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Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [1]

God's intention and desire to bless humanity is a central focus of his covenant relationships. For this reason, the concept of blessing pervades the biblical record. Two distinct ideas are present. First, a blessing was a public declaration of a favored status with God. Second, the blessing endowed power for prosperity and success. In all cases, the blessing served as a guide and motivation to pursue a course of life within the blessing.

The Old Testament Terms for blessing abound in the Old Testament, occurring over 600 times. The major terms are related to the word meaning "to kneel, " since in earlier times one would kneel to receive a blessing.

The history of Israel begins with the promise of blessing. The curse, which had dominated the early chapters of the biblical story ( Genesis 3:14,17;  4:11;  5:29;  9:25 ), was countered by God's promise to Abraham that "all peoples on earth will be blessed through you" ( Genesis 12:3 ). The record of Israel's past is best understood as an outworking of blessing and cursing ( Deuteronomy 27:1-28:68 ).

The institutions of society—the family, government, and religionwere the means by which ceremonial blessings were received. Within the family the father blessed his wife and children ( Genesis 27:27-29;  49:25-26;  1 Samuel 2:20 ). In the government context, the ruler blessed his subjects ( 2 Samuel 6:18;  1 Kings 8:14,55 ). Those who possessed a priestly role were bestowed with the privilege of blessing ( Genesis 14:19;  Leviticus 9:22 ). The tribe of Levi was set apart "to pronounce blessings in his [the Lord's] name" ( Deuteronomy 10:8;  21:5 ).

Three common themes are present in formal Old Testament blessings. First, the greater blesses the lesser, a fact picked up by the writer of Hebrews to demonstrate the superiority of Melchizedek to Abraham ( Hebrews 7:6-7 ). Second, the blessing is a sign of special favor that is intended to result in prosperity and success ( Deuteronomy 28:3-7 ). Third, the blessing is actually an invocation for God's blessing: "May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful" ( Genesis 28:3 ).

In a less ceremonial sense, the Scriptures declare a general blessing on the righteous. Those who are obedient to God's commands are blessed with affluence and victory ( Deuteronomy 28:1-14 ). On the other hand, those who are disobedient are cursed ( Deuteronomy 28:15-68 ) and suffer the consequences of drought, disease, and deprivation.

It is also possible for a person to "bless" God. The terminology arises as a response to the blessings bestowed by God: "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits" ( Psalm 103:2; KJV ). These occurrences of "bless" are usually translated "praise" or "extol" in modern versions.

The New Testament The parallels between the Old and New Testament usages of blessing are striking. To be blessed is to be granted special favor by God with resulting joy and prosperity. In the New Testament, however, the emphasis is more on spiritual rather than on material blessings.

God's promise to Abraham again serves as a foundation for blessings. The pledge that "all peoples on earth shall be blessed" ( Genesis 12:3 ) is fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ ( Galatians 3:8-14 ). He has borne the consequences of the curse for believers ( Galatians 3:13 ) and blessed them with the forgiveness of sins ( Romans 4:6-9; see  Psalm 32:1-2 ). Believers are "blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ" ( Ephesians 1:3 ) and now inherit the blessings promised through the patriarchs ( Hebrews 6:12,15;  12:17;  1 Peter 3:9 ). As a result of receiving God's blessings in Christ, believers are called to be a source of blessing to the world, especially in response to those who persecute them ( Luke 6:27-28;  Romans 12:14;  1 Corinthians 4:12;  1 Peter 3:9; cf.  Isaiah 19:24;  Zechariah 8:13 ).

In a general sense, the terms for blessing in the New Testament are used to designate that one is favored by God. Included among these are Jesus ( Mark 11:9-10 ); children ( Mark 10:13-16 ); Mary ( Luke 1:42,48 ); the disciples ( Luke 24:50 ); those who "have not seen and yet have believed" ( John 20:29 ); and those who endure trials ( James 1:12;  5:11 ). As in the Old Testament, when these words are ascribed to God they are rendered "praise" ( Romans 1:25;  9:5;  2 Corinthians 11:31 ).

The most recognizable references to blessing come from the teachings of Jesus. He declares that in spite of difficulties at the present time, the promises of God's salvation and coming kingdom bring a state of happiness and recognized favor with God ( Matthew 5:3-10;  Luke 6:20-22 ). The culmination of the Scriptures proclaims the end of the curse ( Revelation 22:3 ) and the eternal blessedness of the people of God ( Revelation 20:6;  22:7 ).

