The Lord bless you and keep you

Origins. This benediction given by God to Moses for Aaron and his sons is one of the oldest liturgical devices still in use. It comes from Numbers 6:22-27 (ESV):

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.’

So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”

This text is most commonly printed in hymnals with the setting by Peter Lutkin (1858–1931), first published as sheet music by the Clayton F. Summy Company in 1900 (Fig. 1). This arrangement is for four choral parts and organ accompaniment, although the accompaniment is optional; the piece works well unaccompanied. This choral setting also features a seven-fold, polyphonic Amen ending. The sheet music indicates that the Amen section can be performed separately. In hymnals, the tune is most often called BENEDICTION.

Fig. 1. Peter Lutkin, The Lord Bless You and Keep You (Clayton F. Summy Co., 1900/1928).

Lutkin was first dean of Northwestern University School of Music, co-founder of the American Guild of Organists, and musical editor of The Methodist Hymnal (1905). According to Guy McCutchan, in Our Hymnody: A Manual of the Methodist Hymnal (NY, 1937), Lutkin felt that the extended Amen of his choral arrangement was too difficult for congregational use, so he omitted it from the hymnal version (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2.   The Methodist Hymnal  (1905).

Fig. 2. The Methodist Hymnal (1905).


In recent years, the setting by John Rutter (1945–) has also been in common use among church and school choirs.

for Hymnology Archive
1 October 2018

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