Why Does the NLT Use Occupy in Deuteronomy 1:21

Tyndale House Publishers

“Look! He has placed the land in front of you. Go and occupy it as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you. Don’t be afraid! Don’t be discouraged!” Deuteronomy 1:21, NLT

Recently, we received a question from a reader asking why the translation team for the New Living Translation chose to use the word occupy instead of possess. Here is the answer from our Bible editorial team.

This is a very interesting question. In comparison to the handful of other English Bible translation I checked, “occupy” appears to be a unique translation of the underlying Hebrew word, yarash, by the NLT translators at Deut 1:21 (and elsewhere). The Hebrew dictionaries I referenced indicate a range of possible English translations for this word, for example “to seize, dispossess, take possession of, inherit, disinherit, occupy, impoverish, be an heir,” depending on context. One note on “occupy” from the NLT Study Bible at Deut 1:8 could also be helpful to us: “The land was already Israel’s because God had promised it to the nation’s ancestors centuries earlier. . . . Israel was not seizing new territory from its rightful owners but was taking possession of land occupied by squatters.” From this, I think we can assume the NLT translation team felt that “possess” and “occupy” are really close synonyms. In terms of the range of meaning of the English words, per M-W.com, definition 3a of occupy is “to take or hold possession or control of” and the example provided is in a military context. It seems like English translations that employ possess are taking advantage of M-W.com definition 2a of that word, which means “to seize and take control of.”

In light of all this, my best guess would be that the NLT translators wanted to make sure the English readers understood the nuance of not only ownership (because Israel already owned this land whether they were living in it or not) but also the importance of them physically living in the land, thus occupying it. One important thing to note about the NLT translators is that they place a very high value on making sure that their translation communicates whole ideas to contemporary, American English speakers in terms they understand well. For English usage today, I think “occupy” has strong military associations (I think of “troops occupying the West Bank” and other similar examples), so it would bring the military aspect of the conquest to the forefront in the mind of the reader. It seems like “take possession of” could sound archaic, or even a bit vague, to the ear of modern English readers, or it doesn’t quite fully convey the military context of the Bible’s use of yarash.

Learn more about the New Living Translation.

Reader Question: Why is the List of Tribes of Israel in Revelation Different?

Tyndale House Publishers

Recently, we received a great question from one of our NLT readers. We though you would be interested in the response as well.


Why do you list Manasseh as a tribe of Israel in Revelation 7v6? Shouldn’t it be Dan (Genesis 35v23-26)?If not ,why is Dan no longer listed as Jacob’s son/ Israel’s tribe in Revelation? Where does God or anyone else ,for that matter, replace Dan with Manasseh in Scripture?


This is a good question, since the list of Israelite tribes given in Revelation 7:5-8 doesn’t completely line up with the various lists that appear in the Old Testament, though even these are not completely consistent (see Genesis 35, 1 Chronicles 4-7, Ezekiel 48). The tribe of Joseph was divided into the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 48), as Joseph received a double portion in the allotment of land in the Promised Land. In the list given in Revelation 7, Joseph is listed along with Manasseh, but Ephraim is not mentioned. Since Joseph would have included both Ephraim and Manasseh, it appears that Manasseh was included as a replacement for Dan, which was excluded from list.

Though we don’t know the exact reason why Dan is not listed, commentators suggest it was done to remind readers of the story in Judges 17-18. The tribe of Dan did not find the land that God allocated for them acceptable, so they stole idols from a home in the land of Ephraim, took over a portion of the land allocated to the tribe of Naphtali, and instituted idol worship in the land of Israel during the time of the judges. The tribe of Dan was symbolic of Israel’s failure, which is likely the reason they were excluded from the list in Revelation.

Why Is the Word Bribe Used in Proverbs 17:8?

We love hearing how people are digging into God’s Word which often leads to questions about a translations choice. We recently received a question about Proverbs 17:8 and wanted to share the response from our translation team.

Q: Proverbs 17:8 says “A bribe is like a lucky charm, whoever gives one will prosper.” Should it not say “A Gift is like a lucky charm, whoever gives one will prosper?”

A: This is a good question, and there isn’t an easy answer for it.

