Hebrew Highlights 81 – HANDEL’S MESSIAH


Shalom.  This is Yuval Shomron, coming to you from Jerusalem.


          The Hebrew words “Mashiach” rendered “Messiah” in English, “Hallelujah”, and “Amen” partly owe their world-wide appreciation to a musical work.

"And the glory, the glory of the Lord, shall be revealed." Thus starts the first chorus, of the world's best known oratorio, George Frederic Handel's "Messiah."  In its entirety, the work takes over 3 hours to perform.

How is it that a German composer, Georg Friedrich Händel, came to write the most heavenly music in the English language?

As a young man, he had been the court musician of the Elector of Hanover. When the elector became King George I of England, Handel followed him and both became British citizens. After 20 difficult but successful years as Britain's ruling musician, Handel lost his health, his wealth, and with them his friends. At this lowest point of his life, he was encouraged to set a libretto to music which was based on Scripture. He accomplished the task in a little more than three weeks in 1741.

During those three weeks in which he was shut away with nothing but the Scripture text and his God-given musical genius, Handel was transformed.

In a small London house on Brook Street, a waiter sighed with resignation as he arranged a tray full of food he fully expected not to be eaten.

For more than a week, he had faithfully continued to wait on his employer, an eccentric composer, who spent hour after hour isolated in his own room. Morning, noon, and evening the man delivered appealing meals to the composer, and returned later to find the bowls and platters mostly untouched.

Once again, he steeled himself to go through the same routine, muttering under his breath about how oddly temperamental musicians can be. As he swung open the door to the composer's room, the waiter stopped in his tracks.

The startled composer, tears streaming down his face, turned to him and cried out, "I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself." George Frideric Handel had just finished writing a movement which would take its place in history as the "Hallelujah Chorus."


Messiah premiered on April 13, 1742 in Dublin, as a charitable benefit, raising 400 pounds and freeing 142 men from debtor’s prison.  A year later, Handel staged it in London.  The King of England attended the performance.  As the first notes of the triumphant Hallelujah Chorus rang out, the king rose.  Following the royal protocol, the entire audience stood too, initiating a tradition that has lasted more than two centuries.

Soon after this, Handel’s fame began to increase dramatically, and his hard-won popularity remained constant until his death.  By the end of his long life, Messiah was firmly established in the standard repertoire.  Its influence on the other composers would be extraordinary.  When Haydn later heard Hallelujah Chorus he wept like a child, and exclaimed, “He is the master of us all!”

Handel personally conducted more than thirty performances of Messiah.  Many of these concerts were benefits for the Foundling Hospital, of which handle was a major benefactor.  Messiah was dedicated from its first performance to charitable purposes, and was bequeathed by Handel in his will to an institution for the relief of poverty.  The thousands of pounds that Handel’s performances of Messiahs raised for charity fed the hungry, clothed the naked, fostered the orphan… more than any other single musical production. ”Perhaps the works of no other composer have so largely contributed to the relief of human suffering.”  All over the world it has given enjoyment, and been responsible for raising enormous sums of money for worthwhile causes, a legacy which continues until today.

A few days before Handel died, he expressed his desire to die on Good Friday, "in the hopes of meeting his good God, his sweet Lord and Savior, on the day of his Resurrection." He lived until the morning of Good Saturday, April 14, 1759. He was 74 years old.  His death came only eight days after his final performance, at which he had conducted his masterpiece, Messiah.

His close friend James Smyth wrote, "He died as he lived--a good Christian, with a true sense of his duty to God and to man, and in perfect charity with all the world." Handel was buried in Westminster Abbey, with over 3,000 in attendance at his funeral. A statue erected there shows him holding the manuscript for the solo that opens Part Three of Messiah, "I know that my Redeemer liveth."

Messiah Yeshua lives today, and desires to dwell in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.  When he was born as a baby in Bethlehem, there was “no room for him in the inn.”  If you have not yet made room for him in your heart, give yourself a Christmas present by giving yourself to Him.


 “Chag Molad Sameach”, “Happy Holiday of the birth”.  from Jerusalem.