Q. Why is the blessing of the father so important in OT days? Is there relevance for today?
A. A father’s blessings was important for several reasons:
1. They were usually given before the father’s death, and served as a “last will and testament” governing inheritances:
• Gen 27:4, 7, 10 so that my soul may bless you before I die. … and bless you in the presence of the LORD before my death. … so that he may bless you before his death.
The firstborn receives a double portion as his right:
• Deut 21:17 But he shall acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the unloved, by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the beginning of his strength; to him belongs the right of the firstborn.
But sometimes the firstborn lose their birthright because of folly or sin:
• Gen 25:33-34 And Jacob said, “First swear to me”; so he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew; and he ate and drank, and rose and went on his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.
• 1 Chron 5:1 Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel (for he was the firstborn, but because he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph the son of Israel; so that he is not enrolled in the genealogy according to the birthright.
2. The blessings contain the father’s observation of the sons’ character, and provide commendation or caution of their conduct to encourage or warn them as the father departs:
• Gen 49:28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them. He blessed them, every one with the blessing appropriate to him. (Read Gen 49)
3. They expressed the father’s wish (“may”) but, at least in the case of the patriarchs, were prophetic and fulfilled, possibly due to their covenant relationship with the Lord:
• Gen 27:28-29 Now may God give you of the dew of heaven, And of the fatness of the earth, And an abundance of grain and new wine; May peoples serve you, And nations bow down to you; Be master of your brothers, And may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be those who curse you, And blessed be those who bless you.
• Gen 27:33 Yes, and he shall be blessed. …
Isaac’s words indicate that Jacob will be blessed despite his deceit, because the blessing was not conditional.
I believe nowadays the written will has replaced the verbal will, and that our wish for our children are not prophetic in the same way as the patriarchs’ were. However, the second reason, that of appreciation or advice, is still valid. Frequently a child’s success in life is integrally tied to his acceptance and approval by the father, the lack of which often leads to his struggling to win what he did not have. In that sense I feel the blessing, even though it may be informal, is still relevant today.