Our Worship & Us II (Concerning Clapping during times of praise)

Our Worship & Us II (Concerning Clapping during times of praise)


As believers in Christ Jesus, we must ALWAYS have a Biblical approach to our things. Christianity is a historical religion (permit my free usage of the term). It is not subject to innovations. Our practices are based on the Word & the Word alone. They are not allowed to be altered and shouldn’t be, regardless of our personal opinions.


1 Timothy 3:15 (NKJV)

15 but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.


There is Christian conduct, a way to act in the Church. Our problem down the years is embracing practices outside what is already laid out in Scripture, particularly the Epistles (which serve as the Church’s ultimate source of doctrine & deportment). One area that has suffered greatly is praise worship & our mannerisms during same.


Looking at clapping during times of praise, it’s key to seek Bible view on same.


“Clapping” (with the hands) appears a total of 15 times in the entire Old Testament and NOT ONCE was it used as an act of praise. On the contrary, it was used (most of the time) for the exact opposite! It is the act of striking the palms together as a token of derision, grief, indignation, or punishment ( Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance). Used mostly by a man to his foe or to express contempt, to gloat over their defeat.


Let’s examine the texts of occurrence, shall we?


First used in Numbers 24:10


Numbers 24:10 (NKJV)

10 Then Balak’s anger was aroused against Balaam, and he struck his hands together; and Balak said to Balaam, “I called you to curse my enemies, and look, you have bountifully blessed them these three times!


Balak clapped because his anger against Balaam was roused! A show of anger & contempt.


2 Kings 11:12 (NKJV)

12 And he brought out the king’s son, put the crown on him, and gave him the Testimony; they made him king and anointed him, and they clapped their hands and said, “Long live the king!”


Here, young Joash is crowned king in place of his tyrannical grandmother Athaliah. The applause was to make his victory known and her defeat apparent. This shows in her reaction


2 Kings 11:13-14 (NKJV)

13 Now when Athaliah heard the noise of the escorts and the people, she came to the people in the temple of the Lord.14 When she looked, there was the king standing by a pillar according to custom; and the leaders and the trumpeters were by the king. All the people of the land were rejoicing and blowing trumpets. So Athaliah tore her clothes and cried out, “Treason! Treason!”


Job 27:23 (NKJV)

23 Men shall clap their hands at him,

And shall hiss him out of his place.


Here, Job speaks about the fate of the unjust: Men shall clap their hands at him! “Hiss” as used here is translated from a Hebrew root word which means “to scorn.” This again is in a negative light, not a positive one.


Job 34:37 (NKJV)

37 For he adds rebellion to his sin;

He claps [his hands] among us,

And multiplies his words against God.”


Elihu reprimands Job’s self-righteous attitude here. In doing so, he mentions how that Job claps among them. This is a sign of pride and indignation.


Lamentations 2:15 (NKJV)

15 All who pass by clap their hands at you; they hiss and shake their heads at the daughter of Jerusalem:

“Is this the city that is called ‘The perfection of beauty,

The joy of the whole earth’?”


Here, clapping their hands refers to disdain towards Jerusalem, which was now a shadow of its former self. It’s scornful attitude!


Ezekiel 35:6 (NKJV)

6 ‘For thus says the Lord God: “Because you clapped your hands, stamped your feet, and rejoiced in heart with all your disdain for the land of Israel,


This is a proclamation against the Ammonites. Clapping their hands IS rejoicing over the defeat of the land of Isreal. It’s mockery here because of their defeat.


Nahum 3:19 (NKJV)

19 Your injury has no healing, your wound is severe.

All who hear news of you will clap their hands over you, for upon whom has not your wickedness passed continually?


Here is a pronouncement of woe upon Nineveh. The destruction upon her will cause those who hear to clap their hands. Why?


The antecedent text (what came before the text under examination)


Nahum 3:5-7 (NKJV)

5 “Behold, I am against you,” says the Lord of hosts;

“I will lift your skirts over your face,

I will show the nations your nakedness,

And the kingdoms your shame.

6 I will cast abominable filth upon you,

Make you vile,

And make you a spectacle.

7 It shall come to pass that all who look upon you

Will flee from you, and say,

‘Nineveh is laid waste!

Who will bemoan her?’

Where shall I seek comforters for you?”


They will be disgraced! The clapping is a product of this. It’s not positive here either.


Ezekiel 6:11 (NKJV)

11 ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Pound your fists and stamp your feet, and say, ‘Alas, for all the evil abominations of the house of Israel! For they shall fall by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence.