William E. Brown

Bibliography . W. Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament  ; H.-G. Link and U. Becker, NIDNTT, 3:206-18.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [2]

Consistently the Bible refers to the gifts that God gives, whether material or spiritual, as blessings ( Genesis 9:1;  Leviticus 25:21;  Numbers 6:22-26;  Psalms 115:12-15;  Proverbs 10:22;  Ephesians 1:3;  Hebrews 6:7). Often it contrasts God’s blessings with his cursings or punishments ( Deuteronomy 11:26-28;  Deuteronomy 27:12-13;  Deuteronomy 30:19).

Even in ordinary human relationships, to desire blessing or cursing for another person meant to desire benefits or calamities for that person ( Genesis 27:12;  Numbers 22:6;  Romans 12:14;  James 3:10-11). A blessing in this sense was not a mere expression of good wishes, but an announcement that people believed carried with it the power to make the wishes come true ( Genesis 27:27-29;  Genesis 27:33;  Genesis 49:1;  Genesis 49:28;  Numbers 24:10;  2 Samuel 7:29). (For a similar idea, but with opposite results, see Curse .)

People gave blessings on important occasions, most notably at births, marriages and farewells ( Genesis 14:18-19;  Genesis 24:60;  Ruth 4:14-15;  Mark 10:13-16;  Luke 2:33-35;  Luke 24:50). Usually the person of higher status blessed the one of lower status ( Hebrews 7:7; cf.  Genesis 14:18-20).

The blessing that people in Israelite families wanted most was the prophetic announcement by which the head of the family passed on favours to his children ( Genesis 27:36-41;  Genesis 48:8-22;  Genesis 49:1-28; Deuteronomy 33;  Hebrews 11:20-21;  Hebrews 12:17). Probably the most striking example of a blessing carrying with it the power of certain fulfilment was God’s blessing to Abraham that promised him a people and a land ( Genesis 12:1-3;  Genesis 26:24).

Since a blessing expressed the desire for a person’s well-being, it was also used as a formal greeting, even from an inferior to a superior ( Genesis 47:7-10). A blessing could therefore become an expression of praise, and in this sense grateful people can bless God ( Psalms 28:6;  Psalms 31:21;  Psalms 41:13;  Daniel 2:19-20;  Mark 11:9-10;  Luke 1:68;  Romans 1:25;  Ephesians 1:3). A thanksgiving to God such as before eating a meal is sometimes called a blessing ( Mark 6:41;  Mark 8:7;  Mark 14:22;  1 Corinthians 10:16).

There is another word sometimes translated ‘blessed’ that refers to the happiness or well-being of a person. It is usually used to denote the contented state of the person who lives uprightly according to God’s principles and who, as a result, enjoys God’s favour ( Psalms 1:1;  Psalms 32:1;  Psalms 41:1;  Proverbs 3:13;  Matthew 11:6;  Matthew 16:17;  Luke 1:45;  Luke 12:37;  Romans 4:6-9;  James 1:12;  Revelation 16:15). When people enter God’s kingdom and live under the kingly rule of Christ, they experience the sort of deep seated joy that Christ himself experienced. Such joy is a foretaste of the greater blessedness that will be theirs when they are with Christ in the day of his kingdom’s final glory ( Matthew 5:2-11;  Matthew 25:34;  John 15:11; see Joy ).

People's Dictionary of the Bible [3]

Blessing.  Genesis 12:2. This word is variously used in Scripture. God is said to bless his creatures. This is not merely the expression of a wish for their welfare, but the actual bestowal of some good, or the means towards a good.  Genesis 1:22;  Genesis 32:29;  Job 42:12;  Acts 8:26; and elsewhere. Sometimes creatures are said to bless their Creator, when they acknowledge his kindnesses and seek to show forth his praise.  Psalms 103:1-2;  Psalms 134:1-2. Sometimes men bless their fellow-creatures, when they express their gratitude for favors received, pray for a blessing upon them, or predict their prosperity.  Genesis 14:18-20;  Genesis 28:1;  Numbers 24:10;  Job 29:13. And, as thus to bless is the expression of gratitude or kindness, so a token of gratitude or kindness, that is, a gift, is sometimes called a blessing.  2 Kings 5:15.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [4]

