Handel’s Messiah: Lyrics and Verse References

Back in 2015, I visited Handel’s home in London to see the rooms where he composed. While I was there I spoke with Dr. Ruth Smith, a Cambridge scholar on Handel. She explained that the lyrics (the libretto) were not written by Handel himself, but that they are simply Scripture texts arranged by Handel’s friend, Charles Jennens.

[ Listen to the full podcast interview here. ]

In a time of rising secularism and humanism in England, Jennens was a member of the “Society for the Propagation of the Gospel” and a passionate evangelical believer. He believed that putting the gospel to music would communicate its truth, not just intellectually, but at a deep heart level.

This libretto was made up entirely of Old and New Testament texts combined to present the entire Christian message in a single piece. When it was finished he took it to his friend, the great composer, George Handel.

For 18 months the libretto sat on Handel’s shelf gathering dust until one day he took it down, dusted it off, and in three intense weeks, shut up in his flat on Brook Street, composed the oratorio that made the words come alive. He barely ate or slept; he was completely engulfed in the creation of this music—and he wasn’t alone. When he got to the Hallelujah chorus, his assistant found him in tears, saying, “I think I did see heaven open, and the very face of God.”

Handel’s Messiah captures the deep emotion of the story of our redemption. For your own copy of the 2-disc collection, I recommend you get a copy from Haven here. Below, you can view the lyrics that make up this extraordinary piece of Scripture set to music.

[ Download a short printable version of the verse references here. ]

Note: The text was set by Handel and differ from the King Jame’s Version in various places.


1. Sinfonia – (Instrumental)

2. Accompagnato (Tenor) – “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” (Isaiah 40, vv.1–3)

3. Air (Tenor) – “Ev’ry valley shall be exalted, and ev’ry mountain and hill made low: the crooked straight and the rough places plain:” (Isaiah 40, v.4)

4.  Chorus – “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. (Isaiah 40, v.5)

5. Accompagnato (Bass) – “Thus saith the Lord, the Lord of hosts: Yet once, a little while and I will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea, and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come.” (Haggai 2, vv.6–7); “The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts.” (Malachi 3, v.1)

6. Air (Bass) – “But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire.” (Malachi 3, v.2)

7. Chorus – “And he shall purify the sons of Levi, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.” (Malachi 3, v.3)

8. Recitative (Alto) – “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel, God with us.” (Isaiah 7, v.14; Matthew 1, v.23)

9. Air (mezzo-soprano) and Chorus – “O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get thee up into the high mountain. O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!” (Isaiah 40, v.9); “Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.” (Isaiah 60, v.1)

10. Accompagnato (bass) – “For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.” (Isaiah 60, vv.2–3)

11. Air (bass) – “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; and they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” (Isaiah 9, v.2)

12. Chorus – “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9, v.6)

13. Pifa Pastoral Sinfonia – (Instrumental)

14a. Recitative (soprano) – “There were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” (Luke 2, v.8)

14b. Accompagnato (soprano) “And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.” (Luke 2, v.9)

15. Recitative (soprano) – “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2, 10–11)

16. Accompagnato (soprano) – “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,” (Luke 2, v.13)

17. Chorus – “Chorus Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, good will toward men.” (Luke 2, v.14)

18. Air (soprano) – “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is the righteous Saviour, and he shall speak peace unto the heathen.” (Zechariah 9, vv.9–10)

19. Recitative (mezzo-soprano) – “Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing.” (Isaiah 35, vv.5–6)

20. Duet (mezzo-soprano/soprano) – “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: and he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. (Isaiah 40, v.11); “Come unto him, all ye that labour, come unto him, that are heavy laden, and he will give you rest. Take his yoke upon you, and learn of him; for he is meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matthew 11, vv.28–29)

21. Chorus – “His yoke is easy, and his burthen is light.” (Matthew 11, v.30)


22. Chorus – “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1, v.29)

23. Air (mezzo-soprano) – “He was despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. (Isaiah 53, v.3); “He gave his back to the smiters, and his cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: he hid not his face from shame and spitting.” (Isaiah 50, v.6)

24. Chorus – “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him;” (Isaiah 53, vv.4–5)

25. Chorus – “And with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53, v.5)

26. Chorus – “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53, v.6)

27. Accompagnato (tenor) – “All they that see him laugh him to scorn: they shoot out their lips, and shake their heads, saying,” (Psalm 22, v.7)

