise. This has raised the question whether the supposed derivation from Psalms 118:25, beginning with 'annah YHWH hoshi`ah nna', "Save now, pray" (which is followed (118:26) by "Blessed be he that cometh (the Revised Version margin "or entereth") in the name of Yahweh") is correct. (See Thayer, HDB; Cheyne, EB; Dalman, Words of Jesus.) Various other explanations have been suggested. Thayer remarks, "It is most natural to regard the word Hosanna, as respects its form, as neither syncopated nor contracted, but the shorter Hiphil imperative with the appended enclitic" (hosha`na'; compare Psalms 86:2; Jeremiah 31:7), for which there is Talmudic warrant. "As respects its force, we must for .... contextual reasons, assume that it had already lost its primary supplicatory sense and become an ejaculation of joy or shout of welcome." It is said to have been so used in this sense at the joyous Feast of Tabernacles, the 7th day of which came to be called "the Great Hosanna," or "Hosanna Day." But, while the word is certainly an ejaculation of praise and not one of supplication, the idea of salvation need not be excluded. As in Revelation 7:10 (compare 19:1), we have the acclamation, "Salvation unto God .... and unto the Lamb," so we might have the cry, "Salvation to the son of David"; and "Hosanna in the Highest," might be the equivalent of "Salvation unto our God!" He who was "coming in the name of the Lord" was the king who was bringing salvation from God to the people.
W. L. Walker
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