Over the years I have received numerous messages from people saying they have been cursed by someone, or they believe they are under “a generational curse,” or that their home has been cursed. They often want to know how to remove the curse or what they should do.
We need to see what “curse” means in the Bible first, and then apply that to these fears about being under a curse. There are different Hebrew words translated as “curse” so we need to look at the contexts.
In the Hebrew scriptures, curses usually relate to God’s judgments and punishments. The first pronounced curse is the curse of sin when Adam and Eve suffer the consequences of not trusting God and disobeying him. Interestingly, God curses the serpent (first mention of “curse”) and the ground (Genesis 3:14, 17) but does not directly pronounce a curse on Adam or Eve. However, Adam and Eve are affected by the curse of sin and must leave the Garden.
Curses are contrasted with God’s blessings. God tells Israel he will bless them if they trust and obey him, and curse them if they follow other gods or do something violating his commands (Deutoronomy 30). God certainly has the power to bring about consequences for any such actions against him.
Curses in the Old Testament used by people, in most cases, have to do with swearing and using oaths or wishing ill on someone, usually in a pagan context.
There is the pagan idea of cursing to bring about an ill effect supernaturally, as when Balaam tries to curse Israel at the behest of pagan King Balak but is unable to do so, and he ends up only blessing Israel (see the entire account in Numbers 22-24).
We see other pagan curses, usually an oath to a pagan god, as with the Philistines:
“And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.” 1 Samuel 17:43
There is an account of idol worship which uses the word “curse” in Judges 17:1-6 (“curse” is in v. 2 and is clearly a pagan use in the context)
These are pagan views and uses of curses, which rest on beliefs that one can supernaturally call up damaging results on an enemy.
However, there is no example in the Bible of a person in his own power successfully using a curse to bring about an ill effect on someone or something. There is only Balaam who attempts to curse Israel and is made by God to bless Israel instead, demonstrating that God’s power overrides human attempts at power or beliefs in such power.
In some cases, God’s prophets announce God’s condemnation and curses, as Elijah does in Second Kings 2:24, but this is done by God’s command and power. It has to do with God’s punishment for sin. Nothing in the Bible endorses a view that man on his own can effectively put someone else under a curse.
In the New Testament, curses usually have to do with swearing – an imprecation — or being under condemnation by God. For the Greek word for curse, katara, see Blue Letter Bible and Bible Hub for examples.
However, this word used by Jesus in Matthew 25:41 shows his power to condemn:
“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.'”
Jesus curses a tree and it withers (Mark 11:21), but this is Jesus who has power to do this (and this also demonstrates his deity).
Other vivid examples of God’s condemnation are Galatians 1:9 where one who preaches another gospel is “under God’s curse,” and 3:10 where those relying on the works of the Law are under “the curse of the Law.”
What is the “curse of the Law?” It is that the Law cannot save, that no one can obey the Law, and that relying on the Law for salvation brings death (Romans 3:20, 28; 8:2; Galatians 2:16, 3:11). It is for this reason that
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.’” Galatians 3:13
Jesus Christ becomes a curse for those who believe; one who was sinless bore God’s wrath on sin so that those who believe can have salvation by faith. Looking at the word “curse” in depth makes the above statement in Galatians 3 even more poignant and heart-rending.
In light of that, it is ironically tragic to read that those under the wrath of God in Revelation curse God from their hatred and rebellion (Revelation 16). Christ became a curse to save them, but while under the curse (death penalty) of sin, they reject Christ, and they themselves curse God.
Yet Christians are told to pray for those “who curse you” (Luke 6:28).
There is no example of anyone using a curse to magically effect somebody or something adversely. The only supernatural effect is Jesus’ curse that withered the tree, which is due to Jesus being the Son of God with power over nature.
Are curses real? Only in the minds of those who think they can perform a curse, in the minds of those who are deceived into believing in these curses, and in the minds of those who misinterpret Scripture. This would also apply to the false beliefs that objects can be cursed, in “psychic vampires,” and/or in the “evil eye.”