28. Chorus – “He trusted in God that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, if he delight in him.” (Psalm 22, v.8)

29. Accompagnato (tenor) – “Thy rebuke hath broken his heart; he is full of heaviness. He looked for some to have pity on him, but there was no man, neither found he any to comfort him.” (Psalm 69, v.20)

30. Arioso (tenor) – “Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto his sorrow.” (Lamentations 1, v.12)

31. Accompagnato (tenor) – “He was cut off out the land of the living: for the transgressions of thy people was he stricken.” (Isaiah 53, v.8)

32. Air (tenor) – “But thou didst not leave his soul in hell; nor didst thou suffer thy Holy One to see corruption.” (Psalm 16, v.10)

33. Chorus – “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.” (Psalm 24, vv.7–10)

34. Recitative (tenor) – “Unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?” (Hebrews 1, v.5)

35. Chorus – “Let all the angels of God worship him.” (Hebrews 1, v.6)

36. Air (mezzo-soprano) – “Thou art gone up on high; thou hast led captivity captive, and received gifts for men: yea, even for thine enemies, that the Lord God might dwell among them.” (Psalm 68, v.18)

37. Chorus – “The Lord gave the word: great was the company of the preachers.” (Psalm 68, v.11)

38. Air (soprano) – “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10, v.15)

39. Chorus – “Their sound is gone out into all lands, and their words unto the ends of the world.” (Romans 10, v.18)

40. Air (bass) – “Why do the nations so furiously rage together: and why do the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth rise up, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against his Anointed.” (Psalm 2, vv.1–2)

41. Chorus – “Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their yokes from us.” (Psalm 2, v.3)

42. Recitative (tenor) – “He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh them to scorn: the Lord shall have them in derision.” (Psalm 2, v.4)

43. Air (tenor) – “Thou shall break them with a rod of iron; thou shall dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” (Psalm 2, v.9)

44. Chorus – “Hallelujah: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” (Revelation 19, v.6); “The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 11, v.15); “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.” (Revelation 19, v.16) “Hallelujah!”


45. Air (soprano) – “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” (Job 19, vv.25–26); “For now is Christ risen from the dead, the first fruits of them that sleep.” (I Corinthians 15, v.20)

46. Chorus – “Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (I Corinthians 15, vv.21–22)

47. Accompagnato (bass) – “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet:” (I Corinthians 15, vv.51–52)

48. Air (bass) – “The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (I Corinthians 15, 52–53)

49. Recitative (mezzo-soprano) – “Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory.” (I Corinthians 15, v.54)

50. Duet (mezzo-soprano/tenor) – “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.” (I Corinthians 15, vv.55–56)

51. Chorus – “But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 15, v.57)

52. Air (soprano) – “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8, v. 31); “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is at the right hand of God, who makes intercession for us.” (Romans 8, vv.33–34)

53. Chorus – “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by his blood, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. Blessing, and honour, glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.” (Revelation 5, vv.12–14) “Amen.”


You’ve never heard the Messiah like this!

Combine the premier choral conductor of our time; the elite Cambridge Singers; the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; and Handel’s timeless Baroque score, and you have the ultimate musical celebration for Christmas or Easter!

Every word on this 2-CD set comes from Scripture and exalts the name of Jesus! The prophetic words of Isaiah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi will help you anticipate the coming Messiah. And then, in the words of Matthew and Luke, the angels suddenly appear to the shepherds singing that familiar chorus, Glory to God in the highest! Peace on earth, good will towards men.


  • Thank you for making this available. I was just thinking this AM that I’d like to have the lyrics and the verses they refer to! You must have “read my mind”!

  • M. Zahn Martin says:

    This is a tremendous addition to listening to Handel’s Messiah! So appreciate this!

  • Katey Utterback says:

    Thank-you so very much. It seemed appropriate to meditate on these passages for Advent.

  • Elizabeth LaBatt says:

    Thank you for making this available. I was just thinking that I’d like to have the lyrics and the verses they refer to! How timely this information is. It added so much to my enjoyment and spiritual comfort as I listened to the music for the umpteenth time. It also added to my amazement of Handel’s God given talent and dedication.

