But not only do we find this idea of curse early in Genesis, but if we fast-forward to the giving of the law under Moses, we see that God attached to the covenant he made with his people at Sinai a positive sanction and a negative sanction. The positive sanction is articulated there in terms of the concept of blessedness:

If you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. (Deut. 28:1-6)

God adds that if his people keep his Word, he will bless them— in the city and the country, when they rise up and lie down. God will bless them in the kitchen, the bedroom, and the living room. He will bless their fields, their goats, their sheep, and their cows. If they keep his Word, their lives will be nothing but an experience of divine benediction and blessedness. But God goes on to say:

If you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or to be care­ful to do all his commandments and his statues that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you. Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field. Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Cursed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out. (vv. 15-19)

In the kitchen, in the living room, in the bedroom, in the garage— cursed.

One of the things I love about Christmas is the singing of carols. One of my favorites is "Joy to the World":

No more let sins and sorrows grow, 
      Nor thorns infest the ground;
      He comes to make His blessings flow 
      Far as the curse is found, 
      Far as the curse is found, 
      Far as, far as, the curse is found.

How far do we find that curse? The apostle Paul says that the whole creation groans together in travail waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God. We live on a planet that is under the curse of God. I'd like to take some time to explore the significance of God's divine curse.

Oracles of Weal and Woe

When the prophets of the Old Testament spoke—not their opin­ions but the word that God placed in their mouths—the favorite method the prophets used to express the word of God was the oracle. It seems that sometimes the only place we see the con­cept of the oracle is in Greek mythology, such as in the Oracle of Delphi, where we find people going to self-appointed prophets to get a divine pronouncement. Well, there were oracles before Delphi—there was one called Isaiah and others called Jeremiah, Amos, Hosea, Ezekiel, and Daniel. They used the oracular form to communicate the Word of God.

There were two basic kinds of oracles known to the prophets. There was the oracle of weal, which was an oracle of good news, an announcement of prosperity coming from the hand of God, and there was the oracle of woe, an announcement of doom also coming from the hand of God. The oracle of weal was typically uttered by the use of the term blessed, the pronouncement of a divine benediction.

David begins the Psalms:

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,  
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
(Ps. 1:1-4)