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Bible verses about Curse
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 3:14-19

The Bible's first prophecy contains three major curses, one each upon Satan, women, and men. Or does it? The answer depends on one's perspective and time reference.

Certainly, the curse on Satan seems a mixed bag! Men have either been subject to his deceptions or fiercely waging war with him for six thousand years. Yet it is the struggle of the fight that prepares our character to inherit eternal life. We live in hope and faith that God will see the curse through to its end, the total humiliation and imprisonment of the Adversary.

To a woman in labor or to a man sweating out in a field under the sun, God's pronouncements surely feel like curses. Yet, maybe only moments later, the satisfaction and joy in seeing a healthy baby or a job well done can make it all seem worthwhile. We feel grateful that God has given us such blessings.

If nothing else, this should make us think about the "curses" and "blessings" in our lives. Could something terrible turn out for the best? Could seeing "our ship come in" prove our ruin? There is much more to God's gifts and judgments than meets the eye:

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! "For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?" "Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?" For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36)

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part Three)


 

Genesis 3:16

The curse is in two parts, each composed of two parallel clauses. The first part deals with childbearing and the second with marital relations. With two quick strokes God illustrates the bane of women throughout the ages.

On the surface, this verse seems fairly straightforward. However, the word-for-word translation obscures a great deal of its meaning. Because the Hebrew wording includes so much more than the words' literal meanings, both curses give translators fits. They do not want to stray too far from God's exact words, nor do they wish to leave out underlying ideas expounded by Paul in the New Testament. In the end, most choose to translate the passage word for word.

God's pronouncement on Eve stands in stark contrast to the positive tone He had given to childbearing and marriage in earlier chapters. He expresses His command in Genesis 1:28 in glowing terms: "Then God blessed them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.'" Likewise, Genesis 2:18, 24 paints a positive picture of a woman's role in marriage:

And the Lord God said, "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him." . . . Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

When sin becomes a factor, however, childbearing and marriage lose their God-intended luster, and if human nature takes its course, pain, suffering, and bitter subjection are inevitable.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part Two)


 

Genesis 3:16

The first curse includes the whole processes of childbearing, from conception to birth. The Hebrew word rendered "conception" in the New King James version (NKJV) includes the entire pregnancy, while "bring forth" can mean both the beginning or end of the birth process. The Revised Standard Version translates these clauses as, "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children."

A human female is unique among mammalian creatures in this respect. Animal females generally bear their young without pain and rarely sicken and die during or from the experience. Women, on the other hand, always experience pain and grief throughout their pregnancies—from morning sickness to contractions—and have historically had a very high mortality rate from childbirth. Better nutrition and hygiene have cut the numbers of deaths dramatically, but the pain and grief remain.

Fortunately, God is a God of mercy. He put within the human female the ability to "forget" her pains in childbirth soon thereafter. Jesus Himself mentions this in John 16:21:

A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.

This curse on Eve has a direct relationship with the end of the curse on the serpent, which involves the woman's "seed," both general and specific (Genesis 3:15). We can infer that God intends us to understand that, because of sin, producing "seed" to fight Satan and his seed will be made more difficult. In a spiritual sense, the church, "the mother of us all," endures great hardship in producing children of God.

Thus, the Bible testifies, "the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force" (Matthew 11:12), "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22), and "all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (II Timothy 3:12). Even the sinless Christ, the promised Seed, was "a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3), forced by sin—yet willing—to bear the agonies of human life and death to become the Son of God, the Firstborn among many brethren.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part Two)


 

Genesis 3:16

The second of Eve's curses deals with her relationship with her husband. It explains why many marriages fail and why many of the rest are unhappy. As mentioned before, human relationships are just as likely to fail as to succeed when men and women rely on human knowledge rather than revealed, godly wisdom.

The NKJV's rendering of the latter half of Genesis 3:16 is typical of many translations: "Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." From this we can see that the two clauses cannot be parallels. Instead, they form a statement of action and reaction. Because the woman "desires" her husband, he will "rule over" her.

Yet this does not make much sense as a curse. Why should a woman's desire for her husband cause him to dominate her? Most men would gladly accept his wife's desires for him, causing him to treat her more gently rather than roughly, as is implied in this verse. How are we to understand this?

The key is in the word "desire," translated from the Hebrew tesuqah, which the Brown, Driver and Briggs lexicon calls "unusual and striking" (p. 1003). It occurs only three times in the Old Testament: here, Genesis 4:7, and Song 7:10. It can carry the sense of sexual longing (as in the Song of Songs), but its usage in Genesis 4:7 shows another side, that of a desire to overcome or defeat another: "[Sin's] desire is for you, but you should rule over it." This latter meaning fits Genesis 3:16 better than the former.