    • Corum Hughes says:

      You’re welcome! I’m glad this could be a blessing and a resource for you.

    • Gloria Akosua Ofori says:

      Thank you for making this available. Do you know I have all the audios singles sitting right in my music library? this year makes it 4. I didn’t know what great message it carries and what great masterpiece it was! I often listened to them with enthusiasm without understanding much of it’s words. Until last Christmas my Papa sent me a video of an orchestral performing one of it’s verse he attended. He said it’s ‘the Messiah’, I searched for it on YouTube then I knew it’s what I had in my music library until I made another search today for it’s lyrics. I’m really grateful for this. Now I can learn to sing every word as I listen.

  • Rocco Sarli says:

    I am currently studying the book of Isaiah and I knew some of the Messiah text came from Isaiah. I wondered how I might find out how much came from Isaiah. Your material has answered my question. Thanks for your work.

  • Antoine Le Mineur says:

    Thank You so much to have revealed to the frenchman I am
    that Isaiah 53 has been put in music by Haendel, as well as
    Psalm 2, so relevant for the present time, all that in the Messiah ! GoD bless You and your ministry.

  • Roy Shears says:

    Thank you so much for this wonderful gift of God’s message, lyrics, with bible references.
    God has allowed me the opportunity to share the gospel with others and this opens another avenue to the highway to heaven.
    We have a wonderful Father, to God be the glory through Jesus His Son!

    • Horace Davis says:

      For quite some time now e promised myself to search the bible for the words of Handels Messiah but did not get around to doing so. I am so glad you have provided not only the words but also the references.
      Thank you so very much.

  • J Knipp says:

    It was so wonderful to be able to follow the lyrics of Handel’s Messiah. Thank you so much. John Knipp

  • Claudia says:

    Thanks so much for the printed lyrics of the Messiah. I didn’t know these lyrics came from the Bible. I was just so familiar with the Hallelujah Chorus lyrics and didn’t look beyond that. Handel’s Messiah has taken on so much more meaning to me! It’s wonderful!

    • David paulinus udofia says:

      Good afternoon Admin, in Nigerian time. I really appreciate your work by God’s grace you have make this generation to know all the songs God had used George Fredrick handle to write. Please I really want to know the following about this two songs, 1.The history 2. The purpose why the song was written 3. Why additional to the song, the songs are, song 34, left up your head O ye gate. Song 35, let all the angel of God worship him. I will be grateful for your quick response, thanks and God bless you.

      • Corum says:

        Hi David. Good questions. We did a deep dive with Handel’s Messiah a few years ago and have a few resources that can hopefully answer your questions better than I would be able to today. First, here is a short write up on the history of Handel’s Messiah. Second, here is short documentary featuring interviews with historians. And third, a longer podcast interview with a widely respected Handel historian, as well as the Handel House museum director. I hope this helps!

  • Patricia White says:

    Thank you for your work and sharing ALL the lyrics with Bible references! Today I am listening to The Messiah while working at home during an Oklahoma blizzard! When I heard unfamiliar choruses, your site brought them to life with lyrics and references! Thank you for all your research surrounding the lyrics and composition of my favorite libretto!!

    • Corum Hughes says:

      You are so welcome. I’m glad this could be a resource to you while you’re snowed in!

      • Mary Bourne says:

        No 38: Intriguingly, as well as the reference you give from the letter to the Romans, it is also in Isaiah 52 v 10, or very similar.

        • Corum Hughes says:

          The wonderful thing about so many of these passages is that it’s difficult for there not to be a direct reference to Isaiah!

  • Janet E Frye says:

    comfort from the pain of loss – Oh Father, save us through your most Precious Holy Son

  • Janice Sterling says:

    I cant remember where l used to go someplace in Los Angeles where they put on the Messiah free for the public to come and hear – maybe the music center – that was a long time ago – and then l was a member of the church of the open door in Los Angeles and we would put on the Messiah at Christmas – this was like in the 1960’s – dont know if anyone does this anymore

  • Dambara Begley says:

    I’m the latest to hear a recording of the Messiah & wonder “what were the original Bible lines?”, so a simple search & your perfect article. I hadn’t known the background about Charles Jennens & the context for creating these. Thanks very much!

