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Bible Dictionaries

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words

Bless

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A. Verb.

Bârak (בָּרַךְ, Strong's #1288), “to kneel, bless, be blessed, curse.” The root of this word is found in other Semitic languages which, like Hebrew, use it most frequently with a deity as subject. There are also parallels to this word in Egyptian.Bârak occurs about 330 times in the Bible, first in Gen. 1:22: “And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful and multiply, …” God’s first word to man is introduced in the same way: “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply …” (v. 28). Thus the whole creation is shown to depend upon God for its continued existence and function (cf. Ps. 104:27-30).

Bârak is used again of man in Gen. 5:2, at the beginning of the history of believing men, and again after the Flood in Gen. 9:1: “And God blessed Noah and his sons.…” The central element of God’s covenant with Abram is: “I will bless thee … and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee … and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:2-3). This “blessing” on the nations is repeated in Gen. 18:18; 22:18; and 28:14 (cf. Gen. 26:4; Jer. 4:2). In all of these instances, God’s blessing goes out to the nations through Abraham or his seed. The Septuagint translates all of these occurrences of bârak in the passive, as do the KJV, NASB, and NIV. Paul quotes the Septuagint’s rendering of Gen. 22:18 in Gal. 3:8.

The covenant promise called the nations to seek the “blessing” (cf. Isa. 2:2-4), but made it plain that the initiative in blessing rests with God, and that Abraham and his seed were the instruments of it. God, either directly or through His representatives, is the subject of this verb over 100 times. The Levitical benediction is based on this order: “On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel … the Lord bless thee … and they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them” (Num. 6:23- 27).

The passive form of bârak is used in pronouncing God’s “blessing on men,” as through Melchizedek: “Blessed be Abram of the most high God …” (Gen. 14:19). “Blessed be the Lord God of Shem …” (Gen. 9:26) is an expression of praise. “Blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand” (Gen. 14:20) is mingled praise and thanksgiving.

A common form of greeting was, “Blessed be thou of the Lord” (1 Sam. 15:13; cf. Ruth 2:4); “Saul went out to meet [Samuel], that he might salute him” (1 Sam. 13:10; “greet,” NASB and NIV).

The simple form of the verb is used in 2 Chron. 6:13: “He … kneeled down.…” Six times the verb is used to denote profanity, as in Job 1:5: “It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.”

B. Noun.

Berâkâh (בְּרָכָה, Strong's #1293), “blessing.” The root form of this word is found in northwest and south Semitic languages. It is used in conjunction with the verb berâkâh (“to bless”) 71 times in the Old Testament. The word appears most frequently in Genesis and Deuteronomy. The first occurrence is God’s blessing of Abram: “I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing [berâkâh]” (Gen. 12:2).When expressed by men, a “blessing” was a wish or prayer for a blessing that is to come in the future: “And [God] give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham” (Gen. 28:4). This refers to a “blessing” that the patriarchs customarily extended upon their children before they died. Jacob’s “blessings” on the tribes (Gen. 49) and Moses’ “blessing” (Deut. 33:1ff.) are other familiar examples of this.

Blessing was the opposite of a cursing (qelalah): “My father peradventure will feel me, and I shall seem to him as a deceiver; and I shall bring a curse upon me, and not a blessing” (Gen. 27:12). The blessing might also be presented more concretely in the form of a gift. For example, “Take, I pray thee, my blessing that is brought to thee; because God hath dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough. And he urged him, and he took it” (Gen. 33:11). When a “blessing” was directed to God, it was a word of praise and thanksgiving, as in: “Stand up and bless the Lord your God for ever and ever: and blessed be thy glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise” (Neh. 9:5).

The Lord’s “blessing” rests on those who are faithful to Him: “A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day …” (Deut. 11:27). His blessing brings righteousness (Ps. 24:5), life (Ps. 133:3), prosperity (2 Sam. 7:29), and salvation (Ps. 3:8). The “blessing” is portrayed as a rain or dew: “I will make them and the places round about my hill a blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing” (Ezek. 34:26; cf. Ps. 84:6). In the fellowship of the saints, the Lord commands His “blessing”: "[It is] as the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore” (Ps. 133:3).

In a few cases, the Lord made people to be a “blessing” to others. Abraham is a blessing to the nations (Gen. 12:2). His descendants are expected to become a blessing to the nations (Isa. 19:24; Zech. 8:13).

The Septuagint translates berâkâh as eulogia (“praise; blessing”). The KJV has these translations: “blessing; present (gift).”

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Bibliography Information
Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Bless'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/vot/b/bless.html. 1940.

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