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Home » Jewish Music » Yigdal
"Yigdal," meaning magnify, is a Jewish hymn that in various rituals is used at the opening of the morning service and the close of the evening service. It was written over a period of eight years by Daniel ben Judah, was completed in 1404, and was based on the 13 Articles of Faith formulated by Moses ben Maimon, commonly called Maimonides (1135-1204). It is sung to several different tunes, but the one featured here is a Hebrew melody that may date from the 17th century or even earlier.
Around 1770, Thomas Olivers, a Christian, was attracted to a service in a Jewish synagogue where he heard Leoni sing the Yigdal to this Hebrew melody. He was impressed to write a hymn to the same tune whose lyrics would be a rough paraphrase of the Yigdal, though with a Christian flavor in a few of the verses. The result is the Christian hymn, "The God of Abraham Praise."
It is interetsing to note that seven of the twelve verses of Olivers' hymn could also be sung within Judaism without modification. Conversely, nine of the thirteen verses in ben Judah's hymn could also be sung within Christianity without modification. We both worship the God of Abraham.
The first video here features Michael Levy playing the Yigdal on the ancient Jewish Temple lyre. Click the screen or the triangle at the bottom left to start the video. Opposite the words to "The God of Abraham Praise," the second player below features the same music rendered on a magnificent pipe organ.
"Exalted Be the Living God"
The God of Abraham praise, who reigns enthroned above;
Ancient of everlasting days, and God of Love;
Jehovah, great I AM! by earth and Heav'n confessed;
I bow and bless the sacred Name forever blessed.
The God of Abraham praise, at Whose supreme command
From earth I rise—and seek the joys at His right hand;
I all on earth forsake, its wisdom, fame, and power;
And Him my only Portion make, my Shield and Tower.
The God of Abraham praise, whose all sufficient grace
Shall guide me all my happy days, in all my ways.
He calls a worm His friend, He calls Himself my God!
And He shall save me to the end, thro’ Jesus’ blood.
He by Himself has sworn; I on His oath depend,
I shall, on eagle wings upborne, to Heav'n ascend.
I shall behold His face; I shall His power adore,
And sing the wonders of His grace forevermore.
Tho’ nature’s strength decay, and earth and hell withstand,
To Canaan’s bounds I urge my way, at His command.
The wat’ry deep I pass, with Jesus in my view;
And thro’ the howling wilderness my way pursue.
The goodly land I see, with peace and plenty bless'd;
A land of sacred liberty, and endless rest.
There milk and honey flow, and oil and wine abound,
And trees of life forever grow with mercy crowned.
There dwells the Lord our King, the Lord our righteousness,
Triumphant o'er the world and sin, the Prince of peace;
On Zion's sacred height His kingdom still maintains,
And glorious with His saints in light forever reigns.
He keeps His own secure, He guards them by His side,
Arrays in garments, white and pure, His spotless bride:
With streams of sacred bliss, with groves of living joys--
With all the fruits of Paradise, He still supplies.
Before the great Three-One they all exulting stand;
And tell the wonders He hath done, through all their land:
The list’ning spheres attend, and swell the growing fame;
And sing, in songs which never end, the wondrous Name.
The God Who reigns on high the great archangels sing,
And "Holy, holy, holy!" cry, "Almighty King!
Who was, and is, the same, and evermore shall be:
Jehovah--Father--great I AM, we worship Thee!"
Before the Savior’s face the ransomed nations bow;
O’erwhelmed at His almighty grace, forever new:
He shows His prints of love—they kindle to a flame!
And sound thro’ all the worlds above the slaughtered Lamb.
The whole triumphant host give thanks to God on high;
“Hail, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,” they ever cry.
Hail, Abraham’s God, and mine! (I join the heav’nly lays,)
All might and majesty are Thine, and endless praise.
This is the same tune played by the Temple lyre above.
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