[b-hebrew] barak (bless? curse?) in the Book of Job

Harold Holmyard hholmyard3 at earthlink.net
Wed Jan 28 20:35:59 EST 2009

> As far as scribal amendations, you have given me references to seven, only
> two of which I recognize what the claimed original text was. Is there a list
> of all the scribal amendations and how they changed the text?
HH: Here is a list of the 18 tiqqune sopherim:

Gen 18:22
Num 11:15
Num 12:12
1 Sam 3:13
2 Sam 16:12
2 Sam 20:1
1 Kgs 12:16
Jer 2:11
Ezek 8:17
Hos 4:7
Hab 1:12
Zech 2:12
Mal 1:13
Job 7:20
Job 32:3
Lam 3:20
2 Chron 10:16

Job 1:11 and 2:5 are not among this list but are judged to be deliberate 
changes. I have already given several reasons for seeing them as 
deliberate changes.
Here's a text note from the ESV Bible:

1:5 The Hebrew word /bless/ is used euphemistically for /curse/ in 1:5, 
11; 2:5, 9

HH: Here's a definition of Hebrew  "bless" at biblos.com:

barak  (baw-rak')
to kneel; by implication to bless God (as an act of adoration), and 
(vice-versa) man (as a benefit); also (by euphemism) to curse (God or 
the king, as treason)

HH: Here's an article on the subject with more reasons. I think the 
parallel use of "bless" as a euphemism in 1 Kings 21, as John earlier 
mentioned, is one of the strongest reasons to accept the widely held 
view of scholars:

Ángel Manuel Rodríguez

Did Job's wife say to him, "Curse God, and die" (Job 2:9)? Recently I 
was informed
that the original text reads "Bless God, and die." Which one is right?

Yes, the Hebrew text uses the verb "bless" (berak) and not the verb 
"curse" (qillal or 'arar).
But in this case a short answer is not enough.

When studying the meaning of a biblical word, we have to examine its 
different usages
within its specific context. What complicates your question is that 
"curse" is not one of the
meanings of the verb berak ("to bless"). Yet in some passages the verb 
"to bless" seems to mean
"to curse" or "to blaspheme." Bible students refer to this as the 
euphemistic use of the verb.
Apparently, for the biblical writer the combination of the verb "to 
curse/blaspheme" and
"God" ("to curse God") was offensive to his or her religious 
sensitivity, making it necessary to
paraphrase the concept using one that sounded less offensive. The result 
was the substitution of
the verb "bless" for the verb "curse."

Euphemistic expressions are common in all languages, and Hebrew is no 
exception. The
question is whether in some cases the verb "to bless" is used 
euphemistically. Let's examine
some texts.

1. Euphemistic Usage Outside Job: The number of passages in which we 
find the
phenomenon just described is very limited. One of the best examples is 
recorded in 1 Kings
21:10, 13. Jezebel asked for false witnesses to testify against Naboth 
saying that they heard him
"cursing [blessing]" God and the king. On that basis Naboth received the 
death penalty.
Obviously, no one is to be stoned for blessing God; therefore the verb 
"to bless" is used here as a

2. Euphemistic Usage in Job: It was Job's practice to offer sacrifices 
on behalf of his
children because, he thought, "Perhaps my children have sinned and 
cursed [blessed] God in
their hearts" (Job 1:5, NIV). No sacrifice is needed for blessing God. 
Job moves from sin in
general to the most radical expression of it in cursing God.

Next we find Satan saying to God, "Stretch out your hand and strike 
everything [Job] has,
and he will surely curse [bless] you to your face" (Job 1:11, NIV; see 
also Job 2:5). This is not a
sarcastic expression"He will surely bless you!" but an expression of 
certainty. The phrase "to
your face" expresses open contempt. The euphemistic use of the verb 
"bless" seems to fit the
context very well.

3. Euphemistic Usage in the Speech of Job's Wife: Did Job's wife say 
"Curse" or "Bless God
and die"? Job's answer seems to support the idea that "bless" is being 
used here as a euphemism for "curse." If she is encouraging him to bless 
God and die, why did Job say to her "You are talking like a foolish 
woman" (Job 2:10, NIV)? Whatever she was trying to say, Job found it 
inconsistent with devotion to God. We know very little about this woman, 
and the tendency has been to consider her an evil woman. Undoubtedly 
Job's suffering caused her to suffer as well. Losing all her wealth was 
painful, but even more emotionally and psychologically devastating would 
have been losing all her children. Her pain may have been even more 
intense than her husband's. Yet in the story she bears her pain quietly. 
She loved Job. It must have been extremely painful for her to see her 
husband going through excruciating physical, psychological, and 
spiritual pain and be unable to do anything to bring relief.

There seems to be only one way left for her. She speaks to Job from the 
depth of her love and
concern for him. She doesn't realize that, like Peter, she is echoing 
Satan's words. No, she is not
a foolish woman, but that day she spoke "like" one.

     Job realizes her deep pain and says to her, "Shall we accept good 
from God, and not
trouble?" (verse 10). He seems to be saying, "God has given us good 
things to administer for
Him, and we did it joyfully; now we have become stewards of pain for 
Him; hold on to your
faith." It may be that at that moment she embraced him and they both 
cried together.

Harold Holmyard

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