#blessed: Lesson 3

We’re moving right along in our study of the word blessed, and I cannot wait to get into this week’s lesson!

BACKGROUND

We’ve learned there are four root words which have been translated blessed in our modern English Bible translations:

Old Testament (Hebrew)

barak

esher

New Testament (Greek)

eulogeo

makarios

For the last two weeks we’ve studied barak and eulogeo. I hope you’ve gotten as much out of what we’ve uncovered so far as I have!

This week I am super excited to get to the other two words translated blessed - esher and makarios. Esher is the word used in the passage in Psalm which opened this study, so let’s take a look at it again:

Blessed [esher] is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.

But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3, NIV)

Next week we will shift gears and dive head first into studying this passage. But before we do that we need to understand the word it opens with - blessed (esher).

Esher is often stated as an interjection or exclamation, and it literally means “how happy!,” “oh the blessedness of!,” or “oh the happiness of!” It refers to an emphasized state of happiness and prosperity. In fact, its Greek counterpart, makarios, can be translated “supremely blessed, happy” and adds an element of being envied to the word, meaning that this kind of blessedness is enviable.

Esher and makarios are used (for the most part) only of man. There are two exceptions to this in the New Testament when Paul uses makarios to describe God in his first letter to Timothy (1 Timothy 1:11, 6:15). In this case, Paul is literally saying that God is supremely “happy.”

This blessedness is only had by those who, again, are in Christ. It is a state of being which exists apart from material welfare or lack thereof. It exists apart from circumstances or achievements. I want to show a comment by James Strong regarding esher here because I love how he describes it:

“One’s status before God (being ‘blessed’) is not always expressed in terms of the individual or social conditions that bring what moderns normally consider to be ‘happiness.’” (Strong's Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, 2001)

This brought me to the following question:

If this meaning of blessed refers to a state of happiness, then what is the definition of happiness in the Bible?

What I found in answer to that question astounded me. A quick word study of happiness in Scripture brought me back to the same two words we’re studying today - esher and makarios! In most cases when the word happy is used in the Bible, it is a translation of one of these two words.

For example (same verses, different translations):

Proverbs 3:13:

Blessed (esher) are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding. (NIV)

Happy (esher) is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. (KJV)

And in the New Testament:

John 13:17:

Now that you know these things, you will be blessed (makarios) if you do them. (NIV)

If ye know these things, happy (makarios) are ye if ye do them. (KJV)

I’m not saying Scripture doesn’t talk extensively about joy, because it absolutely does, but this is a different word altogether.

This state of blessedness, happiness, can be described as a contentment which is had due to a person’s understanding of their divinely favored (blessed) well-being.

This is where all blessedness collides!

APPLICATION

Okay, now let’s look at some other places in the Old Testament where the word esher is used. In each passage, try replacing the word blessed with the phrase “how happy!” just to get the full effect of the meaning:

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the LORD does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. (Psalm 32:1-2, NIV)

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. (Psalm 34:8, NIV)

Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. (Psalm 40:4, NIV)

LORD Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you. (Psalm 84:12, NIV)

And it’s no different when makarios is used in the New Testament:

But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:28, ESV)

In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35, ESV)

Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him. (Romans 4:8, BSB)

These passages all make sense. But let’s look at some places where these words are used that don’t make quite as much sense. Again, replace the word blessed with its meaning of how happy!:

Blessed is the one you discipline, LORD, the one you teach from your law; (Psalm 94:12, NIV)