And I Shall Bless Those Who Bless You
“And I shall bless those who bless you, and curse him who curses you. And in you all the clans of the earth shall be blessed.” Gen 12:3
In our Hebrew study the Creator said to Avram to go out of his land and from your father’s house, and to go to a land which He would show him. And then He promised him to make him a great nation and bless him, and make his name great, and he, Avram, will be a blessing.
But the Creator did not stop there. He continued with blessings and curses for the other nations all depends on how they will treat Avram’s descendants with which we come to the blessing and curses in Gen 12:3.
Firstly, we should ask what blessing and curse are. The common perception is that a blessing is a ceremonial prayer invoking divine protection but in a more general term it is seen as a desirable state of wellbeing. On the other hand, a curse is to cause harm or invoke evil upon someone.
In order to understand the blessing and curses from a Hebraic perspective, we will make a word-for-word translation of Gen 12:3.
ואברכה And I will bless מברכיך them that bless ומקללך him that curseth אאר thee, and curse
ונברכו be blessed בך כל thee and in thee shall all משׁפחת families האדמה׃ of the earth
The first Hebrew word is barak.
בָּרַךְ barak. This word literally means to kneel to bend the knee to kneel in homage, hence the idea of giving honor to another.
Its literal meaning can be found in Gen 48:12 where Ya’akov blessed Yoseph’s sons Menasheh and Ephrayim and adopted them. From that moment on they became his sons and equal to the other sons of Ya’akov:
So Yoseph brought them (Menasheh and Ephrayim) from between his knees, and he bowed down with his face to the earth.
In Gen_48:12 we see that Ya’akov “blessed” them by putting Ephrayim and Menasheh between his knees . So, the word בָּרַךְ barak does not mean only to kneel but also to put someone on one’s knee.
It is interesting that in Peshita, Gen 48:12 is translated as,
And Joseph removed them from before his knees, and they bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground. (LBP)
And indeed, this is what the phrase “YHVH will bless you” in Num_6:24-26 means: He puts you on His knees and you bow down to Him.
קָלַל kalal, means to be (make) light, meaning diminished, to make something that is light in stature, considered worthless.
The literal meaning of קָלַל kahlal, can be seen in the following verses:
Your father made our yoke hard, and now, lighten (קָלַל kahlal) the hard service of your father, and his heavy yoke which he put on us, then we serve you. (1Ki 12:4)
Sons of Adam are but a breath, sons of men are a lie. If weighed in the scales, they are altogether lighter (קָלַל kahlal) than breath. (Psa 62:9)
And the seamen were afraid, and each one cried out to his mighty one, and threw the cargo which was in the ship into the sea, to lighten (קָלַל kahlal) the load. But Yonah had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship, and he lay down, and was fast asleep. (Jon 1:5)
In these examples (קָלַל kahlal) can hardly be translated as “to curse.”
But its figurative application “to despise” can be found in Gen 16:4-5 where we read:
And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes. And Sarai said to Avram, “My wrong be upon you! I gave my female servant into your bosom. And when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised (קָלַל kahlal) in her eyes. Let Yehovah judge between you and me.” (Gen 16:4-5)
Here, we see that Sarai the wife of Avram felt “lightened” in authority and honor in his household, that is, she was diminished in Hagar’s eyes as her mistress and thus lessened her authority, dignity, and reputation in the eyes of all her servants. Or, in other words Sarai felt that she was brought to naught.
אָרַר arar. This Hebrew word comes from a two-letter root רַר rar, and means “to spit”, as one curses by spitting on something or someone.
כֹּל kol, comes from כָּלַל kalal, to complete whole; hence all, any or every.
מִשְׁפָּחָה mishpachah, a family.
אֲדָמָה adamah, land, earth.
Now, let us return to the Hebrew word בָּרַךְ barak. In Hebrew some words can be pronounced using different vowels. Let us bear in mind that there are no vowels in Hebrew and they are assumed. Per the sages this word has a different root origin meaning to intermingle, to graft in. The grafting is done by cutting the branches under an angle so when they are connected the connection looks like a knee and the engrafted branch looks like the natural branches. Here we may invoke Apostle Shaul’s comparison of the grafting process and the adoption of the gentiles into Israel which he makes in Romans 11. So, the same Hebrew word בּרך , means to graft in and by implication to adopt. And again, this is exactly what Ya’akov did when he put his grandsons on his knees: he adopted them.
With this new understanding, we may see an alternative translation of the above verse:
ואברכה And I will put on my knees מברכיך them that kneel before you
ומקללך and him who diminishes you אאר I will spit on
ונברכו and shall be grafted בך in you כל all משׁפחת families האדמה of the earth