Thus, God is saying that a woman's desire will be to gain the upper hand over her husband, but because she is the weaker vessel, her husband will put her down by force, if need be. The curse is that, in the main, women will lose the battle of the sexes. History bears this out. Until the advent of women's rights movements, women were virtually their husband's property, treated as heir-producing machines, given little freedom, and forced to serve their husband's every whim. In many cultures, men bought and sold women like cattle. Some cultures maintain this custom even today.

Only where true Christianity flourishes is there any real easing of this curse. Ephesians 5:22-33 teaches how we can decrease its effects within our marriages—by emulating the virtues of Christ's relationship with the church. Thus, wives are told to submit rather than contend, and husbands are commanded to love rather than dominate. It takes conscious effort to overcome the evil, ingrained habits of 6,000 years of misguided practice.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part Two)


 

Genesis 3:17-19

Genesis 3:17-19, God's judgment on Adam, covers men's leadership difficulties, his never-ending struggles to survive, and his "dust in the wind" mortality. All these came upon mankind, and males in particular, as a result of being cut off from contact with God, symbolized by the tree of life. The "human condition" is a long step below the idyllic conditions God made available to humanity in the Garden!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part Three)


 

Genesis 3:17-19

Some commentators make a great deal out of the fact that God addresses this curse to adam rather than to "the man" (ish in Hebrew), seeing this as proof that this curse was to fall on all mankind. This semantic argument means very little in the end, since both ish, the man named Adam, and adam, mankind, received the effects of the curse, just as both Eve and all other women have suffered from her curse.

English-speaking peoples have a saying that "the way to a man's heart is through his stomach." God, of course, understood this, and thus His curse on Adam centers on eating. In fact, eating is a major theme of the first three chapters of Genesis (see 1:29-30; 2:9, 15-17; 3:1-6, 11-13).

Eating, however, stands for more than simply nourishing the body; it is one small part of mankind's daily struggle to survive his hostile environment, planet earth. The Garden of Eden was a place where man's work "to tend and keep" what God had made was pleasurable, fulfilling, and probably not overly strenuous. The earth worked with the man to produce his needs for food, clothing, shelter, and whatever other need he might have.

Once God pronounced his curse, though, the ground—from which comes all material wealth and produce—turned uncooperative. Instead of man and nature united in productive labor, the situation became man versus nature, a competition for dominance. Now, man would have to use all his physical and mental powers to subdue the earth.

The earth would yield its fruit only after a man forced it through hard labor in plowing, planting, watering, cultivating, and reaping. Animals from insects to deer to wolves, fearful of man, would become pests and destroy his crops, herds, possessions and even his life on occasion. Materials for building homes, crafting tools, making clothing, and manufacturing items would be gathered only by raping the land of minerals, metals, wood, and stone.

The earth would protest through natural processes like earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, wildfires, erosion, and infertility. Denuded of trees, the land would become a desert. The weather would turn foul, sending too much or too little rain. Windstorms like hurricanes and tornadoes would devastate vast stretches of territory. The sun would beat down mercilessly or withhold its heat for long stretches.

Such was the situation Adam and Eve faced after God drove them from the Garden of Eden. For six thousand years all their descendants have struggled to survive the harsh conditions of life separated from God and in competition with nature. Surely it has affected their eating, but it has also had an impact on every other endeavor of mankind—from breaking horses for riding to blasting satellites into orbit. Men accomplish nothing except by the toil of hard work and overcoming the obstacles the environment places in their way.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part Three)


 

Genesis 3:17

In God's curse, one three-word phrase makes all the difference: "for your sake." Modern translations render this phrase (be'abûr) "because of you" or "on your account," attempting to show that the ground's curse came as a result of Adam's sin. However, God had already given the reasons for the curse earlier in the verse, so why need He repeat it?

"For your sake," while including the idea of "because of you," brings out another nuance that the modern renderings leave out. Since man would be cut off from God and His Holy Spirit, the ground would be cursed for man's sake, that is, for his benefit, advantage, or good. As with all acts of God, the perfect standard of goodness, the curse on Adam would do mankind "good in the end" (Deuteronomy 8:16), although its initial manifestations would entail hardship, toil, and privation.

How can such a curse—with such long-lasting and harsh consequences—be good? Paul comments on this in Romans 8:19-22:

For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.

The apostle says here that God pronounced the curse on the creation "in hope" of "the revealing of the sons of God," which would release it "from the bondage of corruption." God designed the curse on Adam to enhance man's chance to enter His Family! God would rather have done it another way—through His guidance in the Garden of Eden—but since Adam and Eve chose rebellion, He designed Adam's curse to reach the same end by a different means: hard toil, struggle, and eventual death!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part Three)


 

Genesis 3:17-19

Over the past several hundred years, the idea of a "work ethic" has captured the imagination of philosophers, theologians, and ordinary men and women. The fundamental principle in any ethic of labor is that hard work teaches certain virtues and enables people to advance beyond the circumstances of their birth. If a young street urchin desires, he can—through hard work and integrity—climb from welfare to well-paid. The "rags to riches" motif grew from this ethic of work.

