What Does it Mean to Worship?

A Word Study by Nate Wilson

The Word

The word "worship" occurs 188 times in the King James Bible. Over 95% of the time, it is used to translate one of the following four words1:

  • החשׁ(shachah)Strong's Hebrew #7812- make low, bow, prostrate, fall down, reverence, worship

  • דגס(seged) Strong's Hebrew #5456-7 - prostrate, pay homage (found only in Dan. regarding bowing to the golden image, in Isa. referring to hand-made idols, and 2 King as worship of Baal)

  • proskunew (proskune'oh)Strong's Greek #4352: kiss, fawn, crouch, prostrate, bow, reverence, honor

  • sebomai (sebomai) Strong's Greek #4576 - used of Jewish and pagan worship, but not Christian worship (also found in #2318 and #2151 as compound words).

Worship in Reference to Idols

Work of hands2, On housetops (worshiping moon and stars)3, in Dan, with musical instruments4, serve5, turn away/be drawn astray/be deceived6, also forbidden of angels7 and demons8

Accompanying Verbs:

What Is Brought Along With Worship

Yourself (coming/entering in - see above), Sacrifice/Offering, Cast crowns9, Gifts10, No idols11, Holiness12

Position: Kneel, Prostrate/Bow/Fall down (on face)


  • Sabbath (weekly) and New moon (monthly) - Isa. 66:23, Ezek. 46:3

  • Feasts (annually) - Ex. 46:9 (Succoth - Zech. 14:16, Passover - John 12:20, Pentecost - Acts 8:27, Acts 24:11)

  • End times: Every mention of worship in Ezekiel and Zecheriah, 77% of citations in Isaiah. Almost half of the mentions of worship in the New Testament occur in Rev. alone!


Israelites13, Egyptians and Assyrians14, Samaritans15, Greeks16, Magi (Persians)17, Ethiopian18, Christians19, Angels20, Unbelievers (coerced)21, All the (families of) the nations22, King and princes23, All flesh24, All the gods of the earth25, All the isles of the nations26, All the (ends of the) earth27


Footstool28, Toward temple29, Before altar30, in Tabernacle/Lord's House31, in the Gate32, in the Mountain (at Jerusalem)33 , in Spirit and in truth34, Throne/Temple in heaven35, before God36


Worship is relational. It begins with preparation to be acceptable to the One we are worshipping. The only way we can be acceptable before God is for Him to turn our hearts toward Him, forgive our violations of His law, and place the righteousness of Jesus upon us. Worship also involves coming into the presence of the One we are worshipping. It began in Genesis when God actually came to meet the Patriarchs, but in the time of the Old Testament King and Prophets, worship was centered in the temple of Jerusalem. A pivotal point was reached in John 4 when Jesus told the woman at the well, "The hour is coming, when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father... when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth." The focus of worship moved from the temple in Jerusalem to the throne in heaven when Jesus ascended to heaven. Now when we worship, we spiritually join the worship of our God in heaven, and we look forward to an acceleration of worship in the end times when God will receive the worship He deserves from everyone. Worship is also meant for every time. In the Old Testament, worship/sacrifices were offered every day, morning and evening, as well as in regular weekly, monthly, and annual cycles. There are also some practical considerations to worship. Because the term literally means to bow down to the ground, we should consider doing this when we worship. The purpose of this is not to follow a prescribed way of worship but rather to seek to show honor to the God we worship. Finally, Biblical worship involves giving gifts. In worship we offer ourselves and all that we have to our God. May God guide us to worship Him as He deserves and as He desires!



Citations In The ASV

(Gen 22:5) And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide you here with the ass, and I and the lad will go yonder; and we will worship, and come again to you.

(Exo 24:1) And he said unto Moses, Come up unto Jehovah, thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship you afar off:

(Exo 34:14) for you shall worship no other god: for Jehovah, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:

(Deu 4:19) and lest you lift up your eyes unto heaven, and when you seest the sun and the moon and the stars, even all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and worship them, and serve them, which Jehovah your God has allotted unto all the peoples under the whole heaven.

(Deu 8:19) And it shall be, if you shall forget Jehovah your God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish.

(Deu 11:16) Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them;

(Deu 26:10) And now, behold, I have brought the first of the fruit of the ground, which thou, O Jehovah, have given me. And you shall set it down before Jehovah your God, and worship before Jehovah your God:

(Deu 30:17) But if your heart turn away, and you will not hear, but shall be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them;

(Jos 5:14) And he said, No; but as prince of the host of Jehovah am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What says my lord unto his servant?

(1Sa 1:3) And this man went up out of his city from year to year to worship and to sacrifice unto Jehovah of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, priests unto Jehovah, were there.

(1Sa 15:25) Now therefore, I pray you, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship Jehovah.

