Luke1:42

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Translation

and she exclaimed in a very loud voice, “Blessed are you among women,

Go to footnote number

and blessed is the fruit of your womb!

Paraphrase

and she exclaimed in a very loud voice, “You are blessed more than all  other women, and the child you carry in your womb is blessed [in a unique way compared to all others that have come from the womb].

 

Footnotes

1: “blessed are you among women”

These appear to be comparative statements intended to indicate that a special level of blessing has been bestowed upon her and the one she will deliver. The fact that the child is singled out seems to imply a blessing unique to him, thus a special blessing not granted to others who come from a woman’s womb, i.e. all human beings. (See below for a full discussion on the word “blessed.”)

What Does it Mean to Be Blessed?

The Greek word “blessed” comes from a root that means “long or extended,” in recognition of the reality that the one doing the blessing (usually God) has extended his arm in your direction to bring good to you. In this case the “long” arm of God is acting to demonstrate His favor, not His punishment. This Greek word was used for “blessed” so often that the idea of “blessed” acquired a life of its own; indeed many Bible study help sources stop at “blessed” and do not even mention the root idea. However, the root idea of “extended” is helpful as one more layer of meaning that adds richness to the text. When we get to verse 51 you will see a nicely placed contrast of the two reasons God would extend His arm.

But we also must look at the Hebrew meaning for the word “bless.” Mary, like the rest of the Jews of Jesus’ day, spoke to other Jews in Aramaic, which is a cousin to Hebrew. Greek, was reserved for communication with foreigners, such as haggling with a traveling merchant, or explaining something to a Roman officer.

So what is the root meaning of “bless” in Hebrew? It means “to kneel, to endue with success, prosperity and longevity, to confer abundant and effective life on someone.” It is tied very closely to the idea of life itself and contrasted directly with the curse. As such it would call to mind that the first curse, which is still the primary curse, was the curse of death due to sin. The concept of blessing stands in stark juxtaposition to that of the curse. All blessings come from God; a human can only offer a blessing through God’s name, for nothing within us is capable of conferring true, meaningful and abundant life on anyone else. In the Old Testament it was generally thought that, in order to receive a blessing from God, one must be in good fellowship with God and be striving to please God. However, the ancient Israelites also demonstrated the idea that God is willing to give certain blessings to everyone indiscriminately, the blessing of childbirth being a good example.

Fertility was closely tied to the concept of blessings because the idea behind a blessing was that of life, true and abundant life, a happy and prosperous life. God is clearly the source of all life. Even the pagans understood childbearing as an act of supernatural power. For these reasons, if a woman was barren, she was not blessed, she must be cursed. Already we have seen in this story how life and fertility, contrasted to the curse which comes from sin, have served as a foundation stone for this narrative of the arrival of the savior of the world, the one who would offer humanity true and abundant life.

“To kneel” is also part of the meaning of the Hebrew word “bless.” How does that fit? It was proper to kneel in order to receive a blessing. This reminded everyone that humble submission and obedience are required if you want to be blessed. If we talk about blessings in a self-centered way we are not following the Hebrew understanding of a blessing. It is not about us, it is all about God. Even when we are recipients of blessings from His hands, we need to remember that the ideas of submission and obedience (kneeling) are part of being blessed.

Then there is the topic of us “blessing” God. You may recall the verse in Psalms that says, “Bless the Lord Oh my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name” (Ps 103:1). If you do a search for “Bless the Lord, O my soul” you will come up with at least 4 verses in the Psalms with that wording. How is it that possible? How is it that we humans are able to, even told to, bless God? God does not kneel for us to bless Him, nor can we make His life more complete. The answer has to do with another usage of the word. All acts of “blessing” we have spoken of so far are futuristic in nature, conferring on someone, or enduing someone with abundant life. But there is one usage of “bless” that is present; one in which someone (usually God) is praised for qualities that demonstrate His abundant life, or praise for the way He shares His true life with us. God’s loving-kindness and His faithfulness are the attributes most often cited when people in the Bible “blessed God.”