There are many Hebrew words for "curse."

Background on curses

Who do curses affect?

In the Scriptures, there seem to be some curses that are global and others that are more localized.

All curses are the result of individual actions, but some curses are applied to everyone while others are applied only to the individual who committed the act.

When Adam and Eve sinned, their actions caused both global and individual curses.

  • The global curses: God banned all of humankind from the garden, creating separation between Himself and us. God no longer offered protection from death.
  • The individual curses: God cursed the serpent, the woman in child-bearing and marriage, the man and his work and the ground that he would work.

Other curses are only specific to the individual.  For example, in Exodus 21.17, we read that a person who curses his father or mother should be put to death.

Are there different kinds of curses?

Yes, and each one has its own meaning.  You can see in the illustration[1] that there are many words that we translate as “curse,” but the two that make up over fifty percent of the translations are ללק (qalal) and אָרַר (arar).  Let’s take a closer look at them.

There are many Hebrew words for "curse."

 

ללק (qalal)

In the context of cursing, qalal means to consider another to be light, small, contemptible and/or insignificant; to declare cursed, to belittle, to sharpen or to shake.  Qalal is the opposite of encouragement and goodwill.  It can also be the invoking of divine harm under certain conditions, with a focus on the content of the oath.

There are a number of passages that use qalal.  Most of them describe one person cursing another.  Here are three examples:

  1. Genesis 12.3:

And I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.

  1. Exodus 21.17:

Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.

  1. 1 Samuel 17.43:

He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.

These three passages show one person cursing another—diminishing them in a mean-spirited way or binding upon the other person a curse within the content of an oath. This is not godly behavior nor does it come from a heart that is close to God.

As Christians in business, we are commanded to love our enemies and never to hate (cf. Matthew 5).  When we diminish another person with our words or actions—when we cause them to be considered light, small, contemptible or insignificant—we are cursing them in the qalal sense.

This has direct application to how we view our competitors and what we say about them, whether in public or private.  We as Christian business owners should never make fun of our competitors or treat them with contempt or insignificance.

אָרַר (arar)

In the context of cursing, arar means to cover with misfortune, to bind with a curse or to put one’s self or another under a curse. It is declarative in nature.

All of the curses in Deuteronomy 27 and 28 use arar.

Jeremiah uses arar in Jeremiah 17.5-8:

5This is what the Lord says:
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
6That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land salt where no one lives.
7But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
8They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”

Take a closer look at Jeremiah 17.5

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the Lord.”

When we as Christian business owners place our faith in our own strength and find our hearts turning away from the Lord, we bring on ourselves a curse.

Arar is also used twice in Malachi 3.9-10, where the prophet curses his own people because they are robbing God by not giving the entire tithe:

9You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me.  10Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

Notice that in both Jeremiah and Malachi, the curses are attached to actions but so are the corresponding blessings. Not always, but often, passages that deal with curses also deal with blessings.  If we commit certain actions, we will bring upon ourselves a curse but if we commit other actions, we will bring upon ourselves a blessing.  It is important to note two things in conjunction with this:

  1. Actions always indicate heart attitude. I can’t discern what you believe and value by your words, but I can certainly discern what you believe and value by your actions.
  2. Blessings and curses are not formulas to success. Your heart matters in all of this.  What you love—who you love—is evident in your actions.

In Malachi, we are cursed when we don’t tithe.  God expects us to take care of His house first, then take care of our house.  I can’t tell you how many Christian business owners I’ve met who don’t tithe.  Honestly, they’ll give two or three percent while blaming government taxes and costs in the business.  What it often comes down to is that they enjoy their toys more than they enjoy tithing.  Having these toys is not sinful, but every dollar you spend on a boat, cabin, classic car or luxury trip is one less dollar that you can give back to the Lord.

If we will take care of God’s house first, He promises to send on us a blessing which is so large that we can’t contain it!

Trust in yourself to diminish your effectiveness

One of our culture’s dogma is that we need to “believe in ourselves.”  If, by this phrase, they mean we should have a healthy, appropriate confidence in our skills and abilities, I have no argument.

But many take it much farther than this, especially those who are politically conservative and believe self-reliance is a Christian virtue.  They literally teach that self-belief is essential to success.  They tell our young people, “Believe in yourself and you can do anything!”