(1Sa 15:30) Then he said, I have sinned: yet honor me now, I pray, before the elders of my people, and before Israel, and turn again with me, that I may worship Jehovah your God.

(1Ki 9:6) But if you shall turn away from following me, you or your children, and not keep my commandments and my statutes which I have set before you, but shall go and serve other gods, and worship them; (cf. 2 Chron 7:19)

(1Ki 12:30) And this thing became a sin; for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan.

(2Ki 5:18) In this thing Jehovah pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, Jehovah pardon your servant in this thing.

(2Ch 7:3) And all the children of Israel looked on, when the fire came down, and the glory of Jehovah was upon the house; and they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and gave thanks unto Jehovah, saying, For he is good; for his lovingkindness endureth for ever.

(2Ch 29:27-30) And Hezekiah commanded to offer the burnt-offering upon the altar. And when the burnt-offering began, the song of Jehovah began also, and the trumpets, together with the instruments of David king of Israel. And all the assembly worshipped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded; all this continued until the burnt-offering was finished. And when they had made an end of offering, the king and all that were present with him bowed themselves and worshipped. Moreover Hezekiah the king and the princes commanded the Levites to sing praises unto Jehovah with the words of David, and of Asaph the seer. And they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed their heads and worshipped.

(2Ki 18:22) But if you say unto me, We trust in Jehovah our God; is not that he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah has taken away, and has said to Judah and to Jerusalem, you shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem? (cf. Isa. 36:7)

(2Ch 32:12) has not the same Hezekiah taken away his high places and his altars, and commanded Judah and Jerusalem, saying, you shall worship before one altar, and upon it shall you burn incense?

(1Ch 16:29) Ascribe unto Jehovah the glory due unto his name: Bring an offering, and come before him: Worship Jehovah in holy array. (cf. Psalm 29:2)

(Psa 5:7) But as for me, in the abundance of your lovingkindness will I come into your house: In your fear will I worship toward your holy temple.

(Psa 22:27) All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn unto Jehovah; And all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before you.

(Psa 22:29) All the fat ones of the earth shall eat and worship: All they that go down to the dust shall bow before him, Even he that cannot keep his soul alive.

(Psa 66:4) All the earth shall worship You, And shall sing unto You; They shall sing to your name. Selah

(Psa 81:9) There shall no strange god be in you; Neither shall you worship any foreign god.

(Psa 86:9) All nations whom you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord; And they shall glorify your name.

(Psa 95:6) Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before Jehovah our Maker:

(Psa 96:9) Oh worship Jehovah in holy array: Tremble before him, all the earth.

(Psa 97:7) Let all them be put to shame that serve graven images, That boast themselves of idols: Worship him, all you gods.

(Psa 99:5) Exalt Jehovah our God, And worship at his footstool: Holy is he.

(Psa 99:9) Exalt Jehovah our God, And worship at his holy hill; For Jehovah our God is holy.

(Psa 132:7) We will go into his tabernacles; We will worship at his footstool.

(Psa 138:2) I will worship toward your holy temple, And give thanks unto your name for your lovingkindness and for your truth: For you have magnified your word above all your name.

(Isa 2:8) Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made.

(Isa 2:20) In that day men shall cast away their idols of silver, and their idols of gold, which have been made for them to worship, to the moles and to the bats;

(Isa 19:21) And Jehovah shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know Jehovah in that day; yes, they shall worship with sacrifice and oblation, and shall vow a vow unto Jehovah, and shall perform it.

(Isa 19:23) In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria; and the Egyptians shall worship with the Assyrians.

(Isa 27:13) And it shall come to pass in that day, that a great trumpet shall be blown; and they shall come that were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and they that were outcasts in the land of Egypt; and they shall worship Jehovah in the holy mountain at Jerusalem.

(Isa 46:6) Such as lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the balance, they hire a goldsmith, and he makes it a god; they fall down, yes, they worship.

(Isa 49:7) Thus says Jehovah, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despises, to him whom the nation abhors, to a servant of rulers: King shall see and arise; princes, and they shall worship; because of Jehovah that is faithful, even the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.

(Isa 66:23) And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, says Jehovah.

(Jer 7:2) Stand in the gate of Jehovah's house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of Jehovah, all you of Judah, that enter in at these gates to worship Jehovah.

(Jer 13:10) This evil people, that refuse to hear my words, that walk in the stubbornness of their heart, and are gone after other gods to serve them, and to worship them, shall even be as this girdle, which is profitable for nothing.

(Jer 25:6) and go not after other gods to serve them, and to worship them, and provoke me not to anger with the work of your hands; and I will do you no hurt.

(Jer 26:2) Thus says Jehovah: Stand in the court of Jehovah's house, and speak unto all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in Jehovah's house, all the words that I command you to speak unto them; diminish not a word.