The rendering our reader suggests (replacing “bribe” with “gift”) is a possible one, and this would certainly make Proverbs 17:8 easier for modern readers to swallow. In the ancient context, some bribes were essentially an expected gift and the means of getting transactions done. This is clearly stated in Proverbs 18:16, where the common term for “gift” (matan) appears, and we translate the term there as “gift.” It’s possible that 17:8 could be understood in this way, as it’s certainly true both in the ancient context and ours, and “gift” is in the semantic domain of the term here (shokhad). However, since the terminology is different in 17:8 from what appears in 18:16, the translation team believes it points us a different direction that could allow interpretation in a more negative direction.

As translated in the NLT and many other translations, 17:8 isn’t necessarily giving good advice, since bribes are sometimes clearly shown in a negative light when they lead to injustice (see 17:23, just a few verses later, where shokhad appears again). So in this potentially negative light, 17:8 could very well be simply describing the way bribes worked in the ancient context (not necessarily advice to be followed). This is true of many of the proverbs. In 17:8, the offering of a bribe could be a good thing or a clearly bad thing, depending on the motives of the one who gives the bribe. It could reflect either the situation in 17:23 or the situation in 18:16. So this verse is likely simply observing a truth—bribes are effective, for good or for ill.

This highlights an interpretive principle for approaching the proverbs. Many proverbs clearly offer godly advice (and in such cases, righteousness and godliness are clearly associated), but some proverbs clearly just state the way things work in society. For this reason, all the proverbs should be carefully interpreted in the broader scriptural context, allowing the rest of Scripture to lend perspective on interpretation

God Uses Unexpected People Reading Plan Day 5

“Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. His mother was Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah from Bozkath. He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight and followed the example of his ancestor David. He did not turn away from doing what was right…When the king heard what was written in the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes in despair. Then he gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Acbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the court secretary, and Asaiah the king’s personal adviser: ‘Go to the Temple and speak to the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah. Inquire about the words written in this scroll that has been found. For the Lord’s great anger is burning against us because our ancestors have not obeyed the words in this scroll. We have not been doing everything it says we must do.'” 2 Kings 22:1-2 AND 2 Kings 22:11-13

Josiah: Note from the Christian Basics Bible

Only eight years old when he came to the throne, Josiah became one of Judah’s most godly kings. At the age of sixteen he “began to seek the God of his ancestor David” (2 Chronicles 34:3). By twenty, he was purging the land of idolatry and destroying shrines to Baal and all idols (2 Chronicles 34:3-7). But it was when Josiah was twenty-six (2 Kings 22:3) that the biggest transformation took place.

During renovations in the Temple, “the Book of the Law” (22:8) was discovered—probably the book of Deuteronomy. As it was read to him, Josiah was appalled at how far God’s people had fallen from his ways; he immediately led the nation in a covenant renewal ceremony (chapter 23) and completed his spiritual reforms in the land. He died in battle, trying to stop Egypt from marching to Assyria’s aid (2 Kings 23:29). Josiah shows us that we don’t understand everything about God at the beginning, but if we keep our hearts open, we can keep growing, changing, and having a powerful impact.

Learn more about Christian Basics Bible

Why the Good Samaritan Story Looks a Little Different in the NLT

I live in the Chicago area. And there are certain common experiences and ideas that are understood when I talk to fellow Chicagoans. For instance, when someone starts talking about the “Ike” without any further explanation, I know they are talking about a highway that goes into the city from the west. It’s also called 290. It’s always busy (even at 3 am), and there will be a backup around the Austin exit. This is context that I just know because it’s part of my everyday experience.

I’m sure you have places and things in your life that don’t require additional explanation for listeners who share common experiences, places, activities, etc. This was true in Bible times as well. When Jesus spoke to the crowds, some references he made were simply “understood” because they were part of the everyday lives and shared experiences of his audience. But for us, who aren’t Jews living in a Roman dominated world, what was common knowledge can easily get lost in the centuries of separation and cultural differences.

