"May the Lord bless you and keep you." Considered to be one of the most beautiful blessings in the Bible, and perhaps the most widely used benediction, the verse, “The Lord bless you and keep you,” is found tucked away in a book of the Bible that many believers may not actually be too familiar with. 

The book of Numbers was written by Moses, and in this book is found the narration of about forty years of Moses’ life. It is titled Numbers because two censuses are included (see Numbers chapters 1 and 26). Though the censuses taken are unique to this book in the Bible, it also has overarching themes beyond the numbering of the Israelites.

In Numbers, we find the concepts of being in the wilderness, God’s faithfulness, and human disobedience. It is in the early part of this book that we come across the noteworthy blessing.

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).

“The Lord bless you and keep you” is the first line of the larger blessing passage. This verse is important because it comes directly from the heart of God. God spoke to this to Moses, who was then to teach it Aaron, who was Moses’ brother, and his sons (the priests) as the way that they should bless the children of Israel. This blessing has become known as the Aaronic blessing because it was taught to Aaron and the priests as the blessing they were to use.

It was a highly significant blessing given from God then, and it is still an imperative blessing today. We can continue using this as a blessing for all God’s beloved followers. The entire blessing demonstrates the great love that God has for his children and his desire for us to have goodness and peace in our hearts and lives.

What Does 'May the Lord Bless You and Keep You' Mean?

The Hebrew word in this verse, which is translated in English to “bless,” is bârakh. This word has a deeper meaning in the Hebrew language – a meaning that alludes to God’s respectful provision. This word imparts to readers that God will provide his children what they need.

The Hebrew word in this verse which is translated in English to “keep” is shamar. Shamar means to guard and protect. This word communicates to us that God will place a hedge of protection around his children.

Overall, the first line in this blessing means that when God will “bless and keep you,” He will provide for and protect you. What an amazing blessing! When we say this blessing over someone, we know that we are speaking God’s good provision in their life and God’s defense over them. This is a powerful blessing that calls upon God in mighty ways to meet our needs.

Beyond the first line of this blessing – the Lord keep you and bless you – which communicates and asks for God to provide for and protect his children, we discover more about who God is.

When God makes his face shine upon someone, it is a receiving of God’s favor. God wants his children to have his favor in their lives. Further, this blessing requests and speaks over someone God’s grace, and peace, and that God would remember the one being blessed. This blessing was spoken by God and shows us exactly what he wants for his children; peace, and grace, and goodness all of their days.

What an amazing God who desires to bestow this great blessing on his followers. This blessing is a remarkable indication of how deep God’s love and care for believers goes.

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What Is the Context of Numbers 6 and May the Lord Bless You and Keep You."

In the sixth chapter of Numbers, God was speaking to Moses and giving him guidance on what to say to the Israelites. Most of this chapter is spent laying out the laws of those wanting to take the vow of a Nazirite. A Nazirite was an Israelite consecrated to do the work of God. God spoke these Nazirite laws to Moses, and Moses in turn relayed these Nazirite laws to the children of Israel.

It is at the end of the sixth chapter, following the laws of the Nazirites, that this blessing is found, “The Lord bless you and keep you.” At this point in the chapter, it is once again the Lord who was speaking to Moses with the instructions that Moses would tell Aaron and his sons (or priests) that this was the way they were to bless the children of Israel (see Numbers 6:23). The exquisiteness of this blessing is that it came directly from God as a way to bless His treasured followers. Specifically, this was a way to invite God’s blessing on them.

Why Were the Israelites Blessed?

This blessing was given by God so that Aaron and his priests would “put God’s name on the children of Israel and bless them” (see Numbers 6:27). The Israelites were blessed so that they would be marked as God’s children and that they alone would receive his goodness in their lives. The rest of this blessing calls for God’s grace, peace, and countenance. The Israelites were blessed because they were God’s chosen people.

This blessing is still used in Judaism today. Jewish people use this blessing in a variety of ways. It is recited at Shabbat, which is the weekly Sabbath, and other holidays, as well as important events and milestones in the life of a Jewish person. This blessing remains close to the heart of Jewish people and part of their spiritual lives and traditions.

This blessing is also widely used in Christianity. It is found in liturgies, worship songs, devotionals, and is used as a benediction in many services and ceremonies. It is a prominent blessing that continues to minister to and impact the lives of believers.

What Is a Benediction?

This verse is commonly used to conclude a service as a benediction. A benediction is a blessing used at the end of a ceremony. This particular blessing, found in Numbers 6:24-26, is a significant blessing that we can still use today.

Many pastors or deacons will use this blessing at the close of a Sunday service, or at the end of a wedding ceremony, or to complete a baptism. It is an appropriate blessing to use as we declare and pray for God’s blessing, provision, and protection over believers. This Aaronic blessing used as a benediction is a reminder of God’s faithfulness and how he lovingly takes care of those who follow him.

“The Lord bless you and keep you” is a striking blessing that has been used by Jewish people and Christians throughout history. It is a way to invoke and call upon God’s blessing of provision and guarding of those who believe in him and follow him. This blessing – that comes directly from God – reminds us of his love, his care, and his desire for goodness in the lives of his beloved children.

This blessing is not for everyone, it was given by God to Moses and Aaron specifically for God’s children, and it is a blessing that was meant to be used moving forward. It shows us God’s desire to bless, protect, provide for, and grant peace and favor to those who follow him. It is a blessing that helps us experience and understand the vast love of God.

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Pamela Palmer is a writer, chaplain, and the founder of upheldlife.com, the platform on which she produces weekly devotionals and faith resource articles to inspire keeping faith at the center of it all. She lives and thrives on Jesus, coffee, and music. She is in pastoral ministry and gets to share in the emotional and spiritual lives of many people, being a small piece of each journey. Pamela married the perfect man for her and they have two beautiful kiddos. She has been published on herviewfromhome.com and you can follow her at upheldlife.com, or on Facebook.com/upheldlife.