Joe, your post sparked me to look up brk ("bless") in my TLOT. There's a lengthy entry there which I'll have to read when I have more time, but a couple things jumped out at me whilst skimming it, which lead to another couple thoughts:
(1) Keller, in noting the difficulty in determining a relationship between the connotations of "knee" and "pond," notes that the Akkadian word birku means "knee," "durability, might," and "lap," "euphemistically for the genitals, but also in the context of adoption rites. Of course this strikes me as interesting b/c of the "touching of the thigh" we read about in Genesis (and in the temple). Also, I've wondered about the connection between water and blood b/c they seem to be our most important ritual symbols (viz. baptism and sacrament), and I wonder if this isn't how we should think about the connection between the "knee"(/loins) and "pond" connotations: both are symbols of God's life force. Interestingly, the first occurrence of brk in Genesis is in the context of being fruitful (Gen 1:22; cf. Gen 1:28).
(2) In Gen 33:11, brkh is used to mean "gift." This caught my recent fascination with Abraham's covenant(s?) and Milbank's (and Marion's) thinking on gifts. My first inclination is to think about priesthood in terms of the ability to give blessings/gifts, and that this is separate from gifts/blessings themselves. This separation(/distance) is intriguing to think about....
(3) Interesting that brk seems to be used as in greetings and fare-wells (esp. death-bed types of blessings). It seems these occasions also traditionally call for gift exchange.
(4) I think this link between blessings and the remnant is important to think about more. Ishmael was promised to be "exceedingly" fruitful (e.g., Gen 17:20), so what was unique about the covenant through Isaac? that his seed would survive until Adam-Ondi-Ahman? that the Gentiles would be blessed through his seed? Hmmm....
--RobertC 03:10, 6 January 2008 (CET)