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Should I get the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia


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#1 davidmedina

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Posted 29 October 2013 - 07:28 PM

I noticed in the Accordance store that they have the 1915  International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

 

Is it worth buying it even thought is from 1915? Does Accordance has the new one? I could not find it. 

 

Thanks.


"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." Rom. 12:2
 
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#2 Dan Francis

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Posted 29 October 2013 - 08:10 PM

Some actually prefer the original... I am not one of them but I will say it is still a very useful item.... Lets do some comparison....

 

IBSE REVISED.

 

 
 
BLESS [Heb bāraḵ—‘bend the knee’ (?); Aram beraḵ; Gk eulogéō—‘speak well of’]; NEB also GIVE, GRANT, BRING, INVOKE, SAY, or SHARE A BLESSING, WORSHIP, PRAISE, GREET, CONGRATULATE, etc.; BLESSED [Heb ’ašrê, bārûḵ; Aram berîḵ (Dnl. 3:28), meḇāraḵ (Dnl. 2:20); Gk eulogētós, makários, makarízō—‘call blessed’ (Lk. 1:48), eneulogéō (Acts 3:25; Gal. 3:8)]; NEB also HAPPY, etc.; BLESSING [Heb berāḵâ; Gk eulogía]; AV also MERCIES, GIFT, GRACE, BLESSEDNESS, etc.; NEB also FAVOR, PRAISE, HAPPINESS, etc. Several meanings occur, including “worship or praise,” “bestow favor and goodness (sufficient to warrant adoration),” and “invoke such benefits upon other.” (Cf. Akk karābu, which encompasses these meanings.) Substantively, blessing is praise or favor, the act of bestowing such, or statement accompanying or recommending worship or beneficence.
When a human blesses God, the literal sense “bend the knee (in homage or adoration)” is expressed, indicating gratitude. Expressions of praise are especially frequent in the poetry and include appeals for worship by the speaker (Ps. 103:1f; 104:1, 35) and others (Jgs. 5:2; AV “offered themselves”; Ps. 66:8; 67:5; 68:26 [MT 27]), as well as pledges of praise (Ps. 26:12; 63:4 [MT 5]; 115:18). These acts are often accompanied by relative clauses indicating the basis for the adulation (Gen. 24:48). Such statements often occur in liturgical settings (Dt. 11:29; NEB “pronounce the blessing”; 2 Ch. 20:26; Sir 50:20). In wisdom literature, the author praises the source of his inspiration (Sir. 39:35; 50:22; 51:12). Isaiah reproves those who worship idols (66:3; RSV “bless a monster”).
Statements of adoration or praise frequently follow a standard pattern or formula of blessing, as “blessed is” or “blessed be [someone],” usually expressed by passive participles, Heb bārûḵ and Gk eulogēmémos (Ruth 4:14; 1 S. 25:32; 1 Ch. 29:10; Neh. 9:5; Mt. 25:34). When applied to God, they have the jussive sense “let us praise” or “let be praised” (Gen. 14:20; Ps. 28:6). NT utterances apply similarly to Jesus (“he who comes in the name of the Lord,” Mt. 2:19; 23:39; Mk. 11:9; Lk. 19:38; Jn. 12:13), Mary (Lk. 1:42), and the kingdom of God (Mk. 11:10). God is often so cited in statements using Gk eulogētós (Lk. 1:68; 2 Cor. 1:3; Eph. 1:3; 1 Pet. 1:3).
More frequently, to bless means to grant prosperity or well-being (“fortunate power,” KoB, p. 153), and God is generally the subject, bestowing physical and spiritual grace upon man in the form of long life, affluence, and power (Gen. 39:5; Ps. 3:8 [MT 9]; 24:5; 129:8). He blesses mankind in creation (Gen. 5:2) and throughout history (26:3; Ex. 18:10). Such acts often provide fertility for man (Gen. 1:28; 17:16; 20; 22:17; 48:4), animals (1:22), and various forms of produce (Ex. 23:25; Dt. 7:13; Ps. 65:10 [MT 11]; 132:15). God blesses man for keeping His laws, implying sanction (Dt. 7:12–14; cf. Ex. 23:25).
People often bless each other, as when a father transfers goods and authority to his children prior to his death (Gen. 27; 31:55 [MT 32:1]; 48:9, 15, 20; 49:28; Dt. 33:1ff; He. 11:20). This is accompanied by an invocation of God’s favor upon one’s descendants (Gen. 49:25f; Dt. 33). Division of one’s power and property among several children may have been possible, as suggested by Esau’s request (Gen. 27:38). A family blesses members embarking on a journey (Gen. 24:60). Charismatic leaders bless the people (Lev. 9:23), as priests bless individuals (1 S. 2:20) and the entire congregation (Nu. 6:23–27; 2 Ch. 30:27). Balaam, the non-Israelite seer, blesses Israel (Nu. 23:11, 20) by announcing good fortune.
When people bless one another, they commend the recipient to God through laudatory petitions (Ruth 2:20; 1 S. 23:21; 2 S. 2:5; cf. Gen. 49:26; Ps. 72:15). Such petitions may include the formula “blessed be [someone]” or such variants as “may you be blessed” (Ruth 3:10) and “let … be blessed” (Prov. 5:18). God is recognized as the source of such benefits (cf. 1 S. 2:20), indicated by Heb bāraḵ bešēm, “bless by (or in) God’s name” (Dt. 10:8; 21:5; 1 Ch. 23:13; Sir. 45:15; cf. Nu. 6:27). Such intercessory activity may include praying for another person (Mt. 5:44, RSV; cf. He. 11:20). Jesus instructs His followers to “bless those that curse you” (Lk. 6:28; Rom. 12:14; 1 Cor. 4:12). Invocation of God’s blessing upon others may have been standardized in expressions of greeting or congratulation (1 S. 13:10; 2 S. 8:10 par 1 Ch. 18:10; 2 K. 4:29; 10:15); the content of such statements may be indicated by Ruth 2:4; Ps. 129:8.
The sense “praise, do homage” may be indicated when men bless those of higher status (Gen. 47:7, 10; cf. Ex. 12:32). This is apparent when it is reported that Joab “fell on his face, did obeisance, and blessed the king” (2 S. 14:22). A debtor may bless a creditor (Dt. 24:15) and a subject bless his king (1 K. 8:66), perhaps seeking a blessing in return. The king’s servants bless David (1 K. 1:47), asking God to make Solomon greater than David.
Men also bless themselves. In such instances, they may either “count themselves happy” (Ps. 49:18 [MT 19], AV “blessed his soul”), priding themselves on having been favored (cf. Dt. 29:19; NEB “inwardly flatter”), or invoke God’s blessing upon themselves (Gen. 12:3, NEB “pray to be blessed”).
Both God and men occasionally bless nonhuman objects. God blesses the sabbath (Gen. 2:3; Ex. 20:11) and Samuel blesses the sacrifice (1 S. 9:13), but they may thereby indirectly bless those who observe these occasions. God blesses work performed by men (Dt. 28:8, 12; Job 1:10; cf. Dt. 28:4f) and “the latter days of (Job’s) life” (Job 42:12). He also favors the abode of the righteous (Prov. 3:33) and the habitation of righteousness, the land of Judah (Jer. 31:23). Objects of blessing may include qualities, such as discretion (1 S. 25:33). Jesus blesses fish (Mk. 8:7) and, in the sense of giving thanks, bread (Mk. 6:41). Cf. also BLESSING, CUP OF (1 Cor. 10:16).
The state of being blessed, designated by a passive verb, may indicate receipt of both favor (Gen. 27:33; 2 S. 7:39) and adoration (Job. 1:21; Ps. 113:2). Gk eneulogēthḗsontai is used to indicate the universal application of Abraham’s blessing (Acts 3:25; Gal. 3:8; cf. LXX Gen. 12:3; 18:18). Heb ’ašrê and Gk makários occur primarily with the sense “happy, fortunate,” illustrating the joy of life unmarred by care, labor, or death. Generally found in blessing formulas, these expressions indicate the subject’s having fulfilled certain obligations or stipulations. In the OT these include coming to Zion (Ps. 65:4 [MT 5]; 84:4 [MT 5]), being blameless in behavior (Ps. 119:1f), seeking God’s wisdom (Prov 8:13, 33f), and executing God’s judgment against His enemies (Ps. 137:8). By extension of this principle, children of “a righteous man who walks in integrity” are blessed (Prov. 20:17). In the NT the blessed exhibit the traits of the faithful (Mt. 5:11; Lk. 11:28; Rev. 16:15), particularly suffering (Jas. 1:12; Lk. 6:20–22). The condition may be shared by parts of the body (Mt. 13:16; Lk. 10:23; 11:27). Generally applied to God with the sense “praised” or “praiseworthy” (Tim. 1:11; 6:15), Gk makários occurs in the same sense with reference to actions (Acts 20:35) and qualities (Tit. 2:13). The rewards that accompany such favor are often reserved for the future (Ps. 128:2–4). See also BEATITUDES.
A related concept is a person’s being named or called blessed (Heb ’āšār; Gk makarízō). A woman’s children call her blessed (Prov. 31:28) and the nations call God blessed (Ps. 72:17; Mal. 3:12); all generations will call Mary blessed (Lk. 1:48). Such acts may illustrate the close relationship between word and fact in the ancient Near East whereby making a statement establishes the fact (see CURSE). They may also indicate use of the blessing formula. A person can “be a blessing” if his acts warrant his being named in such a formula (Gen. 12:2; Ps. 37:26; Prov. 10:7; Isa. 19:24; Zec. 8:13; cf. Ps. 21:6 [MT 7]).
“Blessed” occurs substantively as a substitute for God’s name, as in the use of “Lord,” to prevent defilement of the name Yahweh. In Mk. 14:61, Jesus is called “son of the Blessed.” The substantive also designates one who adheres to God’s commandments and has received His favor, as “the blessed of the Lord” (Gen. 24:31; 26:29; Isa. 65:16) or “the blessed of my father” (Mt. 25:34).
“Blessing” may designate the actual words spoken (“blessed be [someone]” or similar phrases), the gift that is given, or the act by which it is bestowed. Dt. 33:1 indicates that the following statement contains Moses’ very words and also outlines the nature of the blessing. Both the words uttered and the power or gifts evoked by their pronouncement are implied in the fathers’ blessings (Gen. 48:15f; 49) and elsewhere (Dt. 28:2; Prov 10:6; 11:11, 26; 24:25; cf. Nu. 6:23–27), as when a person blesses “with a blessing” (Gen. 27:41; 49:28). The act of blessing and the powers that emanate from it are indicated in Prov. 10:22 and when God commands a blessing (Lev. 25:21; Dt. 28:8; Ps. 133:3). God’s power and its effect may be identical (Ezk. 34:26; Sir. 40:27). Apparently in some instances a token gift or present accompanied the pronouncement of a blessing (AV Gen. 33:11; Josh. 15:19; Jgs. 1:15; RSV “gift, present”; cf. 2 K. 5:15). The words alone are designated in Prov. 10:7 (cf. Ps. 37:26; Mal. 2:2).
Blessing is common in Israelite liturgy, generally paired with the pronouncement of curses (Dt. 11:29; Josh. 8:34; cf. Dt. 27:12f). God’s favor is a positive sanction of one who follows His commandments as stipulated in the laws of the pertinent covenant. Man may choose to follow the law or not and thereby determine his reward (Dt. 11:26; 30:1, 19). Similar sanctions are found in ancient Near Eastern treaties. Occasionally Heb bāraḵ is used euphemistically for ’ārar and qālal, “curse” (1 K. 21:10, 23; Job 1:5, 11; 2:5, 9; Ps. 10:3; RSV “curses the Lord”; AV “blesses the covetous”; NEB “gives wickedness his blessing”). A negative form of the blessing formula occurs in Jer. 17:7, “let it not be blessed.”
Although the blessing granted by Isaac to Jacob is irrevocable (Gen. 27:33–35), a curse may be transformed into a blessing (Dt. 23:5 [MT 6]; Jgs. 17:2; Neh. 13:2). Blessings may be cursed (Mal. 2:2).
“Blessedness” (Gk makarismós) is rendered only by the AV in Rom. 4:6, 9 (RSV “pronounce a blessing,” “the blessing pronounced”; NEB “happiness”) and Gal. 4:13 (RSV “satisfaction”; NEB “how happy you thought you were”).
“Most blessed” (AV Ps. 37:26; Prov. 10:6) translates Heb liḇrāḵâ, lit “for a blessing.”
 
