International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
(barakh): 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 Gen 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 Gen 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 Gen 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 Gen 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 (Gen 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,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 15:36 with 1 Cor 11:24 (Adeney, HDB, I, 307).
See also BENEDICTION.
James M. Gray
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Definition for 'bless'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". bible-history.com - ISBE
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