Hebrew In Israel | Blessing–ברכה–Possible Etymology – Learn Torah

Hebrew In Israel | Blessing–ברכה–Possible Etymology – Learn Torah

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A very long time ago I saw a post about the word ברכה Berakha–Blessing–which made me wonder about the origins of the word.  The post claimed that because the root ברך is the same for bless and knee, that the words are related.  The logic was that because people presumably blessed God while they were on their knees, that the association was created between the speech and the kneeling.  Hence blessing was a knee-associated act.

Though the idea is interesting, I have very serious doubts about this.


  As a trained scholar I couldn’t ignore that this association is superficial, and does not go deep into how people saw the world they lived in.  Why would we assume that the act of blessing is the same as praising/praying?  Most hymns we find from the ANE were praises, and not blessings.  I assume that the reason the original writer wrote this was because they were thinking about prayer practices in Judaism, and ignored that the word is shared by different Semitic languages which have different practices.

The next stage was to find a logical and pan-Semitic idea that can relate to the whole subject.  What I noticed is that a common idea in the world was that fertility was a main theme in the way people saw their relationship with God/gods.  The fertility cult is so old, it predates historical writings, and we find very primitive symbols of fertility for the ground, livestock and man.  Man was obsessed with fertility, and couldn’t get enough of it in his cult world.

The question I was left with was how does this tie in with blessing/ברכה?
I found the answer in the book of Job which states:

מַדּוּעַ קִדְּמוּנִי בִרְכָּיִם;    וּמַה שָּׁדַיִם כִּי אִינָק
Why were there knees to receive me and breasts that I might be nursed?” Job 3:12

The link here is possible if we look at the kneeling/squatting as a symbol of fertility.  As we know, when a woman gives birth the knees have to part for the birth position.  What most people don’t know is that in the ANE most women gave birth while squatting which places much stress on the knees.  The image of the birth was of a stone seat where a woman would be supported by one stone, while two stones were under her feet for a squat like position.  This was a common image in the ANE, and could be the origin of the idea of the knees and blessing.  Hence the idea of knee-blessing is correct; however the direction of thought was very differently.
Originally Published:  8 September 2015

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