In His curse on Adam, God tells the man that his entire existence—"all the days of your life"—would be filled with labor. He would have to work for every morsel of food that would pass between his lips or those of his family. He would have to wage war on the natural processes of nature, such as weather, weeds, insects, fungi, and disease, to reap a crop, and he would never be assured of success. He would sweat in work, and he would sweat in worry.

All of this fighting, as one would expect, would take its toll on him. The constant pressure to provide for his own would drive him to work harder, longer hours. He would be constantly exposed to the fickle elements, which would sap his vigor. All this work would age him prematurely, and one day in the midst of his labors, he would simply die and return to the dust that he had been fighting all his life.

But amidst this struggle would come something of eternal consequence. Notice the words of Solomon:

For what has man for all his labor, and for the striving of his heart with which he has toiled under the sun? For all his days are sorrowful, and his work grievous; even in the night his heart takes no rest. This also is vanity. There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God. (Ecclesiastes 2:22-24)

Solomon, knowing the human condition was a result of God's purpose, reveals that men can receive something good from his toilsome lot. Verse 26 lists three virtues we can derive from our labors: "For God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight; but to the sinner He gives the work of gathering and collecting, that he may give to him who is good before God."

A person who combines his work with a relationship with God will receive growth in character! On the other hand, a sinner, cut off from God, must endure the drudgery of the struggle, and the rewards of his work would eventually benefit the righteous, not himself!

Later, Solomon repeats his observation in chapter 3:

What profit has the worker from that in which he labors? I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. . . . I know there is nothing better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God. (verses 9-10, 12-13)

This seems to verify that God's curse on Adam is in the end a gift from Him! Why is this curse really a blessing? We find the answer in verse 11:

He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time [or, God times everything beautifully]. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.

The curse, if properly used, can lead a man to merge his life with God's "work" or purpose, which leads to "eternity" or eternal life! Man, apart from God, has no idea what God is doing, but one with a relationship with Him will have it revealed to him—and he can then use this knowledge to "work out" his salvation (Philippians 2:12)! He can direct his labor along eternal lines.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part Three)


 

Numbers 22:5-6

The Moabites did not have much of an army to field against Israel, which is why they did not try to block its way by force of arms. Until recently, they had themselves been subject to the Amorites and had suddenly been freed by Israel's conquering of Sihon and Og of Bashan. However, they were not at all grateful and decided that they would have to stop Israel themselves.

However, Israel was under a command from God to leave Moab alone. The Moabites ended up acting upon what was essentially a figment of their imaginations. They really cannot be blamed; they were merely acting according to human nature. Nevertheless, the whole story of Balak and Balaam was all very unnecessary.

Balaam means "devourer," and some linguists add "of the people." The longer definition is probably correct. It is also interesting that it is a very negative, destructive name (like Balak's, "devastator"). Devastator and Devourer were joining forces to block Israel's passage into Canaan. Balaam's father's name, Beor, which means "burning," also fits into this. This story contains several names that are negative and destructive.

Balaam lived at Pethor. "Pethor" has made some historians wonder, but they think they know where it is. It is located 400 miles north of Moab on the banks of the Euphrates River, twelve miles south of Carchemish. Carchemish was the location of the early seventh-century BC battle Pharaoh Necho was hastening toward to aid the Assyrians against the Babylonians, when he was confronted by King Josiah of Judah. Josiah was, at the time, allied to Babylon. He took his army and met Necho at Megiddo—the famous place of battles, Armageddon. Judah was defeated there, as Necho had a much stronger army. A stray arrow happened to hit Josiah, and he was taken from the battlefield, mortally wounded.

However, the engagement at Megiddo stalled Necho long enough for the Babylonians to defeat the Assyrians, probably near Haran where Abraham had lived for a while—where Terah, Abraham's father, died. The defeat forced the Assyrians to retreat. A couple of years later, Nebuchadnezzar faced the Assyrians and Egyptians again at Carchemish. This colossal battle changed the direction of the Middle East at that time, because, by defeating Assyria again, Nebuchadnezzar gained control of the entire region.

Balaam lived just a stone's throw away from this place of future fame. This is important to know because of the connection between Abraham and Balaam. They were from the same general area near Haran, which was less than fifty miles away. It was generally known that where Balaam lived, Pethor, was famous for its baru, "priest-diviners" (which some have tried to connect them with the Magi, but the evidence is scanty). They were sorcerers, magicians, diviners, soothsayers, and such.

