Blessing and Curse PDF Print
Articles - Blessing
Written by Rev. Charles Wesley. K. M   

The second act after the creation of living creatures by Yahweh was blessing.  He blessed the living creatures and the human beings to be ‘fruitful and multiply’, and hence ‘blessing’ became an important matter from the creation narrative itself. But this blessing was turned into curse with the transgression of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

 

Blessing

The word ‘blessing’ comes from a Hebrew root  brk’, which originally has two different meanings in the Old Testament. One is “to kneel” (Ps.95:6; 2Ch.6:13) and the other word is ‘blessed’. The word ‘blessing’ (beraka) is used in more of a materialistic sense. The verb ‘to bless’ admits a very wide range of usage from the commonplace greeting addressed to a stranger on the street. The participle ‘blessed’ (baruk) is the strongest of all the words of blessing. It makes up the centre of the typical formula of Israelite blessing. 

In the patriarchal narratives, having many descendants was a blessing. That means the power of fertility is considered to be blessing (Gen.1:22,28). Jacob took over the blessing of Esau (Gen.27:36). Here the blessing was understood as acquiring of the birthright of the brother (the blessing belonged only to the elder brother to whom the younger was to be a subordinate). Later the blessing was given to Jacob in the form of change of name. The saving activity of God is considered to be the blessing in the book of Exodus to Numbers. In the book of Deuteronomy obedience was the way to blessing. So far the blessing was considered to be a freewill of God without any condition, but in Deuteronomy blessing was given under some condition. 

In addition to this, the theology of blessing was centred upon two other institutions like Kingship and temple. The king of Israel was considered to be a mediator of blessing between God and people. Both kingship and blessing is universal. The well-being and the greatness of the people is represented by the kingship and this is viewed as an effect of God’s blessing. And also the temple is the place where blessing is passed to the people and to the nation. Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple (1Ki.8) is a magnificent and profound combining of the theology of blessing inherent in the temple with the theology of salvation that developed in the history of God’s activities with his people. After the building of the temple blessing was considered to be a sacrament.  At the end of every sacrificial act the priestly blessing was given to people (Lev.9:22-23). The people those who come to the temple receive the blessing for their house, family and for their work. In the Book of Psalms blessing is understood as something that is acquired through worship. The prophetic books deals very less with the blessing act of Yahweh rather it deals about the saving act of Yahweh. “The promise of blessing has now been combined with the promise of Israel’s return back to her country”.  In the Apocalyptic literature blessing is the act of future salvation. In the act of creation God blesses all animals and human beings like that in the eschaton He will bless the same

Curse

The Hebrew root for the word curse is ‘rr.  Apart from this root there are two verb derivatives of the roots alah and qalal alah denoting conditional curses and qala is used for curses against personal enemies and for blasphemies against God and the king.  

The usage and meaning of curse can be understood by using ‘arur-formula. The pronouncement of ‘Cursed thou art/are they’ is to keep oneself apart from the suspicious misbehavior of a person and from his/her action.  In the Old Testament wherever this type of curse is uttered that person is secluded from the community relationship (Gen.3:14-17, 4:11). ‘Conditional Curse’ was used to discourage someone from breaking the rules or any commonly accepted responsibility and was pronounced to separate someone from the community life (Judg.21:18; 1Sam.14:24). ‘Cursed be anyone who’ was used to defend social and national regulations which deals with breaking the covenant made between God and Israel (Deut.27:16-25). Then there was the ‘Indirect Curse’ which was pronounced, not towards the person but towards their unwanted acts, e.g. the anger of Simeon and Levi was cursed (Gen.49:7). 

Summary

In the Old Testament blessing and curse are not parallel to each other.  Both have their own importance. Blessing is considered to be an activity of Yahweh, the God of Israel and curse has no relation with the work of Yahweh. We can see many references for blessing as the activity of Yahweh and not as curse. Instead of Yahweh’s curse, Old Testament talks about Yahweh’s judgment and punishment. Blessing is almost always attributed to God or closely connected with him and therefore one can only have blessing in harmony with him. 

Copyright © May 2010 Charles Wesley 

Author: Rev. Charles Wesley. K. M. is an ordained minister of CSI- Medak Diocese.

 
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