There are two distinct applications of the word 'blessing.' God blesses His people, and His people bless God, the same word being constantly used for both. It is obvious therefore that it must be understood in more senses than one. Again, we read that "the less [or inferior] is blessed of the better,"  Hebrews 7:7; and though this refers to Melchisedec blessing Abraham, the same thing is true respecting God and His creatures: in bestowing favours God is the only one who can bless. The Christian can say, God hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ,"  Ephesians 1:3; but the same verse says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," meaning "Thanks be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." This signification is further made clear by the records of the institution of the Lord's supper. In Matthew and Mark the Lord took bread, and 'blessed.' In Luke and in  1 Corinthians 11:24 He took bread and 'gave thanks.' "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights."   James 1:17 . This is God blessing us, and for which we in return bless God by giving thanks, by praise and worship.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [5]

"The less is blessed of the better" ( Hebrews 7:7). Aaron and the priests pronounced the benediction ( Numbers 6:22-27;  Deuteronomy 10:8). Jacob and Moses gave dying blessings prophetical of the character and history of the several tribes (Genesis 49; Deuteronomy 33). The cup in the Lord's supper is called "the cup of blessing" from the Passover cup of wine called so because "blessing" was offered over it to God.  1 Corinthians 10:15.

Paul says, "the cup which WE bless," namely, the minister and the congregation; not he alone by any priestly authority, but as representing the congregation who virtually through Him bless the cup. The celebrant is the church. The minister is the leader of the congregation. The consecration is the corporate act of the whole church. The joint blessing by him and them (not the cup itself, which in the Greek is not nominative but accusative) and the consequent drinking together constitute the "communion," i.e. joint participation of the blood of Christ.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [6]

Referring both to God and to man. When God blesses, he bestows that efficacy which renders his blessing effectual. His blessings are either temporal or spiritual, bodily or mental; but in every thing they really convey the good which they import,  Numbers 6:23-27 . The blessings of men to other men, unless they be inspired prophecies, as in  Genesis 32:32   Deuteronomy 33:1   1:1-29 , are only good wishes, personal or official, and as it were a peculiar kind of prayer to the Author of all good for the welfare of the subject of them. Blessing, on the part of man towards God, is an act of thanks-giving for his mercies,  Psalm 103:1; or rather, for that special mercy which at the time occasions the act of blessing: as for food, for which thanks are rendered to God, or for any other good,  Psalm 116:13   1 Corinthians 10:16 .

King James Dictionary [7]

BLESS'ING, ppr. Making happy wishing happiness to praising or extolling consecrating by prayer.

BLESS'ING,n. Benediction a wish of happiness pronounced a prayer imploring happiness upon another.

1. A solemn prophetic benediction, in which happiness is desired, invoked or foretold.

This is the blessing wherewith Moses--blessed the children of Israel.  Deuteronomy 33

2. Any means of happiness a gift,benefit or advantage that which promotes temporal prosperity and welfare, or secures immortal felicity. A just and pious magistrate is a public blessing. The divine favor is the greatest blessing. 3. Among the Jews,a present a gift either because it was attended with kind wishes for the welfare of the giver, or because it was the means of increasing happiness.

Take, I pray thee, my blessing that is brought to thee.  Genesis 33

Webster's Dictionary [8]

(1): (v. t.) A means of happiness; that which promotes prosperity and welfare; a beneficent gift.

(2): (v. t.) A gift.

(3): (v. t.) Grateful praise or worship.

(4): (v. t.) A declaration of divine favor, or an invocation imploring divine favor on some or something; a benediction; a wish of happiness pronounces.

(5): (v. t.) The act of one who blesses.

(6): (p. pr. & vb. n.) of Bless

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [9]

Blessing . See Beatitudes.

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [10]

See Benediction.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [11]

(בּרכה , berākhāh  ; εὐλογία , eulogı́a ): Sometimes means the form of words used in invoking the bestowal of good, as in  Deuteronomy 33:1;  Joshua 8:34; and  James 3:10 . Sometimes it means the good or the benefit itself which has been conferred, as in  Genesis 27:36 , "Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me?" and  Proverbs 10:22 , "The blessing of Yahweh, it maketh rich." "The cup of blessing" (τὸ ποτήριον τῆς εὐλογίας , tó potḗrion tḗs eulogı́as , a special use of the word in  1 Corinthians 10:16 ), means the cup for which we bless God, or which represents to us so much blessin g from God.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [12]

The terms 'blessing' and 'to bless' occur very often in the Scriptures, and in applications too obvious to require explanation or comment. The patriarchal blessings of sons form the exception, these being, in fact, prophecies rather than blessings, or blessings only in so far as they for the most part involved the invocation and the promise of good things to come upon the parties concerned. The most remarkable instances are those of Isaac 'blessing' Jacob and Esau (Genesis 27); of Jacob 'blessing' his twelve sons (Genesis 49); and of Moses 'blessing the twelve tribes' (Deuteronomy 32).