BLESS, BLESSING (בְּרָכָה, H1388, εὐλογέω, G2328, to bestow prosperity and goodness, to worship God as good, to receive his goodness and announce it to others; אֹ֫שֶׁר, H891, μακάριος, G3421, the prosperity or happiness resulting from such bestowal).
While blessing can refer to man’s praise and worship to God (“to bow the knee”) in acknowledgement of His provision (Gen 24:48; Deut 8:10), a more specific emphasis is on the blessings themselves, the gracious character of God in giving them, and also on the identification of those who receive God’s favor (Ps 1, “blessed is the man”).
While God Himself may announce His favor (as in the creation account in Gen 1:22, 28; 2:3), it may also be proclaimed through His official representatives, as by the father of a household (Gen 27; 48; 49), by the priestly Aaronic blessing (Num 6:22-27), through the king (2 Sam 6:18), or the apostle (the introductions and closings of the New Testament epistles).
God’s favor extends to every aspect of life (Deut 28:3-6 and the blessings of the aspects of creation) but is ratified and announced in the establishment of a definite relationship of blessing (covenant); “general” blessings come in the setting of God’s people remembering the Exodus and the covenant which it reflects (Deut 28-31). God’s blessings are frequently presented as dependent upon man’s obedience, in contrast with cursings which result from disobedience (Deut 30:15-20); nevertheless, they are ultimately gracious, and cannot be referred to anything but God’s mercy and kindness.
Not magical but gracious
This gracious character is apparently the major factor in the liberal rejection of the Bible’s understanding of blessing. The irrevocable, effectual character of blessing (as in the case of Jacob rather than Esau, Gen 27:35; cf. Num 22 and 23 on the similar character of cursing) is understood by liberals as representing a primitive “magic,” which was replaced later by a more personal religion. However, it must be noted that the Old Testament does not consider the word of blessing to have some independent force, but instead as always under God’s control (Deut 23:5). A proper understanding of the permanent character of the word of blessing must come from an appreciation of the faithfulness of the covenant-keeping God; to attempt to understand it in terms of appropriateness would be to contradict its basic gracious character. A further factor is the long-range, family character of God’s blessings, and their extension through the covenant family (Gen 49).
The blessed obey
The New Testament makes clear the relation of blessing to commandment. The Beatitudes precede the call to obedience in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5 and 6; cf. the blessing-cursing contrast in Luke 6:20-26), so obedience is the response to blessing, not the means of obtaining it (perhaps the gracious prologue to the Sinai law in Exod 20:1 is analogous). Much the same stress is seen in the introductory blessings of Paul’s epistles (“Grace to you and peace,” esp. the extended blessing of Eph 1:3-14) which precede instruction to the churches. See Beatitudes.
BLESS, BLESSING (Heb. bārakh)
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
This word is found more frequently in the Old Testament than in the New Testament, and is used in different relations.
(1) It is first met in Ge 1:22 at the introduction of animal life upon the earth, where it is written, "And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply," etc. The context furnishes the key to its meaning, which is the bestowal of good, and in this particular place the pleasure and power of increase in kind. Thus it is generally employed in both Testaments, the context always determining the character of the bestowal; for instance (where man is the recipient), whether the good is temporal or spiritual, or both.
Occasionally, however, a different turn is given to it as in Ge 2:3 the King James Version, where it is written, "And God blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it." Here the good consists in the setting apart and consecrating of that day for His use.
(2) In the foregoing instances the Creator is regarded as the source of blessing and the creature the recipient, but the order is sometimes reversed, and the creature (man) is the source and the Creator the recipient. In Ge 24:48, for example, Abraham’s servant says, "I bowed my head, and worshipped Yahweh, and blessed Yahweh, the God of my master Abraham," where the word evidently means to worship God, to exalt and praise Him.
(3) There is a third use where men only are considered. In Ge 24:60, her relatives "blessed Rebekah, and said unto her, Our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of ten thousands" (the King James Version "millions"), where the word expresses the wish or hope for the bestowal of the good designated. There are also instances where such a blessing of man by man may be taken in the prophetic sense, as when Isaac blessed Jacob (Ge 27:4,27), putting himself as it were in God’s place, and with a sense of the Divine concurrence, pronouncing the good named. Here the word becomes in part a prayer for, and in part a prediction of, the good intended. Balaam’s utterances are simply prophetic of Israel’s destiny (Nu 23:9,10,11,23 margin, Nu 23:24).
Although these illustrations are from the Old Testament the word is used scarcely differently in the New Testament; "The blessing of bread, of which we read in the Gospels, is equivalent to giving thanks for it, the thought being that good received gratefully comes as a blessing"; compare Mt 14:19 and Mt 15:36 with 1Co 11:24 (Adeney, HDB, I, 307).
See also Benediction.
B. F. Westcott, Hebrews (1889), 203-210;
H. W. Beyer, Eúlogéo, TDNew Testament, II (1935), 754-765;
F. Hauck et al., Makários, TDNew Testament, IV (1942), 362-370;
H. N. Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom (1950), 185-191, 241-258, 259-284;
Ridderbos, When the Time Had Fully Come (1957), 26-43;
M. G. Kline, By Oath Consigned (1968);
J. Scharbert, “Blessing” and “Cursing,” Sacramentum Verbi, I (1970), 69-75, 174-178.