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Numbers 6:24-26: The Priestly Blessing

may He bless you the LORD (Yahweh) and may He keep/guard you may He cause to shine the LORD (Yahweh) His face unto (towards) you and may He show favor to you may He lift up the LORD (Yahweh) His face unto (towards) you and may He grant to you peace (well-being)

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Hebrew Word Order

Hebrew prefers verb-subject order, instead of subject-verb as in English.
Thus: "May the LORD bless you" is expressed in Hebrew "May He bless you, the LORD."
Verbs may take object pronouns as suffixes. Thus in "may He bless - you" and "may He keep - you" and "may He show favor to - you" the word "you" is a suffix (-ka) added to the verb. The same suffix is attached to prepositions also: "unto (towards) - you."

The word (suffix) "you" in this passage occurs 6 times, and each time it is the Hebrew singular "you" (Hebrew also has a plural "you" as well as different forms for masculine and feminine pronouns & suffixes).

Grammar Tips (see below).

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24 May the LORD (Yahweh) bless you,
and may He keep (guard) you.

25 May the LORD (Yahweh) cause His face to shine unto you,
and may He show favor to you.

26 May the LORD (Yahweh) lift up His face unto you,
and may He grant to you peace.


Note: The last phrase "may He grant to you peace" means:
"may Yahweh ordain šālōm as your destiny" (HALOT, 1325).


Verse 24 has 3 words in Hebrew, 15 letters
Verse 25 has 5 words in Hebrew, 20 letters
Verse 26 has 7 words in Hebrew, 25 letters

Antiquity of this text.

Portions of this blessing were written on tiny silver amulets discovered in Jerusalem in 1979. The amulets date to around the 6th century BCE. These are the oldest texts that preserve any part of the Hebrew Bible. The next oldest biblical manuscripts are the Dead Sea Scrolls (3rd century BCE to 1st century CE) and the Nash Papyrus (2nd/1st century BCE).

Links to Silver Amulets.

Also Google: "Ketef Hinnom" and check for Google images.

Grammar Tips to the Hebrew Text.

Verse 24

1st word: The root is ברך. (beth-resh-kaph). See in BDB under the "Pi." (Piel) form.
The initial yod י is the prefix for the imperfect tense. In the priestly blessing, as in many other places in the Hebrew Bible, a special use of the imperfect tense called the "jussive" expresses a desire that something should happen. So instead of: "The LORD will bless you" the idea is "May the LORD bless you," or: "The LORD bless you!" (almost with the force of an imperative).
After the kaph כ of the verbal root, there is an additional kaph (final) ך added to the verb. This is the suffix for the 2nd person masculine pronoun as object of the verb. Hence: "May the LORD bless - you." Note that the English phrase "May the LORD bless you" is just one word in Hebrew!

Hebrew Grammar points to learn:
(1) Piel stem
(2) Verbs that have the middle letter resh
(3) Imperfect and Jussive forms and meanings
(4) Object suffixes attached to verbs.

3rd word: The root is שׁמר (shin-mem-resh). The word is similar in structure to the 1st word (see above). Initial yod for imperfect/jussive. Final kaph for suffix "you."

Verse 25

1st word: The root is אור. The verb in the Qal stem means "to become light, shine." Here, the verb is in the Hiphil stem, which often has a causative sense, hence: "make shine" or "cause to shine." In the Hiphil the 3rd singular masculine jussive form is different from the imperfect. Here it is jussive, hence "may he cause to shine" and not simply "he will cause to shine."
There is a common noun related to this verb: "light" אוֹר (as in Genesis 1, "Let there be light.")

3rd word: פניו. From the noun "face" (פנים) with the suffix יו- for "his." You will find this word in BDB under the root פנה. The noun has a plural form (פָּנִים), but it often has a singular meaning. Hence "his face" and not "his faces."

Hebrew Grammar points to learn:
(1) Nouns with plural forms that have singular meanings.
(2) Possessive pronoun suffixes added to nouns with plural masculine forms.

4th word. The preposition אל (to, unto, for) with the suffix "you."

Hebrew Grammar points to learn:
(1) Pronoun suffixes attached to a group of prepositions that look like the suffixes attached to singular masculine nouns. See below, verse 26, 6th word.
(2) Pronoun suffixed attached to another group of prepositions that look like the suffixes attached to plural masculine nouns. See above, verse 25, 4th word.

5th word. ויחנך. The initial waw is the conjunction "and." The letter yod is for the imperfect/jussive of the root חנן (chet-nun-nun) "to show favor, be gracious (to)." The final kaph is the suffix "you" again. The single dot (dagesh) inside the final kaph above the vowel sign Qamets is the doubling dagesh, so this is an emphatic ending, and the kaph is pronounced like the hard "k" and not like the soft "ch" (as in Bach) as in the other cases of final kaph in this passage.

Hebrew Grammar point to learn:
(1) Verbs where the second and third root letters are the same (called "geminate" verbs; "geminate" means "double").
(2) Emphatic suffix forms

Verse 26

1st word. From the root נשׂא (nun-sin-aleph. Note that the middle letter is sin and not shin!) The nun is missing in the form found in verse 26. It belongs to a class of so-called "weak" verbs that deviate in some way from the regular forms of the verb. Verbs that begin with a nun in Hebrew often undergo a process of "assimilation" where the nun drops, but the next letter "compensates" for that loss by doubling its pronunciation. This is why the letter sin in this verb has the dagesh (doubling dot). What would normally be וינשׂא results in נשׂ combining as with the dagesh serving to indicate the doubling. Compare what happens in English when the word "mature" is preceded by the negative prefix "in-" (meaning "not): "in" + "mature" > [inmature] > immature; or "in" + "legal" > [inlegal] > illegal.

5th word. From the root שׂוּם or שִׂים "put, set, appoint, give, grant." This is another "weak" verb, because its middle root letter is a waw (or yod). Verbs that have a middle waw or yod are called "middle weak" or "hollow roots." This second letter is really a vowel and drops out in many verb forms. It is another jussive form.

6th word. The preposition ל (to, unto, for) with the suffix "you."

Summary of Verb Types in the Passage:

Verb Stems: Qal, Piel, Hiphil
Verb Tenses ("Aspects"): Imperfect, Jussive
Verb Types:
(1) Strong (regular)
(2) Verb with middle resh (weak because the resh cannot be doubled, which normally happens in the Piel)
(3) Verbs with middle waw or yod (which often drops out)
(4) Verb that begins with an initial nun (which often assimilates)
(5) Verb where the 2nd and 3rd root letters are the same (geminates).