Mit ígért Isten Ábrahámnak? Megjegyzések 1Móz 12,3b értelmezéséhez

Csaba Balogh: Mit ígért Isten Ábrahámnak? Megjegyzések 1Móz 12,3b értelmezéséhez. In: Református Szemle 102 (2009), 265-285. pp.

The present study investigates one of the theologically most significant, but at the same time exegetically most debated passages of the Hebrew Bible: the promise of YHWH to Abraham in Gen 12:3b (and related texts). Most previous studies of this text argue that the niph‘al form of ברך should be interpreted either as a passive (‘to be blessed’; also followed by the ancient bible-translations, as well as by Gal 3:8 in the New Testament), a medial (‘to gain blessing’), or a reflexive (‘to bless oneself’). However, these translations are grammatically and theologically problematic. The passive (and the related medial) sense of ברך is expressed by the pu‘al (and in certain cases by the qal part. pass.). Moreover, the act of blessing cannot be reflexive (there is no such thing as ‘blessing oneself’). Instead it is argued here that ברך niph‘al has reciprocal meaning (‘to bless each other’). This translation is grammatically possible and it has extensive parallels in the Bible, the most significant of which is Gen 48:20. It is argued that this text provides a fourth example for the niph‘al form of ברך, also identifying the concrete form of the niph‘al-action: to bless each other by mentioning the name of a person as a paradigm (connected to ברך niph’al by ב).
This study also examines the hitpa‘el form of ברך, which is used on certain occasions in contexts very close to that of ברך niph‘al. It appears that beyond the similarities in the context of Gen 22:18 and 26:4, on the one hand, and Gen 12:3b, on the other, which would plead for a similar meaning of the niph‘al and hitpa‘el, the prominence of the ‘seed’ of the blessed person (rather than the person himself) suggests that Gen 22:18 and 26:4 are reinterpretations of the niph‘al texts. This allows for considering the possibility that despite similarities there may be some differences between the meaning of the niph‘al and the hitpa‘el. From poetic texts in which the hitpa‘el of ברך appears in parallelism one is tempted to conclude that the hitpa‘el is neither passive, nor reflexive but declarative, which means ‘to utter (a) blessing (formula)’ (by). This is also supported by Deut 29:18, which describes ברך hitpa‘el by the act of uttering a blessing formula (שָׁלוֹם יִהְיֶה לְ). In this way the similarity between Gen 12:3b with ברך niph‘al and Gen 22:18 with ברך hitpa‘el is also accounted for, because the reciprocal niph‘al also has a declarative nuance ‘to utter blessing towards one another’.
It is further argued that Acts 3:25 and Gal 3:8 reinterpret the texts of Gen 22:18 and 12:3 / 18:18 respectively in new ways. These interpretations differ not only with regard to the Old Testament texts, but also in their New Testament contexts. In Acts 3:25 the seed of Abraham is identified with Jesus, who brings blessings for Jews from all over the world. In Gal 3:8 the faith of Abraham is seen as a model, which if one adopts, will also share the blessing of the forefather. It is thus not about being among the nations “to be blessed” through Abraham which is at stake in Gal 3:8-9, but rather being like Abraham was, and then share his blessing. This interpretation rests on a specific interpretation of the prep. בby su.n.
The New Testament adopted the passive interpretation of ברך niph‘al and hitpa‘el as found in the Hellenistic LXX. The original meaning of ברך niph‘al and hitpa‘el may have been unknown to the authors of the LXX and they may have deduced the passive meaning from other cases of niph‘al and hitpa‘el. At any rate, the passive interpretation fit well the Hellenistic context of the Jewish translators who militated for the acceptance of the Jews throughout the Ptolemaic empire by proving for the world that the descendants of Abraham are the channel through which God’s blessing is poured out on this world.