(Eze 46:2-3) And the prince shall enter by the way of the porch of the gate without, and shall stand by the post of the gate; and the priests shall prepare his burnt-offering and his peace-offerings, and he shall worship at the threshold of the gate: then he shall go forth; but the gate shall not be shut until the evening. And the people of the land shall worship at the door of that gate before Jehovah on the sabbaths and on the new moons.

(Eze 46:9) But when the people of the land shall come before Jehovah in the appointed feasts, he that enters by the way of the north gate to worship shall go forth by the way of the south gate; and he that enters by the way of the south gate shall go forth by the way of the north gate: he shall not return by the way of the gate whereby he came in, but shall go forth straight before him.

(Dan 3:5) that at what time you hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, you fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up;

(Dan 3:10, 12) You, O king, have made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image... There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego; these men, O king, have not regarded you: they serve not your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up.

(Dan 3:14-15) Nebuchadnezzar answered and said unto them, Is it of purpose, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, that you serve not my god, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? Now if you be ready that at what time you hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, you fall down and worship the image which I have made, well: but if you worship not, you shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that god that shall deliver you out of my hands?

(Dan 3:18) But if not, be it known unto you, O king, that we will not serve your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up.

(Dan 3:28) Nebuchadnezzar spoke and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who has sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king's word, and have yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.

(Micah 5:13) and I will cut off your graven images and your pillars out of the midst of you; and you shall no more worship the work of your hands;

(Zep 1:5) and them that worship the host of heaven upon the housetops; and them that worship, that swear to Jehovah and swear by Malcam;

(Zep 2:11) Jehovah will be terrible unto them; for he will famish all the gods of the earth; and men shall worship him, every one from his place, even all the isles of the nations.

(Zec 14:16-17) And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations that came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, Jehovah of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. And it shall be, that whoso of all the families of the earth doesn’t go up unto Jerusalem to worship the King, Jehovah of hosts, upon them there shall be no rain.

(Mat 2:2) Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we saw his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

(Mat 2:8) And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search out exactly concerning the young child; and when you have found him, bring me word, that I also may come and worship him.

(Matt. 2:11) And they came into the house and saw the young child with Mary his mother; and they fell down and worshipped him; and opening their treasures they offered unto him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

(Mat 4:9) and he said unto him, "All these things will I give you, if you will fall down and worship me." (cf Luke 4:7)

(Mat 4:10) Then says Jesus unto him, "Get away, Satan: for it is written, you shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve." (cf Luke 4:8)

(Mark 5:6-7) And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshipped him; and crying out with a loud voice, he said, "What do I have to do with you, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you by God, do not torment me."

(John 9:38) And he said, "Lord, I believe." And he worshipped him.

(Mat 15:9) But in vain do they worship me, teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men. (cf Mark 7:7)

(Matt. 14:32-33) And when [Jesus and Peter] had gotten up into the boat, the wind ceased, and they that were in the boat worshipped him, saying, "You really are the Son of God."

(Joh 4:20-24) "Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and you say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." Jesus says unto her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming, when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father. You worship that which you know not: we worship that which we know; for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth: for such the Father seeks to be his worshippers. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth."

(Matt. 9:18) ...there came a ruler, and worshipped him, saying, "My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay your hand upon her, and she shall live."

(Matt. 15:22-27) A Canaanite woman... cried out, saying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, son of David; my daughter is grievously troubled with a demon..". She came and worshipped him, saying, "Lord, help me."

(Matt. 20:20) Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, worshipping him, and asking a certain thing of him

(Joh 12:20) Now there were certain Greeks among those that went up to worship at the feast:

(Mar 15:19-20) And [the soldiers] hit [Jesus'] head with a reed, and spit on him, and bowing their knees worshipped him... mocking...

(Matt. 28:9) Jesus met them, saying, "Rejoice." And they came and took hold of his feet, and worshipped him.

(Act 7:43) And you took up the tabernacle of Moloch, And the star of the god Rephan, The figures which you made to worship them: And I will carry you away beyond Babylon.

(Act 8:27) And he arose and went: and behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was over all her treasure, who had come to Jerusalem to worship;

(Act 17:23) For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. What therefore you worship in ignorance, this I set forth unto you.

(Act 18:13) saying, This man persuades men to worship God contrary to the law.

(Act 24:11) Seeing that you can be assured that it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship at Jerusalem:

(1Co 14:23-25) If therefore the whole church is assembled together... all prophesy, and an unbelieving or unlearned person comes in... the secrets of his heart are displayed; and so he will fall down on his face and worship God, declaring that God is really among you.

(Phi 3:3) for we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God, and glory in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh:

(Heb 1:6) And when he again brings in the firstborn into the world he says, "And let all the angels of God worship him."

