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P2. Cohanim to Bless God's People    [Make a Comment]

Cohanim (priests) are to pray blessing over God's people.

This precept is derived from His Word (blessed be He):

Key Scriptures

Numbers 6:22-27 (Maimonides RP26; Meir MP58; Chinuch C378)
ADONAI said to Moshe, "Speak to Aharon and his sons, and tell them that this is how you are to bless the people of Isra'el: you are to say to them, 'Y'varekh'kha ADONAI v'yishmerekha. [May ADONAI bless you and keep you.] Ya'er ADONAI panav eleikha vichunekka. [May ADONAI make his face shine on you and show you his favor.] Yissa ADONAI panav eleikha v'yasem l'kha shalom. [May ADONAI lift up his face toward you and give you peace.]' In this way they are to put my name on the people of Isra'el, so that I will bless them."

Matthew 16:19
I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you prohibit on earth will be prohibited in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.


The Levitical Cohanim (Aaron and his sons) were commanded to bless the "People of Israel" (the Jewish People) who, at that time, were the only people group in covenant with God. The blessing (referred to today as the Birkat Cohanim or the Aaronic Benediction) was to be given using the exact words recorded in Numbers 6:24-26, the purpose of which was for the Cohanim to put God's Name on the Jewish People, thereby identifying whom God Himself would bless. Clearly, God did not need the Cohanim to tell Him who the Jewish People were, so the commandment was no doubt intended more as an impartation of authority, informing the Cohanim that what they declared on earth (in the way of blessing) would be made a reality in heaven - a concept that was to be reiterated years later by Messiah Yeshua (see Matthew 16:19).

In the New Covenant, all believers in Yeshua are elevated to the status of priests (Cohanim) under Yeshua (1 Peter 2:5-12) who, Scripture teaches, is our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14; Revelation 1:4-6). Extrapolating from Numbers 6:22-27, I therefore conclude that, as was required of Aaron and his sons, we who are New Covenant Cohanim, through our belief in Yeshua, are also required to pray blessing upon the Jewish People; and not only upon them, but also upon the newest "People of God" as well - all who believe in Yeshua - both Jews and non-Jews. And there is good biblical evidence that our responsibility to bless does not stop there, but extends even to the world's unbelievers through our bringing them the Good News of Yeshua and praying for their salvation (Matthew 9:36-38, 28:16-20; James 5:16).

Although Hebrews 8:13 indicates that the Mosaic Covenant is diminishing and is in the process of vanishing, it is never said, in Scripture, to have already vanished. Without the Temple, Levitical Cohanim today have few functions, but those remaining include ceremonially blessing the Jewish People with the Birkat Cohanim (Numbers 6:22-27), receiving special aliyot to read from the Torah, and participating in redeeming a Jewish family's firstborn son (Pidyon HaBen - Numbers 18:15). In Orthodox Judaism, only Levitical Cohanim are authorized to minister the Birkat Cohanim, but in other denominations, others may do so. In Messianic Judaism, for example, it may be prayed over a congregation by a Levitical Cohen if one is available, but often the Rabbi, the Chazan (Cantor), or other officiating leader ministers it at a service's conclusion in reliance upon his New Covenant priestly status. Since the New Covenant priesthood is not limited to Jews, Gentile leaders are also authorized to minister it.

The matter of women leading synagogue services is controversial; in my opinion, women should not be in that position of authority and should therefore not minister the Birkat HaCohanim. Those that believe otherwise, however, rely on the undisputed fact that the New Covenant priesthood extends to women as well as to men.

Classical Commentators

Maimonides says that Cohanim must bless Israel every day, but does not say it has to be with the Numbers 6:24-26 text. Meir does not say that the blessing must be given every day, but does say that it must be given during a service and the text in Numbers 6:24-26 must be used. HaChinuch concurs with Maimonides that the Cohanim must bless Israel every day, and gives many more particulars on how it is to be done. Two of the particulars are that the Birkat HaCohanim that must be imparted is just "Sim Shalom", and that the Cohen delivering the blessing must position his hands in a special way.

NCLA: JMo JFo KMo KFo GMo GFo (Believers in Yeshua)
JMo JFi KMi KFi GMi GFi (Cohen (Levitical) unbelievers in Yeshua)
JMo JFi KMi KFi GMi GFi (Non-Cohen (Levitical) unbelievers in Yeshua)

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