A making or pronouncing holy; a request of God for the bestowal of divine favor; bestowing goodness; favor; extolling as holy; glorifying; speaking well of; protecting or guarding from evil; bringing happiness.
The various forms of the Hebrew words generally translated “bless” or “blessing” occur about 400 times in the Scriptures. The verb ba·rakhʹ is usually rendered “bless.” In a few passages the word is rendered “wish . . . well” (1Sa 25:14); “congratulate” (1Ch 18:10); “greet” (2Ki 4:29). The noun form of the Hebrew word is found in the name of the Low Plain of Beracah (meaning “Blessing”), for it was here that Jehoshaphat and his people blessed Jehovah. (2Ch 20:26) A verb of the same form is translated “kneel” or “kneel down.”
The Jewish Sopherim, or scribes, emended several passages to read “bless” instead of “curse” (1Ki 21:10, 13; Job 1:5, 11; 2:5, 9), holding the view that it was blasphemous even to note anyone’s cursing God.
The Greek verb eu·lo·geʹo literally means “speak well of.” The term eu·lo·giʹa (literally, blessing) is used in Romans 16:18 in an unfavorable sense, as “complimentary speech” to seduce one’s heart.
The Scriptures use “bless” and “blessing” in at least four principal aspects: (1) Jehovah blessing humans; (2) humans blessing Jehovah; (3) humans blessing Christ; (4) humans blessing other humans.
Jehovah Blessing Humans. “The blessing of Jehovah
Jehovah’s goodwill toward his earthly creations was expressed at the time he brought them forth. To the animal kinds created on the fifth day, God’s blessing was a pronouncement of his purpose regarding them. (Ge 1:22) God’s blessing on Adam and Eve at the end of the sixth day would have enabled them, had they remained obedient, to continue in his favor, because he provided for all their spiritual and material needs.
After Jehovah had completed his earthly creative work on the six creative days, nothing was lacking for the welfare of his creation. (Ge 1:31) Then God proceeded to rest, or desist from this work, blessing the seventh day, declaring it sacred, holy. Happiness with endless blessing was the prospect set before human creation.
When Noah and his family came out of the ark, Jehovah looked with favor on them, blessing them and giving them a statement of his will for them. By doing Jehovah’s will, they would prosper with his favor and protection.
Of vital importance to all mankind is the blessing concerning Abraham and his Seed. (Ge 12:3; 18:18; 22:18) Jehovah blessed Abraham and Sarah by miraculously renewing their reproductive powers, enabling them to have a son in their old age. (Ge 17:16; 21:2) He prospered Abraham and used him in a pictorial way to foreshadow greater things. (Ga 4:21-26) Therefore, God’s blessing in providing a seed for Abraham has higher significance in the promise that the people of all nations will be blessed by means of the one Isaac foreshadowed, Jesus Christ.
The blessing of Jehovah on a person or a people is contingent upon obedience to him. (Ex 23:25) The sharp contrasts drawn at Deuteronomy chapters 27 and 28 clearly show that Jehovah’s curse, resulting in severe punishment, is upon the disobedient ones, whereas his blessing rests upon the obedient ones, producing spiritual prosperity and filling their material needs, making itself evident in their homes, their land, their offspring, their animals, their food supply, their traveling, their every deed. “Blessings are for the head of the righteous one.” (Pr 10:6, 7) When Jehovah’s people are faithfully obedient, he is pleased to ‘open the floodgates of the heavens and actually empty out a blessing until there is no more want.’
Humans Blessing Jehovah. Humans bless Jehovah primarily by praising him. Expressing gratitude, acknowledging Jehovah as the one from whom all blessings flow, speaking well of him on every occasion, and performing acts of adoration and service also bless Jehovah. (Ps 26:12) Preaching the good news is a way of blessing Jehovah, since it praises his name and purposes.
Men have blessed Jehovah for delivering his people from oppression (Ex 18:9, 10); for providing their needs (De 8:10); for his dignity, mightiness, rulership, and beauty as Head over all (1Ch 29:10-12, 20); for moving his people to support his worship (2Ch 31:8); in prayer of confession because of his covenant keeping and mercy (Ne 9:5, 31, 32); for giving wisdom and might (Da 2:19-23); for protecting his servants and demonstrating his sovereignty (Da 3:28; 4:34). The book of Psalms constantly blesses Jehovah and calls for all in heaven and earth to praise his name for his many magnificent qualities. Another reason for man’s blessing Jehovah is the gift of his Son Jesus Christ.
Humans Blessing Christ. Jesus himself is also to be blessed by all. Elizabeth blessed Jesus’ mother Mary and the yet unborn fruit of her womb. (Lu 1:42) Jesus’ heavenly origin, his coming in Jehovah’s name as his Son, his ministry, his sacrifice, his priesthood, his kingship, and his undeserved kindness all justly warrant his being hailed as a blessed one. (Joh 12:13; 2Co 8:9; Heb 1:2; 7:24-26) In fulfillment of Psalm 118:26, the crowd welcomed him as the blessed one of Jehovah on his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. (Mt 21:9) Angelic creatures and earthlings are all to bless him.
Humans Blessing Other Humans. In contrast to Jehovah, who always fulfills the blessing He speaks, when a human pronounces a blessing on another human he may not have the ability to fulfill it. In the Bible, man’s pronouncement of a blessing often amounts to an appeal for divine blessing, even though not necessarily expressed in a prayer. So while man may be the intended object of such a blessing, the Source is admittedly God himself. Again, man’s blessing of other men may often constitute an expression of gratitude, an appreciative acknowledgment of fine qualities or of a job well done.
