יברך and ברך are translated as bless/ing all over the Bible but

translated as kneel/ing in
Gen 24:11, 2 Chr 6:13

ברך is translated as knee in
Isa 45:23

What does the word ברך, translated as "bless" actually mean in Isa 45:23?

There is no anachronism due to mutation of meaning through time here, because the word is translated as knee/kneeling as early as Genesis and as late as Isaiah.

Obviously, the word ברך comes from "knee".

Why is blessing associated with the word for "knee"?

So far, all the cases of יברך are active.

During a blessing, who kneels? Does the blesser kneel or the blessant kneel?

If the LORD blesses someone, does the LORD kneel to him; or if someone blesses the LORD, does HE kneel to that person?

  • I refocused this on the text, you went in a different direction towards the end that would be best saved for Christianity.SE once you get an answer about the linguistic aspect(s) of the word here. Check out Why can't I ask my 'big question'?
    – Dan
    Jul 7, 2014 at 7:06
  • you're right, that last part should be in another question, so why are you insistent on including it in this one?
    – Dan
    Jul 7, 2014 at 7:11
  • The question obviously cannot be answered thro plain linguistics. 2ndly, I am not Christian and therefore not a member of the Christianity forum.
    – Cynthia
    Jul 7, 2014 at 7:11
  • the word will have specific meanings in specific contexts. A good answer will need to address the translation of the word in the contexts given.
    – Dan
    Jul 7, 2014 at 7:12
  • Once you ask about "us", you're moving beyond the original audience of the text and applying this text to modern readers, which is best reserved for other places. Unless you're trying to understand a historical practice? If so, a slight rewording could clarify this.
    – Dan
    Jul 7, 2014 at 7:12

4 Answers 4


I have searched various Lexicons but there seems no clear connection between kneeling and blessing other then a general religious sense of the kneeling posture.

However if we look at this good summary of uses of the word below we could trace a plausible link.

bless = bestow power for success, prosperity, fertility: animals Gn 1:22, men 1:28, 7th day 2:3, field 27:27;—2. bless = declare a person endowed w. power for success, prosperity, fertility: God—Abraham Gn 12:2; men—Jacob 27:29; Melchizedek—Abraham 14:19; father—his son 27:4; Israel—Pharaoh Ex 12:32;—3. bless = wish s.one power for success, prosperity, fertility Gn 24:60; (greeting on arrival) 1 S 13:10, (on leave-taking) 2 S 13:25;—4. bless God = declare God the origin of power for success, prosperity, fertility = praise God Gn 24:48; obj. šemô Ps 96:2;—5. formulas & phrases: bērak lifnê yhwh Gn 27:7; bērak be by name of s.one Gn 48:20 (cf. nif.), bešēm yhwh Dt 21:5; bērak le speak the blessing over Ne 11:2;—6. euphem. for ʾārar curse 1 K 21:10, 13. (Holladay, W. L., & Köhler, L. (2000). A concise Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon of the Old Testament. Leiden: Brill.)

If we take it for granted that kneeling is a religious posture that in some sense indicates humility of man and the greatness of God in providing good things or bestowing good things, then there is a quick answer for when men bless or pray for blessing. When God is to bestow a blessing from his greatness to a man or thing, we could see his kneeling as an act of condescension, moving from his greatness to our smallness out of divine humility without contradicting that it is out of his greatness from which his condescension takes its religious frame. This would be different yet similar to the humble prayerful posture of a man invoking the greatness of God to be praised or to be shone on other men. However we need not press the 'kneeling' aspect too much as in the odd case it can even mean to curse (1 Kings 21:10) having the same invocation to God posture.

