Don't mess with Abraham

Don’t Mess with Abraham

In Hebrew Bible by Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

In Gen. 12:3 we read a very famous verse: “And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse.” Things seem to be clear, but a very important nuance is lost in translation.

In Hebrew, the verb “to bless” is לְבַרֵךְ  (levarech). This is based on the root B-R-K ב-ר-ך, which is connected to the word “knee,” and implies rendering service to someone (bending the knee). Therefore, one possible meaning of this verse may be: “I will serve those who serve you!” To “serve” implies doing good for someone which will result in a benefit for the recipient.

God promises Abraham that “everyone who curses him” מְקַלֶּלְךָ  (mekalelcha) will be in turn “be cursed” אָאֹר (aor). The strength of this promise, however, is lost in translation. The first word for “curses” – מְקַלֶּלְךָ  (mekalelcha) comes from a root that literally means “to make light of something heavy.” The second word for “curse,” אָאֹר  (aor) actually comes from a completely different root that means something like “to utterly destroy.” Taking these insights from Hebrew into consideration, the translation could be presented as follows: “I will do good to those who do good to you and the one who makes light of you, I will utterly destroy.”

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