Bibliography.—Bless: CAD, VIII, sv “karābu”; F. C. Fensham, ZAW, 74 (1962), 1–9; ILC, I–II, 182–212; A. Murtonen, VT, 9 (1959), 157–177; TDNT, II, sv εὐλογέω (Beyer); TDOT, II, sv “brk” (Scharbert); G. Weimeier, Der Segen im AT (1970).
Blessed: W. Janzen, HTR, 58 (1965), 215–226; TDNT, IV, sv μαχάριοϚ (Bertram, Hauck); TDOT, I, sv “’ashrê” (Cazelles); W. S. Towner, CBQ, 30 (1968), 386–399.
Blessing: F. M. Cross and D. N. Freedman, JBL, 67 (1948), 191–210; T. H. Gaster, JBL, 66 (1947), 53–62; E. M. Good, JBL, 82 (1963), 427–432; L. J. Liebrich, JBL, 74 (1955), 33–36; D. J. McCarthy, Analecta Biblica, 21 (1963); G. E. Mendenhall, BA, 17 (1954), 50–76; H. Mowvley, Bible Translator, 16 (1965), 74–80; C. Westermann, Der Segen in der Bibel und im Handeln der Kirche (1968).
 
A. C. MYERS
 
 
Geoffrey W. Bromiley, ed., The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988), 523–524.
 
PLEASE NOTE, this is not from Accrodance, it is the same one Accordance sells.
 
bbarak This word is found more frequently in the OT than in the NT, and is used in different relations.
(1) It is first met in Gen 1:22 at the introduction of animal life upon the earth, where it is written, "And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply," etc. The context furnishes the key to its meaning, which is the bestowal of good, and in this particular place the pleasure and power of increase in kind. Thus it is generally employed in both Testaments, the context always determining the character of the bestowal; for instance (where man is the recipient), whether the good is temporal or spiritual, or both.
Occasionally, however, a different turn is given to it as in Gen 2:3 AV, where it is written, "And God blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it." Here the good consists in the setting apart and consecrating of that day for His use.
(2) In the foregoing instances the Creator is regarded as the source of blessing and the creature the recipient, but the order is sometimes reversed, and the creature (man) is the source and the Creator the recipient. In Gen 24:48, for example, Abraham's servant says, "I bowed my head, and worshipped Jehovah, and blessed Jehovah, the God of my master Abraham," where the word evidently means to worship God, to exalt and praise Him.
(3) There is a third use where men only are considered. In Gen 24:60, her relatives "blessed Rebekah, and said unto her, Our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of ten thousands" (AV "millions"), where the word expresses the wish or hope for the bestowal of the good designated. There are also instances where such a blessing of man by man may be taken in the prophetic sense, as when Isaac blessed Jacob (Gen 27:4, 27), putting himself as it were in God's place, and with a sense of the Divine concurrence, pronouncing the good named. Here the word becomes in part a prayer for, and in part a prediction of, the good intended. Balaam's utterances are simply prophetic of Israel's destiny (Num 23:9, 10, 11, 23 margin, 24).
Although these illustrations are from the OT the word is used scarcely differently in the NT; "The blessing of bread, of which we read in the Gospels, is equivalent to giving thanks for it, the thought being that good received gratefully comes as a blessing"; compare Mt 14:19 and 15:36 with 1 Cor 11:24 (Adeney, HDB, I, 307).
See also BENEDICTION.
James M. Gray
blesed bbaruk Where God is referred to, this word has the sense of "praise," as in 1 Sa 25:32, "Blessed be Jehovah, the God of Israel." But where man is in mind it is used in the sense of "happy" or "favored," and most frequently so in the Psalms and the Gospels, as for example, "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the wicked" (Ps 1:1); "Blessed art thou among women" (Lk 1:42); "Blessed are the poor in spirit" (Mt 5:3).
See BEATITUDES.
blesed- nes:This translation of makarismos (a word signifying "beatification" or "the ascription of blessing"), is used but three times, in Rom 4:6, 9, and Gal 4:15, in AV only. In the first two instances it refers to the happy state or condition of a man to whom Christ's righteousness is imputed by faith, and in the last to a man's experience of that condition.
See HAPPINESS.
(bb'rakah; eulogia:Sometimes means the form of words used in invoking the bestowal of good, as in Dt 33:1; Josh 8:34; and Jas 3:10. Sometimes it means the good or the benefit itself which has been conferred, as in Gen 27:36, "Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me?" and Prov 10:22, "The blessing of Jehovah, it maketh rich." "The cup of blessing" hto{G }poterion tes eulogias, a special use of the word in 1 Cor 10:16), means the cup for which we bless God, or which represents to us so much blessing from God.
James M. Gray
 
_________________________________________________
 
As you can see there is a fair amount of good lexical information in the REVISED.... but the info in the original has value too... Like I said I prefer revised but I bought the original as a nice dictionary to have on my palm pilot back many moons ago...
 
-Dan


#3 davidmedina

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Posted 29 October 2013 - 08:26 PM

Thanks Dan. I am just looking into adding a multi volume dictionary to accordance and I thought about the ISBE. I am not yet looking at the Anchor Yale as it is too expensive and I have no use for the level of in-depth, yet. And I figure that ISBE would be a good choice. 


"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." Rom. 12:2
 
Blog: The Renewed Mind.

#4 davidmedina

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Posted 29 October 2013 - 08:33 PM

Do you think that if I have the IVP Essential should I get the ISBE?


"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." Rom. 12:2
 
Blog: The Renewed Mind.

#5 Dan Francis

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Posted 29 October 2013 - 08:38 PM

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Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, The (6 volumes)|$570.00   Our Price: $269.99 

 
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Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible| $279.99   Our Price: $269.99 

 
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Are the other multivolume options, I own Anchor in both Logos and Accordance so that tells you how much I value it.... I own NIDB in OT and ZEB is not one I own, but it's predecessor I do have in Accordance and I wasn't overly impressed, the articles I compared were unchanged. I know many who love the NIDB but it feels somewhat shallow to me.

 

-Dan



#6 davidmedina

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Posted 29 October 2013 - 08:39 PM

Would the Anchor Yale be too technical?


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#7 Dan Francis

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Posted 29 October 2013 - 08:44 PM

IVP has so many good dictionaries in it. I personally would see original ISBE as unneeded but some of the articles are very informative, i.e.: the flood article in the original has a lot of interesting information on flood stories from around the world. I just choose a word at random.  



#8 Dan Francis

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Posted 29 October 2013 - 08:50 PM

Not too technical at all....

 

here are the three i mentioned

BLESS, BLESSING (hDk∂rV;b, H1388, eujloge÷w, G2328, to bestow prosperity and goodness, to worship God as good, to receive his goodness and announce it to others; rRvQOa, H891, maka¿rioß, G3421, the prosperity or happiness resulting from such bestowal).

 

 

1. God’s blessing. While blessing can refer to man’s praise and worship to God (“to bow the knee”) in acknowledgement of His provision (Gen 24:48; Deut 8:10), a more specific emphasis is on the blessings themselves, the gracious character of God in giving them, and also on the identification of those who receive God’s favor (Ps 1, “blessed is the man”).

 

While God Himself may announce His favor (as in the creation account in Gen 1:22, 28; 2:3), it may also be proclaimed through His official representatives, as by the father of a household (Gen 27; 48; 49), by the priestly Aaronic blessing (Num 6:22–27), through the king (2 Sam 6:18), or the apostle (the introductions and closings of the NT epistles).

 

 

2. Covenantal blessing. God’s favor extends to every aspect of life (Deut 28:3–6 and the blessings of the aspects of creation) but is ratified and announced in the establishment of a definite relationship of blessing (covenant); “general” blessings come in the setting of God’s people remembering the Exodus and the covenant which it reflects (Deut 28–31). God’s blessings are frequently presented as dependent upon man’s obedience, in contrast with cursings which result from disobedience (Deut 30:15–20); nevertheless, they are ultimately gracious, and cannot be referred to anything but God’s mercy and kindness.

 

 

3. Not magical but gracious. This gracious character is apparently the major factor in the liberal rejection of the Bible’s understanding of blessing. The irrevocable, effectual character of blessing (as in the case of Jacob rather than Esau, Gen 27:35; cf. Num 22 and 23 on the similar character of cursing) is understood by liberals as representing a primitive “magic,” which was replaced later by a more personal religion. However, it must be noted that the OT does not consider the word of blessing to have some independent force, but instead as always under God’s control (Deut 23:5). A proper understanding of the permanent character of the word of blessing must come from an appreciation of the faithfulness of the covenant-keeping God; to attempt to understand it in terms of appropriateness would be to contradict its basic gracious character. A further factor is the long-range, family character of God’s blessings, and their extension through the covenant family (Gen 49).

 

 

4. The blessed obey. The NT makes clear the relation of blessing to commandment. The Beatitudes precede the call to obedience in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5 and 6; cf. the blessing-cursing contrast in Luke 6:20–26), so obedience is the response to blessing, not the means of obtaining it (perhaps the gracious prologue to the Sinai law in Exod 20:1 is analogous). Much the same stress is seen in the introductory blessings of Paul’s epistles (“Grace to you and peace,” esp. the extended blessing of Eph 1:3–14) which precede instruction to the churches. See BEATITUDES, THE.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY B. F. Westcott, Hebrews (1889), 203–210; H. W. Beyer, Eúlogéo, TDNT, II (1935), 754–765; F. Hauck et al., Makários, TDNT, IV (1942), 362–370; H. N. Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom (1950), 185–191, 241–258, 259–284; Ridderbos, When the Time Had Fully Come (1957), 26–43; M. G. Kline, By Oath Consigned (1968); J. Scharbert, “Blessing” and “Cursing,” Sacramentum Verbi, I (1970), 69–75, 174–178.

 

D. C. DAVIS

 

 

BLESSEDNESS (see BLESS). The supreme joy produced by divine blessing, the announcement of blessing.

 

 

1. Material and spiritual blessedness. God’s blessing is from the beginning of His entire creation, seen esp. in His blessing of the Sabbath, working the completion of His work (Gen 2:3; Exod 20:11; cf. the refrain “it was very good” of Gen 1). The divine curse resulting from the Fall touches not only man, but also the created order (Gen 3:16–19). Divine blessing in restoring personal fellowship is the heart of the covenant promise, “I shall be your God, and you shall be my people” (Gen 17:7), but this is not in isolation from God’s favor through His creation. Obedience to God results in general material prosperity, including supremacy over Israel’s neighbors, economic prosperity and flourishing families, while disobedience results in just the opposite (Deut 27:3). Material blessing must not be understood as having no spiritual application: Israel’s role as witness to the world of the might and love of the Lord depends upon the evidence of the Lord’s favor to her; the promise of numerous descendants rests upon agricultural and military success; the very worship of the Lord is to be centered in Jerusalem, to which exile (military defeat) is the antithesis. God’s personal choice and blessing of His people inevitably involves His blessing of the details of their lives.

 

What is true of Israel as a people is true of the individual believer, and his happiness and blessing also rests in obedience. Proverbs esp. indicates how happiness consists in finding wisdom (3:13), hearing the Lord (8:34), trusting in Him (16:20), and keeping His law (29:18).