It is with reference to being able to bless with effectiveness, to have the authority from God to bless or the power to carry out the blessing, that Paul, in arguing the superiority of Melchizedek’s priesthood over that of Levi, expresses the principle: “Now without any dispute, the less is blessed by the greater.” (Heb 7:7) Melchizedek was a priest of God and a king and could speak for God authoritatively and prophetically in giving Abraham a blessing.
When individuals have done something that contributes to Jehovah’s praise, others have seen fit to pronounce a blessing on them. Moses blessed Bezalel and the other workers at their completion of the tabernacle construction. (Ex 39:43) The priests and Levites, as spiritual leaders of Israel, were appointed to bless the people on numerous occasions. (Nu 6:23-27; Le 9:22, 23; De 10:8; 21:5; 1Ch 23:13; 2Ch 30:27) High Priest Eli blessed Samuel’s parents for the gift of their child to temple service. (1Sa 2:20, 21) David blessed the people after he had brought the Ark to Jerusalem. (2Sa 6:18; 1Ch 16:2) Solomon wisely followed the same course when he dedicated the temple to Jehovah. (1Ki 8:14, 55) Aged Simeon blessed Jesus’ parents. (Lu 2:34) Jesus blessed the children who came to him.
Occasions for Expressing Blessing. In prayer, one praises and thanks God, blessing him, and, in turn, speaks on behalf of those united in faith and those seeking God, blessing them. Saying or asking a blessing upon food before a meal is usually done in prayer. In such prayer thanks and praise are given to Jehovah for his spiritual and material provisions, asking that Jehovah will direct the nourishment to be used for the benefit of those partaking and that the food will strengthen them to serve him. (1Sa 9:13; Mt 14:19; Lu 9:16) In blessing the bread and the wine at the Lord’s Evening Meal, praise and thanks are given to God with the request that all partaking may benefit spiritually from the things that these symbolize and may remain in unity and integrity as the body of Christ.
In a patriarchal society a father often blessed his sons shortly before his death. This was a matter of great importance and was highly valued. Thus Isaac blessed Jacob, thinking he was the firstborn Esau. Isaac pronounced favor and prosperity for Jacob ahead of his brother Esau, undoubtedly petitioning Jehovah to carry out the blessing, as Isaac himself was blind and old. (Ge 27:1-4, 23-29; 28:1, 6; Heb 11:20; 12:16, 17) Later Isaac knowingly confirmed and enlarged on the blessing. (Ge 28:1-4) Before dying, Jacob blessed first Joseph’s two sons, then his own sons. (Ge 48:9, 20; 49:1-28; Heb 11:21) Similarly, Moses, before his death, blessed the whole nation of Israel. (De 33:1) In all these cases the results prove that they spoke prophetically. In some instances, when pronouncing such blessings, the hand of the one blessing was placed upon the head of the one being blessed.
As a greeting, one’s offering a blessing was a wish for the other’s welfare. Jacob, on being brought in before Pharaoh, blessed him. (Ge 47:7; see also 1Sa 13:10; 25:14; 1Ki 1:47; 2Ki 10:15.) Blessings might be bestowed at a time of departure. Rebekah, for example, was blessed by her family when leaving home to marry Isaac.
Giving a gift was also associated with blessings. (Ge 33:11; Jos 14:13; 15:18, 19) Understandably the gift itself might come to be called the blessing, “a gift blessing.” Gifts might be offered as expressions of well-wishing toward a loved one, in an endeavor to find favor, or as an expression of gratitude.
Blessings can be bestowed in the form of compliments. Boaz blessed Ruth for her loving-kindness. (Ru 3:10) Men volunteering to perform a service in behalf of Jehovah’s worship were blessed by observers. (Ne 11:2) Parents are entitled to blessing from their children.
A blessing can consist of favorable or upbuilding speech. Jesus admonished his hearers “to bless those cursing” them. (Lu 6:28) “Keep on blessing those who persecute; be blessing and do not be cursing.” (Ro 12:14) This does not mean to praise opposers, but good conduct toward such ones, coupled with kind, considerate, truthful speech that would be beneficial to them if heeded, may result in winning their goodwill. (1Co 4:12; 1Pe 3:9) The manner of speaking must also be considered. (Pr 27:14) To turn someone away from wicked deeds is indeed a blessing, working for that person’s best interests and to Jehovah’s praise.
Being a Blessing to Others. A person can be a blessing to his fellowman by following a course of obedience to God. The association of such ones whom Jehovah blesses brings blessings to others. Laban was blessed because Jacob kept his flocks. (Ge 30:27, 30) Potiphar’s household and field prospered because of Joseph’s oversight. (Ge 39:5) The presence of ten righteous citizens could have caused God to spare Sodom. (Ge 18:32) The dedicated servant of God can bring God’s favorable consideration to an unbelieving mate and their young children. (1Co 7:14) Jesus said that, in the world’s time of greatest tribulation, “on account of the chosen ones those days will be cut short,” otherwise “no flesh would be saved.” (Mt 24:21, 22; compare Isa 65:8.) To imitate the example of God’s blessed ones brings even greater blessings. (Ga 3:9; Heb 13:7; 1Co 11:1; 2Th 3:7) Doing good to Christ’s brothers, God’s “chosen ones,” brings Jehovah’s blessings to “the sheep,” with the reward of everlasting life.