Modern translations translate עֹ֥ז as strength.

Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. (Psalm 8:2, ESV)

However, Matthew 21:16 has Jesus quoting part of the verse as

Ἐκ στόματος νηπίων καὶ θηλαζόντων κατηρτίσω αἶνον (NA28).

Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise (ESV).

The Septuagint (LXX, translated about 2nd century B.C.) in Psalm 8:3 has

ἐκ στόματος νηπίων καὶ θηλαζόντων κατηρτίσω αἶνον

There is no record of the Jewish leaders disputing how Jesus quored the verse.

Because of the tablets found at Ugarit (dating ca. 1200 B.C.), this is a greater issue than Matt. 21:16 quoting the LXX, but asks why did the LXX translate with αἶνον. Some of the Psalms such as Psalm 29 (28 in MT and LXX) appear to be reworking of Ugarit literature to fit Judaism (https://blog.obitel-minsk.com/2020/07/the-bible-and-the-ugaritic-literature.html) similar to how some Christian take a secular song and change it to Christian. This can explain why the Psalms can sometimes be difficult to translate with words rarely used in the Hebrew Bible (MT).

Note Psalm 29 has the word עֹ֥ז.

הָב֥וּ לַ֝יהוָ֗ה כָּב֥וֹד וָעֹֽז׃ (Psalm 29:1b, MT)

ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. (Ps 29:1b, ESV)

The LXX translated it with a word meaning honor.

ἐνέγκατε τῷ κυρίῳ δόξαν καὶ τιμήν (Psalm 28:1b, LXX)

Honor or praise does seem to fit the context in Psalm 28:1b better than strength.

Note: the 3rd and 4th possible definitions Gesenius has for עֹ֥ז in his lexicon:

(3) splendour, majesty, i.q. כָּבוֹד with which it is often joined, Hab. 3:4. Psalm 96:6, עֹז וְתִפְאֶרֶת “splendour and majesty.” Ps. 132:8, אֲרוֹן עֻזֶּךָ “the ark (the seat) of thy majesty,” i.e. the ark of the covenant, (elsewhere אֲרוֹן כְּבוֹד יְהֹוָה 2 Ch. 6:41); called poet. עֹז alone, Ps. 78:61; compare 1 Samuel 4:21, 22.

(4) glory, praise, Ps. 8:3; 29:1; 68:35; 99:4; Ex. 15:2. 2 Chron. 30:21, כְּלֵי־עֹז “instruments of praise,” employed in praising God. (Arab. عِزُّ power, victory, glory.) -- Gesenius, W., & Tregelles, S. P. (2003). Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (p. 616). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

What is the best translation of עֹ֥ז?

1 Answer 1


"oz" consistently means strength/power/might throughout the old testament, as well as in other semitic texts such as Ugaritic. In no text does it mean "praise". In fact the root, עזז, is never translated as anything other than: strength, refuge, mighty, stronghold, and proper names. No child of this root is ever used as praise.

Contra Genesius, HALOT gives only two senses, not four, and these are "strength/might" and "refuge" (see Details). So does BDB, TDOT, NIDOTTE and other modern dictionaries (see Details).

However, when used as an adjective, it can mean "loud", from the Lexham Research Lexicon

Adjective Usage

1.      loud — characterized by or producing sound of great volume or

intensity. See also רום. Related Topic: Noise.

2 Ch 30:21      וּֽמְהַלְלִ֣ים  לַ֠יהוָה  י֣וֹם׀  בְּי֞וֹם  הַלְוִיִּ֧ם  וְהַכֹּהֲנִ֛ים  בִּכְלֵי־עֹ֖ז

Brannan, R. (Ed.). (2020). Lexham Research Lexicon of the Hebrew Bible. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Looking at Gesenius' other examples:

Ps. 8:2: (to be covered later) Ps. 29:1: Ascribe to Yahweh, O sons of God, ascribe to Yahweh glory and strength.

Ps. 68:35: Awesome are you, O God, from your sanctuary. The God of Israel, it is he who gives strength and might to the people. Blessed be God.

Ps. 99:4: And the strength of the king loves justice. You have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.

