Q&A: Blessing God

Blessing God

Question

In what ways can we bless God? Where are the references?

Answer

The word generally translated "bless" in the Old Testament is the Hebrew word barak. Barak can mean many different things, depending on its context. The same thing is true of the Greek word eulogeo, which is frequently translated "bless."

When we think of blessing things, most often in our modern context we think of one of two things: 1) making things holy (sanctifying them, dedicating them to God); or 2) bestowing rewards or good things (as receiving the blessings of the covenant in Christ).

However, these meanings do not make much sense when we think of men blessing God. Rather, the meaning most often associated with blessing God is more like "adore with bent knees." In fact, one word closely associated with the Hebrew verb barak is the Hebrew noun berek, which means "knee." Another very common meaning, or perhaps just a slightly different nuance of the first meaning, is simply "praise." In this sense, to "bless the Lord" is to "(bow down and) worship/adore/praise him." Some verses bring out the idea of bending the knee rather clearly (e.g. Gen. 24:48; 1 Chron. 29:20), while others explicitly bring out the idea of praise (e.g. Ps. 34:1).

Of course, the original audiences of the Bible (i.e. native Hebrew and Greek speakers) didn't need explicit descriptions of "bless" because they already knew the wide ranges of meanings of the words barak and eulogeo. This is one reason that most uses of the word "bless" don't tell us how to do it, but simply assume we already know. Nevertheless, the context of many uses of the word "bless" indicates the range of meaning to us. The idea of "praise" is especially evident in the many psalms which proclaim God's praises or blessings. Quite a number of good translations actually render barak and eulogeo as "praise" in these contexts, and they are perfectly justified in doing so.

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.