It is believed that Balaam was from a long line of celebrated diviners, and that he and his family had made their living for several generations cursing or blessing people. It was their family trade. They passed it down, giving their sons names that went along with it, names like "Burning" and "Devourer." Their family reputation had traveled throughout the entire region. If anyone wanted someone cursed, they would send for a baru from Balaam's family, since they were the best in the world at cursing people. These baru—regardless of the requester's religion or political stripe—would, for a price, perform their auguries, say their incantations, make their sacrifices to some particular god, and then curse the other party in the name of that god.

This is what King Balak of Moab was doing, sending for the most renowned curser in the known world—Balaam—to come and curse Israel. Balak had heard about all the things that God had done for Israel, so he needed the very best to go up against the God who could part the Red Sea and rain manna from heaven every day for 38 years. This God could bring ten plagues upon the people of Egypt and could find water in the desert for 2.5 or 3 million people. King Balak, needing the very best, was willing to give up just about all his wealth to Balaam, who he felt could do the job of cursing Israel.

What have we learned about Balaam?

  • He was internationally renowned and may have been considered the best soothsayer in the known world. This sets him up on a pedestal. He was accustomed to doing things like this. He was also likely a pricey individual to contract with.

  • He was probably from a family of soothsayers who specialized in blessings and cursings. He was very well read and knowledgeable in all the methods of cursing and blessing, as well as all the world's gods and goddesses. He probably kept an ear to the ground for any unusual things happening and had reports of such sent to him. He probably knew all about what was going on with Israel: it was one of those "international news stories" that made the rounds.

  • He was probably a baru, a priest-diviner of Mesopotamia who worked enchantments, auguries, sorceries, and any kind of divining necessary. The baru did not consider themselves devotees of any one god but of every god. They would work for or against any god for a price.

  • He probably knew of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or at least had heard things about them from local stories or legend, as they were important people in their own right. Abraham, a direct descendant of Shem, had given up a great deal to follow God's calling, and had come through the area where Balaam and his family lived. Abraham was not a person who could pass through a place without leaving an impression, for he was an important and wealthy person, a man of conviction. Also, once Abraham arrived in Canaan, he and his descendants had sent back to the area of Haran for wives: Rebecca, Rachel, Leah, Bilhah, and Zilpah were all from the environs of Haran. Thus, the Israelites had ties with the area, even genetic ties.

It would not be out of the realm of possibility, therefore, that Balaam had a fair amount of information about Israel's beginnings, and perhaps even known of some of their beliefs. He may have had an interest in them from a local history standpoint. He certainly knew about Israel, about Israel's God, and what He had done miraculously for Israel for forty years.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Balaam and the End-Time Church (Part 1)


 

Numbers 23:1-10

Balak puts Balaam to work almost immediately upon arriving. The diviner has Balak build seven altars, on each of which he offers a bull and a ram (Numbers 23:1). The bull and ram are the prime animals to offer because of their value, and the number seven has a long history of being especially propitious. By these offerings, Balaam is trying to ensure his ability to bribe a curse out of God.

God, of course, will not be bribed (Deuteronomy 10:17), so He puts a blessing on Israel in Balaam's mouth (Numbers 23:9-10).

Balaam was indeed standing in a high place of Baal at the time (Numbers 22:41), and evidently, from this height he could see the whole camp. What he saw was an immense mass of people that he could not begin to count, a fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham in Genesis 13:16: "And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered" (see also Genesis 15:5). Balaam's oracle suggests that this growth would continue, something Balak did not want to hear (Numbers 23:11).

In saying that Israel was "a people dwelling alone," Balaam notes its separation by covenant from the rest of the world and to God. This recalls God's covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15, in which He prophesies Abraham's offspring returning to Canaan as a people (verses 13-16), and certainly, it alludes to the covenant of circumcision in Genesis 17. This separation by covenant is ratified anew at Mount Sinai: "Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Exodus 19:5-6; see Deuteronomy 7:6-11).

The soothsayer's final words are a wish that he, a Gentile having no part in the covenant, could be included under it. The "righteous" are those who keep the terms of the covenant, which is obedience to God. His words of blessing may allude to Genesis 12:3, where God promises Abraham, "I will bless those who bless you." If he cannot join them, Balaam at least desires the blessings that come from blessing them!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Prophecies of Balaam (Part One)


 

Proverbs 26:2

We can understand "curse" in several ways: as the invoking of evil or misfortune upon another, or as the evil or scourge itself. The proverb primarily deals with invoking a curse against another when no justification for doing so exists. Such a curse is akin to the aimless flitting of birds, suggesting that it will have no effect. It will not "hit" its intended target.

