Since God is the god of love, it is not surprising that the word “bless” or “blessing” or “blessed” occurs 419 times in the Old Testament and 116 times in the New Testament.
The word “bless” (Hebrew “barak”—to kneel) seems to have many uses:
- To set aside, consecrate or sanctify: Gen 2:3, And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.
- To praise or thank: Gen 24:27, And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of his mercy and his truth.
- To reward or bestow favor: Gen 24:35, And the LORD hath blessed my master greatly; and he is become great: and he hath given him flocks, and herds, and silver, and gold, and menservants, and maidservants, and camels, and asses.
- To bestow, pass on or continue3 a line of blessing: Gen 12:2, And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing.
- To greet: Ruth 2:4, Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem and said to the reapers, “May the LORD be with you.” And they said to him, “May the LORD bless you.”
- Paradoxically, the Hebrew word is also used to mean curse: Job 1:5, …for Job said, “Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.”
A famous example of blessing is Deut 33 where Moses blessed the twelve tribes individually.
Instead of a blessing, Moses foretold bad things4. The opposite of “bless” is “curse.”
Some Old Testament references demonstrating the meaning of “bless”:
Gen 1:225, Gen 5:1-26, Gen 12:1-37, Gen 14:18-208, Gen 28:3-49, Gen 39:5-610, Gen 48:2011, Gen 49:28-2912, Ex 32:2913, Deut 11:26-2814, Deut 28:8-1015, Deut 30:19-2016, Deut 33:1-217, 2 Sam 7:28-2918, Neh 9:519, Ps 133:320, Isa 44:321.
The Hebrew “barak” is translated by the LXX as the Greek “eneulogo.” This word is used as a noun22 in Gal 3:1423 and in Acts 3:2524. It is also used as a verb25. The New Testament translates several other Greek words26 as the same English word “blessed”—all of which seem to have the meaning “praise” or “confer good things.”
Some New Testament references demonstrating the meaning of “bless”:
The last thing our Lord did here on earth was to bless us.
Luke 24:50-53, “And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. And it came about that while He was blessing them, He parted from them. And they returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple, praising God.”
We should do likewise.
Photo Attribution: Carolyn V – unsplash.com
- OT:1288 “barak” A verb meaning to bless, kneel, salute, or greet. The verb derives from the noun knee and perhaps suggests the bending of the knee in blessing. Its derived meaning is to bless someone or something. The verb is used when blessing God (Gen 9:26) or people (Num 24:9). God used this verb when He blessed Abraham in the Abrahamic covenant (Gen 12:3). The word is used intensively when God blesses people or people bless each other (Josh 17:14). When the word is used reflexively, it describes a person blessing or congratulating himself (Deut 29:19). Other meanings are to bend the knee (2 Chron 6:13); and to greet someone with a salutation or friendliness (1 Sam 25:14). (The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament)
- OT:1293 “Baraka” A feminine noun meaning blessing. The general idea of this word is one of good favor bestowed on another. This may be expressed in the giving of a tangible gift (Gen 33:11; 1 Sam 25:27) or in the pronouncing of a verbal blessing (Gen 27:36; 49:28). Most often, however, this word speaks of God’s favor on the righteous (Gen 12:2; Mal 3:10). It is related to the common verb OT:1288 barak meaning to bless and is often used to contrast God’s blessing and His curse. (The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament)
- This has a sense of reminding about God’s blessing in the past, bringing it into the present, and then prophetically extending it into the future.
- Deut 33:22, “And of Dan he said, ‘Dan is a lion’s whelp, That leaps forth from Bashan.’”
- Gen 1:22, “And God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.’”
- Gen 5:1-2, “This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. 2 He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created.”
- Gen 12:1-3, “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; 2 And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing ; 3 And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.‘”
- Gen 14:18-20, “And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. 19 And he blessed him and said, ‘Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; 20 And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.’”
- Gen 28:3-4, “And may God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples. 4 May He also give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and to your descendants with you; that you may possess the land of your sojournings, which God gave to Abraham.”
- Gen 39:5, “And it came about that from the time he made him overseer in his house, and over all that he owned, the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house on account of Joseph; thus the LORD’S blessing was upon all that he owned, in the house and in the field.”
- Gen 48:20, “And he blessed them that day, saying, ‘By you Israel shall pronounce blessing, saying, “May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh!”’”
- Gen 49:28, “All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them. He blessed them, every one with the blessing appropriate to him.”
- Ex 32:29, “Then Moses said, ‘Dedicate yourselves today to the LORD….in order that He may bestow a blessing upon you today.’”
- Deut 11:26-28, “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: 27 the blessing, if you listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, which I am commanding you today; 28 and the curse, if you do not listen to the commandments of the LORD your God…”
- Deut 28:8-9, “The LORD will command the blessing upon you in your barns and in all that you put your hand to, and He will bless you in the land which the LORD your God gives you. 9 The LORD will establish you as a holy people to Himself, as He swore to you, if you will keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and walk in His ways.”
- Deut 30:19-20, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, 20 by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”
- Deut 33:1-2, “Now this is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the sons of Israel before his death. 2 And he said….”
- 2 Sam 7:28-29, “Now therefore, may it please Thee to bless the house of Thy servant, that it may continue forever before Thee. For Thou, O Lord GOD, hast spoken; and with Thy blessing may the house of Thy servant be blessed forever.”
- Neh 9:5, ….”Arise, bless the LORD your God forever and ever! O may Thy glorious name be blessed and exalted above all blessing and praise!”
- Ps 133:3, “….For there the LORD commanded the blessing — life forever.”
- Isa 44:3, “I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring, and My blessing on your descendants.”
- “…in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
- Acts 3:25, “Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.”
- NT:3107 makarios (mak-ar’-ee-os); a prolonged form of the poetical makar (meaning the same); supremely blest; by extension, fortunate, well off:
- Matt 5:3-11, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me.”
- Mark 10:1, “And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands upon them.”
- Luke 24:50-53, “And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. 51 And it came about that while He was blessing them, He parted from them. 52 And they returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple, praising God.”
- Rom 4:5-9, “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: 7 ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, And whose sins have been covered. 8 Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.’ 9 Is this blessing then upon the circumcised, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say, ‘Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.’”
- Gal 3:6-9, “Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. 7 Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the nations shall be blessed in you.’ 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.”
- Gal 3:14, “…in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
- Eph 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ…”
- Heb 11:20-21, “By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even regarding things to come. 21 By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.”
- Heb 12:16-17, “…that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.”
- 1 Peter 3:8-9, “To sum up, let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; 9 not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.”
- Rev 1:3, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.”
- Rev 16:15, “Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his garments, lest he walk about naked and men see his shame.”
- Rev 22:7, “And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.”