This is an area where meaning-based translations are extremely helpful. Meaning-based translation views and translates the words of the Bible text through the lenses of the Bible’s contexts—culture, politics, geography, literary genre, and other elements of common knowledge for the original hearers. Accounting for the ancient contexts in translation ensures that the translated text’s meaning isn’t as likely to be missed by readers today who aren’t experts in the Bible’s world. As one of our translators says, “We’re not just translating words, we’re translating worlds.”

We received a great question about a choice the NLT translation committee made when translating the story of the Good Samaritan.

Question: When I checked Luke 10:30 in the NLT, I saw that the victimized man was described as Jewish. I saw that the ESV described him as just “a man.” Interesting. So I went to my online parallel Bibles and found that all the versions except NLT describe him as “a man” or “a certain man.” Is there any particular reason why the NLT identifies him as Jewish?

Answer from Mark Norton, member of the NLT Bible translation: This is a good question, and it does involve contextual interpretation, not just a simple argument from the wording in the Greek text. In a sense, it doesn’t really matter if the beaten man is Jewish. And as he lay there by the road, it would have been hard to tell if he was or not. But there are some reasons to presume that Jesus (and his listeners) had in mind that the beaten man was Jewish, and this presumption does strengthen the force of the story a good deal, especially for a Jewish audience.

Jesus was telling his parable with a radical surprise in it, and that surprise was clearly racially loaded. His listeners would have assumed that a traveler on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho was almost certainly Jewish. Why? The Jerusalem-Jericho road was the primary route Jews used to travel between Judea and Galilee. The reasons for this were various—the route straight north from Jerusalem, though shorter, led through Samaria (where Jews weren’t welcomed and didn’t feel safe), and it was a rough, mountainous route. The alternate route (and the route most taken) went east from Jerusalem to Jericho, then north up the Jordan Valley. The road between Jerusalem to Jericho was fairly mountainous too and it did make the journey longer, but then the journey north to Galilee followed the Jordan River, which had a good water source the whole way and was relatively flat.

The number of Samaritans on the Jerusalem-Jericho road would have been few. If they wanted to go to Jericho for trade, they likely would have taken one of their own roads to the Jordan and traveled the Jordan Valley south to Jericho, avoiding Judea altogether. The Samaritan hero in the story would have been an exception to the rule.

The other reason for assuming the wounded man to be Jewish is that Jesus didn’t identify the race of any of the first characters in the story—until the Samaritan. Here is the radical surprise in Jesus’ definition of the term “neighbor.” The person who culturally and historically had every reason not to stop was the one who in the story stopped to help the wounded man. If the wounded man had been a Samaritan too, it would have undermined the truth that Jesus was teaching, and no one would have been surprised at the attitudes of the Levite and priest, who might easily ignore a wounded Samaritan.

The BTC scholar team (and other commentators support this) believed that identifying the wounded man as Jewish was supported by the historical, geographic, and literary context. When translating the meaning of a text with clarity from one language to another, translators are forced to weigh contextual concerns along with the grammatical. Clear translation doesn’t only involve simple grammatical equations. This is clearly the case here. After close review, the BTC scholars saw the best equivalent for the literal “a certain man” to be “a Jewish man.” It is what the original listeners would have heard Jesus saying as he told the story.

Reader Question: Why Does the NLT Use “Justice” in Romans 5:6?

We had a reader ask us why the NLT uses the word “justice” instead of “righteousness” in Romans 5:6. Mark Norton, Bible Editorial Director and member of the NLT Bible Translation Committee, talks about this translation choice.

This is a good question. The NLT translators used the term “justice” in Matthew 5:6 to translate the Greek noun dikaiosune, rather than the more general rendering “righteousness.” The alternate rendering “righteousness” is given in the textual footnote, showing that the translation committee recognizes the value of both “justice” and “righteousness” for catching dimensions of the intended meaning here. The English term “righteousness” is most often associated with the idea of imputed and personal purity before God. The term “justice” is a term used to describe the relational actions demonstrated by the righteous person. In this verse we are called to hunger and thirst for personal righteousness and the justice that flows from it. If we truly hunger for righteousness in our hearts and personal actions, we will demonstrate it in our just and loving relationships with others, making possible the justice and peace promised in the Kingdom of God.

