39

The God of Abraham Praise

Scripture References

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

God has made himself and his ways known through Abraham. Our World Belongs to God recognizes this as the beginning of covenant relationships and professes in Article 21, “The Lord promised to be God to Abraham, Sarah, and their children, calling them to walk faithfully before him and blessing the nations through them. God chose Israel to show the glory of his name, the power of his love, and the wisdom of his ways.”
39

The God of Abraham Praise

Tune Information

Name
LEONI
Key
f minor
Meter
6.6.8.4 D

Recordings

Musical Suggestion

The Hebrew roots of this hymn’s melody support well the text’s expansive, timeless view of God’s covenant with his people. While some people may associate minor keys with sadness, a bright marching tempo will quickly dispel any melancholic overtones. Organ is the first choice accompaniment for this hymn, but piano will work as well. If the people are singing confidently, let them sing a cappella on verse 3.
— Greg Scheer
39

The God of Abraham Praise

Hymn Story/Background

This text is based on a Jewish doxology of thirteen articles formulated by Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides) in the latter part of the twelfth century. A fourteenth-century metrical version of that doxology, Yigdal Elohim ("magnify the Lord"), is traditionally used in daily morning synagogue services and during the Sabbath eve in Jewish family worship. That version is variously attributed to Daniel ben Judah or to Immanuel ben Solomon, both of whom lived in Rome. After hearing the Jewish cantor Meyer Lyon sing this Yigdal in the Duke's Place Synagogue, London, England, Thomas Olivers prepared an English paraphrase in twelve stanzas (around 1770). About his paraphrase, Olivers reportedly said, "I have rendered it from the Hebrew, giving it, as far as I could, a Christian character, and I have called on Leoni [the cantor Lyon] who has given me a synagogue melody to suit it."
 
Thomas Oliver’s text with Leoni's tune was published as a leaflet, "A Hymn to the God of Abraham," in 1772. The hymn was also published by John Wesley in his Sacred Harmony (1780) and in 1830 in Joshua Leavitt's popular American frontier hymnal The Christian Lyre. It appears in most modern hymnals (but should not be confused with another hymnic translation of the Yigdal that begins, "Praise to the living God," by Max Landsberg, Newton Mann, and William Gannett). The Psalter Hymnal includes Olivers' stanzas 1, 4, 6, 7, and 12 in a modernized text borrowed in part from Hymns for Today's Church (1982).
 
LEONI is a magnificent tune with lots of life and vibrant rhythms. Sing the outer stanzas in a full-voiced unison and the middle ones in harmony at a more moderate volume. The harmonization is taken from Hymns Ancient and Modern (1875). Because the Yigdal was traditionally sung in responsorial fashion, antiphonal singing might be appropriate.
— Bert Polman

Author Information

Orphaned at the age of four, Thomas Olivers (b. Tregynon, Montgomeryshire, England, 1725; d. London, England, 1799) was negligently cared for by various relatives and received very little formal education. He worked as a cobbler but lived such a scandalous life that he was forced to leave his hometown. However, his life changed drastically after he was converted by a George Whitefield sermon on the text "Is not this a branch plucked out of the fire?" (Zech. 3:2). At first a follower of Whitefield, Olivers joined John and Charles Wesley in 1753. He served as an itinerant Methodist preacher, traveling one hundred thousand miles on horseback through much of England, Scotland, and Ireland until 1777. He became editor of the Arminian Magazine in 1775, but John Wesley dismissed him in 1789 because of flagrant printing errors and the insertion of articles that Wesley did not approve. Olivers wrote only a few hymns, of which "The God of Abraham Praise" is most well-known.
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

Myer Lyon was, at a young age, appointed meshorer (choirboy) at the Great Synagogue in London in 1767. His voice was quickly sought by those on the stage, and he was soon leading a dual career. Between 1770 and 1783 he appeared on stage many times, and drew many to the synagogue to hear him sing. In 1783 he left the synangogue and became a full-time performer and opera promoter, travelling to Dublin, Ireland. His season that year was a distaster, however, and he never recovered from the financial losses. He appeared only a few more times on stage, and in 1788 he sailed to Kingston, Jamaica to become hazzan (cantor) to the Jewish community there. He died in Kingston in 1797.
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