Terrifying curses were pronounced millennia ago, and their effects are being felt to this day. Why? And how will they finally be removed?
Horror movies and sensational media have popularized ancient curses, such as the curse of the pharaohs that supposedly haunts those who plunder, excavate or even intrude on the tomb of Tutankhamen.
Ancient religions, shamanism and witchcraft often trafficked in vindictive curses and even random hexes and jinxes that affect hapless individuals. They prescribed elaborate rituals for placing such curses or attempting to remove them.
Most people today publicly consider such hocus-pocus to be entertaining, though many secretly harbor superstitions in the dark recesses of their minds.
But there are ancient curses that are absolutely sure. They are neither vindictive nor random. The Creator God gave them to teach us cause and effect. They are actually evidence of God’s love and His desire for us to change in order to avoid the consequences of sin.
Cause and effect
The Bible clearly shows that our actions have consequences. There is a cause (or causes) for every effect. And this is powerfully demonstrated in the chapters that list blessings and curses—Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28.
God gave His laws for our good. Obeying them brings us good results and blessings automatically (though not always immediately). Disobeying—going against the way God lives and wants us to live—choosing warped and destructive thoughts and actions—will bring bad results automatically (though, again, not always immediately). God’s displeasure with sin is also for the purpose of encouraging us to change—for our own good.
Consider how God introduced the blessings for obedience in Leviticus 26:
“If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments, and perform them, then I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. …
“I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none will make you afraid. …
“For I will look on you favorably and make you fruitful, multiply you and confirm My covenant with you. …
“I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people” (verses 3-4, 6, 9, 12).
Read through the intervening verses to gain a fuller picture of the beautiful blessings God wants to share with us.
Then God introduces the curses for disobedience—“But if you do not obey Me, and do not observe all these commandments” (verse 14)—and lists a series of painful, terrifying and devastating curses (verses 16-39).
If terror, disease and famine don’t bring people to repentance, even worse curses will come. Wave after wave of punishments will occur until people turn to God.If terror, disease and famine don’t bring people to repentance, even worse curses will come. Wave after wave of punishments will occur until people turn to God.
God describes horrifying scenes of starvation, cannibalism and captivity that have come—and will come—on those who continue to disobey.
A poignant prayer
Daniel, who had been taken captive himself, recognized the power of these ancient prophecies in the events of his day. He saw that the sins of his nation had led to the punishment of being taken captive by the Babylonians.
So Daniel took to heart God’s message to those who were suffering the punishments of the ancient curse: “But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers, with their unfaithfulness in which they were unfaithful to Me, and that they also have walked contrary to Me, and that I also have walked contrary to them and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if their uncircumcised hearts are humbled, and they accept their guilt—then I will remember My covenant with Jacob” (Leviticus 26:40-42).
God promised to remember His commitment to them—if they humbly repented.
And Daniel personally did just that. His humble and heartfelt prayer provides a powerful example to this day.
“Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. And I prayed to the LORD my God, and made confession, and said, ‘O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. …
“O Lord, to us belongs shame of face, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against You. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him. …
“As it is written in the Law of Moses [for example, in Leviticus 26], all this disaster has come upon us; yet we have not made our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and understand Your truth. Therefore the LORD has kept the disaster in mind, and brought it upon us; for the LORD our God is righteous in all the works which He does, though we have not obeyed His voice. …
“O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name” (Daniel 9:3-5, 8-9, 13-14, 19).
These excerpts give a taste of Daniel’s prayer of repentance, but he had much more to say. It is worthwhile to read and meditate on the whole prayer, as it applies to our world as well. Our society has rejected God and His laws and is growing increasingly evil, yet so few are repenting and turning to God. People continue to sin and bring on the ancient curses, when repentance could allow them to avoid the deadly consequences.
The Bible makes clear that all this will happen again—and much worse than ever before.
Sin has never stopped, but God predicted that it would again crescendo at the time of the end. Jesus compared the increasingly evil time just before His return to the days of Noah (Matthew 24:37-39; see our article “As in the Days of Noah: Warnings for Today”).
Jesus even warned His followers, “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). Lawlessness—rejection of God’s laws—and selfishness are hallmarks of our age.
The apostle Paul’s listing of end-time attitudes seems ripped from our headlines: “For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:2-4).
Sin—breaking God’s beneficial laws—automatically leads to pain, suffering and death. Of course, the results are not always immediate, which leads many in this world under the sway of the wicked one to think they can escape the consequences (Ecclesiastes 8:11; 1 John 5:19; see also Psalm 73 and our article “When Life Doesn’t Make Sense”).
The terrible results of sin are inexorable and inescapable. Cause and effect will bring humanity to the brink of self-destruction.But the terrible results of sin are inexorable and inescapable. Cause and effect will bring humanity to the brink of self-destruction.
Jesus explained that “there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:21-22).
For the elect’s sake
Who are those “elect”? The Greek word eklektos means “picked out, chosen” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon). God’s chosen people have responded to His call—have repented, been baptized and received His Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; Romans 8:14, 28-33).
They are led by the Spirit to live God’s way: “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection” (Colossians 3:12-14). This way stands in stark contrast to the selfish end-time attitudes we saw earlier in 2 Timothy 3.
The elect “cry out day and night to Him” (Luke 18:7)—like Daniel crying out for himself and his people. They “sigh and cry over all the abominations” committed in the world (Ezekiel 9:4) and pray fervently for God’s Kingdom to come (Matthew 6:10; see “Thy Kingdom Come”).
And for their sake, God will shorten those evil days. They have a vital part in saving the world!
If God is calling you to be one of those elect, you need to respond. Our free booklet Change Your Life! collects many of the key biblical passages about how to answer His call.
God wants each of us to learn to avoid the curses by repenting, changing and obeying His laws.God wants each of us to learn to avoid the curses by repenting, changing and obeying His laws. By doing this, we will also bring the wonderful blessings He promised. As we learn to choose the blessings and reject the sinful way that leads to curses, we will be preparing to teach others to do the same.
The end of the story
If you read to the end of the book, you will see that as long as there are human beings, the ancient curses and blessings still apply. There will still be curses for breaking God’s beneficial laws, with the ultimate penalty being eternal death (Revelation 21:8). God will not allow someone who chooses to sin to continue to bring curses on himself and others for eternity.
But in the end, the blessings will prevail. Revelation 22:14 says, “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.” They will be abundantly welcomed into the glorious New Jerusalem as members of the blessed family of God for eternity!
“And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him” (verse 3).
Instead of curses, there will be amazing blessings: “In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
Choose the blessings—choose life!