We can definitely consider the tragedies of September 11 as a curse. However, God undoubtedly approved of it, or it never would have happened. This curse hit, and it hit hard. Therefore, we must conclude that there was more than ample justification for it falling upon this nation. The death toll was approximately 3,000 people, a horrendous figure to be sure, but it pales when compared to just one other death-toll figure: Every day in the United States over 4,000 human lives are snuffed out of existence by abortion. In the 30 days following September 11, 120,000 lives ceased to exist. Of those 120,000 abortions, 95% of them—114,000—occurred solely for the mother's convenience!

Is it any wonder that God cries out in Ezekiel 7:23, "Make a chain, for the land is filled with crimes of blood, and the city is full of violence." George Mason, whose great influence can be seen in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution, wrote that sin "brings the judgment of heaven upon a country. . . . By an inevitable chain of causes and effects, Providence [God] punishes national sin by national calamities." George Washington declared in his First Inaugural Address, "We ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained."

The apostle Paul states in Romans 9:14. "What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!" As a people, we are guilty and fully deserve anything He in His loving wisdom decides to inflict upon us. Most assuredly, we are not innocent victims. Individually, few of us have sinned against any of the people, groups, or nations that may have done this, but as citizens, we are part of this nation, and our well-being rises and falls with it. We have eagerly accepted God's overflowing abundance of material blessings with which He showered this nation. So when He judges that we need to be brought down a peg—or many pegs—we would do well to consider deeply the many ways we may have offended the great God who created us and gives us every breath of air we breathe.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is God to Blame?


 

Proverbs 26:2

The difficulty in understanding this verse is understanding the bird imagery. The sense that is being conveyed is that of a bird flying aimlessly, with no goal or intent—just drifting on the breeze. The chances of such a bird arriving at a specific destination are miniscule. In the same manner, it is nearly impossible for a curse to come upon a person who has not warranted it. It is another way of saying, "We reap what we sow": If one sows righteousness, he will reap good things. If he sows evil, he will reap evil fruit.

The blessings and curses of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 provide examples of this. If Israel (and by extension, Christians, the "Israel of God" mentioned in Galatians 6:16) obeyed God, they would be blessed. If they disobeyed God, they would be cursed.

The flipside of this proverb is that if a curse lands upon a person, the obvious conclusion is that there is a reason for it. If a bird lands somewhere (to use the imagery of the verse), it is because that was its goal. Thus, if we find that a curse has landed on us, such as terror, terrible diseases, poor crops, military defeat, drought, plagues, etc. (Leviticus 26:16-21), it is simply an affirmation that we caused it by our own idolatry, Sabbath-breaking, and overall disobedience to God (Leviticus 26:1-3, 14-15).

David C. Grabbe


 

Amos 7:14-17

When Amos answers, "I was no prophet, nor was I a son of a prophet, but I was a herdsman and a tender of sycamore fruit" (Amos 7:14), he contends that God Himself commissioned him to "prophesy to My people Israel" (verse 15). Amos was simply a faithful servant of God, with no formal training for the job God sent him to do. "So," he says, "don't tell me not to prophesy when God tells me to!" The apostles said much the same to the Sanhedrin (Acts 5:29).

Then he utters his prophetic denunciation of Amaziah (Amos 7:17). Amaziah's wife and children are included in the curse for two reasons. First, as shown earlier, a leader determines the course of those under him. Any curse that fell on Amaziah would also, to one degree or another, affect his family.

Second, it is a biblical principle that families are often unified in belief. The saying, "Blood is thicker than water," concedes that family ties often prove stronger than the influence of God's Holy Spirit. Frequently, if one leaves the church, others in the family will leave too.

As one member of the family rises or falls, so do the others. Because of his bold denunciation of God's prophet, Amaziah would suffer, and his family would suffer with him. God would see to it that this priest of Bethel would witness in a personal way the coming destruction of the nation as it fell upon his family with a vengeance.

This example, the only narrative section in the entire book, graphically illustrates the fruits of complacency and pride. God sends His prophets to ring as many warning bells as they can to wake His people up to the urgency of the times. The window of opportunity to avert the prophesied disaster is a small one, and God wants His people to use that time to seek Him and change their ways.

The prophet depicts a Laodicean society, like the United States today, from the top echelons to the lowest of beggars (Isaiah 1:5-6). Such a nation prefers form over substance, words over deeds, and tolerance over righteousness.

A sober glance around this nation speaks volumes about the downward spiral already in progress. Crime is rampant on our streets and in our homes. Government scandal and corruption are common news items. Our families are falling apart while we make speeches about "family values."