 

 

2. The blessedness of Christ. Jesus Christ is the Son of the Blessed (Mark 14:61); i.e. He is to be praised with the same praise due to the Father; both Christ’s accomplished salvation and His return reflect the glory of that blessed Father (1 Tim 1:11; 6:15). His birth is a blessing (Luke 1:42, 48); His death is remembered by the cup of blessing of the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 10:16), reflecting His own blessing of the meal (Mark 14:22; cf. 6:41). He blesses His disciples as He ascends, having promised His return (Luke 24:50). His continued ministry to His people is a “greater” kind precisely because of its blessing character (Heb 7:1, 6). His return blesses His people who are awake, are keeping His words, have washed their robes, and so may enter and rest, being invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb (the doxologies of Rev 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 22:7, 14).

 

 

3. The blessedness of grace. Christ’s blessing comes to His people (cf. “Bless,” 4) esp. as they confess Christ as Lord and suffer for His sake (Luke 6:22; John 20:29; 1 Pet 3:14; 4:14). They are blessed in Abraham as they are men of faith as He was, in receiving the promised Holy Spirit (Gal 3:8, 14). The believer’s blessing centers in his justification in Christ (Rom 4:7); blessed is he whose conscience is clear in his service to his Lord (Rom 14:7). Christians in turn bless those who revile and persecute them (Rom 12:14; 1 Cor 4:12; cf. Matt 5:10–12). The ministry of believers to each other is a ministry of blessing, e.g. as Paul brings money to needy Christians, he brings also the blessing of Christ Himself (Rom 15:29).

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY See BLESS.

 

D. C. DAVIS

 

Tenney, Merrill C. and Steven Barabas, eds. The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible. Accordance electronic edition, version 1.3. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976.

 

BLESS/BLESSING [Heb brk JKr;b]. The Hebrew root brk has diverse but unrelated etymological meanings, just as in other Semitic languages. There are the verbal and nominal forms related to “bless/blessing.” A verb “to kneel” and a noun “knee” (Gen 24:11; Ps 95:6; Isa 45:23) also derive from the same root. In addition, there is a noun that Hebrew dictionaries translate as “pool, water reservoir, basin” (Isa 7:3). It is almost unanimously agreed that apart from popular etymologies, which connect these meanings (especially the seeming religious connection between kneeling and praying, praising, blessing), there is in fact no basis in any Semitic language for the etymological tie (Mitchell 1987: 16; TDNT 2: 284).

 

Bless/blessing has been most frequently understood in terms of benefits conveyed—prosperity, power, and especially fertility. This focus on the content of the benefit is now being viewed as secondary. The primary factor of blessing is the statement of relationship between parties. God blesses with a benefit on the basis of the relationship. The blessing makes known the positive relationship between the parties, whether a single individual (Gen 12:1–3) or a group (Deut 7:14–16). The recipient and others become aware of the value of the relationship and hence its desirability (Job 42:12). Human blessings portray the goodwill between parties and find their basis in the human-divine relationship. Just as with God’s blessing, they may either convey benediction (Num 6:24–26) or benefaction (Gen 33:11).

The focus on relationship rather than content permits a wide range of lexical meaning, so that brk is not always translated in the same fashion. What is conveyed, regardless of translation, is always based on the favorable relationship between parties. The term brk is used in the sense of thanking another individual (1 Sam 23:21; 2 Sam 14:22; Job 29:11–13). The thanks are based upon the act done, the relationship established. Of course, there is a vast array of terms for thanks, praise, and even worship that parallel brk, and hence brk may be translated with one of these terms in English. Most frequently these have God as the object of the praise (Pss 34:2—Eng 34:1; 115:17–18, 145:1–2). The contexts of brk found within the Hebrew Bible demand these different translations both because of the diverse relationships out of which blessing occurs and because of the fact that benediction or benefaction may be articulated. Finally, there are seven occurrences where brk is used euphemistically to mean “blaspheme” or “curse” (1 Kgs 21:13; Job 2:9; etc.).

The verbal and nominal occurrences of blessing appear approximately 400 times in the Hebrew Bible (88 times in Genesis and 83 times in Psalms with the remaining occurrences fairly evenly divided in the canon). Over half of all occurrences are in the Pi}el verbal form. The passive participle, with the so-called baœru®k formula (“Blessed are you,” or “Blessed be…” is the only form of the Qal to be used. The subject and object of brk, “bless,” is evenly divided between God blessing humans, humans blessing other humans, and humans blessing, i.e., “praising” God. While occurrences in other NW Semitic languages employ similar subjects and objects, there is some agreement that the Hebrew usage is both unique (EncRel 2: 251) and more wide-ranging (Mitchell 1987: 10). Caution is advised in drawing too many conclusions regarding the peculiarity of the Hebrew occurrences, in part because of the paucity of other NW Semitic texts as opposed to the relative richness of occurrences in Hebrew.

Blessing is a central part of diverse Hebrew Bible traditions, and therefore it has received rather extensive treatment in commentaries, histories of Israelite religion, theologies, and individual studies of selected texts where brk occurs. Since homo religiosus in all traditions seeks and articulates relationships with the divine or sacred, it is not surprising that blessing is significant in many ancient and modern religious traditions beyond the Hebrew Bible (EncRel 2: 247–53). There is promise for an enriched understanding of blessing when it is placed among the analogues outside the Hebrew Bible, although much work needs to be undertaken in these comparative studies.

Specialized brk research among Hebrew Bible scholars has been bountiful during the 20th century. The studies focus upon three factors: (1) the history of the concept; (2) the identification of the giver and receiver of blessing; (3) the nature of the transfer that takes place in blessing.

First, much has been written on the history of blessing. The earliest NW Semitic usage is clearly of gods blessing humans with possessions and children. There is considerable difference of opinion regarding whether or not the pre-Islamic concept of blessing, which entailed an animistic understanding of power, influenced the earliest stages of NW Semitic and Hebrew understandings. Assumptions, including what is primitive and the extent of polytheism’s influence on monotheism, determine in part the positions taken.

A rather extensive tradition history has been articulated by Wehmeier (1970). Within pentateuchal sources, for example, he is of the opinion that E is void of any blessing theme, that in D God primarily blesses Israel with prosperity in the land, and P utilizes earlier traditions but also spiritualizes the content of blessing. As opposed to Westermann (1978), he does not see much utilization of any blessing tradition among the prophets. Most debated of all the tradition history research is Westermann’s contention that blessing and deliverance are quite distinct divine activities. He contends that deliverance concentrates on specific, often miraculous acts of God, whereas blessing deals with the natural processes of God’s nurturing creation. Extensive research on the treaty-covenantal understandings of curses and blessings in the ANE and the Hebrew Bible have enriched this dimension of comparative work.

Second, almost every lexical discussion of blessing is divided along the lines of the identification of the giver and receiver of the blessing. The question of what it means for God to be blessed has generated the major disagreements. If one argues that the nature of the referent (God or a human) changes the force of a term, then the translation must change. It would not make much sense for humans to give the same benefits of blessing given by the deity. Therefore translating brk in a range from bless to praise preserves the basic factor of relationship in the understanding of blessing. The human response of praise to God’s blessing is an entirely understandable development. Human praise is the one benefit which may be given in return for the benefits conveyed by the deity. When referents shift, these kinds of translational shifts are common.

Finally, two interrelated issues, power and magic, continue at the center of understanding what is transferred in a blessing. Here the question surrounds the acquisition of blessing. Can God be coerced into giving a blessing? Can a blessing be obtained unrelated to God’s beneficence? Is there any self-fulfilling power residing in words? The earlier studies of Pedersen (PI), Mowinckel (1961; originally published in 1924), and Hempel’s work of 1925 (1961) understood the ancient world of these texts in a dynamistic perspective and could answer these questions in a positive manner. Wehmeier (1970), Scharbert (TDNT 2: 279–308), and Westermann (1978) understand the biblical traditions to have limited the dynamistic perspective    at least partially, but not to have obliterated it entirely. Mitchell (1987) strongly opposes any magical understandings in the Hebrew Bible related to blessing.

This last issue needs further work on the individual texts portraying blessing, as well as better perspectives on Israelite religion within its own surroundings. Since there is no comprehensive study of the complex variety of synonyms (“happy,” “peace,” etc.) and antonyms (“curse”) for blessing, we can assume that new perspectives on this important religious term will be forthcoming.

 

Bibliography 

Hempel, J. 1961. Die israelitische Anschauungen von Segen und Fluch im Lichte altorientalischer Parallelen. BZAW 81: 30–113.

Mitchell, C. W. 1987. The Meaning of BRK “To Bless” in the Old Testament. SBLDS 95. Atlanta.

Mowinckel, S. 1961. Segen und Fluch in Israels Kult und Psalmendichtung. Vol. 5 of Psalmenstudien. Amsterdam.

Wehmeier, G. 1970. Der Segen im Alten Testament. Theologische Dissertation 6. Basel.

Westermann, C. 1978. Blessing in the Bible and the Life of the Church. Philadelphia.

KENT HAROLD RICHARDS

 

BLESSINGS AND CURSES Scriptures testify to a traditional world in which divine powers (principally the God of Israel, but also “the sons of God,” “Satan,” “the queen of heaven,” and others) are believed to influence, directly and indirectly, the life and destiny of nations and individuals. The course of human events is experienced as neither accidental nor self-directed but as dependent, wholly or in part, on the will of these divine powers. In this setting, blessing and curse, deriving ultimately from the disposition and ability of the gods to further or thwart the “good life,” are of crucial importance to human welfare.

__________

A. The Scope of the Discussion

B. The Terminology of Blessings and Curses

1. In the Hebrew Bible

2. In the New Testament

C. The Efficacy of Blessings and Curses

1. The Power and Authority behind Blessings and Curses

2. Accompanying Symbolic and Ritual Acts

D. The Settings of Blessings and Curses

1. Times of Universal or Cosmic Significance

2. Times of Individual or Family Crisis

3. Times of Community or National Decision

4. In the Cult

E. Blessings, Curses, and the Literary Shape of the Bible

1. Judges 5

2. The Book of Ruth

3. The Book of Psalms

4. The Tetrateuch, Pentateuch, and Deuteronomistic History

5. The Christian Bible

__________

A. The Scope of the Discussion

In the Bible, blessing may be understood as a performative utterance (see Austin 1962; 1979), the effective activity of pronouncing and bringing about good for someone. It may be the resultant favor (benefaction) or enablement itself. Blessing may also be an act of greeting or prayer that invokes good for someone or seeks to avert or neutralize evil. Finally, it may be an act of praise by which a benefactor, human or divine, is acknowledged and thanked for benefits received or expected. The meaning of cursing is just the opposite. It may refer to the pronouncement of evil which brings about punishment or harm to someone, the actual harm or punishment effected, or an invocation of the same. It is unthinkable, however, that one would curse the deity (Lev 24:10–16), even for some harm one might attribute to God’s neglect or disfavor (Job 2:9–10).

Earlier studies of blessings and curses in the Bible (e.g., Pedersen 1914; PI, 162–212: Mowinckel 1924; Hempel 1961) often dealt with perceived distinctions between “magical” and “religious” conceptions of their efficacy. The “magical” conception would attribute inherent power, for example, to a certain form of pronouncement, so that the benediction or malediction once spoken must automatically bring about its result, barring pronouncement of an equally or more effective counter-curse or -blessing. The “religious” conception, by contrast, would attribute the power and efficacy of a blessing or curse to the cooperative will and action of God or the gods. It was felt that both conceptions could be illustrated from the Bible. Westermann argues that the magical features, still recognizable in some of the Yahwist (J) narratives, are historical leftovers no longer operative in the theological conception of the Yahwist (1978: 57–58). Also, Scharbert (TDOT 2: 303) finds little trace of the magical left in the biblical conceptions of blessing and curse.

