What does Numbers 6:22-27 mean?

In today’s daily reading, I came across Numbers 6:22-27, often called the Aaronic Blessing or the Priestly Blessing.

Reflecting on this powerful blessing, I am struck by its depth and relevance to our daily lives. Through this ancient priestly prayer, we discover the heart of God and the staggering ways He desires to bless us.

Numbers 6:22-27 (CSB):

The LORD spoke to Moses: “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. You should say to them,

“May the LORD bless you and protect you;
may the LORD make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
may the LORD look with favor on you
and give you peace.”’

In this way they will pronounce my name over the Israelites, and I will bless them.”

Ronald Allen points out, “Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this prayer is that it is a provision for God’s desire to bless his people. Blessing is his idea, his purpose. It is not something his people must beg for; it is the voluntary outreaching of his grace” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary).

That struck me: how often do I assume God’s blessing? I don’t want to be entitled, but I want to be confident in trusting that God loves me.

On the other end, I struggle with anxiety: is this too good to be true? But as I read the blessing repeatedly, I’m struck by how God’s blessing is emphatic. He really wants to bless us!

Interestingly, I found that Numbers 6:24-26 is written in what is called the Ketef Hinnom scrolls. These silver scrolls, or amulets, were found in 1979 in Jerusalem but originally date to about 600 B.C., which was before the Babylonian invasion of Jerusalem.

The IVP Old Testament Background Commentary states, “They represent the oldest example of any text of Scripture.” Dennis Cole, in the New American Commentary, also notes that “These texts also contain the oldest attestation to the Tetragrammaton [YHWH] found to date in Jerusalem.”

As I meditate on this passage, two key questions come up:

  1. Who do I trust?

  2. What do we need?

First, who do we trust?

Cole notes, “The thrice-mentioned YHWH, which grammatically need not be repeated, and the final resounding “I will [surely] bless you,” serve to heighten the emphasis that the God of Israel is the source of all grace, blessing, hope, and peace.”

There are many places where I look for satisfaction, comfort, and meaning. Daily, I must repent of looking away from God and confess that God is the only one for me.

Second, what do we need?

In this blessing, God intends to provide for his people abundantly. It starts and ends with God’s commitment to bless his people. So, what is God giving to us?


We sense that blessings have an inherent power to them. This is an ancient, persistent view of the power of blessing and curses. The New Dictionary of Biblical Theology explains:

The words of blessing and cursing are thought to have inherent, autonomous power, so that once spoken they cannot be recalled, and unless some greater power is invoked to combat them the good or bad that they have called for is bound to happen.

But here, God gives the blessing, so it cannot be overturned or revoked!

Still, I wanted a clear definition of being ‘blessed’ by God. Again, the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology makes it clear:

There is no doubt that this blessing is expressed in material terms. The people are led to expect that material benefits, of fertility, prosperity, peace and*victory, will be theirs as a result of remaining in relationship with God. However, the ultimate blessing is not the material benefits but the relationship itself. To be part of God’s covenant people, to belong to God in this way, is to be blessed.

NT teaching echoes the OT view of blessing and cursing as relational. The ultimate and only important blessing is that of belonging to God, being part of his people, a member of his family.

Further, this sense of being blessed by God permeated Israel’s culture. To quote from the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology again,

In ancient Mesopotamia life was dominated by the fear of curses, but not in Israel. Nowhere in the Bible is a curse-removing ritual put into effect or even mentioned. In fact there is very little discussion of the concept of cursing outside the stylized treaty chapters. Blessing, not cursing, was significant for Israel.

In all of us - or is it just me? - there’s a need for validation. I want to know that I matter, that I’m loved, and that I can be whole.

But it seems that these desires are infinite. Even the most loving spouse, children, friends, and colleagues - while they can be appreciated and valued - are not enough.

To find the blessing we want in our lives, we must experience blessing in relationship with the God who blesses us.


God’s protection gives us comfort and security in a world full of dangers and uncertainties. This promise helps us live confidently, knowing God is watching over us!

What about death? The ultimate enemy was defeated in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Only God can protect us from death and give us eternal life.


God’s face shining on us symbolizes His attention and favor. It means God is not distant or indifferent but actively involved in our lives.

Not only is God active, but he is involved in our lives with delight! Allen writes, “The expression “turn his face” suggests pleasure and affection.”

Cole, in the New American Commentary, states:

Yahweh’s lifting of his face, observes M. Gruber, is an expression referring “to an appearance of the countenance expressive of pleasure and affection, functionally equivalent to ‘smile.’ "

In prayer, we turn our faces to God. As we look at God, we recognize that God is already smiling at us!

Favor and Grace:

God’s grace is His unmerited favor. It reminds us that we do not earn His blessings; they are gifts from a loving God. This grace covers our imperfections and allows us to live in gratitude.


In this blessing, ‘peace’ is the final, emphatic note. But is our understanding of peace the same as the Bible’s?

Timothy Ashley explains:

In essence, šālôm [peace] means fullness of life and wholeness in all areas of life: material, familial, societal, and religious.

Here’s Cole:

This peace can be described variously as completeness, unity, well-being, prosperity, health, security, and wholeness.

To put it simply: One day, all will be well forever. That’s God’s peace.

His name:

When the priests pronounced God’s name over the Israelites, it signifies His ownership and blessing upon them. It’s a powerful reminder that we belong to God and are under His care. This relationship is the foundation of our identity and security.

As Cole explains, “The Name Yahweh carries with it the covenantal promise of his divine presence with his people.”

How can we receive God’s blessing?

  1. Meditate on this blessing until it permeates our hearts and drives away the fear of God abandoning or cursing us.

  2. Regularly turn our hearts to God in prayer. Tell him our troubles and ask for his help, knowing that he is already paying attention to us, and loves us.

  3. Maintain hope that one day, God will permanently bring his peace to us. One day, we will see his kingdom come, and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

“God bless you” has become a trite phrase. But after meditating on Numbers 6, God’s goodness to me is richer, better, and deeper than I could have imagined.

May we embrace the reality of God’s blessing in our lives!

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