“You are not to curse God, and you are not to curse a leader of your people.”
Exodus 22:28 (or 22:27 depending on which translation you’re using) is actually a perfect example illustrating why it’s soooooo dang important to study the original Hebrew when reading the Bible.
Let’s take a take a close look at all of the fascinating subtleties hidden underneath the English in this verse.
First, the version of Exodus 22:28 that I have posted above comes from the Complete Jewish Bible and as you can see it says “You are not to curse God”.
Simple enough right?
Now let’s take a look at the same verse from the King James version.
“Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people.”
Holy creamy crop tarnations!
What gives here?
Honestly, I think the King James Version of the Bible is one of the greatest and MOST ACCURATE English translations ever produced but the translator who translated this verse must have been smoking some serious marijuana on that day because it is so far out of context.
The original Hebrew word here is “ELOHIM”.
And yes, it CAN mean gods, plural with a little “g”.
However, there is also a form of ELOHIM known as “the plural of majesty”.
In this case, it would NOT mean more than one but be used to indicate majestic greatness.
In this context, this verse is referring to the ONE and ONLY true God, YHVH alone.
So for this particular verse, the King James translators got it WRONG big time!
Next, the Hebrew words for “curse” used in “You are not to curse God” and “you are not to curse a leader of your people” ARE DIFFERENT.
The Hebrew for “curse” in “You are not to curse God” is QALAL.
The Hebrew for “curse” in “You are not to curse a leader of your people” is ARAR.
If you recall, QALAL is the exact same word from chapter 21 where God instructs “do not curse your parents”.
The meaning and the implication are the same.
As a member of God’s chosen people, we are to be worthy representatives.
We are not to humiliate the Lord, tarnish His reputation, or make Him look bad by our behavior.
However, the second word for curse, “ARAR” is interesting.
This word means what we would normally think “curse” means.
That is, out of harmful intentions, attempting to cast an evil spell against a leader via witchcraft or magic.
“ARAR” also has the sense of swearing at someone in anger or bitterness.
So in modern English, Exodus 22: 28 (27) could better be rendered as follows:
“Do not tarnish the Lord’s reputation by your bad behavior and do not swear at or attempt to cast an evil spell on your leader”.