Closely related to this discussion was a scholarly consensus that the ancient Israelites, along with other contemporary cultures, attributed unusual power to the spoken word (Heb daœbaœr); once uttered, the word would practically take on a life of its own and continue in effect whether or not circumstances changed or the original speaker had a change of mind. Thiselton (1974) strongly questions the supposed independent power of words in the Bible. The power of words in general, and of blessings and curses in particular, presumably depends upon the disposition (favorable or unfavorable), power, and status of the person who utters them, the circumstances under which they are spoken, and the expectations and receptivity of the audience for or about whom the words are spoken. The Bible presents blessings and curses as neither automatic nor irrevocable. They are effective only when spoken by authoritative or authorized persons (e.g., God, king, prophets, priests, elders) at what is considered an appropriate time and place, accompanied by the expected gestures or rituals, if any. God willing, they may also be revoked. Recent hermeneutical reflections on the Balaam story by Coats (1982) and Ford (1982) from a “process” perspective interpret blessing and curse in terms of the power of divine persuasion.

 

B. The Terminology of Blessings and Curses

1. In the Hebrew Bible. The Bible frequently expresses blessings by forms of the verbal root brk, “to bless,”   including baœru®k, “blessed,” and by the related noun be∑raœka®, “blessing.” Other Hebrew terms belonging to the same semantic field include hΩnn, “to act favorably or graciously,” rsΩh and raœsΩo®n, “be favorably pleased,” “favor,” sΩlhΩ, “to advance or prosper,” hΩesed, “loyalty/magnanimity/kindness,” and various expressions of the gracious presence or accessibility of God (i.e., God’s being “with” {im or }et someone). One who has been favored or has experienced blessing may be called Heb }as¥re®, “happy,” a term found most frequently in the Psalms and Proverbs, while the general state of well-being or security that results from blessing may be termed Heb s¥aœlo®m. In conversation with earlier studies, Mitchell (1983) provides insightful analyses of the semantic relationships between brk and many of the other terms cited here.

The terminology of cursing in the Hebrew Bible includes the three principal Heb roots }lh, }rr, qll, and their derivatives. The first carries the basic sense of a vocal or written imprecation, a curse pronounced. The second, frequently encountered in the participial form }aœru®r and as an antonym to baœru®k, seems to have the basic sense of “spell,” connoting a sort of banning or barring from benefits. The third has a wide range of meanings, often dealing less with imprecation than with disrespect and verbal or physical abuse (see Brichto 1963: 70–71; 114–15; 176–77). Scharbert (TDOT 1: 261–64) adds that Heb }aœla® was commonly used in legal situations as a conditional curse or oath used to prove guilt, protect property, or ratify a treaty. He further notes that the }aœru®r formula was the most powerful “decree” expressed by someone in authority to deliver over a transgressor to misfortune (TDOT 1: 411). In the Balaam story (Numbers 22–24), the uncommon Heb root qbb alternates several times with }rr, while Heb z{m also occurs once. Also within the semantic field of cursing are the “ban” (Heb hΩerem) which singled out persons or groups for extermination (e.g., Joshua 7), the interjections Heb }o®y (“Woe!” e.g., Isa 6:5) and ho®y (“Ha!” e.g., Jer 22:18), and expressions of divine withdrawal or displeasure such as God’s “hiding” or “turning away the face.”

2. In the New Testament. The equivalent to brk in the LXX, the intertestamental literature, and the NT is Gk eulogein, “to bless,” and its derivatives, including the divine epithet eulogeœtos, “blessed.” The condition of happiness resulting from being favored is expressed by Gk makarios (see Matthew 5 and Luke 6). The roots may also be used interchangeably, as in Luke 1:42 and 45, where Elizabeth hails Mary as both eulogeœmeneœ and makaria.

Cursing in the NT may be expressed by forms of kataraesthai, “to curse,” (kat)anathematizein, “to make anathema,” and the related terms; and by Gk kakalogein, “to slander or speak evil of.” The woeful expression Gk ouai appears especially in Matthew, Luke, and Revelation.

There are, of course, many portions of the Scriptures in which blessing and curse are closely discernible in context, even though the expected terminology is not employed.

 

C. The Efficacy of Blessings and Curses

1. The Power and Authority behind Blessings and Curses. As noted above, blessings and curses derive their efficacy from the power and authority of the one who utters them or serves as guarantor for carrying out their intent. In the Bible, the ultimate source of power is Yahweh, the God of Israel, who is said to finally control all good and evil (Isa 45:6), and who can thwart all other counsel and intentions (Job 12:13–25). In the biblical view, therefore, no blessing or curse can become operative without the assent of this God.

Blessings and curses, once uttered, need not come to pass inexorably, because countermeasures could be taken. For example, when Micah of Ephraim revealed to his mother that he himself had stolen some silver protected by her curse, she immediately responded by pronouncing a blessing in Yahweh’s name on her son and consecrating the silver to this God (Judg 17:1–3). When Jonathan brought his father Saul’s curse upon himself unwittingly, the people intervened to save him from ritual execution and “ransomed” him (1 Sam 14:24–30, 36–45). Steps could also be taken ahead of time to insure blessing and avert curses. Abram was assured that God would bless those who blessed him but would curse anyone who cursed him (Gen 12:3); Isaac pronounced a similar blessing on his son Jacob (Gen 27:29). Although the specific vocabulary of blessing and curse is not used, the word that came to Jeremiah at the potter’s shop indicated that Yahweh is free to reverse blessing-bearing promises (“building,” “planting,” “good”) or curse-bearing threats (“pluck up,” “break down,” “destroy” if people change their ways (Jer 18:7–10).

2. Accompanying Symbolic and Ritual Acts. Various gestures or rituals may have been expected to accompany the pronouncement of blessings and curses. The laying on of hands (Gen 48:14; Mark 10:16) or the ritual sharing of food and drink (Gen 14:18–20) might accompany a blessing. When Shimei cursed David, he threw stones and dust (2 Sam 16:5–14). A person suspected of adultery was to drink curse-contaminated water which would cause injury if the person were guilty (Num 5:19–28). Jeremiah smashed a pot in the presence of elders and senior priests while delivering a divine message that Jerusalem and its inhabitants were about to be broken by their enemies (Jer 19:1–13) and would become (cursed) objects of hissing (v 8; cf. Jer 29:18). Several variations on another ritual commonly associated with curses, namely, the dismemberment of a person or animals, occur in Gen 15:9–10 (cf. Jer 34:18–20), 1 Sam 11:6–7 and, evidently, Judg 19:29–30. In his discussion of the curse ritual in Deuteronomy 27, Harrelson (1980: 26–33) suggests that the division of the Israelites into two groups facing each other is another variation on this ritual of dismemberment.

 

D. The Settings of Blessings and Curses

In a wider sense, blessing may be understood as the continuous favorable working of God to bring about good in the world of nature and the life of individuals and families (Westermann 1979: 33, 44–45). The Bible, however, depicts many typical situations in which the mediation of God’s favor or disfavor, expressed as a deliberate pronouncement or invocation of curse or blessing, was expected or considered appropriate. These situations often involve a crisis, the onset of a struggle, a time of decision, or the crossing of a threshold into the future.

1. Times of Universal or Cosmic Significance. The crisis or transition may be of universal significance. Thus, in the first story of the creation, God twice directly   pronounces blessings on the newly created creatures (Gen 1:22, 28) and also hallows the seventh day, which marks the completion of the “generations of the heaven and the earth” (Gen 2:3–4). By contrast, after the man and the woman have eaten of the fruit and are about to be driven from the garden, Yahweh curses the serpent and the ground (Gen 3:14, 17) and promises pain to the humans in their future production of food and children (Gen 3:16–19).

In the NT, the arrival of the Christ (the Anointed One) and his announcement of the breaking in of the kingdom of God is accompanied by a series of blessings and woes. In Luke, Jesus balances his pronouncement of four “blesseds” with four contrasting “woes” (Luke 6:20–26). As Van Den Doel (1963: 216–20, 224–25) notes, there are several other instances in the gospels where those who are receiving and acting on Jesus’ message of the kingdom and the reversal of conditions it represents are called “blessed.” He also notes (1963: 151) that, while the many healings and exorcisms performed by Jesus are not designated “blessings” in the text, they carry that meaning for the human beneficiaries.

2. Times of Individual or Family Crisis. Crisis and transition times in individual and family life call for blessings and the averting of curses. The priest Eli blessed Hannah and Elkanah with an invocation for additional children after they had dedicated Samuel to the service of the sanctuary. The text immediately reports Yahweh’s fulfillment of this blessing (1 Sam 2:20–21). Indeed, Eli had pronounced a similar benediction over the barren Hannah after her agonized prayers for a first child. That priestly blessing was also quickly answered by Yahweh (1 Sam 1:17–20). When Ruth and Boaz prepared to be married, the elders and people similarly invoked blessings of children and prosperity; and, upon the birth of a son whom they presented to Naomi, the women lauded Yahweh as blessed (Heb baœru®k; Ruth 4:11–12, 14). Similarly, Raguel blessed his daughter Sarah and her husband Tobias upon their marriage (Tob 7:13).

Blessing may be invoked for someone undertaking an important journey, especially when the future of the family is at stake (Gen 24:7; cf. Tob 5:16). When Rebekah consented to become Isaac’s wife, they sent her on her journey with a blessing that she bear innumerable descendants (Gen 24:60). Jacob went to Paddan-aram to find a wife with his father’s blessing (Gen 28:1–5). Later, when Laban finally agreed to allow his daughters and grandchildren to go with Jacob, he blessed them (Gen 32:1—Eng 31:55). Finally, the climactic episode wherein Jacob struggles with “a man” at the Jabbok River and subsequently obtains a divine blessing and the new name Israel (Gen 32:22–32) takes place during his sojourn away from Paddan-aram, just before he meets again with the estranged brother he fears, Esau.

Blessings are also appropriate when one generation is about to die and wishes to pass on favor to another. Best known are the blessings bestowed by Isaac and Jacob upon their sons (Genesis 27; 48–49).

Westermann argues (1978: 83–91) that NT accounts of Jesus blessing children (Mark 10:16=Matt 19:15=Luke 18:17), speaking the blessing at meals (Luke 9:16; 24:30), and blessing his disciples when he took leave of them (Luke 24:50–51), indicate that he was continuing traditional Jewish practices. Nevertheless, the latter episode also marks a significant moment of transition in the relationship between Jesus and his followers.

In contrast to the usual practice of seeking a blessing during times of crisis, Jeremiah and Job are two individuals who experienced personal crises and such intense suffering that they cursed the day of their birth and wished for death (Jer 20:14–18; Job 3). Also, Jeremiah cursed the person who made the birth announcement (vv 15–17), while Job added a curse upon the night during which he was conceived (v 3; see Alter 1985: 76–83, 96–110). Jonah, in very different circumstances and without actually invoking a curse, also expressed a death wish (Jonah 4:3, 8). It is possible, however, to interpret the actions of all three as desperate attempts actually to motivate God to reverse their fortunes.

The guarantee of one’s word was to swear an oath that included a potential curse upon oneself. Saul uttered such an oath which threatened Jonathan’s life (1 Sam 14:44), as did Solomon when he doomed Adonijah (1 Kgs 2:23), and the king of Israel who swore to destroy Elisha (2 Kgs 6:31). When Jonathan and David swore loyalty to each other, Jonathan included a self-imprecation to guarantee his fidelity (1 Sam 20:13). Abner, too, uttered this sort of self-imprecation when he publicly switched allegiance from the family of Saul to David (2 Sam 3:9). There are many similar examples in the Hebrew Bible. A striking instance in the NT is Peter’s invocation of a curse (once in Mark 14:71; twice in Matt 26:72, 74) when he denied being one of Jesus’ followers. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus counseled against swearing by anything, but simply to state “Yes” or “No” (Matt 5:33–37).