Ex. 15:2: Yah is my strength and song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him—the God of my father—and I will exalt him.

(LEB translation)

In the sense of Psalm 8.2 it is a figurative reference to praise. That is, Psalm 8.2 equates praise coming from infants as the strength/power of God:

From the mouth of children and infants you have founded/ordained strength on account of your enemies, to silence the enemy and the avenger.

Unless you believe that the children and infants are shooting death rays out of their mouths, then it is the praise that is coming from their mouths (this is, after all, a song) and this praise is referred to as the power that God has ordained to silence the enemy and avenger.

Thus figuratively, praise could be strength as could prayer, faith, fasting or anything that is a source of power or strength, and thefore in some interpretations you can use a different word to get the best meaning across, but in hebrew the word oz means only strength or refuge.

It is in this sense that Jesus says:

"And they said to him, “Do you hear what these children are saying?” So Jesus said to them, “Yes, have you never read, ‘Out of the mouths of children and nursing babies you have prepared for yourself praise’?”"

And this should be viewed as a religious argument about whether children should be allowed in the Temple courts, Jesus cites the Psalm that God has ordained ("prepared") the praise of children, which is what the Psalm says, even though it (figuratively) refers to the praise of children with the word "oz".


HALOT citation:

I עֹז, עוֹז Pr 24:5 31:17 †; SamP. ʿaz, sf. bazzåk Ex 15:13; Sec. οζ (Sperber 246; Brönno 122f): עזז, Bauer-L. Heb. 455g; Ug. ʿz (Gordon Textbook §19:1835; Aistleitner 2021; Ug. 5 p. 553 line 9, cf. p. 602a, see de Moor UF 1 (1969):179; Craigie VT 22 (1972):145f); Ph. עז (Jean-H. Dictionnaire 205): עֹֽז Ju 5:21 Jb 26:2, עָז־ in abs. Js. 26:1, עֹז־וְ Pr 31:25; עָֽז Gn 49:3 as by-form → *עַז (→ SamP. !); cs. עָז־ (Bauer-L. Heb. 562v) עֻזּוֹ/ה, עֻזְּכָ/זָּֽךְ, עֻזֵּךְ, עֻזִּי, also עָזִּי/זְּךָ (Bl 559i), Or. עֹזְךָ and עֹזוֹ (Kahle Text 73), Sec. οζει (Sperber and Brönno 122f); עוּזֵּנוּ (Ps 81:2, BHS), עֻזְּכֶם, עֻזָּמוֹ (Bauer-L. Heb. 252o), THAT 2:252ff. —1. might, strength: a) 1S 2:10 Is 51:9 52:1 Ezk 19:12 Ps 138:3 Jb 41:14 Pr 21:22 31:17, 25; בְּכָל־עֹז with all his might 2S 6:14 cj.5 for בְּכָל־עֲצֵי בְרוֹשִׁים prp. with 1C 13:8 בְּכָל־עֹז וּבְשִׁירִים; cj. 2C 30:21 for בִּכְלֵי־עֹז prp. בְּכָל־עֹז; b) adv. (Bauer-L. Heb. 632m) in strength Ju 5:21; c) in phrases, means fortified, strong, well founded: מִגְדַּל־עֹז Ju 9:51 Ps 61:4 (יהוה), Pr 18:10; עִיר עֹז Is 26:1, קִרְיַת עֹז Pr 10:15 18:11, 19, מַטֵּה עֹז Jr 48:17 Ps 110:2, מַטּוֹת