We also see Laodiceanism creeping into the church as the people begin adopting the lifestyles and attitudes of the world. When they equate material prosperity with spiritual acceptance, they become satisfied with themselves and their spiritual progress (Revelation 3:17). Seeing what Laodiceanism produces, we should never let ourselves become spiritually complacent.

The signs of the times are all around (Luke 12:54-56). It is not good enough just to see them, though. We must act upon this knowledge and truly seek God. Isaiah writes,

Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:6-7)

Now is the time!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)


 

Amos 8:11-12

God says that He will soon send a peculiar famine—not a typical famine of food or water, but a far more destructive one. It strikes at the heart of His people, causing the very fabric of society to unravel.

Notice first that it does not say that it will be a famine of the word of the Lord, but a famine of hearing. God's words will still be available, but it will be rare that those words will be heard. The truth will still be obtainable; His inspired messages will still be accessible. However, as a curse on the land, God will cause truth not to be heard.

This "hearing" is far more than just being aware of words or concepts. It is a hearing that includes focused, careful attention that, taken to its logical conclusion, ends in obedience. The kind of hearing that will be in such short supply is one that causes right action—in fact, the Hebrew word is often translated as "obey." This famine causes God's words not to be heard, and the result is that sin and disobedience flourish—which are a reproach to any nation (Proverbs 14:34). It is a tremendous curse, because without having God's words as guidance—without the light of truth—the nation will be like a blind man, stumbling around and not comprehending why he keeps falling (cf. Deuteronomy 28:29; Isaiah 29:9-10).

This is an unusual curse. It is not like a physical famine, which everyone recognizes as a tragedy. Most of those who are struck by this famine will probably not recognize that it is a true calamity. A famine of hearing the truth will seem like a relief to many, because no voice is calling them into account or prompting them to think about eternity.

However, even though this famine may give the impression that a burden has been lifted, the reality is that without divine instruction, the nation can only stagger toward eventual destruction. Truth is a blessing, but God has every right to withhold it, just as He withholds rain when His people turn from Him. People may be vaguely aware that things are breaking down, that life seems to have a lot more tragedies, and that nothing seems to work as it once did, but they will not make the connection between their hardships and their spiritual deafness.

David C. Grabbe
A Subtle Yet Devastating Curse


 

Amos 8:11-12

Verse 12 describes people wandering about in a vain attempt to regain the word of the Lord. Some of the people seem to realize that something is missing. They wander and even run "to and fro," but they do not find it. Part of the reason is that they are unwilling to look in the right place. Notice where they are willing and not willing to wander: They go "from sea to sea"—probably meaning from the Mediterranean Sea to the Dead Sea—so they will go from east to west. They will also go "from north to east." The only direction they will not go is toward the south. Why?

Amos prophesied to the northern tribes of Israel. Shortly after Israel broke from Judah, King Jeroboam of Israel feared that Israel would reunite with Judah, because Judah was where Jerusalem and the Temple were. He therefore devised his own religious system, leading the northern ten tribes into gross idolatry. He appointed his own priesthood, established his own feast days, and created his own centers of worship, removing the need for the northern Israelites to travel south to Judah.

The Israelites were willing to expend some effort in seeking the words of God, but they were unwilling to go where they actually needed to—where the Temple was. To a degree, they wanted the truth, but on their own terms. They were not so hungry for it that they would sacrifice for it. They wanted it, but not if they had to humble themselves and go to the Temple, where God was. As a result, they could not find the words of the Lord again.

This same process happened in the modern nations of Israel, particularly in America. Though America has never been a true Christian nation, at its founding God's Word was held in high regard, and biblical principles were considered to be essential to the success of the Republic. However, during the mid- to late-1800s, bits of secular humanism began creeping into the larger culture. As the nation prospered because of God's promises to Abraham, it acted out exactly what God predicted in Deuteronomy 32:15: It grew fat and kicked, and forsook Him.

Gradually, the words of the Lord were edged out of the picture, and each succeeding generation arose with a diminished regard for the Bible. This nation began with a President, George Washington, who wholeheartedly believed, and was willing to proclaim, "It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible." Now, however, it is illegal to pray in schools, to speak warmly about Christianity or the Bible in a school or government office, and to post the Ten Commandments in a courthouse.

As the Word of God was neglected and rejected, it began to be replaced. What bits of truth this nation had are quickly falling out of favor. Even the worldly, syncretistic Christianity—with its Sunday-worship, Christmas, Easter, pagan trinity-god, and other false doctrines—is being rejected. It is being rejected, not because of its falsehoods, but because of the bits of truth within it that still call people into account, directly or indirectly.

