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The meaning of Accursed in the Bible
(From International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)

a-kurs'-ed, a-kurst': In the Book of Jos. (Joshua 6:17-18; Joshua 7:1, Joshua 7:11-13, Joshua 7:15) and 1Ch. (I Chronicles 2:7) "accursed" (or "accursed thing" or "thing accursed") is the King James Version rendering of the Hebrew word, cherem. The the Revised Version (British and American) consistently uses "devoted" or "devoted thing," which the King James Version also adopts in Leviticus 27:21, Leviticus 27:28-29 and in Numbers 18:14. "Cursed thing" is the rendering in two passages (Deuteronomy 7:26; Deuteronomy 13:17); and in one passage (Ezekiel 44:29 the King James Version) "dedicated thing" is used. In four places the King James Version renders the word by "curse" (Joshua 6:18; Isaiah 34:5; Isaiah 43:28; 3:24; (Malachi 4:6)) whilst in, another passage (Zechariah 14:11) "utter destruction" is adopted in translation. These various renderings are due to the fact that the word cherem sometimes means the act of devoting or banning (or the condition or state resulting therefrom and sometimes the object devoted or banned. We occasionally find periphrastic renderings, e.g. I Samuel 15:21 : "the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed," the King James Version (literally, "the chief part of the ban"); I Kings 20:42 : "a man whom I appointed to utter destruction," the King James Version (literally, "a man of my ban" (or "banning"). The root-word meant "to separate," "shut off." The Arabic charim denoted the precincts of the temple at Mecca, and also the women's apartment (whence the word "harem"). In Hebrew the word always suggested "separating" or "devoting to God." Just as qadhosh, meant "holy" or "consecrated to the service" of Yahweh, and so not liable to be used for ordinary or secular purposes, so the stem of cherem meant "devoting" to Yahweh anything which would, if spared, corrupt or contaminate the religious life of Israel, with the further idea of destroying (things) or exterminating (persons) as the surest way of avoiding such contamination. Everything that might paganize or affect the unique character of the religion of Israel was banned, e.g. idols (Deuteronomy 7:26); idolatrous persons (Exodus 22:20); idolatrous cities (Deuteronomy 13:13-18). All Canaanite towns—where the cult of Baal flourished—were to be banned (Deuteronomy 20:16-18). The ban did not always apply to the gold and silver of looted cities (Joshua 6:24). Such valuable articles were to be placed in the "treasury of the house of Yahweh." This probably indicates a slackening of the rigid custom which involved the total destruction of the spoil. According to Numbers 18:14, "everything devoted in Israel" belonged to Aaron, and Ezekiel 44:29 the King James Version ordained that "every dedicated thing" should belong to the priests (compare Ezra 10:8). In the New Testament "accursed" is the King James Version rendering of ANATHEMA (which see).

Thomas Lewis


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