עֹז Ezk 19:11, sg. 19:14, מַצְּבוֹת עֹז 26:11, קוֹל עֹז Ps 68:34, הַרְרֵי עֹז Ps 30:8, מְרוֹם עֹז Jr 51:53; רְקִיעַ עֻזּוֹ Ps 150:1 → under 3, מִבְטַח־עֹז Pr 14:26, מַחֲסִי־עֹז Ps 71:7 → under 3; גְּאוֹן עֹז proud strength Lv 26:19 Ezk 24:21 30:6, 18 33:18, 28 cj. 7:24 (rd. עֻזָּם → עַז); עֹז פָּנָיו his hard face Qoh 8:1; לֹא־עֹז without strength Jb 26:2. —2. the fortifications of a town, ramparts (Hamp BZ NF 16 (1972):117ff): with יִסַּד Ps 8:3 (Donner ZAW 79 (1967):326: עֹז = firmament :: trad. Versions, praise), with הוֹרִיד Pr 21:22 Am 3:11 (cj. הוּרַד BHS). —3. God’s might (cf. II !): הָבוּ לי׳ כָּבוֹד וָעֹֽז Ps 29:1, cf. ἐνισχυσάτωσαν αὐτῷ πάντες ἄγγελοι Θεοῦ Dt 32:43 Sept. (BHS); Ps 59:17; עֹז יהוה Mi 5:3, cj. Ps 68:29 for עֻזֶּךָ עוּזָּה אֱלֹהִים prp. עֻוְּךָ עֹז הָאֱ׳ (BHS); God acts בְּעֻזּוֹ Ps 78:26, cj. Dt 33:26 for בְּעֶזְרָֽךָ prp. בְּעֻזֶּךָ (Seeligmann; see also BHS); בְּעֻזְּךָ Ex 15:13 Ps 21:14 74:13, זְרוֹעַ עֻזּוֹ Is 62:8 Ps 89:11, חֶבְיוֹן עֻזֹּה Hab 3:4 → חִבָּיוֹן; רֹב עֻזְּךָ Ps 66:3, אֲרוֹן עֻזֶּֽךָ Ps 132:8 2C 6:41 = Ps 78:61, עֹז אַפֶּֽךָ Ps 90:11; cj. 76:8 for מֵאָז אַפֶּֽךָ prp. מֵעֹז אַ׳; עֻזּוֹ וְאַפּוֹ Ezr 8:22, רְקִיעַ עֻזּוֹ Ps 150:1; in יהוה is עֹז to Is 45:24 Ps 29:1/1C 16:28 Ps 62:12 63:3 68:29, 35 93:1 96:7 Jb 12:16 1C 16:27; יהוה וְעֻזּוֹ Ps 105:4 1C 16:11; יהוה is עֹז strength (if I עֹז is equivalent to II עֹז, where see further); God gives עֹז Ps 68:36 86:16; God allows his עֹז to be experienced Ps 77:15; God is מַחֲסִי־עֹז Ps 71:7, תִּפְאֶרֶת עֻזָּמוֹ 89:18; with God is עֹז יְשׁוּעָתִי Ps 140:8 and עֹז וְתוּשׁיָּה Jb 12:16 and עֹז וְחֶדְוָה 1C 16:27; the righteous find עוֹז בָּֽךְ Ps 84:6; עֹז וְתִפְאֶרֶת are in the מִקְדָּשׁ Ps 96:6.
—4. strength, might of the king: Ps 99:4: cj. ? for עֹז מֶלֶךְ prp. מֶלֶךְ עָֽז (Gunkel Ps. 431) or וְעַז מָלַךְ (Kraus BK 155:580).
—Emendations: cj. Jb 37:6 for עֻזּוֹ prp. עֹזּוּ (עזז impv.); Pr 24:5 rd. מֵעָֽז → עַז II 1; → II עֹז. †

II עֹז, SamP. ʿaz, with sf. ʿazzi: עוז, Bauer-L. Heb. 451n; textual confusion with I; עֻזִי (so BHK3; Bomberg and BHS עֻזִּי) is apparent in Ps 59:18 and this word (or עֹזִי, see R. Meyer Gr. §23, 1c) is to be substituted for עֻזִּי Jr 16:19 Ps 28:7 62:8 and for עָזִּי Ex 15:2 (:: Barr Philology 29), Is 12:2 Ps 118:14 and correspondingly עֹ/עֻזְךָ for עָזְּךָ Ps 21:2 עֹ/עֻזֵנוּ for עוּזֵּנוּ Ps 81:2 (THAT 2:221f): refuge, protection (always God) = II מָעוֹז: Yahweh is עֹז Ps 28:8 29:11;מַחֲסֶה וָעֹז 46:2; with sf., my protection Is 49:5 Jr 16:19 Ps 28:7 59:18 cj. 10 for עֻזּוֹ prp. עֻוִּי (< עֻזִי), ע׳ וְזִּמְרָתִי Ex 15:2 Is 12:2, your protection Ps 21:2, our 81:2; I עֹז still remains a possibility, except for Ps 62:8 צוּר־עֻזִּי, see Hamp BZ (new series) 16 (1972):117ff. †

