Latter-day Saint Life

What’s an ‘Eben-ezer’? The true meaning behind 2 ‘Come, Thou Fount’ lyrics to comfort any wandering heart

A smart phone shows digital sheet music for “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”
Screenshot from a training video by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

It’s official: “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” is part of the Church’s new hymnbook.

While many people know and love this hymn (especially Mack Wilberg’s iconic arrangement for the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square), a few of the lyrics are less familiar in our modern vernacular.

Here are the definitions behind two of the hymn’s words you may not hear every day.

1. Eben-ezer 

The first line of the second verse reads, “Here I raise my Eben-ezer; Hither by thy help I’m come.”

Many people’s first association with “Eben-ezer” is the character Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. But as used in the hymn, this word is a Hebrew term meaning “stone of help.”

The line references an Old Testament story about the prophet Samuel. In a devotional for Brigham Young University (BYU), Curt Holman explained:

“In 1 Samuel 7 we read that the Israelites were under attack by the Philistines. Outnumbered and in fear for their lives, they pled with the prophet Samuel to pray for God’s help. Samuel offered a sacrifice and prayed for protection. In response the Lord smote the Philistines, and they retreated to their territory. This victory is recorded in verse 12: ‘Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Eben-ezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.’

“ … This raised stone was a reminder to the Israelites of what the Lord had done for them. This Eben-ezer quite literally was a monument set to remember the great help that God granted the one raising the stone.” 

When we sing this hymn, we can metaphorically raise our own “stones of help” by remembering how the Lord has supported us, praising Him in song, and renewing our trust in His guidance.

2. Fetter

Another lyric that can feel unfamiliar today is: “Let thy goodness, like a fetter, Bind my wand’ring heart to Thee” (emphasis added).

A fetter is defined as a chain or manacle for the feet, often used to restrain or restrict movement. But the Lord’s fetters are liberating rather than limiting.

As Brooke A. Robertson suggested in a BYU devotional, we can think about the Lord’s fetters as covenants that release us from the chains of sin and death:

“The fetters that bind our otherwise wandering hearts to the Lord are fashioned from the Savior’s goodness. These are not heavy iron chains. They are covenants and ordinances that bind us to Him and His pure love and selflessness in the most healing embrace we can imagine and draw us into His warmth and safety.

“The Lord’s covenantal fetters, paradoxically, give us ultimate freedom if we will wholeheartedly commit ourselves to them. … With our hearts fettered to Him, we are granted freedom from those things that truly imprison us—pride, addiction, anger, fear, discouragement, and, ultimately, spiritual and physical death. He dissipates all that is dark and holds up all that is heavy.”

Check out the Nashville Tribute Band’s unique arrangement of “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” from the album Praise: A Nashville Tribute to the Hymns.

▶You may also like: Exciting, inspiring aspects of the new hymnbook you won’t want to overlook

Praise: A Nashville Tribute to the Hymns

After writing and performing incredibly successful tribute albums to important gospel topics and figures including Joseph Smith, missionaries, the Redeemer, and the Old Testament, the Nashville Tribute Band now pays tribute to the hymns. They set out to do versions of these carefully selected hymns in ways that nobody else has done before. In this album, you’ll find exciting melody and meter variations and refreshing medleys that breathe new life into familiar hymns, while staying true to the core of each song. Available at

▶ You may also like: The Book of Mormon meets Grand Ole Opry? This new country album (and the story behind it) is worth a listen

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