The apostle Paul most often speaks of righteousness as imputed to those who are in Christ (for example, Romans 5:1-2), but Matthew’s emphasis is on the practical side of righteousness, relating to righteousness expressed in our lives and in God’s Kingdom through just actions (compare 1:19; 5:10, 20, 45; 6:1, 33). Those who live in view of the nearness of the Kingdom of God long not only for personal righteousness, but also for righteous living to permeate society as a whole in justice.

The NLT translators recognize the challenge of translating the Greek term here, and have chosen to put “justice” in the text, while recognizing “righteousness” in the footnote. Both terms catch nuances of the meaning in this case.

Where is God in Suffering? Day 1

“Elihu continued speaking: ‘Let me go on, and I will show you the truth.

For I have not finished defending God!
I will present profound arguments
for the righteousness of my Creator.
I am telling you nothing but the truth,
for I am a man of great knowledge.

‘God is mighty, but he does not despise anyone!
He is mighty in both power and understanding.
He does not let the wicked live
but gives justice to the afflicted.
He never takes his eyes off the innocent,
but he sets them on thrones with kings
and exalts them forever.
If they are bound in chains
and caught up in a web of trouble,
he shows them the reason.
He shows them their sins of pride.
He gets their attention
and commands that they turn from evil.

‘If they listen and obey God,
they will be blessed with prosperity throughout their lives.
All their years will be pleasant.
But if they refuse to listen to him,
they will cross over the river of death,
dying from lack of understanding.
For the godless are full of resentment.
Even when he punishes them,
they refuse to cry out to him for help.
They die when they are young,
after wasting their lives in immoral living.
But by means of their suffering, he rescues those who suffer.
For he gets their attention through adversity.

‘God is leading you away from danger, Job,
to a place free from distress.
He is setting your table with the best food.
But you are obsessed with whether the godless will be judged.
Don’t worry, judgment and justice will be upheld.
But watch out, or you may be seduced by wealth.
Don’t let yourself be bribed into sin.
Could all your wealth
or all your mighty efforts
keep you from distress?
Do not long for the cover of night,
for that is when people will be destroyed.
Be on guard! Turn back from evil,
for God sent this suffering
to keep you from a life of evil.'”

Note from the Beyond Suffering Bible


Job’s suffering did not prove that Job was wicked or sinful, but it did introduce a central issue: During times of suffering and disability, when anger and doubt arise that lead to accusations against God’s goodness, God is at work in his own ways to shape and refine his people. We need to be attentive to what God is—and isn’t—saying to us, and not let our pride or worldly assumptions obscure his purposes and timing in our lives.

Take a look inside the Beyond Suffering Bible

Reader Question: Throwing Pearls to Swine (Matthew 7:6)

A reader asks: “We hear a lot about Matthew 7:1-5 regarding a log in your eye, but not much about verse 6. What is that talking about and how does it relate to the earlier verses?” Mark D. Taylor, CEO of Tyndale House Publishers and Director and Chief Stylist for the New Living Translation Bible Translation Committee, agreed to share his thoughts on this topic.

Good questions! Let’s take a look.

First of all, the series of teachings in Matthew 5-7 is often called the Sermon on the Mount. But the text in this extended section probably does not reflect everything Jesus said at that time. Rather, Matthew has organized it as a series of teachings on various topics. Any specific topic does not necessarily relate to the topics before or after it.

For example, the pericope (short section) in 7:1-5 relates to the hypocrisy of judging others when we have sin in our own lives. And isn’t the metaphor of a log in the eye wonderfully descriptive?!

Then we find the pericope (7:6) about throwing pearls to pigs. How does it relate to the previous verses? Scholars have differing opinions on that issue. My perspective is that the two passages are not specifically related to each other. Verse 6 uses metaphoric language. Here’s a very literal translation, as found in the NRSV:

Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.

The NLT provides a dynamic translation of “dogs” as meaning “people who are unholy.” And as it often does, the NLT footnote provides a more literal translation.

Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy.* Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you.
            7:6 Greek don’t give the sacred to dogs.