The pounding of their fists is a reaction to all the destruction coming upon the land of Israel. It’s a sign of pity & alarm!


Ezekiel 22:13 (NKJV)

13 “Behold, therefore, I beat My fists at the dishonest profit which you have made, and at the bloodshed which has been in your midst.


God “beating His fist” is firstly a figure of speech (anthropomorphism). It is simply a sign of disapproval of their dishonest conduct & murderous acts, not an applaud of same, obviously not!


A few places though, seem like exceptions to the rule. A careful observation would help clear all ambiguities.


Psalm 98:8 (NKJV)

8 Let the rivers clap their hands;

Let the hills be joyful together before the Lord


Obviously, the Psalmist employs the use of metaphoric verbiage here. It would be funny to expect to LITERALLY see rivers clapping and hills rejoicing. That said, now, in context, what is he (the Psalmist) discussing?


The succedent text (what comes after)


Psalm 98:9 (NKJV)

9 For He is coming to JUDGE the earth.

With righteousness He shall judge the world, and the peoples with equity.


The psalm has mixed thoughts. In fact, the NKJV heads it as: A Song of Praise to the Lord for His Salvation AND Judgment.


Salvation is discussed as well as judgment. That explains the figurative use of “clapping.” It would imply judgment here. It’s not positive as well, reading in context.


Isaiah 55:12 (NKJV)

12 “For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace;

The mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.


This is a figure of speech known as personification (which gives human attributes to inanimate objects). In this case, singing & clapping are HUMAN attributes bestowed upon mountains, hills & trees. The metaphoric narrative is simply to express joy & peace amongst God’s people. Notice that clapping with hands is mentioned too. Why? The pretext tells us


Isaiah 55:5 (NKJV)

5 Surely you shall call a nation you do not know, and nations who do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, and the Holy One of Israel; for He has glorified you.”


Nations are mentioned here. It implies a subduing of these nations. “Run to you” here carries the idea of running to aid or assist, to submit to one in the Hebrew. If these nations were once hostile towards Israel but were now coming to aid them and submit to them, then obviously, the clapping would be a gloat of victory. It’s not unto God but unto those nations. It is to indicate their victory over them!


Lastly, the mother of all contentions.


Psalm 47:1 (NKJV)

1 Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples!

Shout to God with the voice of triumph!


Amongst all the seeming contradictions, this stands out. A casual surface reading seems to suggest an imperative directed at God’s people to clap their hands in praise. But a careful contextual analysis would help clear this up. Why were the people to clap their hands? The post-text tells us.


Psalm 47:2-4 (NKJV)

2 For the Lord Most High is awesome;

He is a great King over all the earth.

3 He will subdue the peoples under us,

And the nations under our feet.

4 He will choose our inheritance for us,

The excellence of Jacob whom He loves. Selah.


Note verse 3: because He will subdue the peoples under us, and the nations under our feet.


Defeat over these peoples & nations. They are not clapping unto God but against those who will be subdued. That’s very clear.


Now moving to the New Testament, it is interesting to note that clapping doesn’t appear ONCE throughout.  There is not even a Greek word for it. This is very instructive! Whilst there is no clapping in the New Testament, there is however something we are to do with our hands during our times of praise.


The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 2:8


1 Timothy 2:8 (NKJV)

8 I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubting;


Lift up holy hands! This is practice found even in the Old Testament (1 Kings 8:22, 1 Kings 8:54, Nehemiah 8:6, Psalm 63:4, Psalm 28:2, Psalm 141:2, Psalm 134:2, Lamentations 2:19 & Ezra 9:5). It is to lift the hands up & wide in adoration. It is a sign of admiration and esteem both in the Old and in the New Testament and it appears in both.


The work of Christ has made us holy (Hebrews 10:10). The word “holy” in the Greek means “different or set apart.” Our members, Spirit, soul & body are all set apart to God. In our times of praise, we are to lift the same hands He sanctified to Him, not distract ourselves with loud & noisy ovations. We are to receive ministry in song by the lifting up of our hands & not clap for the minister, they are not putting on a show! This is the Biblical instruction for praise. In conclusion, I leave you with this quote from Pa Kenneth E. Hagin:


“If the church will quit applause/clapping and start praising, it will see more of His glory in their midst.”


I hope this helped, let me know. I call you blessed!


© Josh Banks Ministries. 2018.


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