Anecdotes provided to “prove” curses can actually be explained by other means, such as the Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc fallacy (false cause), or succumbing to the power of suggestion, which is more common than most realize.
This false belief in powers residing in occult cursing includes the very unbiblical belief in “generational curses.” I was confronted with this idea in my early life as a Christian and I asked for scriptural support. The passage given was Exodus 20:5. However, reading that in context:
- It applies only to the Israelites wandering in the wilderness
- It speaks of the sin of idolatry, not about demons
- It is God’s judgment on “those who hate me”
Nothing in these verses even remotely supports the idea of “generational curses.” Many people will counter this answer by offering anecdotes. However, anecdotes only mean that people are interpreting events in a false light and choosing to misinterpret the Bible. They are going by experience of something they believed and/or perceived. But if the Bible does not support this and even contradicts it, then one should prefer to believe the Bible over experience.
Believing in curses undermines the atonement of Christ. While Christians still struggle with temptation, sin, and deception, Christians are no longer under the power of the evil one or under the curse of sin but are in Christ.
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
“The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.” 1 John 3:8
Avoid Advice on “Breaking Curses”
Christians are told in several places to “stand firm” (1 Corinthians 16:13; Galatians 5:1; Ephesians 6:11, 13, 14; Philippians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 3:8; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 1 Peter 5:12). To “stand firm” is to be rooted in God’s truth; it means not to sway with every breeze that comes along and not to bend in the winds of false ideas. Chrisitans are to be mature “in the knowledge of the Son of God” so that
“As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.” Ephesians 4:13, 14
Therefore, all the ministries and websites that claim to have prayers or methods to “break curses” are faulty and are not rooted in God’s truth. They have not studied the Bible or they are ignoring it. They are acting like pagans, not Christians.
Ironically, saying special words or doing something to “break” a curse is as much witchcraft as it is to try to curse something. It is fighting occult beliefs with occult actions. Doing this aligns one with spell casting, sorcery, or other forms of the occult.
Choosing What to Believe
It is not that the supernatural does not exist; it does. It is that people do not wield or control this power on their own; the truth is that they are controlled by this power. But even demons do not have any power unless the Lord allows it for his specific purposes, and nothing in Scripture tells Christians to fear Satan or demons, or to protect themselves against occult spells, curses, or other such activity. Instead, Christians are told to be watchful, prudent, discerning, to “stand firm in the faith” and to submit to God:
‘Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7
Due to bad spiritual warfare teachings in the church, many are falling prey to sensational stories, misused and twisted Scriptures, a focus on the demonic, and, ironically, practices based on pagan and occult beliefs rather than on biblical ones. Probably thousands of Christian websites, books, and teachers promote these false ideas.
Some also may enjoy the drama and feel special if they think they are “cursed.” This is not true in all cases but it cannot be discounted. (Those with mental and emotional problems may also be obsessed with these ideas but this article is not concerning them).
Freedom from Bondage
If Christians can be under a curse – any curse – then this is not true:
“For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:13, 14
“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8
“We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” 1 John 5:19, 20
“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” Colossians 3:1
If You Do Not Know Christ
If you do not know Christ as the Son of God and Savior, and are reading this because of an interest in curses or maybe because you even fear them, please consider learning who Jesus is. Jesus asked, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 1613). This is the burning question for everyone because not only did Jesus divide history into a B.C. and A.D. (though I know terms differ now), but he came to divide the false from the true, because he is truth:
“I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except by me.” John 14:6
“…he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.” Luke 10:16b
Jesus paid the penalty for sins on the cross so that all who believe in him are forgiven and have eternal life, which is “the life” here:
“And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.” 1 John 5:11, 12
Countering the teaching of generational curses:
Got Questions article, “Can Demons Attach Themselves to Nonliving/Inanimate Objects?”
Critique of Neil Anderson’s spiritual warfare teachings, Christian Research Journal