Stop, and think how often you have sneezed and heard someone say, bless you? We all want to be blessed, and when we hear someone say bless you, it lifts our spirit.

Bless is a word I cherish.  

Typically, it functions as a part of the closing address in emails and handwritten letters, and I often speak it as a word of parting when ending conversations.  However, it was only after examining this little word, that I gained a greater depth of its meaning. So, let’s dig deeper and challenge our knowledge of this small but very important word.

When we study the Bible, we should follow three basic paths. 

First, we must consider the language in which the text was written. Second, as they say, “context, context, context.” And third, we must consider the culture from which the author writes to determine how the word was used when it was written.

Finding meaning through language, context, and culture can be challenging, but we have many tools at our fingertips to aid in that effort.  No one has all the answers, but there are measures we can take to see biblical texts more clearly, thereby gaining a greater comprehension of the words we think we understand. 

Let’s consider the word bless, or a form thereof, from the language standpoint.

The online Merriam-Webster dictionary says bless means to hallow, consecrate, praise, glorify, approve, protect, and preserve.  The Hebrew definition follows the same, but adds: sanctify, consecrate, and kneel.  The Greek word for blessed means blessed and happy, but one author says it was initially used to describe those who lived in another world far from the problems and worries of others. Now there’s something to think about.

For this lesson, we will base our study on the ancient Hebrew language using the verb form of bless –[Heb. barak]. Bless is an abstract word, which means it is not concrete, making it more difficult to define.  To be abstract is to be based on ideas and concepts, not on definite terms we can examine with our senses.  To find the concrete meaning of bless, it helps to look at the core Hebrew letters of the word barak.

[Note: The Hebrew language may be the oldest language we know.  Meanings of the ancient Hebrew letters have been passed down throughout the centuries and exceed the scope of my interpretation.]

The original form of bless

The original form of bless consists of three letters: the bet, the resh, and the kaf.  When we examine these letters in light of the ancient Hebrew language, we find that the first letter bet represents a house, household, or family and presents a picture of a tent, a container, or a vessel.  The resh represents the head, as in man, or the top of a ripened stalk of wheat with its seed, giving the idea of being first, beginning, and that which has potential for exponential growth, i.e., the seed.  The kaf holds the idea of cupped hands, as in our open palms, ready to give or receive.  The kaf, in its original form is a bent letter symbolizing humility, as in bowing or kneeling.

Now that we have unfolded a small aspect of the ancient Hebrew language, we will try to see how these three letters function in context and culture, highlighting each letter in each verse.

The occurrences of the verb form of bless

The first occurrence of the verb form of bless is found in Genesis 1:22 – “And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.”  (First occurrences in Scripture carry importance for subsequent times a word is mentioned).

In this first verse of blessing, the bet stands strong as a picture of the house or dwelling made by God.

The blessing is given from the Creator to His creation, directed to living creatures in His house. Interestingly, God blessed His creation before man was ever placed on the scene.

When God spoke His blessing, He infused tremendous energy giving lifeforce to all sea creatures and everything that flies in the air. In addition, we should realize that the blessing the Lord spoke to His creation on the fifth day had no ending and is still in effect. Imagine that? That means the blessing given to creation did not have a time constraint. It is relevant, up-to-date, and applicable. It is currently an active blessing being received by creation at this very moment. Did you catch the inference? God’s Word never changes.  What the Lord said in the beginning has not changed; it remains forever, just as Malachi 3.6 says,For I am the Lord, I change not….”  Indeed, we can say that the extent of blessing, as seen in the first letter (the bet) of the first occurrence of the word bless, literally means His creation (house) is in a state of continual blessing.

Now, let us consider the second letter, resh.

Genesis 1:27, 28 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”  In these verses, we notice the blessing given to creation was also given to man – that of multiplying, filling the earth, and continuing their existence. However, the blessing given to man exceeded that given to creation, in that man was given kingship over all other life forms. In addition, just as the blessing to creation is without end, likewise the blessing spoken to man has not been revoked, has no time constraint, and continues in our present day.

The letter resh symbolizes the head of man, as in leadership, and that which can grow. Imagine how this first couple must have felt being endowed with wisdom, energy, and the ability to rule over all living things! To be king over the earth! What a gift! And to build your house through your offspring – what a blessing! 

The final letter in today’s lesson is the kaf. 

The kaf speaks of humility, bowing down, and one who presents cupped hands, which both give and receive.  Notice Abraham’s servant Eleazar in these three verses from Genesis 24. Verse 48 says,  And I bowed down my head, and worshipped the Lord, and blessed the Lord God of my master Abraham, which had led me in the right way to take my master’s brother’s daughter unto his son.

52 And it came to pass, that, when Abraham’s servant heard their words, he worshipped the Lord, bowing himself to the earth.

53 And the servant brought forth jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment, and gave them to Rebekah: he gave also to her brother and to her mother precious things. 

Abraham’s servant is an excellent picture of the letter kaf within the context of the word bless.  In these verses, we see the reverse of the earlier verses.  Here, man is the one offering blessing, and the Creator is the one receiving.  Notice Eleazar’s humility as he bowed his head and praised the Lord for his successful journey.  We can only speculate, but surely, Eleazar considered the far-reaching generational effects of finding the right bride for Isaac.  As he journeyed, perhaps he thought about the bet, being a part of building his master’s house, or the resh, in thinking of his master’s son having great influence and leadership.  One thing is sure, Eleazar’s heart is represented by the kaf – a heart of humility. We see him bowing with thanksgiving as he fulfills his master’s wish to find a wife for Isaac.  His journey of faith had been met with great blessing. When Eleazar had completed his mission to find a bride for Isaac, he took time and offered thanksgiving to the Lord.  But he didn’t stop there; he gave gifts to Rebekah and her family. Isn’t it interesting to note that when we have humility of heart, we delight in praising God and giving to others?


As we conclude this lesson, let us briefly review these Hebrew letters in reference to the word bless. We no longer have an abstract meaning but a concrete picture of God’s house continuing with man as the king.  We also see a picture of how man is to rule – like that of a humble servant on a mission to please his master. When Abraham’s servant blessed the Lord, he verbally praised the Lord, gave gifts (to Rebekah and her family), and physically bowed, presenting a picture of humility before God and man.

So, whether we bless others or are being blessed, we must remember that blessing first comes from the Lord.  He set a pattern in the beginning that we should follow.  His pattern calls for verbal blessing, performing theblessing, and doing it all with humility.

With that thought in mind, when was the last time you acknowledged the blessing of the Lord?  When was the last time you physically bowed with humility of heart, and thanked your heavenly Father for all His blessings?  Did you stop there?  Or did you follow Eleazar’s and our Lord’s examples (Ephesians 4) by offering gifts to men? Let your mind ponder that.

More to come in part 2.

And as always, . . .blessings~


Copyright © Sheilah Smith 2023