What is the Aaronic Blessing?

The Aaronic Blessing, also called the Priestly Blessing, is the blessing God instructed Aaron and his sons to say over the Israelites in Numbers 6:24–26. It says:

"The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace."

This prayer was said over the people at the conclusion of the daily prayer and sacrificial services at the temple each morning. It is still recited at Jewish synagogues during many services, and many Jewish parents use it to bless their children on Friday evenings. Blessings based on this priestly prayer are also used in Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran liturgies. Many less liturgical Protestant congregations speak the Aaronic Blessing as a benediction on occasion, too.

In Hebrew, each verse is progressively longer with the first line being three words, the second line made up of five words, and the third line containing seven words. Each line repeats the name of God, Yahweh, and then conveys two elements of benediction.

The first line of the Aaronic Blessing says, "The LORD bless you and keep you." "Bless" in the original language means to abundantly benefit. "Keep" means to guard, protect, or preserve. So this line requests that God protect His people and benefit them with abundance.

The second line reads, "The LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you." God shining His face upon His people is the opposite of Him hiding His face from them as He claimed He would do in Deuteronomy 31:17 in response to their sin. So this element of the benediction asks for God's presence while hinting at a desire to prevent them from sinning. The call for God to "be gracious" in the original language refers to a request to bestow favor, show mercy, and have pity. Thus, the second element in this line again entreats God for mercy amidst their sin.

The final line of the Aaronic Blessing asks, "The LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace." The phrase "lift up his countenance" in Hebrew meant to turn one's attention toward another in order to take action on that person's behalf. In other words, it is a request that God take note of them and their situation and then act for their benefit. The final element of the benediction is "give you peace." Of course, "peace" in Hebrew is shalom, which signifies not simply an absence of turmoil, but rather complete wholeness, wellbeing, and contentment.

After giving this blessing for the Aaronic priests to recite over the people, God declared, "So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them" (Numbers 6:27). Having just proclaimed His name, Yahweh, three times during the benediction, the people would have no doubt which God they served. Furthermore, "to put my name on" is a Hebrew idiom meaning to share the reputation, so the Israelites were to accurately convey God's character to the nations and peoples around them. Similarly, God told Ananias that Paul was "a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel" (Acts 9:15). God desires to be known upon the earth and He allows humans who know Him to represent Him to others. So this priestly blessing is not only a call for God to bless His people, but also a call for His blessed people to rightly represent Him to others.

Related Truth:

What is the biblical definition of a blessing? What is it to bless in the Bible?

What is a doxology, and is it found in the Bible?

What is a benediction? What are some of the benedictions in the Bible?

What are the names of God? What do the names of God mean?

What is the meaning of 'I AM WHO I AM' in Exodus 3:14?

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