God bless you; Bless you

said to show affection or thankfulness; said in response to someone who has sneezed
—After his third sneeze, I stopped saying, “Bless you,” and just gave him a tissue.

Just as he had promised, God gave Abraham and Sarah a son in their old age. After this son, Isaac, grew up, he married Rebecca and she gave birth to twin baby boys. When the two boys were born, the younger one was holding on to the heel of his brother. Therefore, he was given the name Jacob, meaning “one who grabs the heel,” which can further mean “supplanter” or “deceiver.”

As a grown man, Jacob tricked Esau to get a blessing from his father. As part of the blessing, Isaac told Jacob to travel to the land of his grandfather to find a wife, saying,

May the sovereign God bless you [God almighty bless thee—KJV]! May he make you fruitful and give you a multitude of descendants! Then you will become a large nation. May he give you and your descendants the blessing he gave to Abraham so that you may possess the land God gave to Abraham, the land where you have been living as a temporary resident. (Genesis 28:3,4)

Today, people often say “Bless you” after hearing someone sneeze. While this is a common custom, it’s origins are unclear. Following are some possible explanations.

Some say that, in the past, people believed that sneezing could expel a person’s spirit. Saying “Bless you” prevented the spirit from being snatched by Satan before it could return. Others say that the phrase comes from an old belief that sneezing was the body’s way of ridding itself of an evil spirit. Saying “Bless you” therefore kept the spirit from returning. Still others say that in times past people believed that when a person sneezed, his heart stopped. Saying “Bless you” encouraged the heart to start again. Still another theory is that during a plague, a sneeze was seen as a symptom of the disease, so a response of “Bless you” was asking God to heal the sick person.

Now, for most people, this phrase is simply a polite response, with no actual meaning behind it.

Even thought the name Jacob has a strange meaning, according to the US Social Security Administration, it was the most popular name chosen for baby boys in the US during the first decade of the 2000s. In fact, of the top-ten boys’ names for that time period, eight come from the Bible (Jacob, Michael, Joshua, Matthew, Daniel, Andrew, Ethan, and Joseph), while three out of the top-ten girls’ names are biblical in origin (Hannah, Abigail, and Elizabeth).

Go to the appendix for a list of over 150 biblical names, along with their meanings and backgrounds, that are often used in the US.

Advertisements
Comments are closed.
  • All scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://bible.org. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

    Scripture in brackets is from the King James Bible.

  • Creative Commons License
    This work is licensed by Craig Thompson under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

    Any reproduction of this content using passages from the NET Bible must follow NET Bible's copyright policy for use of those passages.

    For information on creating translations of Putting Words in Our Mouths, please go here.

  • Visit My Blog: Clearing Customs

    There Are More International Students in the US than Ever Before—How Many Get to See the Inside of an American Home?

    When I worked with students from other countries at the University of Missouri-Columbia back in the late 80s and early 90s, I heard this statistic: Eighty percent of international students don’t step foot inside an American home. I had no reason to argue with that statistic, but I’ve spent the years since then trying, in […]

    Golden Doors

    When it’s time to paint your front door, choosing a color can be a big decision. Do you go with traditional or bold or trendy? Do you stick with white or black or make a statement with bright blue or red or teal? My wife and I were at the house of some friends not […]

  • Advertisements