Does the Bible say how blessings are bestowed on others? Is this only done in a general way, or are specific procedures also involved?


In Genesis 1:22, we are introduced for the first time to the concept of blessing. God created sea animals and birds and, in blessing them, He said that they were to be fruitful and multiply. In Genesis 1:28, God blessed the first man and the first woman and said that they were to be fruitful and multiply as well (compare also Genesis 5:2). Then, in Genesis 2:3, we are introduced to the third blessing of God—He blessed the Sabbath day and sanctified it (compare also Exodus 20:11).

The Pulpit Commentary writes that blessing means, “to wish well… As on the introduction of animal life the Divine Creator conferred on the creatures his blessing, so when the first pair of human beings are formed they are likewise enriched by their Creator’s benediction.”

Regarding the blessing of the seventh day, the Benson Commentary writes: “He conferred on it peculiar honour, and annexed to it special privileges above those granted to any other day…” Barnes’ Notes on the Bible adds: “Blessing results in the bestowment of some good on the object blessed. The only good that can be bestowed on a portion of time is to dedicate it to a noble use, a special and pleasing enjoyment.”

We see, then, that blessing can refer to people, animals or even time in a very GENERAL way. Subsequently, God would bless the entire nation of Israel (Numbers 24:1; Deuteronomy 26:15), and Moses would also say a blessing for the entire congregation of Israel (Exodus 39:43), as did King Solomon (2 Chronicles 6:3) and the priests (2 Chronicles 30:27).  Jesus Christ blessed a meal (Mark 6:41), as He had promised the entire nation of Israel, to bless bread and water in case of their obedience (Exodus 23:25). We read about the cup of blessing, referring to the wine (symbolic for the blood of Christ) at Passover (1 Corinthians 10:16). Also note that Christ blessed the Passover bread—symbolic for His broken body (Matthew 26:26). We also read that people blessed God (Joshua 22:33; 1 Chronicles 29:10,20; Nehemiah 8:6; Daniel 2:19; Luke 2:28; James 3:9), in the sense of speaking well of and praising and thanking God.

We are told that we ought to bless our enemies and those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:28; Romans 12:14). The quoted examples above have shown us how blessings are bestowed in a more GENERAL way.

But we also find quite a few examples in the Bible where humans were blessed by others in a very INDIVIDUAL and SPECIFIC way.

In our Q&A about the concept of “laying on of hands,” we referred to several incidents when specific blessings were and are bestowed on others in connection with the laying on of hands of Christ or His ministers. We gave five specific examples of laying on of hands (baptism; healing; marriage; blessing of little children; and ordination). In the case of little children, it is specifically mentioned that Christ took up the little children “in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them” (Mark 10:13-16). We said: “The Church of God now follows this example by setting aside a time during the annual Feast of Tabernacles celebrations to bless little children, and especially, to ask God to grant them His protection and guidance.”

Even though in the four other examples discussed in our Q&A, the word “blessing” is not specifically mentioned, it is clear that in each case, blessings are involved. Note, for instance, that the symbolic act of laying on of hands at baptism “sets the baptized person aside or sanctifies him or her for the divine purpose of receiving from God His Holy Spirit.” What a spiritual blessing from God that is! (Compare also Ephesians 1:3). The prayer for the blessing of healing is accompanied with the laying on of hands by the elders. During the marriage ceremony, the minister “places his hands on the couple, while asking God in prayer to sanctify the marriage and to set aside the couple for the holy purpose of the marriage relationship”—so that the marriage will be blessed by God. And finally, ordinations “are always accompanied by the laying on of hands–setting the ordained person aside for the godly office of a deacon or deaconess or an elder.” This act manifests that “all official gifts flow… from the Church’s glorified Head.”

The point to notice is that in these cases, blessings were bestowed not in a general way, but through the LAYING ON OF HANDS. In light of this, let us examine numerous biblical passages which also indicate that individual blessings were bestowed on others in a very specific way—not just in a “general” way—through the laying on of hands by the one bestowing the blessing. In our Q&A, we stated: “The ‘laying on of hands’ is a symbolic act, setting individuals apart for God’s special intervention. Already in Old Testament times, it was understood as symbolizing the imparting of godly blessings (Genesis 48:13-20), His authority and spiritual power (Numbers 27:18; Deuteronomy 34:9).”