Jesus is giving very practical advice, though it is presented in very colorful and poetic language. We can easily imagine how silly it would be to throw a string of expensive pearls to a herd of pigs. The pearls would be destroyed and the pigs would not be the least bit appreciative. In the dietary laws of the Old Testament, pigs and dogs were both considered unclean (Lev. 11:7, 27). So Jesus uses dogs as a metaphor for people who are unclean, or sinful. He is telling his listeners—including us today—that it is useless to give what is holy to people who are unholy.

The notes in the Life Application Study Bible make this application at Matt. 7:6: “Jesus says that we should not entrust holy teachings to unholy or unclean people. It is futile to try to teach holy concepts to people who don’t want to listen and will only tear apart what we say. We should not stop giving God’s Word to unbelievers, but we should be wise and discerning in our witnessing, so that we will not be wasting our time.”

If you have a question let us know in the comments or reach out on our social media pages. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We will try to answer your questions here on the blog.

Reader Question: Is there a difference between being born again and being saved?

We received another excellent question on our Facebook page and wanted to share it with you.  This question was about the difference between being born again and being saved. Mark D. Taylor, CEO of Tyndale House Publishers and Director and Chief Stylist for the New Living Translation Bible Translation Committee, agreed to share his thoughts on this topic.

Question: “Is there a difference between being born again and being saved?”

Answer from Mark D. Taylor:

Good question! To find an answer, let’s look to the New Testament, where we find both terms.

In John 3:1-7 we read:

There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the kingdom of God.”

“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”

 Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’

Nicodemus thought Jesus was talking about a physical rebirth, but Jesus was talking about spiritual birth. We have all been born physically, but Jesus wants us to be born again, that is, to have a spiritual birth.

The Greek word that is translated “born again” is also found in 1 Peter 1:3 and 1:23:

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. . . .

For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God.

Peter, who had been one of Jesus’ disciples, is saying that all who believe in Jesus as the Son of God have been born again.

The word “saved” is found many times in the New Testament. Let’s look at two examples in Acts 16:25-31, where we read about Paul and Silas having been imprisoned in Philippi:

Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!”

The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.”

We can see from these sets of passages that being “born again” is the same as “being saved.” Both terms refer to the spiritual process of being accepted into God’s family.

If you have a question let us know in the comments or reach out on our social media pages. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We will try to answer some here on the blog.

Can We Bless God?

We get so excited when we hear people are getting into God’s Word and wrestling with the text. Recently, we received a question on Facebook about blessing God. We thought others might be interested in the response, so we decided to create a blog post. Our Study Bible and Reference brand manager kindly agreed to share on this topic.

Question: “The only way I can see we can bless GOD is by obeying him. To say “bless you LORD” does not seem possible. . . . We can ask GOD to bless others or to bless us, but we are only man with no special powers to apply blessing to others. Your thoughts please!”


Answer from Kevin R. O’Brien, ThM, Study Bible and Reference Brand Manager:

First, thanks for reaching out with this question. Second, I completely understand why this is confusing for so many people. Many songs we sing include words like “I will bless the Lord” or “Bless the Lord, oh my soul.” It seems backwards because it is clearly God who blesses us, not the other way around, right? We see throughout Scripture that God blesses his people. God tells Abraham:

“I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:3

We see it in the covenants of the Old Testament where God promises to care for his people:

If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, I will send you the seasonal rains. The land will then yield its crops, and the trees of the field will produce their fruit. . . . You will eat your fill and live securely in your own land.

“I will give you peace in the land, and you will be able to sleep with no cause for fear. I will rid the land of wild animals and keep your enemies out of your land. . . .

“I will look favorably upon you, making you fertile and multiplying your people. And I will fulfill my covenant with you. You will have such a surplus of crops that you will need to clear out the old grain to make room for the new harvest! I will live among you, and I will not despise you. I will walk among you; I will be your God, and you will be my people.” Leviticus 26:3-6, 9-12

We see it in the Psalms:

For you bless the godly, O Lord;

    you surround them with your shield of love. Psalm 5:12

The Lord remembers us and will bless us.

    He will bless the people of Israel

    and bless the priests, the descendants of Aaron.

He will bless those who fear the Lord,

    both great and lowly. Psalm 115:12-13

And we of course see it in the Beatitudes of Jesus and the writings of Paul.

