bless(ed)

The Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic that is translated into English as “(to) bless” or “blessed” is translated into a wide variety of possibilities.

The Hebrew term barak (and the Aramaic term berak) also (and originally) means “to kneel” (a meaning which the word has retained — see Gen. 24:11) which helps to explains why in Biblical Hebrew the same word can be used for God blessing people (or things), people blessing each other, or even people blessing God. While in English this has not been a stumbling block to always using the same term (“bless” in its various forms), other languages need to make distinctions (see below).

Interestingly, in Bari spoken in South Sudan, the connection between blessing and knees/legs is still apparent. For Genesis 30:30 (in English: “the Lord has blessed you wherever I turned”) Bari uses a common expression that says (much like the Hebrew) , ‘. . . blessed you to my feet.'” (Source: P. Guillebaud in The Bible Translator 1965, p. 189ff.)

Other examples for the translation include:

  • “to think well of” (San Blas Kuna)
  • “to speak good to” (Amganad Ifugao)
  • “to make happy” (Pohnpeian)
  • “to-cause-to-live-as-a-chief” (Zulu)
  • “to sprinkle with a propitious (lit. cool) face,” (a poetic expression occurring in the priests’ language) (Toraja Sa’dan) (source for this and above: Reiling / Swellengrebel),
  • “give good things” (Mairasi) (source: Enggavoter 2004)
  • “asking good” Yakan) (source: Yakan back translation)
  • “praised, saying good things” (Central Yupik) (source: Robert Bascom)
  • “caused to be pierced by words causing grace/favor” (Tagbanwa) (source: Tagbanwa back translation)

Ixcatlán Mazatec had to select a separate term when relating “to people ‘blessing’ God” (or things of God — see 1 Cor. 10:16): “praise(d)” or “give thanks for” (in 1 Cor. 10:16) (“as it is humans doing the ‘blessing’ and people do not bless the things of God or God himself the way God blesses people — source: Robert Bascom). Eastern Bru also uses “praise” for this usage (source: Bru back translation). Uma uses “appropriate/worthy to be worshipped” for “blessed” when referring to God (source: Uma back translation).

When related to someone who is blessing someone else it is translated into Tsou as “to speak good hopes for.” In Waiwai it is translated as “may God be good and kind to you now.” (Sources: Peng Kuo-Wei for Tsou and Robert Hawkins in The Bible Translator 1962, pp. 164ff. for Waiwai).

See also bless (food and drink) and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Josh 17:14)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse, the Jarai and the Adamawa Fulfulde translation both use the exclusive pronoun, excluding Joshua.