Koehler, L., Baumgartner, W., Richardson, M. E. J., & Stamm, J. J. (1994–2000). The Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon of the Old Testament (electronic ed., pp. 805–806). Leiden: E.J. Brill.

NIDOTTE citation:

עָזַז (ʿāzaz), q. be or prove oneself strong; prevail over, overpower; give or impart strength; pi., establish; ni., be insolent, impudent, bold; hi., (make strong [the face] =) be insolent, impudent, bold, brazen, shameless (#6451); עַז (ʿaz), adj. strong; fierce/cruel; defiant, shameless; hard, stern, severe, grim, brazen; turbulent (#6434); עָז (ʿāz), nom. strength (hapleg.; #6435); עֹז (ʿōz), nom. strength, power (#6437 [HALAT distinguishes between עֹז, strength, power; and עֹז, refuge, shelter; defence, protection (derived from עוּז, take or seek refuge]); עֱזוּז (ʿezûz), nom., strength, power (#6449); עִזּוּז (ʿizzûz), adj. powerful (#6450).

ANE Cognate forms are found in Ugar., ʿz; OSA, Eth., azaza; Akk. ezēzu, be annoyed or angry, fall into a rage; Sam. ʿaz (with suff. bazzåk); Aram. עָזַז, be strong; Syr. ʿaz, be powerful; Phoen. ʿz, power, force.

VanGemeren, W. (Ed.). (1997). New international dictionary of Old Testament theology & exegesis (Vol. 3, pp. 365–366). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

TDOT citation:

  1. Etymology, Occurrences, and Meaning. The root ʿzz is common Semitic. Ugaritic uses it as a verb, noun, and adjective in the sense of “be strong,” “strengthen,” “strong,” “strength,” etc. Akk. ezēzu/ezzu means “be angry,” “be powerful,” “be(come) enraged.” OSA ʿzz means “fortify, strengthen,” and ʿzt means “strength.” The meaning of Old Aram. ʿzz/ʿzyz corresponds to Ugaritic usage. The root occurs also in Jewish Aramaic, Mandaic, and Ethiopic. The Qumran Scrolls use both verbal and substantival forms of ʿzz. The meaning is essentially constant: “be/become/make strong, powerful,” “strength, power.” There are 11 occurrences of the verb in the OT, all in the qal or hiphil. Intensive stems are found in other Semitic languages. In Hebrew a number of nouns derive from ʿzz: ʿezûz, “strength, power” (3 times); ʿizzûz, “powerful” (twice); ʿaz, “strength,” “strong” (22 times); and ʿōz, “strength, power, might” (94 times), which can sometimes take on the meaning “(strong) defense,” “(great) security,” “refuge,” “protection.” The derivation from ʿwz of forms having this meaning has been suggested frequently but is difficult to prove etymologically. The same is true of māʿôz (36 times), which means “refuge, fortress,” but also “strength” (Ps. 27:1). Several proper names appear in extrabiblical texts;7 in the OT we find: ʿuzzāʾ, ʿuzzâ, ʿāzāz, ʿazazyāhû, ʿuzzî, ʿuzzîyāʾ, ʿuzzîyāh(û), ʿazîʾēl, ʿuzzîʾēl, ʿazîzāʾ, ʿazzān, and maʿazyâ. We also find yʿz, a by-form of ʿzz, in the niphal ptcp. nôʿāz (Isa. 33:19).