“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,

    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

God blesses those who mourn,

    for they will be comforted.

God blesses those who are humble,

    for they will inherit the whole earth.

God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,

    for they will be satisfied.

God blesses those who are merciful,

    for they will be shown mercy.

God blesses those whose hearts are pure,

    for they will see God.

God blesses those who work for peace,

    for they will be called the children of God.

God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,

    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” Matthew 5:3-10

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Ephesians 1:3

So how can we possibly bless God?

This is where the New Living Translation is so helpful. Just like in English, Hebrew words often have a range of meaning. When we read familiar passages like Psalm 100:4, Psalm 103:2, or Psalm 104:1, we can easily get confused. You are probably used to reading words like “bless his name!” or “Bless the Lord” in these verses. Here they are in the NLT (I have italicized the word that other translations often render “bless”):

Enter his gates with thanksgiving;

    go into his courts with praise.

    Give thanks to him and praise his name. Psalm 100:4

Let all that I am praise the Lord;

    may I never forget the good things he does for me. Psalm 103:2

Let all that I am praise the Lord.

O Lord my God, how great you are!

You are robed with honor and majesty. Psalm 104:1

In Hebrew the word is the same—barak—but there is a subtle change in meaning. God gives a blessing to us; we offer praise to him. His giving is downward, from a greater to a lesser. Our offering is upward, from a lesser to a greater.

The Scriptures show us that God blesses us in many ways—through material things, through the rain and good harvests, and most importantly, by his presence with us. In Genesis 48, Jacob blesses the sons of Joseph.

Here is what the article on blessing in the NLT Study Bible has to say:

Genesis 48:8-20

Jacob adopted Joseph’s sons and blessed them (Gen 48:3-7), just as his father Isaac had blessed him (27:27-29). Blessing enables, enhances, and enriches life, whereas a curse diminishes it (Lev 26:14-39). Blessing is issued publicly by a benefactor and provides power for prosperity and success. Blessing is essential to covenant relationships in that it guides and motivates the parties to obey the covenant’s stipulations (Lev 26:3-13; Deut 28:1-14). Obedience leads to blessing, whereas rebellion brings a curse.

The initial realm of blessing is creation, in which God as Creator is the ultimate granter of blessing for animals (Gen 1:22) and humans (1:28; see Ps 104; 128:3-4). Humans also serve as channels of divine blessing. Abraham was called to be a blessing to the nations (Gen 12:2-3). The institutions of family (27:27-29), government (1 Kgs 8:14, 44, 52, 66), and religion (Gen 14:19; Lev 9:22) are nurtured, commissioned, and purified through blessing. Israel’s priests mediated God’s blessing to Israel (Num 6:24-26; Deut 10:8).

Three basic characteristics can be observed in OT blessings: (1) They are conveyed from a greater party to a lesser one (Gen 32:26; Heb 7:6-7); (2) They are signs of favor that result in well-being and productivity (Deut 28:3-7); and (3) They acknowledge that all power and blessing stem from the Creator. All blessings have their source in God’s love (Deut 7:7-8, 12-15).

God’s blessings in Genesis are in striking contrast with the pagan religions of antiquity. For pagan religions, fortunes and fertility of flock, family, and fields came about in sympathetic magic through cultic observances at their shrines—profane customs that were designed to induce the deities to act on their behalf so that the cycle of life could be maintained. In Genesis, all of life, fertility, and blessing came by God’s decree, for he is the only true and living God.

In the NT, the emphasis of blessing shifts from the material to the spiritual, from the nation to the church, and from the temporal to the eternal (Matt 6:25; Eph 1:3; 1 Pet 3:9). In his death, Jesus bore the consequences of sin’s curse (Gal 3:13), established God’s kingdom (Matt 3:2; 5:3-20; John 3:3-5), and blessed its citizens with forgiveness of sin (Rom 4:6-25). Now believers are called to bless the world (Luke 6:27-28; Rom 12:14; see also Isa 19:24; Zech 8:13).

As you can see, our questioner was correct—obedience does have everything to do with how we “bless” God. It is our tangible response of praise to the God who blesses us.