What a lie.

The reality is that we cannot accomplish anything we desire if we just believe in ourselves enough.  We just can’t.  And more to the point, when we trust in ourselves rather than in the Lord for success, we bring upon ourselves a curse that will give us diminishing results for our efforts.

Now, you might say, “What about people who clearly were very successful and yet trusted entirely in themselves?  Most CEOs don’t trust in God.  Most professional athletes don’t trust in God.  Most successful politicians have little trust in God.  How can they be under a curse and yet achieve such huge successes?”

That’s a great question.  The answer is simple:  the success you see in them is still diminished—their success could have been much greater had they trusted in the Lord.  Under God’s direction and control, their successes might have been entirely different and certainly would have been significant in the Kingdom of God.  The fact that Bill Gates built Microsoft and has employed hundreds of thousands of people doesn’t impress God.  I don’t know what God would have Bill do, but I do know that it would be in line with advancing God’s agenda on this earth.

You see, success in God’s eyes is about faithfulness to His call on your life and loving him with all your heart, strength and mind.  The generation of wealth is of little consequence in the Kingdom of God—unless such generation is what God has called you to do.  But even then, it’s not the generation of the wealth that is important, it’s your faithfulness to God in doing what He called you to do.

We American Evangelicals have such a western view of the world wherein financial success is considered the pinnacle of success.  But in God’s kingdom, it is different. Moreover, the Scriptures make it abundantly clear that it is more important to pursue and gain wisdom, understanding, discretion, knowledge, insight and righteousness (Proverbs 2).  Those things are far more important to pursue and gain than financial success.

Can I get rid of all the curses that are on me?

No. When you put yourself under a curse, you are adding to the other curses God placed on creation after Adam and Eve sinned.  It’s not as if those curses are abated or replaced—they persist as well.  I believe even our blessings are diminished by the general curse under which all of creation groans.

The chart below is a summary of Biblical curses—all of which we brought onto ourselves, either as individuals or because we are part of humankind. Do any of them surprise you?

Action Who Curse Reference
Original sin Serpent Cursed more intensely than all the other animals; crawl on his belly all the days of his life Genesis 3.14
Original sin Satan Emnity between his seed and the woman’s seed; his head would be “bruised” by the woman’s seed Genesis 3.15
Original sin Woman Significant increase in pain in childbearing; she will desire a close relationship with her husband but he will rule harshly over her Genesis 3.16
Original sin Man Work will require far more effort to produce a minimal sustenance; death will come to all mankind Genesis 3.17-19
When we curse another person Everyone God will curse us Genesis 12.3
Anger, murder, wrath and animal abuse Simeon and Levi Dispersed and scattered from their family Genesis 49.7
Making an idol to worship Everyone Not stated Deut. 27.15
Dishonor your father or mother Everyone Not stated Deut. 27.16
Stealing land from your neighbor Everyone Not stated Deut. 27.17
Misleading vulnerable people Everyone Not stated Deut. 27.18
Distorting justice for vulnerable people Everyone Not stated Deut. 27.19
Familial Incest Everyone Not stated Deut. 27.20 & 22-23
Bestiality Everyone Not stated Deut. 27.21
Take advantage of others without their knowledge Everyone Not stated Deut. 27. 24
Participating in bribery Everyone Not stated Deut. 27.25
Disobedience to God Everyone Not stated Deut. 27.26
Trusting in yourself Everyone Not stated Jeremiah 17.5
Not stewarding well that which God has given to you Everyone Not stated Jeremiah 48.10
Not delivering justice when it is your duty to do so Everyone Not stated Jeremiah 48.10
Not fulfilling your vows Everyone Not stated Malachi 1.14
Not honoring the Name of the Lord Everyone Not stated Malachi 2.14
Not giving God the full tithe Everyone Not stated Malachi 3.9
Rely on the works of the law Everyone Not stated Galatians 3.10
When you curse someone else Yourself The curse comes back on you Psalm 109.17
If we do not honor God’s name Everyone Not stated Malachi 2.2
Preaching a different Gospel Everyone Not stated Galatians 1.18

 

[1] This graphic was produced using the Logos Bible Software.  To learn more about Logos, please visit www.logos.com.

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