A blessing, according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, is “the act or words of one that blesses,” or “a thing conducive to happiness or welfare.” In the Bible, there are several words that are usually translated as “blessing” or “bless.” The Hebrew word most often translated “bless” is barak, which can mean to praise, congratulate, or salute, and is even used to mean a curse. Genesis 1:22 is the first occurrence, when God blessed the sea creatures and birds, telling them to be fruitful and multiply in the earth. Likewise, in verse 28, God gave the similar blessing to Adam and Eve, adding that they were to exercise dominion over creation. When God called Abram to go to the Promised Land (Genesis 12:1-3), He promised to bless him, make his name great, and through him, to bless all the families of the earth. The blessings here are plainly associated with happiness and welfare, both for Abram and others. In Genesis 22:16-18, God again blesses Abram, and adds that blessing is due to his obedience to God’s commands.
God is not the only one who pronounces blessings. When Rebekah left her family to become Isaac’s wife (Genesis 24:60), her family blessed her by saying “may you increase to thousands upon thousands; may your offspring possess the gates of their enemies.” When Isaac was ready to die, he pronounced this blessing on his son, Jacob: “May God give you of heaven’s dew and of earth’s richness— an abundance of grain and new wine. May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed” (Genesis 27:28-29).
Another Hebrew word for blessing is esher, which is also translated as happiness. Job 5:17 declares “Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.” This blessing is connected to the knowledge that God is at work to direct us in the right path. God’s chastisement is actually a display of His love for us, like a parent who disciplines a child who plays in the middle of the street. Psalm 1:1-3 carries that theme further when it states, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” The book of Psalms is full of references to this kind of happy blessing for those who love and fear the Lord God.
In the New Testament, there are two primary Greek words translated as “blessing.” Makarios carries the meaning of happiness that we just looked at. The Beatitudes of Matthew 5 and Luke 6 describe the happy state of those who find their purpose and fulfillment in God. As in the Psalms, the best life is available for those who love and fear God and order their lives according to His Word. Romans 4:6-8 ties this happy blessing to those whose sins are forgiven, for they know the relationship to God has been restored. Eulogeo focuses more on good words or the good report that others give of someone and also describes the blessing that we say over our food (Matthew 26:26). This word is where we get our English word “eulogy,” in which we speak well of one who has passed away. Ephesians 1:3 blesses God for all the blessings that He gives us in Christ, and 1 Peter 3:9 instructs us to bless those who mistreat us, because we were called to receive a blessing from God.
Bringing these threads together, we see that a blessing is a statement of good will and happiness that is said about another, as well as the condition that fulfills those good words. God’s original design in creation was for His creatures, including mankind, to experience prosperity, peace, and fulfillment, but that design was ruined when sin entered the world. Statements of blessing are a wish for God to restore His favor on others or a declaration of His inherent goodness. The ultimate blessing that God has given is the new life and forgiveness that comes through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. The material blessings we enjoy from day to day are temporary, but the spiritual blessings available to us in Christ encompass time and eternity, as well as material and immaterial things. As the Psalmist said, “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God” (Psalm 146:5).