Numbers 6:23
Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel.—The occasions on which this blessing was used are not recorded. The blessing itself, which marks in a special manner the spiritual character of the chosen people, consists of three double clauses. In each of these three clauses the sacred name Jehovah is repeated, and there is a rising gradation in the blessing invoked, until it culminates in that peace which is the highest of those gifts that God can bestow and that man can possess. There has been commonly recognised in this blessing an allusion to the doctrine of the Trinity. Mention is made in Leviticus 9:22 of a blessing pronounced by Aaron upon the people, but no form of words is found there.

Numbers 6:23. Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons — Among other good offices which the priests were appointed to perform, one was to bless in the name of the Lord, Deuteronomy 21:5. Hereby God put an honour upon them, for the less is blessed of the better, Hebrews 7:7; and hereby he gave great comfort and satisfaction to the people, who were taught to look on the priest as God’s mouth to them, and as blessing them in his name who commands the blessing out of Zion. And the priest was wont to pronounce it as one having authority, with his hands lifted up, and his face toward the people. Now in this he was a type of Christ, who came into the world to bless us, Acts 3:26, as the High-Priest of our profession, and left the earth in the very act of blessing his disciples with uplifted hands, Luke 24:50. Bishop Pearson mentions it as a tradition of the Jews, that the priests blessed the people only at the close of the morning sacrifice, and that they omitted it in the evening, “to show, says he, that in the last days, the days of the Messiah, the benediction of the law should cease, and the blessing of Christ should take place.” On this wise shall ye bless — Thus, or in these words; and yet it is probable they were not confined to these very words. At least we find holy men, as Moses, David, and Solomon, blessing the people in other words. It is remarkable that, in the form here prescribed, the name Jehovah is three times repeated, and each time with a different accent in the original. The Jews themselves think that some mystery is hereby intended; and has not God explained what it is in the New Testament, having directed us to be baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; and to expect the blessing from the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost?

6:22-27 The priests were solemnly to bless the people in the name of the Lord. To be under the almighty protection of God our Saviour; to enjoy his favour as the smile of a loving Father, or as the cheering beams of the sun; while he mercifully forgives our sins, supplies our wants, consoles the heart, and prepares us by his grace for eternal glory; these things form the substance of this blessing, and the sum total of all blessings. In so rich a list of mercies worldly joys are not worthy to be mentioned. Here is a form of prayer. The name Jehovah is three times repeated. The Jews think there is some mystery; and we know what it is, the New Testament having explained it. There we are directed to expect the blessing from the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of the Father, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, 2Co 13:14; each of which Persons is Jehovah, and yet they are not three Lords, but one Lord.The priestly blessing (compare Ecclus. 36:17) is appointed as a solemn form to be used by the priests exclusively, and in this function their office as it were culminates (compare Leviticus 9:22 note). God Himself provides a formula, through which from time to time, as His people by obedience place themselves in true and right relationship to Him, the authorised mediators may pronounce and communicate His special blessing to them. It was a Jewish tradition that this blessing was given at the close of the daily sacrifice.

The structure of the blessing is remarkable. It is rhythmical, consists of three distinct parts, and mounts by gradual stages to that peace which forms the last and most consummate gift which God can give His people.

From a Christian point of view, and comparing the counterpart benediction of 2 Corinthians 13:14, it is impossible not to see shadowed forth the doctrine of the Holy Trinity (compare Isaiah 6:3; Matthew 28:19). And the three several sets of terms correspond fittingly to the office of the Three Persons in Their gracious work for the redemption of man.

Nu 6:23-27. The Form of Blessing the People.

23-27. Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the congregation of Israel, &c.—This passage records the solemn benediction which God appointed for dismissing the people at the close of the daily service. The repetition of the name "Lord" or "Jehovah" three times, expresses the great mystery of the Godhead—three persons, and yet one God. The expressions in the separate clauses correspond to the respective offices of the Father, to "bless and keep us"; of the Son, to be "gracious to us"; and of the Holy Ghost, to "give us peace." And because the benediction, though pronounced by the lips of a fellow man, derived its virtue, not from the priest but from God, the encouraging assurance was added, "I the Lord will bless them."

On this wise, Heb. Thus, in this manner, or in these words; yet so as that they were not tied to these very words, because after this we have examples of Moses and David and Solomon and others blessing the people in other words.

Ye shall bless the children of Israel, to wit, in the public assembly.

Speak unto Aaron, and unto his sons,.... Aaron and his sons that succeeded him in all after generations, being the persons that were in a public manner to bless the people of Israel, they are particularly addressed, see Deuteronomy 10:8,

saying, on this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel; in such manner and with such words as after expressed; standing upon an eminence, lifting up their hands on high, spreading out their fingers, and raising their voices, and pronouncing the blessing in the Hebrew language, in the name of Jehovah, with their face towards the people; all which, according to the Jewish writers (d), were to be strictly observed:

saying unto them; as follows.

(d) Maimon. Hilchot Neshiut Cappim. c. 14. sect. 11. Gersom in loc.

Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall {l} bless the children of Israel, saying unto them,

(l) That is, pray for them.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Verse 23. - On this wise ye shall bless. In Leviticus 9:22 it is recorded that Aaron blessed the people, first by himself from the brazen altar of sacrifice, and afterwards in conjunction with Moses, when they came out of the tabernacle; and that he might so bless the people is mentioned as one object of his consecration (Deuteronomy 21:5; and cf. 1 Chronicles 23:13). Blessing in or with the name of the Supreme Being was an important part of all primitive religion, as appears from the case of Melchizedec and Abraham, of Isaac and his sons, of Jacob and Pharaoh. And this act of blessing was far from being a mere expression of good will, or from being a simple prayer; for" without all contradiction the less is blessed of the greater" (Hebrews 7:7), i.e., the blessing must be given by one who stands nearer to God to one who stands less near. The name of God could not be used in blessing save by one who had some right to such use of it, whether as prophet, as priest, or as patriarch. For that name in which the blessing was given was not inoperative, but was mighty with untold spiritual efficacy where rightly used as the name of blessing. To Aaron and to his sons was now confided this use of the Divine name, that all Israel might know and might hear in their appointed words the voice of God himself. Saying unto them. The benediction here appointed consists of three clauses, each complete in itself, and each consisting of two members, the second of which seems to present the application and result in experience of the grace besought in the first. Both, therefore, in its form and its contents this benediction is one of the most profound and most fruitful of the Divine oracles; and this indeed we might have expected, because (if we may venture to say so) God is never so entirely and absolutely himself as in blessing. Numbers 6:23The Priestly or Aaronic Blessing. - The spiritual character of the congregation of Israel culminated in the blessing with which the priests were to bless the people. The directions as to this blessing, therefore, impressed the seal of perfection upon the whole order and organization of the people of God, inasmuch as Israel was first truly formed into a congregation of Jehovah by the fact that God not only bestowed His blessing upon it, but placed the communication of this blessing in the hands of the priests, the chosen and constant mediators of the blessings of His grace, and imposed it upon them as one portion of their official duty. The blessing which the priests were to impart to the people, consisted of a triple blessing of two members each, which stood related to each other thus: The second in each case contained a special application of the first to the people, and the three gradations unfolded the substance of the blessing step by step with ever increasing emphasis. - The first (Numbers 6:24), "Jehovah bless thee and keep thee," conveyed the blessing in the most general form, merely describing it as coming from Jehovah, and setting forth preservation from the evil of the world as His work. "The blessing of God is the goodness of God in action, by which a supply of all good pours down to us from His good favour as from their only fountain; then follows, secondly, the prayer that He would keep the people, which signifies that He alone is the defender of the Church, and that it is He who preserves it with His guardian care" (Calvin). - The second (Numbers 6:25), "Jehovah make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee," defined the blessing more closely as the manifestation of the favour and grace of God. The face of God is the personality of God as turned towards man. Fire goes out from Jehovah's face, and consumes the enemy and the rebellious (Leviticus 10:2, cf. Numbers 17:10; Numbers 20:3; Exodus 13:22; Psalm 34:17), and also a sunlight shining with love and full of life and good (Deuteronomy 30:20; Psalm 27:1; Psalm 43:3; Psalm 44:4). If "the light of the sun is sweet, and pleasant for the eyes to behold" (Ecclesiastes 11:7), "the light of the divine countenance, the everlasting light (Psalm 36:10), is the sum of all delight" (Baumg.). This light sends rays of mercy into a heart in need of salvation, and makes it the recipient of grace. - The third (Numbers 6:26), "Jehovah lift up His face to thee, and set (or give) thee peace" (good, salvation), set forth the blessing of God as a manifestation of power, or a work of power upon man, the end of which is peace (shalom), the sum of all the good which God sets, prepares, or establishes for His people. אל פּנים נשׁא, to lift up the face to any one, is equivalent to looking at him, and does not differ from עינים נשׁא or שׂים (Genesis 43:29; Genesis 44:21). When affirmed of God, it denotes His providential work upon man. When God looks at a man, He saves him out of his distresses (Psalm 4:7; Psalm 33:18; Psalm 34:16). - In these three blessings most of the fathers and earlier theologians saw an allusion to the mystery of the Trinity, and rested their conclusion, (a) upon the triple repetition of the name Jehovah; (b) upon the ratio praedicati, that Jehovah, by whom the blessing is desired and imparted, is the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and (c) upon the distinctorum benedictionis membrorum consideratio, according to which bis trina beneficia are mentioned (cf. Calovii Bibl. illustr. ad h. l.). There is truth in this, though the grounds assigned seem faulty. As the threefold repetition of a word or sentence serves to express the thought as strongly as possible (cf. Jeremiah 7:4; Jeremiah 22:29), the triple blessing expressed in the most unconditional manner the thought, that God would bestow upon His congregation the whole fulness of the blessing enfolded in His Divine Being which was manifested as Jehovah. But not only does the name Jehovah denote God as the absolute Being, who revealed Himself as Father, Son, and Spirit in the historical development of His purpose of salvation for the redemption of fallen man; but the substance of this blessing, which He caused to be pronounced upon His congregation, unfolded the grace of God in the threefold way in which it is communicated to us through the Father, Son, and Spirit.

(Note: See the admirable elaboration of these points in Luther's exposition of the blessing. Luther refers the first blessing to "bodily life and good." The blessing, he says, desired for the people "that God would give them prosperity and every good, and also guard and preserve them." This is carried out still further, in a manner corresponding to his exposition of the first article. The second blessing he refers to "the spiritual nature and the soul," and observes, "Just as the sun, when it rises and diffuses its rich glory and soft light over all the world, merely lifts up its face upon all the world;...so when God gives His word, He causes His face to shine clearly and joyously upon all minds, and makes them joyful and light, and as it were new hearts and new men. For it brings forgiveness of sins, and shows God as a gracious and merciful Father, who pities and sympathizes with our grief and sorrow. The third also relates to the spiritual nature and the soul, and is a desire for consolation and final victory over the cross, death, the devil, and all the gates of hell, together with the world and the evil desires of the flesh. The desire of this blessing is, that the Lord God will lift up the light of His word upon us, and so keep it over us, that it may shine in our hearts with strength enough to overcome all the opposition of the devil, death, and sin, and all adversity, terror, or despair.")

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