  • Should I take it from you that the blesser, rather than the blessed, kneels ?
    – Cynthia
    Jul 7, 2014 at 22:24
  • Also, my question is specific to the word ברך , rather than the English word "bless". I do not want the answer contaminated by other forms of " blessing" that are not from the word ברך.
    – Cynthia
    Jul 7, 2014 at 22:31
  • @BlessedGeek - I think the examples were only refering to bless derived from Hebrew kneel. As far as whi kneels, both in a sense but the link is loose as simply refering to a spiritual excercise stemming from a religious physical posture that becomes symbolic of a spiritual subject in general.
    – Mike
    Jul 8, 2014 at 9:50

You do realise (I trust) that the verb bārakh “to bless” is not actually the same word as the noun bεrεkh “knee”, though they are written the same in unvocalised Hebrew script. But, historically they do seem to belong to the same root. In most Semitic languages the verb b-r-k means “to bow down to, praise, bless” (said of a man/woman praising/blessing a god), but in Hebrew it is also used to mean “to bless” (said of Yahweh/Elohim blessing a human). This expansion (or rather reversal) of meaning must have happened at a time when the Hebrews were no longer aware of the etymological connection between this verb and the word for “knee”.

For a survey of the Semitic material you might want to consult: https://archive.org/stream/foreignvocabular030753mbp#page/n91/mode/2up (page 75).

You might also find it useful to repost your question in the "Linguistics" forum, where you are likely to get a less theologically coloured response that you will on here.

  • I cannot accept the premise that Jews have less intellectual capacity than the Chinese. Why can Chinese literate people tell me meanings of words in relation root words that are hundreds or thousands of years old in their writing system. And here yoypu prefer that Jewish liberal heritage is inferior to Chinese.
    – Cynthia
    Jul 7, 2014 at 18:04
  • 2
    This has nothing to do with intellectual clarity. It has to do with how the meaning of words change. It happens in all languages, including Chinese.
    – fdb
    Jul 7, 2014 at 18:06
  • Yet they are conscious of a char in relation to the root elements.
    – Cynthia
    Jul 7, 2014 at 18:16
  • {You do realise (I trust) that the verb bārakh “to bless” is not actually the same word as the noun bεrεkh “knee”} - you sound so authoritative that your statement seems true.
    – Cynthia
    Feb 2, 2017 at 9:59
  • They are related knee and kneel -- בָּרַךְ S1288 TWOT285 GK1384, 1385]329 vb. kneel, bless -- Brown, F., Driver, S. R., & Briggs, C. A. (1977). In Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (p. 138). Clarendon Press.
    – Perry Webb
    Mar 12, 2023 at 1:21

There is a connection! The common root of the noun for knee (berek) and the verb to bless (baruch) is ברן. We see the root in action when Eliezer comes to look for a wife for Isaac (Gen. 24:11), and comes to the well where he causes his camels to kneel down to drink after he sees Rebecca. The word used there is, "Vi'yavrach" (a derivative of "baruch") which means to make the camels kneel down. The word is also related to the word for lightning (barak) although the root is slightly different substituting the letter koof for a kaf. All of these words have something in common, though, a downward motion. What does that have to do with blessing?

When Jews pray the famous amidah, which during weekdays consists of 19 blessings, the Jew will bend his knees on the word "baruch" during the first two blessings. This is indicative of our newfound meaning of the word baruch meaning going in a downward direction. The blessing is followed by the word "Atah" which means "You". By connecting the two words Baruch and Atah, we are asking God to come down to us so we can talk with Him directly. For more on this fascinating topic see Rami Alloni's article.


Wow! I disagree! I believe that the phrase "Baruch ata" means "I honor You by bending my knee to You, acknowledging that You are God and that I ought to (by all rights) obey you in everything I do." I base this answer on the logic of asking how can we possibly "bless" our mighty Creator God. And how hubris to think that we could possibly bless Him in any way other than honoring Him with an act of humility or obedience. Further, I refer to the customs still visible from older days of bows and curtseys from divers cultures.

  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics! and thank you for your contribution. When you get a chance, please take the tour to understand how the site works and how it is different than others. I also recommend going through the Help Center's sections on both asking and answering questions.
    – agarza
    May 29, 2023 at 18:33
  • Never use English words to force rheir meaning down the thriats of Hebrew words.
    – Cynthia
    Jul 10, 2023 at 21:38

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.