3. Times of Community or National Decision. Blessings and curses figure prominently in the covenants that Yahweh initiated with the people of Israel. Covenants were believed to be central in determining the nation’s fortunes. The rituals renewing or reaffirming covenant included reciting blessings and curses. This is especially clear in the case of the Mosaic covenant as presented in Deuteronomy. At the conclusion of his lengthy exposition of the statutes and ordinances Israel was to keep (Deuteronomy 5–26), Moses instructed the people to observe a ceremony, at Shechem on Mounts Ebal and Gerizim, in which they would declare the curses or blessings that would come upon them for obedience or disobedience to the statutes and commandments just rehearsed (Deuteronomy 27–28). In chap. 30 he reiterates Israel’s obligation to choose “life,” “good,” and “blessing” over “death,” “evil,” and the “curse” (vv 15, 19) by remaining loyal to their God. The book closes with the song of Moses (chap. 32), which echoes elements of a covenant lawsuit (Heb rˆîb) and the curse-induced evils that would come upon disobedient Israel, balanced and overshadowed by the concluding blessing of Moses on all the tribes of Israel (chap. 33). The latter, set just before Moses’ passing in chap. 34, serves as a last will and testament, in some ways similar to the blessing of Jacob in Genesis 49.

The so-called Holiness Code (Leviticus 17–26) also concludes with contrasted blessings (26:3–13) and curses (26:14–39) for observance or nonobservance of Yahweh’s statutes. Moreover, the closing words assure the people   that, even after the most dire consequences, including exile to enemy lands, genuine repentance and a return to Yahweh would cause him to remember the Abrahamic covenant and the Sinai covenant. For, after all, Yahweh would not abandon them, even in foreign lands, so as to destroy the people completely and break the covenant with them (26:40–45).

Scharbert believes that the blessing formulas in Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26 are briefer and vaguer than the curse formulas (TDOT 2: 304–5). He notes that in Deuteronomy there is no formal list of blessings to counterbalance the curses enumerated in chap. 27. Further, blessing plays little role in the preexilic prophets, although curses are present. This may indicate that the blessings were a later insertion into the legal sanctions, which originally were only the curses that would result from covenant-breaking.

Several important studies on covenant (including Mendenhall 1955; Baltzer 1971; and McCarthy 1978) have treated the blessings and curses in Yahweh’s covenant with Israel in comparison with curses and blessings found in political treaties now familiar from other nations, notably the Hittites, in the ANE. Hillers (1964: 43–79) usefully correlates some 20 specific curses (e.g., ravaging animals, removal of joyful sounds, breaking of the scepter, dry breasts, contaminated water, etc.) found in various ANE treaties and paralleled in Deuteronomy 28, Leviticus 26, the Prophets, or elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible. Levenson (1985: 35) remarks that it is hardly surprising that the curses in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, so horrific in their detail, are still read in undertones in synagogue worship.

4. In the Cult. Two climactic cultic occasions include David ritually conducting the covenant box into Jerusalem and Solomon’s dedication of the temple. On each occasion, the king takes the leading role in the ceremonies, blessing various other participants. David dared to move the covenant box based upon the report that Yahweh had blessed Obed-edom the Gittite, with whom the box had been residing for three months (2 Sam 6:11–12). Upon safely bringing the box to its new residence, David made sacrificial offerings, distributed foodstuffs to the people, and blessed them in the name of the Lord of hosts (vv 18–19). He also intended to bless his own household (v 20), but was met with disdain by his wife Michal the daughter of Saul. Given the context, the laconic report that Michal thereafter became barren for the rest of her life (v 23) strongly implies that, by her actions, Michal exchanged the intended blessing for a curse instead.

Subsequently, when Solomon moved the covenant box to the newly erected temple, the ceremonies of dedication as reported in 1 Kings 8 included prayers, offerings, and shared feasting. In addition, Solomon pronounced blessings on the assembled people (vv 14, 55) and acknowledged Yahweh as blessed (vv 15, 56), while the people, in turn, blessed the king at the conclusion of the week-long festivities (v 66).

The so-called Aaronic benediction or blessing in Num 6:22–27 was probably used in the temple services and has remained in use among Jews and Christians to the present. Yahweh promises Moses that when the priests use this formulaic blessing Yahweh himself will bless the people. The brief formula is dense with the terminology of blessing, including assurance of God’s protection (Heb s¥mr), favor (Heb hΩnn), and peace (Heb s¥aœlo®m). Noteworthy is the threefold repetition of the Heb root brk, once in the formula itself and twice in the accompanying rubrics, as well as the emphatic threefold repetition of the divine name, which, along with the s¥aœlo®m it brings, is being placed (séym; vv 26–27) upon the recipients of the blessing. This blessing reaffirms positively the powerful words of Exod 15:26, in which God promised in the negative: “No plague which I placed (séym) upon Egypt will I place (séym) upon you, for I am Yahweh your Healer.”

The book of Psalms contains indications of the use of blessings and curses in the temple liturgy. For example, Psalm 72 speaks of continual prayers and blessings offered on behalf of the monarch (vv 15, 17) and invites people to bless themselves by his name (v 17). Psalms 21 and 22—prayers before and after battle—indicate that victory over enemies was formally requested and acknowledged as a blessing (Pss 21:4, 7—Eng 21:3, 6; cf. Pss 18:47–49—Eng 18:46–48). Many of the psalms were sung as blessings of Yahweh, as is indicated by the formulaic language at the beginning and conclusion of Psalms 103 and 104, the invitation in Pss 134:1–2, and the final verses of Psalm 135. Temple singers or priests are depicted in Psalm 118 as pronouncing “blessed in the name of Yahweh” the one (perhaps the king?) who enters the sacred precincts. Cazelles (TDOT 1: 445–48) believes that the frequently encountered expression Heb }as¥re®, “happy!” in the Psalms is best understood as a sort of liturgical cry or interjection which found its way into services of the Second Temple, perhaps via Egyptian practice. The solemn pronouncement of curses, evidently, also took place in the temple, as indicated by the lists of imprecations on enemies contained in many of the laments (e.g., Pss 17:13–14; 35:4–6, 26; 58:7–10—Eng 58:6–9). Particularly striking is Psalm 137, which twice calls happy (Heb }as¥re®) whoever takes vengeance on Babylon (vv 8–9). Lapide (1982: 166) offers the striking interpretation that these ritualized curses and imprecations helped worshippers to vent emotions of anger and frustration, and thus defused the need for carrying out actual acts of bloodshed.

In the NT Jesus blessed children (Mark 10:13–16) as a sign of their inclusion in the kingdom of God. Many Christian churches have interpreted this story as a sanction of infant baptism and have included its solemn reading or intonation at baptismal ceremonies. In the gospels, Jesus also blesses food (Mark 6:41=Matt 14:19=Luke 9:16; Luke 24:30), a practice already well attested at the Qumran community and still widely followed among Jews and Christians. In the new “family” of Christian disciples (Mark 3:31–35; 10:29–31), a central sign and affirmation of the blessing-mediating presence of the risen Christ as the “breaking of bread” together (Acts 2:42, 46–47)—a practice no doubt linked to the tradition of the Last Supper he shared with his disciples at the time of Passover just before his crucifixion (note Mark 14:22–25=Matt 26:26–29=Luke 22:15–20; 1 Cor 10:16). Paul, moreover, warns that unworthy eating and drinking of the “Lord’s supper” would actually endanger the health of the assembly (1 Cor 11:20–34); the expected blessing, in effect, could be turned into a curse.

The traditional liturgy of St. John Chrysostom   celebrated in the Eastern Orthodox churches powerfully presents the continuing mediation of blessing through the risen Christ. Blessing from God to the faithful is both pronounced and effected through the proclamation of the gospel and communing in the eucharistic meal. Surrounding these two climactic activities of blessing, continuous prayers and psalms invoking divine blessing for all people in every imaginable walk of life alternate with repeated ascriptions of glory to the trinity “now and ever and to ages of ages.” These ascriptions bear close resemblance to the benedictions honoring God and the divine kingdom in Jewish synagogue worship. The overall mood of the liturgy is reminiscent of the psalmist’s exhortation to “bless Yahweh at all times” (Ps 34:2—Eng 34:1) in acknowledgment of the saving strength of the All-Powerful One. This ancient Christian liturgy also draws together in a single cultic celebration the three lines of blessing present in the Scriptures: from God to humanity, from humans to other humans, and from humans to God. These lines of blessing were identified by Schenk (1967), whose analysis was criticized and expanded upon by Westermann (1978: 68–101; see also Mitchell 1983). Westermann has also written on the place and function of blessing in worship and in the rituals of the Church and on possible continuities and discontinuities with practices attested in the Scriptures (1978: 103–20).

 

E. Blessings, Curses, and the Literary Shape of the Bible

Recent studies have turned attention to the artistic use of blessings and curses as organizing devices by those who composed or shaped longer and shorter sections of the Bible. Some examples follow.

1. Judges 5. The so-called Song of Deborah, widely regarded as among the oldest literary compositions in the Hebrew Bible, is shaped by a series of blessings and curses (see Urbrock 1987: 426–27, 432). The naming of Deborah and Jael, both subjects of praise in the song, is carefully framed by words of blessing (v 2—blessing, vv 6–7—naming, v 9—blessing; “Most blessed …Jael …most blessed,” v 24). Further, the name of the Israelite commander, Barak (Heb baœraœq), sounds like Heb brk, “to bless,” and its repetition in vv 12 and 15 nicely balances the double invitation to “Bless Yahweh” in vv 2 and 9. By contrast, mention of the village of Meroz is framed by a double curse in v 23. Similarly, the Canaanite commander Sisera and his mother literally stand outside the blessing-frames in the text and are named only in an ironic context where food (v 25), a sign of blessing, is exchanged for violent death (vv 26–27), sign of a curse, and where those who expected to take spoil actually have been despoiled themselves (vv 28–30). The song ends with the invocation of a curse on the enemies and a blessing on the allies of Yahweh (v 31). This closing invocation, along with the invitation to “Bless Yahweh” in v 2, serves as a clear inclusion or envelope for the entire composition.

Juxtaposition of blessing and curse, used so effectively as a literary device in Judges 5, occurs frequently elsewhere in the Bible, also. The balancing of blessings and woes in Luke and the covenant blessings and curses in Deuteronomy 27–28 and Leviticus 26 have been mentioned above (secs. D.1. and D. 3.) In Jer 17:5–8, one whose heart is turned away from Yahweh is described as cursed, like a shrub in a desert; but blessed like a tree by water is the one who trusts Yahweh (see also Psalm 1). The book of Proverbs contains many maxims that contrast the cursed existence, influence, and fate of the wicked/selfish/fools with the blessed status of the righteous/liberal/wise (e.g., Prov 10:6–7; 11:11, 26; 22:9; 28:14).

2. The Book of Ruth. Blessing and curse are also juxtaposed in Ruth. Trible (1978: 166–99) has shown how the surface design of the book, which moves from an initial scene heavy with death to an “All’s well that ends well” conclusion, is generated by a deep structure in which the human actors move between life and death while their God works between blessing and curse behind the scenes. The story line develops around the gradual removal or reversal of the signs of curse (famine, exile, death) and the appearance, ever more openly, of the kindness (Heb hΩesed) of Yahweh (2:20), reflected and mediated in the hΩesed of Ruth (3:10) and the favor (Heb hΩeœn) of Boaz (2:2, 10). The action is punctuated at key points by invocations of divine blessing (1:8–9; 2:4, 12, 19; 3:10; and 4:11–12) and is enclosed at beginning and end by proclamations of divine favor (1:6 and 4:13–14). Ruth’s conditional self-imprecation (1:17) and Naomi’s complaint (1:20–21), with their intimations of death and affliction and emptiness, are swallowed up by life and fullness and blessing for the two women and their families, even including generations past (4:10) and future (4:18–22).

