“May Jehovah bless you and safeguard you. May Jehovah make his face shine upon you, and may he favor you. May Jehovah lift up his face toward you and grant you peace.”—Numbers 6:24-26, New World Translation.
“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, New King James Version.
Meaning of Numbers 6:24-26
These words are known as the priestly, or Aaronic, blessing—Aaron being Israel’s first high priest. (Exodus 28:1) God is the Source of the blessing. (Numbers 6:22, 23) To Moses he said: “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is the way you should bless the people of Israel,’” after which God stated the words found at Numbers 6:24-26. Faithful priests obeyed that divine command. They also honored God’s name, Jehovah. a In verse 27 we read: “And they [the priests] must place my name upon the people of Israel, that I may bless them.”
“May Jehovah bless you and safeguard you.” Jehovah blesses his worshippers by protecting them, guiding them, and giving them success. (Proverbs 10:22) In Numbers 6:24-26, each occurrence of the word rendered “you” is in the singular. This could indicate God’s desire to bless not only the nation as a whole but also each Israelite personally.
“May Jehovah make his face shine upon you, and may he favor you.” Asking God to “make his face shine upon” someone was a request for God to show his favor and approval to that person. b The phrase can also be translated: “May the LORD smile on you.” (Numbers 6:25, New International Reader’s Version) Jehovah favors his people by showing them kindness, compassion, and mercy.—Isaiah 30:18.
“May Jehovah c lift up his face toward you and grant you peace.” Jehovah ‘lifts his face’ toward his worshippers by directing his loving attention to them and by giving them peace. According to one reference work, “the Hebrew word for peace (shalom) does not refer simply to an absence of conflict, but to well-being and wholeness, both physically and spiritually.”
To benefit from the blessing contained in these verses, the Israelites had to obey Jehovah. (Leviticus 26:3-6, 9) When they did, he proved true to his word. This was well illustrated during the reigns of some of their kings, such as Solomon and Hezekiah.—1 Kings 4:20, 25; 2 Chronicles 31:9, 10.
While Christians are not required to recite this blessing, they can express similar sentiments when praying to God about others or when encouraging fellow Christians. (1 Thessalonians 5:11, 25) Jehovah does not change. He always wants to bless and protect his faithful worshippers. True Christians can therefore be at peace, knowing that Jehovah’s approving “face” is shining upon them.
Context of Numbers 6:24-26
The first ten chapters of the book of Numbers record God’s instructions to the Israelites while they were camped near Mount Sinai en route to the Promised Land. During that encampment, which lasted for about a year, Jehovah organized the people into a nation and gave them the set of laws that made up the Law covenant.
Jehovah also told Moses how Aaron and his sons—who were chosen as priests—should bless the Israelites. (Numbers 6:22, 23) Thereafter, Aaron and his descendants used the words of Numbers 6:24-26 to bless the nation. In time, it became a tradition for a priest to recite the blessing at the close of the daily sacrifices at the temple.
Watch this short video to see an overview of the book of Numbers.
a Jehovah is the common English rendering of the personal name of God in the Hebrew language. To find out why many Bible translations use the title Lord instead of God’s personal name, see the article “Who Is Jehovah?”
c According to the NIV Study Bible, the repetition of God’s name in these verses “is for emphasis and gives force to the expression in [verse 27].” Yet, some claim that the three occurrences of God’s name in those verses support the notion that God is a Trinity. This is not the case. A Bible commentary that supports the Trinity admits that the threefold use of the divine name “would not even have suggested any such idea to the priest who gave, or to the people who received, the benediction. To them the threefold form merely added beauty and fulness to the blessing.” (The Pulpit Commentary, Volume 2, page 52) For more information, see the article “Is God a Trinity?”