  1. ʿōz. a. Psalms. Of the 94 occurrences of ʿōz, 44 are in the Psalms. The range of meanings is wide: “strength,” “power,” “might,” but also “refuge.” The noun appears occasionally in parallel with māʿôz (Ps. 28:8). It can be used both literally and figuratively. Creation hymns and texts that allude to the theology of creation extol Yahweh’s creative power: it can bring to pass works of power and might and lend strength to both the people and the individual believer, making them strong. Somewhat obscure is the “founding” (ysd piel) of ʿōz from the mouths of babes and infants (8:3[2]), an ʿōz that prevails against enemies like a bulwark. The praise that resounds in the sanctuary takes place at the point of contact between heaven and earth, so that we hear the summons hallelûhû birqîaʿ ʿuzzô, “praise him in the firmament of his power” or “praise him in his mighty firmament” (150:1). With his might (beʿozzeḵā) he divided the sea in the act of creation (74:13); with his mighty arm (bizrôaʿ ʿuzzeḵā) he scattered the forces of chaos (89:11[10]). His commanding voice is “a mighty voice” (qôl ʿōz, 68:34[33]; cf. Ps. 29). Power over nature and power over history are based on power in the skies, inaccessible to mortals (68:35[34], par. gaʾawāṯô, “his majesty”). This universal power he gives (nāṯan) to his people (68:36[35], ʿōz par. taʿaṣumôṯ, as in 29:11). All creatures in heaven and earth are called on to acknowledge (by worshiping) this mighty God: hāḇû leyhwh kāḇôḏ wāʿōz, “ascribe to Yahweh glory and strength” (29:1; cf. 96:7; 1 Ch. 16:28; Ps. 68:35[34], tenû ʿōz lēʾlōhîm). This figure of speech probably does not refer to a cultic investiture of Yahweh but to confession and affirmation of the power and glory Yahweh inherently possesses. This affirmation (learned or heard, 62:12a [11a]) is common knowledge: ʿōz belongs to Yahweh (v. 12b[11b]). Nevertheless, a hymn to Yahweh as king can say that Yahweh has robed himself (lāḇēš) in majesty and girded himself (ʾzr hithpael) with ʿōz (93:1). The worshiper pouring out a lament in the sanctuary can look on God there and behold (physically) God’s power and glory (63:3[2], lirʾôṯ ʿuzzeḵā ûḵeḇôḏeḵā; cf. 96:6, ʿōz weṯip̱ʾereṯ bemiqdāšô; also 1 Ch. 16:27), so that it is reasonable to think of a visual representation. But the possibility of individual ceremonial acts cannot alter the fact that no one can give or bring Yahweh anything that he does not already have. In laments the motif of trust leads to affirmation of Yahweh’s greatness and power, on which one can rely; the poet also prays for a demonstration of God’s power to save. In 62:8(7) the meaning of ʿōz modulates to the equivalent of Eng. “refuge,” since the beset psalmist finds in Yahweh ṣûr-ʿuzzî, the “rock of my might” (or “my mighty rock”). In parallel are words like “salvation,” “honor,” and “refuge” (vv. 3, 12[2, 11]). The psalmist miraculously experiences Yahweh as a “strong refuge”; in this experience he himself is a kind of portent to many (71:7, kemôp̱ēṯ hāyîṯî lerabbîm weʾattâ maḥasî-ʿōz). Another psalmist confesses: “You are my refuge (maḥseh), a strong tower (mig̱dal-ʿōz) against the enemy” (61:4[3]). The persecuted supplicant sees in Yahweh a strong deliverer (140:8[7], ʿōz yešûʿāṯî). Finally, the psalmist can pray for Yahweh to give his strength (tenāh-ʿuzzeḵā) to his servant (86:16). Yahweh can be addressed directly as “my strength” (59:10, 18[9, 17]; in v. 10[9] ʿuzzô should be emended to ʿuzzî with LXX, Targ., and Heb. mss., as well as the analogy of v. 18[17]; in both verses the parallel is miśgāḇ). At the same time, in the oath section of the lament ʿuzzeḵā can be objectified as the subject of praise (59:17[16], with mānôs and miśgāḇ in parallel). The speaker of a lament remembers the great and wonderful acts of Yahweh in nature and history (77:12[11]), acts that imbue the worshiper with confidence and trust. The psalmist also knows that Yahweh has made known (ydʿ hiphil) his ʿōz among the peoples (v. 15[14]). Lament and petition (and the supposed priestly