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I will bless those who bless you,[a]
but the one who treats you lightly[b] I must curse,
so that all the families of the earth may receive blessing[c] through you.”

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Footnotes

  1. Genesis 12:3 tn The Piel cohortative has as its object a Piel participle, masculine plural. Since the Lord binds himself to Abram by covenant, those who enrich Abram in any way share in the blessings.
  2. Genesis 12:3 tn In this part of God’s statement there are two significant changes that often go unnoticed. First, the parallel and contrasting participle מְקַלֶּלְךָ (meqallelekha) is now singular and not plural. All the versions and a few Masoretic mss read the plural. But if it had been plural, there would be no reason to change it to the singular and alter the parallelism. On the other hand, if it was indeed singular, it is easy to see why the versions would change it to match the first participle. The MT preserves the original reading: “the one who treats you lightly.” The point would be a contrast with the lavish way that God desires to bless many. The second change is in the vocabulary. The English usually says, “I will curse those who curse you.” But there are two different words for curse here. The first is קָלַל (qalal), which means “to be light” in the Qal, and in the Piel “to treat lightly, to treat with contempt, to curse.” The second verb is אָרַר (ʾarar), which means “to banish, to remove from the blessing.” The point is simple: Whoever treats Abram and the covenant with contempt as worthless God will banish from the blessing. It is important also to note that the verb is not a cohortative, but a simple imperfect. Since God is binding himself to Abram, this would then be an obligatory imperfect: “but the one who treats you with contempt I must curse.”
  3. Genesis 12:3 tn Or “find blessing.” The Niphal of בָּרַךְ (barakh) occurs only three times, all in formulations of the Abrahamic covenant (Gen 12:2; 18:18; 28:14). The Niphal stem is medio-passive and it has traditionally been rendered as passive here. While this captures an assumption in the passage, it does not fully capture the nuance of the verb. The verb is denominative (based on the noun “blessing”) with its active voice in the Piel and its normal passive expression in the Pual (or the Qal passive participle). Some have argued that the Niphal has the same reciprocal notion as its Hitpael (which appears in two other formulations of the Abrahamic covenant: Gen 22:18; 26:4) and means “bless one another by you[r name].” As an example of being blessed, Abram would be mentioned in their pronouncements of blessing. This could be possible, but it is more likely that the Niphal is used instead of the Hitpael to indicate a different middle voice meaning than the Hitpael, just as it would not be expected to have the same passive meaning as the Pual. In the immediate context, the first lines of this verse explain how others may be blessed by God, specifically by blessing Abram. The middle voice nuance may be expressed as “they may consider themselves blessed through you,” or that “they may find/receive blessing through you.” The logical outcome is that those who bless Abraham receive blessing and thus will “be blessed” (passive), and that anyone on the earth may be part of that category. So a passive translation can be a fair rendering of this implication. This translation attempts to reflect the middle voice of the Niphal as well as a modal sense “may receive blessing,” since the blessing only comes to those who bless Abram. Additional iterations of the Abrahamic covenant extend this principle to his descendants.

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