Monday, June 1, 2009


From Sam Storms at Enjoying God Ministries on Doors to Demonization:

One of the problems in discussing curses is the failure of most people to define precisely what is meant by the term. Although curses were most often verbalized, biblical curses have little if anything to do with modern profanity. To curse is to call down or a send forth, from a supernatural source, calamity, trouble, chronic harm, or some other form of adversity upon another person or object. It is to speak evil of another person (hence, malediction or imprecation) with a view to inflicting injury (both physical and spiritual).

The Anchor Bible Dictionary says, "to curse is to predict, wish, pray for, or cause trouble or disaster on a person or thing" (I:1218).

Another problem in discussing curses is the misapplication of certain biblical texts. For example, appeal is often made to Gal. 3:13 ("Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree'"). The problem is that this text and the OT passages on which it is based all refer to divine judgment, not demonic attack. Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 27-28 are devoted to articulating the grounds on which God will "curse" a person as well as "bless" him/her. Clearly, to be the recipient of a "curse" in this context means you come under divine judgment. God sends calamity or disaster or punishment in one form or another because of disobedience. Likewise, to be the recipient of a "blessing" is to experience his favor, his bounty, prosperity and the like. When Jesus is said to have redeemed us from the curse by becoming a curse for us, the meaning is that he has suffered, in our place, the righteous wrath of God which we justly deserved. Therefore, Christians are no longer subject or vulnerable to a "curse" in that sense of the term.

In Joshua 6:26 and 9:23 a curse is pronounced by Joshua on both Jericho and Gibeon. But again, in both cases this appears to be a calling down of divine judgment, not demonic harm. In 1 Sam. 17:43 we see that pagan people in ancient times (in this case, Goliath) believed that curses (calamity) were the work of their gods. Spoken curses were thought to possess a power that derived from whatever deity they served. A curse was thought to trigger the release of malevolent spiritual energy toward the person or the object being cursed. See also 2 Samuel 16:5-12.

The question remains: Does the Bible speak about demonic curses? Do we read in Scripture of anyone invoking or calling down or sending forth a demonic being to bring pain and problems, harassment and harm, to another person? This would appear to be what the Moabite king Balak asked Balaam to do regarding Israel. God himself forbids Balaam from cursing Israel: "you shall not curse the people; for they are blessed" (Num. 22:12). Although no mention is made of demonic spirits being involved, it is reasonable to think that they would have been the instrument of bringing calamity on Israel had Balaam carried through with this task. As far as I can tell, there is no NT example of a demonic curse, although there are numerous NT instances of a curse as an expression of divine judgment for sin.

Proverbs 26:2 is especially instructive, if we could only figure out what it means! It reads: "Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying, so a curse without cause does not alight" (NASB). Or again, "Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest" (NIV). This seems to suggest that a curse is not effectual in itself. If it is undeserved, its impact is undermined. What would be the implications of this? At minimum, it would seem that a curse is, in itself, incapable of leading to demonization apart from the moral complicity of the person involved.

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