  • dayle says:

    I attended a performance of the Messiah last evening in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. It was such a privilege to be able to experience that glittering expression of the gospel. For many perhaps it was merely a cultural experience, but my prayer is that God uses this work and these performances to change hearts of the listeners to their eternal salvation.

  • Love this. God’s glorious word set to glorious music. I visualized that the Lord himself was with me as I listened (to a youtube performance from Sydney Opera House) and prayed to Him directly during it. It was a tear filled time of worship.

  • Mary Lynn Dugan Lippert says:

    On my heart this morning the words singing…”And He shall reign forever and ever” and needing to read the full lyrics of “Messiah”, i was lead to this perfect place to find what i was searching for National Day of Prayer!
    Thank you!

  • Katie says:

    Thank you for this reference site! I was going to just sit down, use my Bible app search function, and laboriously (but joyously!) work my way thru the whole Messiah to find the references. The I thought, “Duh, why not Google this?” Your reference site was at the top. Thank you again for putting this reference together for all of us! God bless you!

    • Corum says:

      I’m glad our blog could be a resource for you! But I also imagine your original plan would have been a long but rewarding project.

  • Hank Hogue says:

    In continuing my journey of “Reading the Bible in a year”, I was reading Isaiah 40 today. As I read verses 1-3, I recognized Handel’s Messiah. I wondered of the Biblical references where available and I found your site. Thanks so much for making this available!

  • Lisa Judah Tracer says:

    Hallelujah!! I am so excited to find your site this morning as I have begun to understand Revelation and the timing of our end times for everyone who seeks Salvation and The Messiah who is worthy of all Praise and Glory, now and Forever. Truly an inspirational and personal message made even more meaningful with the translation in English by his friend, Charles Jennens. ”And He shall reign forever and ever” Amen. I shall purchase this as soon as I finish this message of appreciation. Thank you!

  • linda says:

    Thank you. I needed this for a discuss on whether or not the bible ever refers to God as King.

  • Mark Gillett says:

    Thank you for this. I printed it and plan to take it with me to see (and hear) the amazing “Messiah” this Christmas season. God is so merciful and great!

  • Glenda Bolyn says:

    Thank you for this. I saw The Messiah this afternoon but couldn’t understand most of it. Seeing these lyrics as I watch the production on PBS has made a tremendous difference. You don’t know how much you’re helped!

  • I am frustrated that recent Messiah performances here in NYC by various ensembles eliminate the final soprano aria “If god be for us, who can be against us?” This glorious aria should come before the final chorus, yet directors are now just shoving it aside. WHY? (some also delete Death, where is thy sting?. If you think the work is too long then dont present it. Handel lovers have no problem listening the whole piece.

  • Philip Anomneze says:

    Wonderful stuff! A prayer answered. Your resource is divinely inspired, indeed. Just what I needed to make this Christmas remarkable. Much blessings!

  • Philip Pothen says:

    Thank you very much. This makes it much more meaningful when watching the program. The WORD comes alive.

  • Fam says:

    Thank you for this wonderful site that I found through Google
    May God bless you and your ministry as much as you’ve blessed me and many people listening to Handle Messiah with meaning and purpose for the first time Amen

  • Deborah says:

    A joy to find this detail on haventoday.org. Blessings of joy to the writer and all that read and hear the Oratorio. Finding the clear chronology of the words put to Handel’s music after 20 years of listening to it every Advent seems like an icecream treat after a warm summers day of industry, and an exceptional airy performance from The Choir of Queens College, Oxford brings alive this magnificence of praise. Thank you, thank you

  • Julia Webb says:

    Thank you for providing the scriptures of each piece of the Messiah
    I have sung this many times with our local choir and most Christmases for the last 50 years have been to hear a performance .
    At our bible meeting we were reflecting on Christs suffering at the cross and the point that’ there was no man to have pity on Him’ I couldn’t recall the scripture at the time so to find it on this site was lovely. How our Saviour suffered for us that we may be ‘bought back’ to the Father. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. Hallelujah. Come Lord Jesus

  • Elizabeth Stein says:

    I thought there was one piece that had the phrase “Sitteth at the right hand of God”. But I can’t seem to find it.

    • Corum says:

      Hi Elizabeth. Thanks for asking! It’s in track/chapter 52:

      52. Air (soprano) – “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8, v. 31); “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is at the right hand of God, who makes intercession for us.” (Romans 8, vv.33–34)

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