The Commandments of the Noahide – Part 3

Do Not Curse G-d

The next commandment in this series, “is to not curse G-d”. To investigate the phrase “to curse G-d” could have a variety of meanings depending on who is defining the phrase. One person could interpret “to curse” as a statement someone says about someone else, and another may interpret it as an action containing not only words but also doing a ritual of some sort. Yet another may interpret a curse as an attitude of the heart that continually rejects G-d and portrays a venomous spirit towards Him. So what is cursing G-d in this commandment?

From the English to curse can be defined as a noun or a verb. To not curse would be a verb because it shows action. Webster defines the verb “curse” as to use profanely insolent (insulting) language against; such as blaspheming (to insult; show lack of reverence) his god. Lets compare the English word “curse” to the Hebrew word used in this context. Several Hebrew words have been translated from the Hebrew to English as “curse”. Using the context of “cursing someone” in Scripture, the commandment to not curse G-d, has it’s first recording in Lev. 24:10, “Whosoever curse his G-d shall bear his sin” (KJV). The word curse in this Scripture is qalal in Hebrew. The Hebrew word Qalal means to treat light/lighten; with contempt; dishonor; to make despicable. The following is a sample of Qalal being used in Scripture:

  • Exodus 21:17 “And he who curses (qalal, dishonors) his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.
  • Lev. 20:9 For everyone who curses (qalal, dishonors) his father or his mother shall surely be put to death. He has cursed (qalal, dishonored) his father or his mother
  • Lev. 24:11 And the Israelite woman’s son blasphemed (naqab, punctured)the name [of the LORD (of the Lord not in the text)] and cursed (qalal, with contempt); and so they brought him to Moses.
  • Lev. 24:14 “Take outside the camp him who has cursed (qalal, been despicable); then let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him.
  • Lev. 24:15 “Then you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Whoever curses (qalal, dishonored) his God shall bear his sin.
  • Lev. 24:23 Then Moses spoke to the children of Israel; and they took outside the camp him who had cursed (qalal, been in contempt), and stoned him with stones.

Inserting the alternative words in these verses is not to suggest “curse” was not the best word to have been used. However by inserting these alternative words provides a more descriptive understanding of the word qalal.

From these examples given to us in the Torah we have instruction on what is meant by “not to curse G-d.” Perhaps an alternate way to view this commandment could be:

  1. Do not treat G-d lightly;
  2. Do not speak of G-d with contempt;
  3. Do not dishonor G-d;
  4. Do not act despicably towards G-d

For most of us we could never imagine the possibility of “cursing” G-d. But what if your light hearted and enjoy joking and just having fun, could a person tell a joke that could push the line by not having an attitude of keeping G-d in that place of awe. Do we sometimes push the line of treating G-d lightly? When we don’t understand why G-d does what He does, and we question G-d is it with respect and reverence or is it with contempt or dishonor? Looking at these alternate ways of translating “qalal”, it could be possible to violate this commandment quite unintentionally. That is if only viewing it only with the word “curse”. It’s good to be light hearted, or perhaps not understanding G-d’s ways, but always with righteous respect when it comes to our G-d.

Perhaps we could translate the commandment as “Do not dishonor G-d, nor treat Him lightly or with contempt, and especially don’t act despicable towards Him.” By staying in that righteous place we prevent ourselves from being “qalal” towards our Creator, the G-d of Israel.

by Jim Behnke

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