Journalist and novelist G.K. Chesterton observed, "When people stop believing in God, they do not believe in nothing. They believe in anything." Something will fill the belief void. Even atheism is a belief system. To put it another way, a starving man will eat whatever is at hand—even if it is slow poison. Thus, we have seen rapid growth in secular humanism, Eastern religions, Islam, and Wicca and New Age religions. Apparently, an increasing number of people are even claiming "Jedi" as their belief system!

Nominal Christianity has become so weak that in Britain, more people attend each week in a mosque than in a church. God's words, even in a watered-down form, are not being heard, and while some may still be searching for truth, they are not willing to seek out the true spiritual Temple that can actually provide nourishment.

David C. Grabbe
A Subtle Yet Devastating Curse


 

Amos 8:11-14

The New Testament contains echoes of the curse found in Amos 8—a famine, not of the word, but of hearing it. Romans 1:18-32 tells of unrighteous men who suppress the truth. Because they are not thankful for what the creation reveals of the Creator, their foolish hearts become darkened. They lose what light, what truth, they have.

God's response to this is similar to His response to Israel. He does not contend with them or force His truth on them. Instead, Paul writes, God gave them up to uncleanness (Romans 1:24). He gave them up to vile passions (Romans 1:26). He gave them over to a debased mind (Romans 1:28). It is as if God gives them exactly what they seek, and they do not realize that it is a curse.

A second example of this principle appears in II Thessalonians 2:9-12, where Paul warns of a future Man of Sin who deceives the spiritually weak:

The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Those who perish do so because they do not receive—in the sense of "welcome"—the love of the truth. Because they do not, God will send them strong delusion, so that they will believe the lie and be condemned. In reality, God is just giving them what they desire anyway. They prefer carnal delusion to spiritual reality, so God obliges them. The unrighteous in Romans 1 desire a worldview without a Creator so they can be sexually liberated. God gives them over to it and lets them reap the awful consequences. The Israelites in the time of Amos did not value God's truth, so He removed it, letting them experience how miserably they fare without it. If they were anything like modern Israelites, they thought of themselves as enlightened and progressive even as their blindness became more complete.

David C. Grabbe
A Subtle Yet Devastating Curse


 

Matthew 27:25

Either out of a genuine concern for justice or out of a sardonic resistance to the Jews' petty politics, Pontius Pilate wanted to free Christ. Lacking in the end the requisite moral strength, he remanded Christ over to the garrison for crucifixion, but not until he had literally "washed his hands" of the whole affair. Matthew alone tells us that, at this juncture in the proceedings, "All the people answered and said, 'His blood be on us and on our children.'" The phrase "all the people" probably refers to the rabble, instigated by the Temple leaders.

They did nothing other than what God had ordained from the foundation of the world. No more, no less! Furthermore, in the execution of God's plan, both Gentile and Jew had a hand. Notice Acts 4:27-28, which records the words of Peter and John:

For truly against Your Holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.

However, not all are given to see the hand of God so clearly as Peter and John saw it. Concerning Matthew 27:25, one former minister of the church of God commented that God would be "remiss" (this is, lax in carrying out His duties) if He did not bring this statement on the Jews' heads. In making that statement, he tacitly expressed his agreement with the "blood libel"—the traditional Catholic and Protestant interpretation of this passage as a self-imposed curse that God has honored over the centuries.

Properly understood, however, the peoples' statement is absolutely not a curse. Moreover, God has nowhere bound Himself to chastise Jewry as a whole for the actions of a relatively few people in Pilate's judgment hall that morning.

The peoples' comment indicates the strength of their conviction that Christ was an enemy of God and the nation. They were thoroughly persuaded that their actions in pursuit of Christ's death were correct. Rather than being a curse, their statement emphasizes the extent of their deception. For, as sincere as they were, they were totally wrong in seeking Christ's death, utterly blind to the reality that He was their hoped-for Messiah. Their comment was a formula: "We know we're right, and we're willing to die for our stance. So sure are we that we're willing to stake our children's lives on our position as well."

In stating their convictions in those terms, they betrayed their lack of understanding of God's law, for they based their statement on the incorrect belief that God punishes children for their parents' sins. The prophet Ezekiel speaks at length of this erroneous idea and of the misleading proverb it had engendered over the years. He quotes the false proverb in Ezekiel 18:2: "The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge."

A question the disciples asked of Christ, recorded in John 9:2, indicates that they too were still under the spell of this false proverb. Concerning the blindness of a particular man, they ask, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Christ, not accepting the false premise of their question, comes up with a totally different reason: "that the works of God should be revealed in him" (verse 3).

The disciples in John 9—and the Jews in Matthew 27—made their statement at a time when God's prophecy, expressed in Ezekiel 18:3, had not come to pass: "'As I live,' says the Lord GOD, 'you shall no longer use this proverb in Israel.'"