3. The Book of Psalms. Although many or most of the psalms were originally composed for use in the temple liturgies, their current arrangement into five books suggests that they are intended for study and meditation like the five books of the Mosaic Torah. This intention is underscored in the blessing that opens the book in Ps 1:1–2. The editors of the arrangement have also reminded pious readers to accompany their meditation on the collected psalms with prayer and ascriptions of blessing and praise to Yahweh. Thus, each of the first four books now concludes with such a blessing (41:14—Eng 41:13; 72:18–19; 89:53—Eng 89:52; 106:48), while the fifth book concludes with a crescendo of blessing and praise in Pss 144–150. Cazelles (TDOT 1: 446) draws attention to the placement of psalms identifying “happy” (Heb }as¥re®) readers and worshippers precisely at the beginning or close of the various divisions (see Pss 1:1; 41:2—Eng 41:1, 89:16—Eng 89:15; 106:3). One may add that Psalm 72, while lacking an }as¥re® identification, contains prayers of blessing for the king accompanying a description of the ideal, blessed kingdom. Overall, then, despite the many laments contained in the Psalter and the frequent cursing of enemies, the mood fostered by the blessings which frame the whole and its major subdivisions is one of confidence, praise, and thanksgiving.

4. The Tetrateuch, Pentateuch, and Deuteronomistic History. Wolff (1975) identifies Gen 12:1–4a, with its fivefold play on the central idea of blessing (brk), as the key passage for understanding the message of the Yahwist (J) in the Tetrateuch (Genesis through Numbers). This idea has influenced the shape of the narrative. Before the appearance of Abra(ha)m, J does not use brk in reference to humanity; rather, }rr appears five times (Gen 3:14, 17; 4:11; 5:29; 9:25) and qll once (8:21), the latter in a positive   passage that points ahead to Gen 12:1–3. As Wolff sees it, the rest of J’s contributions to episodes in the Tetrateuch may be understood in terms of the thematic question: how does the blessing reach the peoples through Abraham? For example, the plague narrative in Exodus is shaped by J to emphasize the pharaoh’s request that Moses entreat Yahweh to remove the curse, as it were, and effect a blessing even for Egypt (Exod 12:32). The last large J complex in the Tetrateuch is the Balaam narrative in Numbers, with its dramatic portrayal of God’s use of a foreigner to bless Israel several times over, although he was paid to curse them. A climactic concluding couplet in Balaam’s third oracle is reminiscent of the promise to Abra(ha)m (Num 24:9; cf. Gen 12:3). Nevertheless, J’s work ends with a sense that the blessing that is to come to the world through Israel still remains a task and promise to be fulfilled. Moab does not yet share the blessing, and Israel is still prone to apostasy (Num 25:1–5). Wolff sees a schematic arrangement here: a sober episode of warning follows upon pronouncements of blessing, just as the episode of affliction for the pharaoh follows the blessing on Abra(ha)m in Genesis 12.

In a companion article to Wolff’s, Brueggemann (1975) suggests that the focus for understanding the message of the Priestly circle (P) in the Tetrateuch is the fivefold blessing declaration of Gen 1:28, “Be fruitful …multiply …fill the earth …subdue it …have dominion.” Variations on this formula recur often in Genesis (9:7; cf. 17:2, 20; 28:1–4; 35:11; 47:27; and 48:3–4) and in the important story transition at Exod 1:7.

Overall, the Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy), now long hallowed by tradition as belonging together as the Mosaic Torah, also exhibits an envelope structure that emphasizes blessing and curse at beginning and end. The stories of the primeval times and of the Abrahamic family in Genesis, arranged to reflect the J and P schemata of blessing, are balanced by the repeated Deuteronomistic invitations to choose life and blessing rather than curse and death in Deuteronomy 27–33. Scharbert (TDOT 2: 306–7) comments that the Pentateuch as finally redacted has passed on to Judaism and Christianity an enduring belief that blessing and curse, powers that emanate from God and that become effective through human behavior in relationship to divine law, “finally determine the destiny of all mankind, the nations, and the individual.”

In modern scholarship, Deuteronomy is widely regarded as actually having originated not as the conclusion to the Pentateuch but as the introduction to the so-called Deuteronomistic History, which includes the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. The blessings and curses that figure so prominently in the closing chapters of Deuteronomy are picked up at key points in the ensuing history. Ceremonies of covenant renewal culminating in warnings of possible good and evil for covenant observance and neglect are described as taking place at the time of Joshua’s death, after the tribes of Israel had been allotted their lands (Joshua 24), and at the time of transition from tribal league to kingship under Saul (1 Samuel 12). In both instances, leaders of the people—Joshua and Samuel—are about to leave the scene, just as Moses departs at the close of Deuteronomy. When Solomon dedicates the new temple in Jerusalem, he blesses the assembled people, and blesses Yahweh at the beginning and conclusion of his great dedicatory prayer (1 Kgs 8:14, 55). The prayer itself is couched in Deuteronomistic language, acknowledging that such disasters as defeat in war (v 33), drought (v 35), famine and pestilence (v 37), and even exile (v 46) are caused by disloyalty. In a final hortatory prayer, not dissimilar to the addresses of Moses in Deuteronomy, Solomon exhorts the people to keep the commandments, statutes, and ordinances with a heart completely true to Yahweh (1 Kgs 8:58, 61; cf. Deut 6:2, 5; 30:1–2, 15–17). Centuries later, the discovery of the lost “book of Torah,” perhaps an early version of Deuteronomy, caused King Josiah to tear his clothes in consternation, evidently at the possibility of the covenant curses taking effect (2 Kgs 22:11–13), and to institute a major reform of cultic practices in Judah and Jerusalem (2 Kgs 23:1–25). Not only does the theology of blessing and curse clearly pervade the Deuteronomistic History, but a pattern of ceremonial recitation of the blessings and curses at crucial points in the nation’s history also helps give literary shape to this major work in the Hebrew Bible.

5. The Christian Bible. In his helpful analysis of the differing shapes of the Hebrew and Christian Bibles, Josipovici (1988: 29–49) notes how the books in the Christian OT and NT have been arranged so as to achieve both a correspondence between the major parts of each Testament and “a continuous forward drive from Creation to the end of time” (1988: 42). The design conveys an overall sense of wholeness and completion. It hardly seems surprising, then, that Revelation, the last book in the Christian arrangement, contains seven beatitudes (see Aune 1983: 283–84), two of which appear in the closing verses of the book (Rev 22:7, 14) alongside a conditional curse and a reference to the tree of life (Rev 22:18–19). Along with those uttered by Jesus in Matthew, the beatitudes in Revelation serve as an excellent inclusion scheme for the NT books. But in a more inclusive sense, the blessings and curse in chap. 22 complete a ring around the entire Christian Bible by reversing the prohibition of Genesis (Gen 3:22) and alluding to the solemn warning and invitation of Deuteronomy (Deut 4:2; 30:19).

 

Bibliography 

Alter, R. 1985. The Art of Biblical Poetry. New York.

Aune, D. 1983. Prophecy in Early Christianity and the Ancient Mediterranean World. Grand Rapids.

Austin, J. L. 1962. How to Do Things with Words. Oxford.

———1979. Performative Utterances. Pp. 220–39 in Philosophical Papers. 3d ed. Ed. J. O. Urmson and G. J. Warnock. Oxford.

Baltzer, K. 1971. The Covenant Formulary. Trans. D. E. Green. Philadelphia.

Blank, S. 1950. The Curse, Blasphemy, the Spell and the Oath. HUCA 23/1: 73–95.

Brichto, H. C. 1963. The Problem of “Curse” in the Hebrew Bible. SBLMS 13. Philadelphia.

Brueggemann, W. 1975. The Kerygma of the Priestly Writers. Pp. 101–13 in The Vitality of Old Testament Traditions, ed. W. Brueggemann and H. W. Wolff. Atlanta.

Coats, G. W. 1982. The Way of Obedience: Traditio-Historical and Hermeneutical Reflections on the Balaam Story. Semeia 24: 53–79.

 

Ford, L. S. 1982. The Divine Curse Understood in Terms of Persuasion. Semeia 24: 80–87.

Harrelson, W. 1980. The Ten Commandments and Human Rights. Philadelphia.

Hempel, J. 1961. Die israelitische Anschauungen von Segen und Fluch im Lichte altorientalischer Parallelen. BZAW 81: 30–113.

Hillers, D. R. 1964. Treaty-Curses and the Old Testament Prophets. BibOr 16. Rome.

Josipovici, G. 1988. The Book of God: A Response to the Bible. New Haven.

Lapide, P. 1982. Mit einem Juden die Bibel lesen. Stuttgart and Munich. Pp. 161–73: Schimpfen in der Bibel.

Levenson, J. D. 1985. Sinai and Zion. Minneapolis.

McCarthy, D. J. 1978. Treaty and Covenant. 2d ed. AnBib 21. Rome.

Mendenhall, G. E. 1955. Law and Covenant in Israel and the Ancient Near East. Pittsburgh.

Mitchell, C. W. 1983. The Meaning and Significance of BRK “To Bless” in the Old Testament. Ph.D. diss., University of Wisconsin.

Mowinckel, S. 1924. Segen und Fluch in Israels Kult und Psalmendichtung. Psalmenstudien 5. Kristiana. Repr. Amsterdam, 1961.

Pedersen, J. 1914. Der Eid bei den Semiten. Strassburg.

Schenk, W. 1967. Der Segen im Neuen Testament. ThArb 25. Berlin.

Schottroff, W. 1969. Der altisraelitische Fluchspruch. WMANT 30. Neukirchen-Vluyn.

Thiselton, A. C. 1974. The Supposed Power of Words in the Biblical Writings. JTS 25: 283–99.

Trible, P. 1978. God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality. Philadelphia.

Urbrock, W. J. 1987. Sisera’s Mother in Judges 5 and Haim Gouri’s }immo®. HAR 11: 423–31.

Van Den Doel, A. 1963. Blessing and Cursing in the New Testament and Related Literature. diss., Northwestern University.

Westermann, C. 1978. Blessing in the Bible and the Life of the Church. Trans. K. Crim. Philadelphia.

———. 1979. What Does the Old Testament Say About God? Atlanta.

Wolff, H. W. 1975. The Kerygma of the Yahwist. Pp. 41–66 in The Vitality of Old Testament Traditions, ed. W. Brueggemann and H. W. Wolff. Atlanta.

WILLIAM J. URBROCK

 

 

Freedman, David Noel, ed. The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary. Accordance electronic edition, version 3.6. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008.

 

Below is the NIDB.....