The above-quoted passage in Genesis 48:13-20, makes very clear that Jacob blessed Ephraim and Manasseh—the sons of Joseph—by laying his hands on their heads (compare also Hebrews 11:21). Even when general blessings were bestowed on a group of people, these were many times signified by hands which were lifted up, even though hands might not have been laid specifically on each one in attendance (Leviticus 9:22; 1 Kings 8:54-56; Luke 24:50-51).

Let us consider additional examples of very specific and individual blessings.

First, we will review two more examples when GOD BLESSED humans QUITE SPECIFICALLY during PERSONAL encounters:

We read that Melchizedek (Jesus Christ) blessed Abraham (Genesis 14:18-20). This occurred during a personal meeting between them. What was specifically involved here?  Based on the other passages, noted above, it stands to reason that Melchizedek blessed Abraham by laying His hands on him. In Hebrews 7:1-7, we read that Melchizedek, as the “better,” blessed Abraham, the “lesser.”

When Jacob wrestled with the “LORD”—Jesus Christ—he insisted that God would bless him before he would let Him go. God did so, changing his name from Jacob to Israel (Genesis 32:23-32). We can clearly see that this was not a general blessing, but a very SPECIAL act of a blessing which was apparently bestowed on him in a very specific way. Subsequently, God appeared again to Jacob to bless him (Genesis 35:9-13; compare also Genesis 48:3).

Let us now review further examples when people were individually and SPECIFICALLY BLESSED BY OTHER PEOPLE:

Isaac’s blessing of Jacob involved a very specific act (Genesis 27:4), and it was understood to be “in the presence of the LORD” (verse 7). In fact, this blessing—as well as Isaac’s blessing of Esau—was inspired by God (Hebrews 11:20). Later, before Jacob’s departure, Isaac blessed him again very specifically  (Genesis 28:1-4).

We read that Jacob blessed Pharaoh who had treated Joseph kindly (Genesis 47:7, 10). Israel also blessed every one of his twelve sons with a special blessing (Genesis 49:28). Joshua blessed Caleb for his faithfulness (Joshua 14:7-8, 13), and Eli blessed Elkanah and his wife—the parents of Samuel (1 Samuel 2:20). We read that David blessed his household (2 Samuel 6:20), and he also blessed Barzillai (2 Samuel 19:39), because he had helped David when he had fled from Absalom (2 Samuel 17:27-29). Finally, we read that the prophet Simeon, a just and devout man, blessed Mary and Joseph in the temple (Luke 2:25-34).

All these incidents of individual blessings through other humans were very special and specific. Even though the Bible does not say expressly that laying on of hands was involved, this is very likely to be the case, in light of other biblical passages and in consideration of the important symbolic meaning of the laying on of hands and the significance of the particular blessing.

Those blessings included the wish for God’s special favor and guidance on others and the plea to God to answer these prayers. We are reminded of the wording of a very well-known collective priestly blessing on the house of Israel and Judah, which, according to tradition, was passed on with lifted-up hands, and which reads as follows (compare Numbers 6:22-27):

“And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, “This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: ‘The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.’”’ So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.”

The Life Application Study Bible has the following annotations to this passage:

“A blessing was one way of asking for God’s divine favor to rest upon others. The ancient blessing in these verses helps us understand what a blessing was supposed to do. Its five parts conveyed hope that God would (1) bless and protect them; (2) smile upon them (be pleased); (3) be gracious (merciful and compassionate); (4) show his favor toward them (give his approval); (5) give peace. When you ask God to bless others or yourself, you are asking him to do these five things. The blessing you offer will not only help the one receiving it, it will also demonstrate love, encourage others, and provide a model of caring for others.”

In fact, we read in 1 Peter 3:8-9:

“Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.”

The commentary of Rienecker, Lexikon zur Bibel, states this about blessing:

“According to the Holy Scriptures, blessing (in opposition to cursing) is the gift of godly… favors towards men, be it through God Himself or through people who act within the power of God… The strength of the blessing passes on to the blessed person… it is transmitted through words… and the laying on of hands… The blessing can include the offspring…, the possession…, and the environment … of the blessed… Ultimately, it is always God who blesses… The Hebrew and Greek words for blessing can also mean praising and thanking.”

All of us are most certainly called upon to bless others in general ways and to speak well of them and wish them happiness. However, we should understand that at least since the establishment of the New Testament Church, only ordained ministers, acting “within the power of God,” should be laying their hands on others, including for the purpose of bestowing a godly blessing upon them. This is more fully explained in our above-quoted Q&A, and no biblical example exists which would indicate the contrary.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

©2024 Church of the Eternal God