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Numbers 6:22-27

Context
The Priestly Benediction

6:22 1 The Lord spoke to Moses: 6:23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is the way 2  you are to bless 3  the Israelites. Say 4  to them:

6:24 “The Lord bless you 5  and protect 6  you;

6:25 The Lord make his face to shine upon you,

and be gracious to you; 7 

6:26 The Lord lift up his countenance upon you 8 

and give you peace.”’

6:27 So they will put my name 9  on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”

1 sn This brief section records the blessing of the priest, especially the high priest after he emerges from the holy of holies to bless the people (see Lev 9:22). The two main elements in the oracle are “grace and peace.” It is probable that the Apostle Paul based his salutations on this oracle. For additional information, see L. J. Liebreich, “The Songs of Ascent and the Priestly Blessing,” JBL 74 (1955): 33-36; P. D. Miller, “The Blessing of God: An Interpretation of Num 6:22-27,” Int 29 (1975): 240-51; and A. Murtonen, “The Use and Meaning of the Words lébarek and bérakah in the Old Testament,” VT 9 (1959): 158-77.

2 tn Or “thus.”

3 tn The Piel imperfect has the nuance of instruction. The particle “thus” explains that the following oracle is the form to use.

4 tn Here is the only use of the verb אָמַר (’amar) as an infinitive absolute; it functions as a verb form, an imperative or an imperfect of instruction. Several commentators have attempted to emend the text to get around the difficulty, but such emendations are unnecessary.

5 tn The short blessing uses the jussive throughout, here the Piel jussive with a pronominal suffix. While the jussive has quite a range of nuances, including wish, desire, prayer, or greeting, the jussives here are stronger. The formal subject of the verb is the Lord, and the speaker pronouncing the blessing is the priest, notably after emerging from the holy of holies where atonement has been made. The Lord says in this passage that when the priest says this, then the Lord will bless them. The jussive then is an oracle, not a wish or a prayer. It is a declaration of what the Lord imparts. It is as binding and sure as a patriarchal blessing which once said officially could not be taken back. The priest here is then pronouncing the word of the Lord, declaring to the congregation the outcome of the atonement.

6 tn The verb “to keep” concerns the divine protection of the people; its basic meaning is “to exercise great care over,” “to guard,” or “to give attention to” (see TWOT 2:939). No doubt the priestly blessing informed the prayer and promise that makes up Ps 121, for the verb occurs six times in the eight verses. So in addition to the divine provision (“bless” basically means “enrich” in a number of ways) there is the assurance of divine protection.

7 tn Whereas the first line of the blessing had three Hebrew words, the second has five, and the third has seven. In this second line and the following third, the blessing takes the form of an emblem followed by the truth. For the Lord to make his face shine on them would mean to be gracious to them. M. Noth rightly calls this image of the shining face “a figure of speech for benevolence and favour” (Numbers [OTL], 59); see, for example, Pss 4:7; 31:17; 44:4; 67:2; 80:4, 8, 20; 119:135; Dan 9:17). The image may have its inspiration in the theophanies. The picture is of divine favor – the beaming face of a parent for his beloved.

8 tn The last line of the blessing also has first the image and then the parallel interpretation – for God to lift up his face is for God to give peace. The idea of the fallen face is one of anger (see Gen 4:6,7); and the idea of the hidden face is that of withholding support, favor, or peace (see Deut 31:18; Ps 30:8; Ps 44:25). If God lifts his face toward his people, it means he has given them peace – peace, prosperity, completeness, health, safety, general well-being, and the like.

9 tn The idea of their putting the name of Yahweh on the people is somewhat problematic. The pronouncing of the name of Yahweh in this context over the people was taken to be the effectual means of blessings. “Putting the name on them” is an expression that emphasizes the truth that he is their God and they are his people or that having his name is having his blessing.



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