Blessings and Curses in the Bible in the Ancient Near East

We may not believe it, due to our materialistic bent, but blessings and curses are real and powerful in the 21st century. 

Blessings and curses were very personal acts.  Hebrew words translated as bless occur 131 times in 121 verses in the NASB translation of the Old Testament. Hebrew words translated as curse occur 105 times in 94 verses in the NASB translation of the Old Testament.

Blessings and curses were considered to release a very real power which could determine the character and destiny of the recipient (Genesis 27:12).  A blessing was considered to be a visitation of the grace of a god and a curse was considered to be the visitation of the judgment of a god.  Polytheists such as the Babylonians and Egyptians believed that pronouncing a blessing or curse could force the deity to do the will of the one who was performing the act. Monotheists such as the Jews (in their better days) believed that a blessing or curse simply reflected the future that the sovereign God had ordained.

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Slavery in the Bible

Some people say that the Bible promotes slavery and other social evils. Others say that it does not. What does the Bible actually teach about slavery?

Introduction

Slavery has been a major institution in the world since the beginning of time. The most ancient documents we possess from Egypt and Mesopotamia refer to slavery in the third millennium before Christ. Almost every known people group has owned slaves. The Muslims had slave armies such as the Janissaries and Mamelukes. African tribes had slaves, as did the Pre-Columbian Indian empires and the peoples of East Asia. China abolished official slavery in 1910, and India officially abolished it under British suzerainty in 1843. The history of slavery in Europe and North America is well known. What is less appreciated is that American Indians and even some light-skinned blacks had slaves. Human Rights Watch estimated that in 2009, 28 million people were enslaved worldwide, a business worth $91 billion annually.

Slaves generally came from the following sources:
1. Prisoners of war – men were often killed but could be enslaved. Women and children were a problem. After war it was impractical to have thousands of women and children, often unable to support themselves in the Bronze Age, without having someone responsible for them. Therefore they were enslaved, a practice considered a humanitarian improvement on mass slaughter (Numbers 31, Deuteronomy 20:10-18).
2. Free parents with excessive debt could sell their children.
3. Children of slaves often automatically became slaves.
4. Children abandoned at birth could be collected and sold as slaves.
5. Slave traders captured free people, men, women and children, and sold them to others as slaves. This activity was punishable by death in Israel (Exodus 21:16).
6. Slaves could be bought and sold, or given as gifts or inheritance to others.

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Miracles in the Bible

What are miracles? Do miracles really happen? Read on to understand miracles in the Holy Scriptures.

The presence of “miracles” in the Bible has been a source of difficulty to both Christians and non-Christians alike since the Renaissance (14th to 17 centuries) and the Enlightenment (17th to 18th centuries), when some would say that medieval superstition gave way to a new birth of learning and culture and the age of reason.  Science and technology grew with breathtaking speed in the past several centuries and the explanations of reality provided by science seemed to discredit the beliefs of earlier years.  In our day, many have rejected belief in miracles and even the resurrection of Jesus Christ altogether.  Some hold that religion and science are mutually contradictory and in permanent enmity, or at least that they have nothing to do with one another.

What is a miracle?  Webster’s New World Dictionary, 2nd College Edition defines a miracle as “an event or action that apparently contradicts known scientific laws and hence is thought to be due to supernatural causes, i.e. an act of God.

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The Bible and the Nature of Man

No form of government, no powerful leader, no set of laws, and no group of social programs will fix our shattered world. 

Man is a magnificent and tortured creature. He is capable of the brilliance of Newton, the dedication of Paul, and the courage of Shackleton. He is also capable of the stupidity of the Three Stooges, the wavering of Congress, and the cowardice of Pontius Pilate. The same race that produced Washington and Lincoln also produced Mao Tse Tung and Shaka Zulu. We are industrious and lazy, courageous and cowardly, selfless and selfish, and clear headed and confused. The Bible has much to say about the character of man.

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