In Christ's day (and to our own!), people still believed that God punished children for the sins of the fathers. Beginning in verse 4 of Ezekiel 18, God sets forth four scenarios to point out the fallacy of this manmade belief. Notice verses 14 and 17, part of the third scenario:

If, however, [a man] begets a son who sees all the sins which his father has done, and considers but does not do likewise, . . . [but rather] has executed My judgments and walked in My statutes-he shall not die for the iniquity of his father; he shall surely live!

God summarizes the teachings of these four scenarios in verse 20:

The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

In saying this, God is telling us that He Himself follows the law He established for us, recorded in Deuteronomy 24:16: "The fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall the children be put to death for their fathers; a person shall be put to death for his own sin."

Amaziah obeyed this law when "he executed his servants who had murdered his father the king. However he did not execute their children. . . ." The writer of Chronicles then continues by quoting Deuteronomy 24:16 verbatim (see II Chronicles 25:3-4). Though Exodus 20:5; 34:7; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:9; Isaiah 14:21; and Jeremiah 32:18 seem to contradict this principle, these verses speak, not of God's judgment for sin, which is always on the perpetrator himself, but of the disastrous consequences of the fathers' sins affecting "the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me."

Nowhere does Matthew—or anyone else—ever tell us that God acquiesced to carry out vengeance on those who cried, "Crucify Him!" before Pilate's judgment hall. Nowhere does Matthew intimate that God consented to punish their children over the centuries. If He had committed Himself to carry out these peoples' so-called "curse," He would have knowingly bound Himself to violate His own law for centuries.

Charles Whitaker
Are the Jews Cursed for Deicide?


 

Galatians 3:12-14

Even though the law can guide a person in the right way to live, and even though it describes the character of God, it also condemns and brings one guilty before God through an awareness of sin. However, it does not possess the power to forgive, to justify, or to give life.

It takes a living Personality—the Giver and the Enforcer of the law—to forgive, to justify, and to give life. The law can do nothing to reverse the condemnation—the curse—once it is incurred through sin, but Christ took the curse upon Himself so that we do not have to bear our own punishment. The Father, in His mercy, permits His death to apply for us. He forgives and justifies us, if we accept Christ's death on our behalf with true repentance and faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 26)


 

Galatians 3:13

Paul is not saying that the law is a curse, but that the law has a curse—death. Christ paid the penalty for our sins (Matthew 26:28; Romans 3:24-26), and so as long as we remain in the relationship with Him, we do not have to fear the eternal death that is the normal penalty for sin. II Corinthians 5:21 says that Jesus Christ "became sin for us." He took all the sins of the world upon His sinless life and paid the penalty of death for them.

Galatians 3:10 shows that it is not the law that is a curse: "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them."

Deuteronomy 21:23 shows that a man who is hanged is accursed by God. That means that, if a man dies such an ignominious death, it is a sign that He has greatly displeased God. This is also why the people were not allowed to leave the body of the hanged person still hanging past sundown on a Sabbath day: It was an abomination—what the person did and what he was—and was supposed to be taken out of sight and buried. This fits in perfectly with Christ's sacrifice: He undeservedly took on all of the sins of mankind and as such the Father had to hide His face from Him. Christ was the epitome of one accursed at that point. True to form, He was also buried before sunset and arose again three days and three nights later on the Sabbath before sunset.

David C. Grabbe


 

Revelation 11:6

Although the Two Witnesses can do other miracles, two particular curses are highlighted here: lack of rain and water turned to blood. When looking at the Old Testament record where these same curses are present, we see them in context with idolatry, not knowing the true God, and the need for forgiveness. These are subjects that the world needs to hear about, and these miracles will be used to illustrate them.

These miracles show just how far the world is from God and why the judgment of Christ as He returns must happen. Remember, these men are witnesses, sent to warn the world, to give them the knowledge they need to understand what is happening, so that they are without excuse before God's throne when they are finally judged. The Witnesses tell them—by these signs, as well as through words—that they are utterly rebellious against God. They tell the world's people that they do not know Him and that they need to know Him—and quick! The Witnesses provide evidence to prove the people to be utterly defiled and sentenced to death unless they make some drastic changes.

It is a very scary scenario. The Witnesses are given carte blanche authority to do whatever is necessary to get these points across. The three years of their ministry will not be fun times, especially if they must make curses like this happen around the world with any frequency.

It is also notable that both of these plagues concern water, which is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. One curse points to a lack of water, and the other is the defiling of it. In a way, these signs show the spiritual state of mankind. They either reject God totally—corresponding to the lack of rain—or they twist and defile what they know of His truth, turning it into an abomination—symbolized by the water turned to blood. Water is present, but it is defiled.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 6)


 

Find more Bible verses about Curse:
Curse {Nave's}
 




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