 

Blemish. See SACRIFICES AND OFFERINGS.
Bless [בָּרַךְ barakh; εὐλογέω eulogeō4̄]. Barakh has several meanings:“bless,” “be strong,” and “kneel.” In both the OT (LXX) and the NT, barakh is usually represented by eulogeō (“eulogize, bless”) but rarely also by epeuchomai (ἐπεύχομαι, “entreat, pronounce [a blessing]; Deut 10:8; 1 Chr 23:13) and aineō (αἰνέω, “praise”; Ps 100:4 [LXX 99:4]). Words and ritual acts associated with “blessing” are the primary means by which divine favor is invoked, distributed, acknowledged, and lauded in biblical and kindred Israelite, Jewish, and Christian traditions. Ancient Israel shared with other cultures in its Near Eastern environment basic notions of how divine providence operates in both the natural world and history, and of how essential endowments for the continuation and enhancement of life—especially progeny, prosperity, health, longevity, security, and peace (e. g., Gen 24:35- 36; Deut 7:12- 16; Ps 128:5- 6; Ezek 34:26- 29) —are sought and celebrated through prayers, hymns, and other rites of worship (see WORSHIP, NT CHRISTIAN; WORSHIP, OT. Of course, biblical sources insist that “all blessings flow” from a single sublime source, “God” the creator and sole sustainer of cosmic order, who is programmatically identified as “the Lord” (Yahweh), Israel’s only divine sovereign. God’s benefactions, together with human petitions for them, and ardent praise of God for blessings received are reciprocal actions in the biblical economy of divine providence (see PRAISE; PRAYER; PROVIDENCE).
God’s words of blessing are transactional or performative in character, effectuating what they describe. They can be issued as decrees, using imperative verb forms addressed directly to human beings and other created entities (e. g., Gen 1:22, 28; 9:1). More often divine blessings are articulated as promises, using subjunctive and future- indicative forms, which make their implementation conditional upon faithful human observance of divine commands (e. g., Gen 12:1- 3; 26:3; Lev 26:3- 13; Deut 28:1- 2). Human agency usually “blesses” persons and things by invoking the L ord’s name or an epithet. A blessing may be pronounced to solicit divine favor, as in the Aaronic benediction (Num 6:24- 26; see also, e. g., 1 Sam 2:20; Ps 134:3; Rom 15:5; 2 Thess 3:16). To “bless” the deity means to offer to God praise and homage (e. g., 1 Chr 29:10; Pss 34:1 [Heb. 34:2]; 63:3- 4 [Heb. 63:4- 5]; Dan 4:34). Specific blessings, as well as declarations of praise, are typically introduced using the formulas “blessed/lauded be” (barukh בָּרוּךְ) and “blessed/lauded (may) you be” (barukh ʾattah אַתַָּה   בָּרוּךְ); Greek equivalents generally distinguish between a human subject (using eulogēmenos [εὐλογημένος], “one who is blessed”; e. g., LXX Deut 28:3; Matt 21:9; John 12:13) and the deity as subject (eulogētos [εὐλογητός], “blessed”; e. g., 1 Macc 4:30; Luke 1:68; Eph 1:3).
Petitions for and pronouncements of divine blessing and responsive benedictory praises of God are constant features of worship at the Jerusalem Temple as portrayed in biblical sources (e. g., 1 Kgs 8:14- 66; 1 Chr 16; Pss 24:3- 5; 100; 115:12- 18; 118:26; 128; 134:3; Sir 50:18- 21). But acts of blessing also figure importantly in other spheres of life, on both special and everyday occasions. Patriarchal testamentary bequests and prognostications are identified as performative blessings that once uttered cannot be revoked, at least by human agency (see esp. Gen 27:1- 40; 48:1 – 49:28; Deut 33; Luke 24:50- 53). Blessings are regularly given in homage and exchanged as salutations (e. g., Gen 47:7- 10; Ruth 2:4; 1 Sam 13:10; 2 Kgs 4:29). They are offered in praise of God, the provider, before and after meals (compare Deut 8:10 with, e. g., Matt 14:19; Mark 6:41; 8:6- 7; Luke 9:16; 24:10; Acts 27:35; and m. Ber. 6). The benedictions prescribed for the Passover celebration are developed in early Christian worship into the eucharistic liturgy (e. g., Matt 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; 1 Cor 10:16; 11:24; Did. 9–10). See BENEDICTION; BLESSINGS AND CURSINGS; CURSE; DOXOLOGY.
Bibliography:C. W. Mitchell. The Meaning of BRK “To Bless” in the Old Testament (1987); W. S. Towner. “‘Blessed Be YHWH’ and ‘Blessed Art Thou, YHWH’:The Modulation of a Biblical Formula.” CBQ 30 (1968) 386–99; C. Westermann. Blessing in the Bible and the Life of the Church (1978).
S. Dean mcbride
Blessings And cursings. The general concepts may be represented as inclusive antonyms in biblical Hebrew by the feminine plural nouns berakhoth (בְּרָכוֹת) and qelaloth (קְלָלוֹת; LXX eulogiai [εὐλογίαι] and katarai [κατάραι]; Deut 28:2, 15, 45); and, similarly, by the feminine singular forms of these same nouns, used as collectives:“blessing and cursing/curse” (berakhah uqelalah [וּקְלָלָה   בְּרָכָה]; LXX eulogian kai kataran [εὐλογίαν καὶ̀:κατάραν]; Deut 11:26; compare Gen 27:12; Deut 11:27- 29; 23:4 [Heb. 23:5]; 30:1, 19; Josh 8:34; Ps 109:17; Zech 8:13; Sir 3:8- 9; Jas 3:9- 10). These antipodal categories, which are also commonly identified as “benedictions and maledictions,” together comprise the verbal instruments that biblical and other ancient sources attest as invocations respectively of the positive and negative dispositions of divine providence. The terms may refer to the invocatory rites and words themselves; and, interpreted as efficacious performative utterances, they may also denote the salutary or baneful results these actions are supposed to produce (e. g., Gen 27:12; Num 22:6; Ps 109:17- 18; Jer 24:9; 44:22). Their use and significance are constant rather than occasional in biblical perspectives, relevant wherever and whenever the effects of divine sovereignty are experienced in the natural order and the circumstances of human existence.
 Overview Characteristic Vocabulary and Formulations Blessings Cursings Principal Settings and Functions Cult and worship Covenantal sanctions The two ways Bibliography
 A. Overview
 Blessings/benedictions are pronouncements that variously solicit, distribute, and celebrate well- being. When blessings are actualized through divine agency, they yield benefits such as fecundity, security, health, peace, and happiness ( e. g., Gen 26: 12- 14; 28: 3- 4; Num 6: 22- 27; Deut 7: 12- 16; Ps 5: 11- 12 [ Heb. 5: 12- 13]; Sir 50: 22- 24). Blessing of the deity, especially in hymns and prayers, is an act of worship that returns praise to the one who has bestowed particular benefactions ( e. g., Gen 24: 26- 27; Exod 18: 10; Ps 28: 6; 66: 20; Luke 1: 68- 75). Conversely, cursings/curses/maledictions ( also referred to as imprecations) are pronouncements that intend to restrain, punish, or inflict injury on specified targets ( e. g., Gen 3: 14; Deut 29: 19- 28 [ Heb. 29: 18- 27]; Ps 137: 5- 6; Jer 20: 14- 18). Because acts of cursing trade in calamity, they may threaten the natural realm as well as endanger both personal and communal well being ( e. g., Gen 4: 11- 12; Deut 28: 15- 19; Isa 24: 6; Jer 20: 14- 18; Job 3: 1- 10). Accordingly, biblical legislation treats cursing as a capital offense, akin to sacrilege, if it is directed against the primary guarantors of social order—either of one’s parents, or a political leader, or the deity ( Exod 21: 17; 22: 28 [ Heb. 22: 27]; Lev 20: 9; compare 24: 11- 23; 2 Sam 16: 10; 19: 21; 1 Kgs 2: 8- 9; 21: 10, 13; Prov 20: 20; 30: 11; Eccl 10: 20; Sir 3: 16).
 In broad scope, these conceptual counterparts correlate with the range of cosmic powers under divine control that either create, restore, enhance, and safeguard life or result in misfortune, destruction, and death. Mesopotamian polytheistic traditions often identify such powers as specialties distributed among particular deities in a pantheon ( e. g., Laws of Hammurabi, epilogue [ xlix 18n- li 91]; “Vassal- Treaties of Esarhaddon,” 414–71). Biblical sources, on the other hand, regularly ascribe forces of both good and evil to Yahweh alone, whose comprehensive sovereignty they are supposed to reveal and implement ( see, e. g., Deut 32: 39; 1 Sam 2: 6- 8; Isa 43: 11- 13; 45: 5- 7; Hos 6: 1- 2; Job 1: 21; 2: 9; Prov 11: 19; 14: 27; Tob 13: 2; Wis 16: 13; Sir 33: 10- 13). This poses acute issues for biblical reflections on theodicy: Are manifestations of blessing in human affairs sufficient evidence of an intact, favorable relationship between those who experience them and the Lord? I s ostensible cursedness necessarily demonstrative of estrangement from the deity or indicative of the L ord’ s discriminative retribution against wrong- doers? ( See, e. g., Num 23: 11- 12, 25- 26; Deut 29: 19- 28; Job 4: 7- 9; 5: 17- 27; Ps 37: 22- 26; Eccl 6: 1- 6; 9: 1- 12; Ezek 18: 1- 24; Gal 3: 6- 14.)
 B. Characteristic Vocabulary and Formulations
 The terminology, idioms, and types of “blessings and cursings” exhibited in biblical and related early Jewish and Christian sources are quite varied, as are the social settings and functions they represent. Syntactical options include articulation as conditional promises and threats, featuring subjunctive and future- indicative verb forms ( e. g., Lev 26: 3- 26; Deut 11: 13- 17; Ps 137: 5- 6; Rev 22: 18- 19) as well as positive and negative wishes and requests, with precative and imperative diction ( Gen 9: 27; 27: 28- 29; 2 Sam 3: 29; Ezra 6: 12; Mark 11: 14; Heb 13: 20- 21). The principal expressions, however, are formulaic.
 1. Blessings
 Although many other verbal roots are also used to describe divine favor and benevolence ( e. g., khnn [ חנן], “to show favor, be gracious to”; ytb [ יטב], “to treat well, benefit”; rtsh [ רצה], “to be pleased with”; skhl [ שׂכל], “to prosper, make successful”), lexical derivatives of the West Semitic root brk ( ברךְ) supply the focused, operational Hebrew terminology of “blessing. ” In addition to the feminine noun with this basic sense ( sing. berakhah, pl. berakhoth), such terminology includes verbal constructions that describe petitions for and results of blessing, whether initiated directly by the deity ( e. g., Gen 1: 22, 28; 2: 3; 12: 2; Exod 20: 11, 24; Job 1: 10; Isa 51: 2) or by human beings, clergy in particular, either expressly or implicitly invoking divine agency ( e. g., Gen 14: 19; Num 6: 22- 27; Deut 10: 8; 2 Sam 6: 18; Pss 129: 8; 134: 3; Sir 50: 20- 21). Inflected forms, such as barukh ( בָּרוּךְ, “blessed [ be] ”), commonly introduce benedictory pronouncements ( e. g., Deut 28: 3- 6; 1 Sam 25: 32- 33; 1 Kgs 10: 9; Pss 68: 19 [ Heb. 68: 20]; 115: 14- 15). These Hebrew forms of brk are usually represented in the LXX and the NT by eulogeō ( εὐλογέω, “to eulogize, laud, bless”; see also, e. g., Tob 3: 11; Sir 45: 15; Luke 6: 28; Rom 12: 14).
 The denominative verb ʾashar ( אָשַׁר, “to declare happy”; e. g., Gen 30: 13; Ps 72: 17; Prov 31: 28; Mal 3: 12; regularly rendered in the LXX by forms of the verb makarizō [ μακαρίζω]) and, most often, the fixed nominal ʾashre ( אַשְׁרֵי, “happy, fortunate”; e. g., Deut 33: 29; 1 Kgs 10: 8; Job 5: 17; Ps 1: 1; Isa 56: 2; LXX makarios [ μακάριος]) are used to acknowledge the sense of personal well being that results from divine blessing ( compare Pss 41: 1- 3; 128: 1- 4; 144: 12- 15). Makarios is developed and extensively attested in later Jewish and NT literature in the form of beatitudes ( i. e., declarations of blessedness), also identified as makarisms: e. g., Sir 14: 1- 2; 25: 8- 9; Matt 5: 3- 11; Luke 6: 20- 22; Jas 1: 12; Rev 22: 7, 14 ( see BEATITUDES; BLESS).
 2. Cursings
 Derivatives of several roots, with overlapping semantic horizons, provide the primary Hebrew antonyms of terms for blessing and blessedness. In large measure, the corresponding terminology in the Greek NT follows the precedents set by the LXX translators.
 Juridical and cultic practices of adjuration—i. e., binding oneself or another to the truthfulness of a testimony or to the keeping of a solemn promise by means of an oath that invokes a curse as conditional penalty—are expressed by the verb ʾalah ( אָלָה): e. g., Judg 17: 2; 1 Kgs 8: 31; Hos 4: 2; 104. ( These occurrences are usually rendered in the LXX by forms of araomai [ ἀράομαι], “adjure, invoke a curse. ” This sense is expressed using the verb anathematizō [ ἀναθεματίζω], “anathematize,” in Mark 14: 71; Acts 23: 12, 14.) The cognate feminine noun ( sing. ʾalah, pl. ʾaloth [ אָלוֹת]) may connote either an “imprecatory oath, adjuration” ( e. g., Gen 24: 41; Lev 5: 1; Num 5: 21; 1 Kgs 8: 31; Neh 10: 29 [ Heb. 10: 30]) or the state of accursedness, execration that results when the penalty is actualized ( e. g., Num 5: 27; Jer 29: 18; Zech 5: 3; Dan 9: 11; compare Bar 1: 20; 3: 8). Such imprecatory oaths are sometimes specifically associated with covenants and loyalty- oaths ( e. g., Gen 26: 28; Deut 29: 20- 21 [ Heb. 29: 19- 20]; Isa 24: 5- 6; Ezek 17: 18- 19).
 Verb- forms of ʾrr ( ארר, “to execrate, pronounce accursed”; e. g., Gen 5: 29; 12: 3; Num 22: 12; Judg 5: 23; usually kataraomai [ καταράομαι] in the LXX; compare also, e. g., Sir 23: 14; Matt 5: 44; Rom 12: 14; Jas 3: 9) and the cognate feminine noun meʾerah ( מְאֵרָה, “curse, calamity,” e. g., Deut 28: 20; Mal 2: 2; 3: 9; LXX katara [ κατάρα]) refer to specific acts of execration and their results. Inflected forms of ʾarur ( אָרוּר, “accursed [ be] ”; LXX epikataratos [ ἐπικατάρατος]), characteristically introduce maledictions that parallel formulaic barukh- pronouncements ( e. g., Gen 3: 14, 17; 9: 25; Deut 27: 15- 26; 28: 16- 19; Judg 21: 18; Jer 17: 5; Mal 1: 14; compare Tob 13: 12).
 The verbal range of qll ( קלל; Gen 12: 3; Lev 19: 14; Judg 9: 27; Pss 62: 4 [ Heb. 62: 5]; 109: 28) includes contemptuous and disrespectful words and actions as well as imprecatory speech per se. The distinction is recognized in the LXX, which uses forms of kataraomai ( καταράομαι, “utter a curse”) to render many occurrences of the Hebrew verb but represents some others with forms of kakalogeō ( κακαλογέω, “revile, speak evil of”; Exod 21: 16; 22: 27; Prov 20: 9; 2 Sam 3: 13; compare Matt 15: 4; Mark 7: 10). Cursing is, however, the appropriate contextual sense of the noun ( sing. qelalah, pl. qelaloth, e. g., Judg 9: 57; Prov 27: 14; Jer 29: 22; compare Sir 41: 9- 10; Heb 6: 8).
 Less often attested, but clearly belonging to the same semantic range as the above, are the Hebrew roots zʿm ( זעם, “to denounce, damn,” e. g., Num 23: 7- 8; Prov 24: 24; 4Q 286 7 II, 1) and qbb ( קבב, “to utter a curse [ against], ” e. g., Num 22: 11; 23: 8, 13, 35; Lev 24: 11; Job 5: 2; Prov 11: 26).
 The various expressions of grief, warnings and threats, and other “woe- sayings” in OT literature introduced by the Hebrew interjections ʾoy ( אוֹי) and hoy ( הוֹי) do not seem to belong to a distinct genre or genres of speech that can be coherently related to cursings, in spite of occasional overlaps of theme ( compare respectively, e. g., Num 21: 29- 30; Isa 3: 9, 11; Jer 4: 13; Ezek 24: 6- 13; Hos 7: 13; Zech 11: 17 and Isa 5: 8- 24; 45: 9- 10; Jer 22: 18- 19; Hab 2: 6- 19). In the NT, however, formulaic “woe- sayings” ( also introduced by ouai [ οὐαὶ̀]) do appear to function as denunciations that are quasi- curses ( e. g., Matt 11: 21; 23: 13- 36; Luke 21: 23- 24; compare Sir 2: 12- 14); in Luke 6: 24- 26 “woe- sayings” are conspicuous as negative counterparts to “beatitudes. ”
 C. Principal Settings and Functions
 Biblical literature portrays blessings and cursings as substantive and pervasive features of applied theology. The chief concepts and practices, though deeply rooted in the broad cultural environment of the ANE, are represented as governed by two theological axioms: 1) The L ord, ancient Israel’s tutelary deity, is creator and sustainer of cosmic order as well as preeminent sovereign over the world of human nations within which Israel’s discrete identity emerges and continues to develop ( e. g., Exod 19: 3- 6; Deut 4: 32- 39; Pss 47; 67; 97; Isa 40: 21- 31; Sir 24; Acts 17: 22- 31). 2) While the L ord ’s exercise of sovereignty is not always transparent and cannot be coerced, it is supposed to be both characteristically generous and sufficiently discriminating to take account of and to respond appropriately to human needs, behavior, attitudes, and petitions ( e. g., Gen 18: 17- 32; Num 23: 7- 12; Deut 4: 25- 31; Isa 55: 6- 13; 65; Sir 2; Matt 20: 1- 16; Rom 1: 18 – 2: 16). Blessings and cursings are means of invoking these interrelated aspects of the L ord ’s providence in order to achieve specific ends.
 1. Cult and worship
 The essential act of ancient Israelite and later Jewish and Christian worship is praise of God, giving homage to the one whose profound benevolence makes possible life in general and sustains the community of the faithful in particular ( e. g., Pss 100; 117; Tob 13). Fertile land, fructifying rains, and the bounties they produce are perennial divine gifts acknowledged in hymnic praises, petitionary prayers, and celebratory rites ( e. g., Deut 11: 10- 15; 12: 7; Pss 65: 9- 13; 104: 10- 30; Isa 30: 23- 25). The official Yahwistic cultus, eventually centered at the Jerusalem Temple and idealized in the tabernacle traditions of the Pentateuch, sought to assure the constancy of these and other blessings of the L ord ( e. g., Exod 20: 24; 39: 32- 43; Lev 9: 22- 24; Num 6: 22- 27; Ps 128). Also understood to be of critical importance for the well being of the worshiping community and its individual members were cultic means to identify, preempt, and either execrate or expiate anything that threatened adversity. Such means included imprecatory oaths that invoked divine assistance in distinguishing between innocent and guilty parties ( e. g., Num 5: 11- 31; Deut 29: 18- 21 [ Heb. 29: 17- 20]; 1 Kgs 8: 31- 32); other forms of cursing were deployed against the plots and assaults of both personal and national enemies ( e. g., Pss 54 – 56; 79; 83; 109; 129; compare Luke 6: 27- 31). In brief, cultic institutions functioned to maximize the actualization of blessings and to minimize, thwart, or redirect the injurious effects of cursings.
 2. Covenantal sanctions
 Blessings and, especially, cursings are widely attested in ANE epigraphs and other sources as formal devices to safeguard tombs, boundary markers, stelas, and building inscriptions as well as royal decrees, testaments, and various types of treaties and contractual arrangements. ( For representative texts, see ANET 178–180, 199–206, 531–41, 653–62.) In such contexts blessings are relatively rare; they seek to persuade, invoking divine favor as reward for desirable and expected behaviors ( e. g., “Treaty between Mursilis and Duppi- Tessub of Amurru,” 21 [ ANET 205]; Laws of Hammurabi, xlix 1- 17 [ ANET 178]). Cursings are much more commonly and elaborately employed as sanctions; they are punitive in intent, threatening retribution by divine forces for acts such as textual defacement, removal of monuments, and non- compliance with the terms of agreements and decrees ( e. g., Inscription of Kilamuwa [ ANET 654]; “Treaty of Esarhaddon with Baal of Tyre,” iv [ ANET 534]; compare Ezra 6: 12). The chief biblical examples of such sanctions, in Lev 26 and Deut 28, pertain to the exclusive suzerainty of the L ord in covenantal relationship with Israel. In each case, a presentation of conditional blessings to reward faithful observance of the covenant’s terms ( Lev 26: 3- 13; Deut 28: 1- 14) is followed by a longer recitation of conditional curses to punish disobedience ( Lev 26: 14- 39; Deut 28: 15- 68). Also noteworthy is the liturgy of cursing described in Deut 27: 11- 26, which is in effect an enacted loyalty- oath against secret violations of laws promulgated through Moses: after each of twelve curses proclaimed by the Levites, the assembled people respond “Amen! ” ( compare 1QS I- II).
 3. The two ways
 In Deut 30 especially, a more abstract theological significance is attributed to the polarized sanctions of blessing and cursing ( compare 11: 26- 30; 27: 12- 13). They are described first as sequential eras of covenantal history, to emphasize the promise that genuine repentance, even under conditions of curse in exile, would bring another reversal of fortunes, with a return to Israel’s homeland and a renewal of blessing ( vv. 1- 10; compare Deut 4: 25- 31; Lev 26: 40- 45; Bar 1: 20; 3: 8). Then, in Deut 30: 15- 20, the contrast between blessing and cursing is identified as emblematic of the existential choice Israel must make between “life and [ what is] good,” which is equated with strict fidelity to the covenantal laws, and “death and [ what is] evil,” characterized by apostasy and exile ( compare Jer 17: 5- 8; 21: 8- 10; Amos 5: 14- 15). These stark options correlate with the dualism that is variously developed in later Jewish and Christian ethical discourses on the “two ways,” the paths of righteousness and wickedness respectively, and eschatological judgment ( Pss 1; 112; Prov 1 – 3; Matt 25: 31- 46; Rom 5 – 8; 1 John 5: 18- 21; 4Q 473; Did. 1: 1–6: 3). See BEATITUDES; BENEDICTION; BLESS; COVENANT, OT AND NT; CURSE; OATH; WOE.
 Bibliography:: N. Weeks. Admonition and Curse: The Ancient Near Eastern Treaty/Covenant Form as a Problem in Inter- Cultural Relationships ( 2004); K. N. Grüneberg. Abraham, Blessing and the Nations: A Philological and Exegetical Study of Genesis 12: 3 in Its Narrative Context ( 2003).
 S. Dean mcbride


