This posted question give us the opportunity to speak about the real meaning of brk (ברך) in the Hebrew Bible.
By the vast majority of Bible translations this term is translated 'to bless' (or its derived terms), taking for granted we (readers) all really know what to bless means.
Now, in English language, 'to bless' derives from the following diachronic sequence: proto-Germanic *blodison ‘hallow with blood, mark with blood’, from *blotham, ‘blood’ (see blood [n.]). “Originally a blood sprinkling on pagan altars, then, Northumbrian bloedsian, ‘to consecrate by a religious rite, make holy, give thanks, then, Old English bletsian, bledsian, and, finally, Middle English blessen.” (https://www.-etymonline.com/).
The same reference source states: “This word was chosen in Old English Bibles to translate Latin ‘benedicere’ and Greek ‘eulogein’, both of which have a ground sense of ‘to speak well of, to praise’, but were used in Scripture to translate Hebrew brk ‘to bend (the knee), worship, praise, invoke blessings.’ L. R. Palmer (‘The Latin Language’) writes, ‘There is nothing surprising in the semantic development of a word denoting originally a special ritual act into the more generalized meanings to sacrifice, worship, bless […]. The meaning shifted in late Old English toward ‘pronounce or make happy, prosperous, or fortunate’ by resemblance to unrelated bliss.”
Clearly, to translate the Hebrew brk (ברך) with the English 'to bless' (along with its related terms) – as well as, the Greek ευλογεω, or the Latin benedico - is only a very pale approximation of the original meaning of the Hebrew term, which has no connection at all with concepts as ‘consecration, blood, happiness, bliss’, and so on.
So, when we read ‘to bless’ (espec. in the Bible) we immediately think about an unfailing positive concept, often related to the bestowal of some kinds of gifts, especially if the ‘blessing’ comes from God. This idea (brk = to bless = to give/receive gifts [of various kinds] from someone) is so deep-rooted in us that we give it for granted anytime. In this manner - regrettably - we create the presupposition of the discrepance the question refers to.
But, what Bible itself says about brk (ברך)?
The action of brk (ברך) can be accomplished:
- from man to other human beings
- from God to human beings
- from human beings to God
- from heavenly beings (angels) to God.
From the anthitetical parallelism included in Psa 62:4, regarding the two terms ברך and קלל (the latter term has the meaning of ‘to be light [not heavy] > to be agile’), we may safely conclude that a basic concept hidden in ברך is – obviously - the opposite of קלל, then, ‘to be heavy’. Interestingly, קלל has also the derived meaning of ‘to curse’.
ברך, ‘to be heavy, loaded’ > ‘to bless’ (usual translation)
קלל, ‘to be light, agile, nimble’ > ‘to curse’.
You’ve to memorize these biblical antonymous links: ‘to be heavy, loaded’ vs ‘to be light, agile, nimble’, and, ‘to bless’ (usual translation) vs ‘to curse’.
Someone could say 'That’s may be interesting, but, what is the conceptual connection between the meanings ‘to be heavy, loaded’ and ‘to bless’ (usual translation), as well as ‘to be light, agile, nimble’ and ‘to curse’?'
Well, the very same we use in our respective languages (English and Italian).
Indeed, both in English and Italian we assign the concept of ‘to give importance to someone/something’ also using the expression ‘to give [or, ‘lend’] weight to (someone/something)’ [‘dare peso a qualcuno/qualcosa’, in Italian]. In the same way, it must be correct also the opposite, namely, the antonymous concept of ‘to give little importance…’ (in English) is expressed also with the expression ‘not to carry much weight’ [‘non avere molto peso’, in Italian].
But, just a moment! How all these data have to do with the concept of ‘to bend the knees’ (as quoted by Perry Webb)? Please, do feel the natural flow of the following concepts: ‘to be heavy/to be loaded’ > ‘to bend the knees’ (whether in a physical sense or in a figurative way)!
Focusing the matter…
So, what is the real meaning of brk (ברך)?
Please, open your Bible in Gen 49 (where we find the Blessings of Jacob to his Sons, as many Bible maintain it as an added subheading to this chapter).
Well, here we will use the very ancient tecnique called reductio ad absurdum (if you do not know what it is, the more important thing is you ‘feel the flow…’).
We, now start from the presupposition that brk (ברך) has always a positive acceptation (as the vast majority of Bible translator back). Are you ready?
Open with me in Gen 49:28 (bold is mine): “All these are the twelve tribes of Israel. This is what their father said to them as he blessed (uibrk) them, blessing (brktu) each with the blessing (brk) suitable to him” (ESV).
Note that the brk (ברך) Jacob give to his sons was a personalized one. In fact, “[Jacob] blessing each [of his sons] with the blessing suitable to him [a given, individual son of him].”
So far so good…
Please, go back now through that same chapter, to the verses 5-7, where we find the Jacob’s ‘suitable’ ‘blessing’ to his sons Simeon and Levi, and ask yourselves…
What a scrap of positive acception have you find in this ‘blessing’ to them? The verbs ‘to curse’, ‘to divide (them), ‘to scatter them’ (from ESV translation), applied to Simeon and Levi (by their inspired father) give us light to understand that brk (ברך) has not always a positive acceptation.
Have you get the point now?
Ergo, the real meaning of brk (ברך) is ‘to give weight to something/someone’ > ‘to give importance to something/someone’, with words, and/or with actions (in other words, no to be indifferent to something/someone).
Expecially regarding God’s brk towards someone, this given importance can lead to a positive ending, or a negative one (as in the Jacob’s case).
Akin to the opposite idea of brk (ברך) – namely, קלל, ‘to be light, agile, nimble’ - is the famous aforism by Elie Wiesel, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”
To act as your neighbour is non-existant is worse than harboring hatred against him, this because hating someone is also an implied acknowledgment of his existence (that ‘carry much weight’ according us), whereas indifference (for all practical purposes) really ignores his very existence.
So, brk (ברך) includes also the sense of ‘to take someone/something into consideration’, ‘to consider something’, and so on. This is confirmed also by the linguistic comparation with the Akkadian language. Indeed, the old Akkadian term BARU means ‘to consider’ (Chicago Assyrian Dictionary [CAD] II:117).
If you have correctly linked all the data presented above you have reach yet the conclusion that the original question of Daniel Dahlberg is not a discrepance, at all. In fact, just as God may give weight/importance to a man (and that may lead to some positive actions by God – or some negative ones), in the same manner a man may give weight/importance to God (and that this may lead to some positive actions by this man – or negative ones).
I hope these notes will be useful for your research.