Word of the Week

B'rachah

Hebrew

What does it mean when the Bible says that God blessed someone? That word is בְּרַכָה, pronounced b’ra-chah.

“Zachar vun’kevah b’ra’am vayevarekh atem vayikra et shemam adam beyom hibaram — Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created (Genesis 5:2).”

B’rachah means blessing.

But what does blessing mean? In most places in the Hebrew Bible (the Tanach), blessed means to kneel in adoration before God, or to receive a benefit from God.

In the 1st chapter in Genesis, on the sixth day of Creation, God ascribed a blessing to Adam and Eve, charging them with being fruitful and stewarding His creation. They were recipients of a blessing from God that was to be poured out on the work of God’s hands.

In a religious context, “to bless” is commonly defined as bestowing divine assistance, favor, or power on someone. Thus, “blessing presupposes a benefactor [God, who grants the blessing] and a recipient, and not infrequently there is a mediator who pronounces or confers the prospect of blessing from God to a human recipient.” In ancient Israel, this “mediator” who verbalized “the prospect of blessing” was most often a prophet or priest. Dana M. Pike, “’I Will Bless the LORD at All Times’: Blessing God in the Old Testament.”

God has bestowed blessing on all of His creation in a general dispensation of His grace. Yet, in some instances, He gave special blessings to certain people.

An interesting aspect of this is that when God blessed certain people, He gave them the authority to bless others.

Then God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Padan Aram, and blessed him.  And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name.” So He called his name Israel.  Also God said to him: “I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body. The land which I gave Abraham and Isaac I give to you; and to your descendants after you I give this land (Genesis 35:9-12 NKJV).”

God Almighty also declared to Abraham “Veheyei berachah–You will be a blessing.” Because of that, Abraham was allowed the Divine right to bless whomever he wished. Through him, the world now had a model of how people were to bless each other.

“And Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac. But Abraham gave gifts to the sons of the concubines which Abraham had; and while he was still living he sent them eastward, away from Isaac his son, to the country of the east (Genesis 25:5-6).”

When Abraham gave Isaac “all that he possessed,” it wasn’t simply his material wealth that he transferred to his son. He also passed on his spiritual wealth, in fact, the very essence of who he was became Isaac’s possession. Abraham’s world view, his personality, even his own demeanor, he bequeathed entirely to Isaac. Of immensely more value than his cattle, sheep, and other material riches, Abraham gave Isaac the most valuable thing anyone can give to anyone else. And then he gave Isaac the right to bless others as he willed.

The blessing—b’racach of God—means that each believer is privileged to receive God’s favor and thus become himself an extension of God’s grace.

 

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