#9 davidmedina

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Posted 29 October 2013 - 09:01 PM

I assume the Anchor is the longest one. :)


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#10 Dan Francis

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Posted 29 October 2013 - 09:06 PM

YES.... started with the zondervan then Anchor....then New Interpreter's  like I said Zondervans's as it says has been REVISED but i think it was mostly adding more pictures.

 

-Dan


Edited by Dan Francis, 29 October 2013 - 09:07 PM.


#11 davidmedina

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Posted 29 October 2013 - 09:21 PM

I think I am going to wait for the Black friday sales… :)


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#12 Rick Bennett

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Posted 29 October 2013 - 10:10 PM

We hope to have the updated ISBE finished by Xmas, or not too long after. However, you can't go wrong with AYBD; it is not too technical in my opinion. NIDB would be my 2nd personal choice behind AYBD.


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#13 Dan Francis

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Posted 29 October 2013 - 11:21 PM

Personally I find Anchor and ISBE very complimentary... I am finding NIDB to fast becoming my favourite go to dictionary.... which use to be the Eerdmans one (which I still see as my favourite one volume dictionary).

 

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BTW, great to hear about ISBE, REV.



#14 davidmedina

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Posted 30 October 2013 - 09:31 PM

Thanks really appreciate all the suggestion. 


"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." Rom. 12:2
 
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