(Rev 3:9) Behold, I give of the synagogue of Satan, of them that say they are Jews, and they are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.

(Rev 4:10) the four and twenty elders shall fall down before him that sits on the throne, and shall worship him that lives for ever and ever, and shall cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

(Rev. 7:11-12) And all the angels were standing around the throne, and the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, saying, "Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen."

(Rev 9:20) And the rest of mankind, who were not killed with these plagues, repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and the idols of gold, and of silver, and of brass, and of stone, and of wood; which can neither see, nor hear, nor walk:

(Rev 11:1) And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and one said, "Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.

(Rev. 11:16-17) And the four and twenty elders, who sit before God on their thrones, fell upon their faces and worshipped God, saying, "We give thee thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who is and who was; because you wielded your great power and reigned."

(Rev 13:8) And all that dwell on the earth shall worship him, every one whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that has been slain.

(Rev 13:12, 15) And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his sight. And he makes the earth and them dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose death-stroke was healed... And it was given unto him to give breath to it, even to the image to the breast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as should not worship the image of the beast should be killed.

(Rev 14:7) and he says with a great voice, Fear God, and give him glory; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made the heaven and the earth and sea and fountains of waters.

(Rev 14:11) and the smoke of their torment goes up for ever and ever; and they have no rest day and night, they that worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.

(Rev 15:4) Who shall not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? for you only are holy; for all the nations shall come and worship before you; for your righteous acts have been made manifest.

(Rev 19:10) And I fell down before his feet to worship him. And he says unto me, No, look: I am a fellow-servant with you and with your brothers that hold the testimony of Jesus: worship God; for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

(Rev 22:8-9) And I John am he that heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel that showed me these things. And he says unto me, No, look: I am a fellow-servant with you and with your brethren the prophets, and with them that keep the words of this book: worship God.

Exceptions to the KJV Uses of "Worship":

Luke 14:10 - The KJV follows the old Geneva Bible in translating the Greek word "doxa" (glory) as "worship" in the context of being raised to an honored seat - the only place where the KJV translates the word as "worship." Over 90% of the other 150 instances of "doxa" are translated as "glory" in the KJV, and the rest are translated as "honor," "praise," or "dignity." No modern translation uses the word "worship" in this verse.

Jeremiah 44:19 uses a Hebrew word with a literal meaning of "to carve" and a figurative meaning of "to eat away at" or "grieve." In this verse, however, the KJV and ASV translate this word as "worship." I think this is not a consistent translation of the word because in the other 16 instances of this word in the Bible, it does not have the positive connotation of worship: 14 times the KJV translates it "grieve/ displease/ vex/ hurt/ be sorry" and twice, it is translated with its literal meaning of carving as "wrest" and "make." Modern translations do not translate Jer 44:19 with the word "worship" but rather with the literal meaning of shaping a likeness, and I think this is the best way to translate it.

Acts 7:42; 24;14; Phil 3:3; Heb 10:12 - The Greek verb is "latreuw," which is used 21 times in the Bible and is translated "serve" in every instance except these four in the KJV. The word has to do with ceremonial service and is the root from which we get our English word "liturgy." Interestingly enough, the older translations do not agree on the translation of the word, and neither do the newer translations - some go with "worship" others go with "serve."

Col 2:18 - "worship/religion of angels," Col 2:23 - "will-worship" (NASV="self-made religion"). Translated "religion" everywhere else, referring to Judaism as well as to Christianity. Has to do with the external ceremonies and disciplines of a religion.

Ac 17:25 - "therapeuw" - to attend upon, serve, heal. This is a bad translation, following from the Geneva Bible, for God is indeed worshipped by humans. What He doesn't have need of is service or relief. The other 42 times this word occurred in the New Testament, the KJV translated it "cure" or "heal;" this is obviously an anomaly.

Acts 19:35 - The word here is "newkoros," literally a "temple-sweeper," referring to the role of the city of Ephesus in maintaining the temple of Diana. This is the only place it is used in the Bible. Although it is irrelevant to our quest for how to worship the true God, the modern translations render this word as "guardians," but I think that the word "janitor" may be the best way to translate this word except for the connotation of negative social status.

1 See "Exceptions" at the end of this paper for an evaluation of the other 5%

6 When the Bible speaks of Idol worship, the verb "serve" is almost always linked to the concept of being led astray. See all the verses above under "serve" This is in contrast to the fact that the verb most used alongside the worship of the true God is the word "come"

12 I Chron 16:29, Psalm 96:9 (cf. Psalm 15), in addition to the verses with verbs about being "turned" and "forgiven."

13 Deut. chapters five and six

21 Rev. 3:9, cf Phil. 2:10-11

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