oracle of salvation) are followed by praise and thanksgiving, in which God’s saving power is proclaimed (e.g., 28:7–8[6–7]). In Ps. 30:8(7) the text should probably be emended to leharerê ʿōz (with Targ.) and the verb read as heʿemaḏtānî: “By your favor, O Yahweh, you have established me on a strong mountain [or: ‘firm ground’].” Here ʿōz describes the nature of the firm foundation on which Yahweh has set the psalmist, whose life was threatened. The use of ʿōz in 138:3 is not without its problems. Aquila (see also Jerome) has probably preserved the correct interpretation: tarḥîḇēnî, “you give me great space, in my soul [or: ‘life’] there is strength.” As we would expect, hymns also extol the strength and power of God. Because of Yahweh’s great power (berōḇ ʿuzzeḵā), even Yahweh’s enemies must ultimately do him homage (66:3; kḥš must be translated in this sense). Yahweh is also praised for summoning his strength for his people (68:29[28]). This text is not easy to translate. The MT means: “Your God has summoned might for you [taking the suf. of ʿuzzeḵā as an objective gen.], the strength of God, which you have done [or: ‘used’] for us.” The phrase ʿuzzâ ʾelōhîm should be emended to ʿōz hāʾelōhîm; the versions suggest reading ṣawwēh instead of ṣiwwâ and ʾelōheyḵā without a suffix (“Summon, O God, your might”); but ʿuzzâ can also be interpreted as an imperative: “Prove yourself mighty, O God, as you have done for us before.” The introduction to a hymn may contain predications that belong by nature in the body: “Let us sing aloud to God our strength” (81:2[1]). A different nuance appears in 89:18(17), which proclaims Yahweh as tip̱ʾereṯ ʿuzzāmô, “the glory of their strength” (the suf. refers to the people). Finally, 118:14 uses “strength” in parallel with “song” and identifies both entities with Yahweh (ʿozzî wezimrāṯî yâ; so also Ex. 15:2; Isa. 12:2). The royal psalms assume that Yahweh is strong; the king rejoices in that strength (21:2[1]) and the worshipers pray Yahweh to rise up in his strength and power to intervene against the enemy (21:14[13]). As part of the enthronement ceremonial, the scepter (maṭṭēh-ʿuzzeḵā, “scepter of your might” = “your mighty scepter”) is conveyed to the king (110:2). In the historical summaries, besides the general view that Yahweh shapes and governs history, we find certain events singled out as being inaugurated by Yahweh, e.g., the miraculous feeding during the wandering in the desert. For this purpose the (creative) power of Yahweh (beʿuzzô) was invoked, bringing out the south wind (78:26), which together with the east wind drove flocks of birds toward the Israelites (v. 27). Ps. 78:61 says that Yahweh abandoned his sacred ark, identified as ʿuzzô and tip̱ʾartô, to captivity and into the hand of the foe (cf. 1 S. 4). This comports well with the description of the ark as ʾarôn ʿuzzeḵā (“ark of your might” = “your mighty ark”) in Ps. 132, which appears to speak of a procession with the ark (v. 8; cf. v. 7; 2 Ch. 6:41). In another historical summary the recapitulation of history is understood as “seeking Yahweh and his strength” (Ps. 105:4 = 1 Ch. 16:11). In the Zion hymns the use of ʿōz does not vary from what we have observed already. Yahweh, who dwells on Zion, is celebrated and affirmed by the worshiping community as a refuge, strength, and help (46:2[1]); every pilgrim is happy whose strength is in Yahweh (84:6[5]). It is not just God’s help, mercy, and goodness that can be associated with ʿōz; the power of God’s anger is also a reality in the OT, and Ps. 90:11 warns against underestimating it: “Who considers the power of your anger? Your wrath is great.” It is therefore good to know that the strength of King Yahweh loves justice (99:4).

Wagner, S. (2001). עזז. G. J. Botterweck, H. Ringgren, & H.-J. Fabry (Eds.), D. E. Green (Trans.), Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (Revised Edition, Vol. 11, pp. 4–7). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

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