I have a question that came to my mind recently as I was reading Proverbs 27. It has become a habit for me to read one chapter of Solomon’s book of Proverbs a day, knowing that there are 31 proverbs for each day of the month. As I read chapter 27, especially verse 14, I stopped because I did not fully understand it. Here is what this verse says: “One who blesses his friend with a loud voice early in the morning, it will be considered a curse to him.” I tried to make sense of what I read in this verse, but not many ideas came to me to explain it. Could you explain to me what that would mean? I would think that someone’s blessing is a good thing, not a curse. It seems contradictory, but I’m probably wrong. I would greatly appreciate your answer and explanation. Thank you.
Yes, that’s right, this proverb seems to be a contradictory one and this is because the Hebrew word BAREK has the meaning of kneeling, blessing and can also be translated “to praise.” You are right when you say that God teaches us in the Bible to bless our neighbor and all people and not to curse. At first glance, this proverb creates a little confusion when it is said that blessing your neighbor in the morning is like a curse. Why so? Let’s look at four cases in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament that will shed light on this proverb and make us understand it.
1. The case of Absalom (2 Samuel 15:1-6 NASB)
Absalom was the rebellious son of King David, who killed one of his brothers, Amon, who had raped his sister Tamar. Because of this he fled to Egypt, then returned, but still, in his wickedness, he conspired against his father to seize his power and kingdom. To attract people to his side, here’s how he did it:
”Now it came about after this that Absalom provided for himself a chariot and horses, and fifty men to run ahead of him. And Absalom used to rise early and stand beside the road to the gate; and when any man who had a lawsuit was to come before the king for judgment, Absalom would call out to him and say, “From what city are you?” And he would say, “Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.” Then Absalom would say to him, “See, your claims are good and right, but you have no one to listen to you on the part of the king.” Moreover, Absalom would say, “Oh that someone would appoint me judge in the land, then every man who has a lawsuit or claim could come to me, and I would give him justice!” And whenever a man approached to prostrate himself before him, he would put out his hand and take hold of him and kiss him. Absalom dealt this way with all Israel who came to the king for judgment; so Absalom stole the hearts of the people of Israel.” (2 Samuel 15:1-6 NASB)
What did Absalom look like for people who had misunderstandings and came to the king to be judged? Didn’t that seem like a blessing? He watched carefully as he addressed them and how he honored them and promised to do them justice. But what really happened? He manipulated people in this way and managed to lure them into the conspiracy he waged against his father, David, and made them take part in his crime and the consequences that followed. Here is an example of a man who went out early in the morning to bless his neighbor, but who did not pursue the blessing, but only manipulated it to use people for his evil purposes. Have you ever suffered like that? Are you a man who falls easily prey to those who know how to impress you with flattery and, under the pretext of blessing, make you get caught in their net? I have seen leaders who do this and many of them are among politicians, but not only them. Beware of such leaders and be wise to see the difference when someone wants your good or just flatters you, to use you in his evil plans. See that the blessing you hear from his lips is not something that will come back with a curse for you and others.
2. The case of Hushai (2 Samuel 16:15-19 NASB)
Absalom managed to manipulate many people and, being an evil and cunning man, rebelled against his father, David, and wanted to take his life. When David was fleeing from Jerusalem, Hushai, a very good friend of his, came to him. David sent Hushai back to Absalom to destroy Ahithophel’s bad advice. Hushai, being a wise and skilful man, applied the same strategy of Absalom as to destroy Ahithophel’s advice, to bring defeat to the rebellious son of the king, and to save the life and kingdom of David. Let’s look closely at how Hushai spoke when he came to Absalom:
Then Absalom and all the people, the men of Israel, entered Jerusalem, and Ahithophel with him. Now it came about, when Hushai the Archite, David’s friend, came to Absalom, that Hushai said to Absalom, “Long live the king! Long live the king!” But Absalom said to Hushai, “Is this your loyalty to your friend? Why did you not go with your friend?” So Hushai said to Absalom, “No! For whomever the Lord, this people, and all the men of Israel have chosen, his I shall be, and with him I shall remain. Besides, whom should I serve? Should I not serve in the presence of his son? Just as I have served in your father’s presence, so I shall be in your presence.” (2 Samuel 16:15-19 NASB)
Hushai blessed Absalom, but that was not a sincere blessing, but one that Absalom wanted to hear because he was making every effort to please the people and attract as many of them as possible to him and his father David. Hushai’s blessing was a trap in which Absalom was caught, and in the end, God helped Hushai to destroy Ahithophel’s advice and bring defeat to the rebellious Absalom and victory to King David. The way Hushai did was part of David’s military prowess and with God’s help he succeeded, but as in Proverbs 27:14 – Hushai’s blessing was like a curse on Absalom and he fell into it.
3. The case of Ahab (1 Kings 22)
Ahab was one of the worst kings of Israel, and when he befriended Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, he invited him and even manipulated him to use him to reclaim the city of Ramoth in Gilead from the Syrians. Jehoshaphat, being a God-fearing man, asked Ahab to inquire of the Lord through the prophets about this military action. Ahab gathered all the prophets who spoke to him, and they all blessed him in one voice, announcing his victory in this military offensive. King Jehoshaphat felt that all the prophets were speaking too unanimously, blessing Ahab, and it seems he may have thought of Proverbs 27:14 when he asked if there was another prophet. Ahab said there was one more, Micah, but that he only told what was bad, and Jehoshaphat insisted that Micah be brought in and prophesy. And what do you think, Micah, knowing that Ahab brings only prophets who speak to him to his liking, mocked those prophets and spoke to Ahab with pleasure. But he did it sarcastically enough to make Ahab understand that it was not the truth, but what he wanted to hear. So Ahab made him swear to tell the truth, and then Micah revealed the truth to him. It cost him a lot. One of the prophets flattering the king came and struck the prophet Micah, and King Ahab put him in prison and went to war, where God brought death to the king. This is another very good illustration of what it means to bless your neighbor in the morning, and you can see the difference between blessing the false prophets and the sincere and true warning given by Micah “early in the morning” before things happen.
4. The case of Hananiah (Jeremiah 28)
The prophet Jeremiah prophesied to the people of Israel about the calamities coming from Babylon, but he was not obeyed by kings or people, and all his prophecies were despised. To make the people of Israel aware of the danger of Babylonian oppression coming upon them, the prophet Jeremiah wore a wooden yoke. One day the false prophet Hananiah, while he was in the house of the Lord, prophesied falsely and said that in two years the king and the people would return from the Babylonian captivity and that the vessels of the house of the Lord would be brought back. This “early blessing” of the prophet Hananiah was an abomination to God, because it instilled in the people a false confidence and became a curse to the people, because they trusted in Hananiah’s words and disregarded Jeremiah’s call to repentance – their only chance of survival and deliverance from the Babylonian captivity that came upon them.
5. The case of Irod (Acts 12:20-23 NASB)
Here is a case from the New Testament, when the blessing of the neighbor early in the morning was like a curse to the one to whom it was directed.
Now he was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon; and with one mind they came to him, and having won over Blastus the king’s chamberlain, they were asking for peace, because their country was supported with grain from the king’s country. On an appointed day, after putting on his royal apparel, Herod took his seat on the rostrum and began delivering an address to them. The people repeatedly cried out, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died. (Acts 12:20-23 NASB)
See how the flattering “blessing” of the people was a snare into which the proud Herod fell? And now, let us return again to that proverb which says that “the blessing of the neighbor with a loud voice early in the morning is seen as a curse.” Why? To make each of us attentive and to ask ourselves questions about those who bless us loudly early in the morning, that is, before the results are visible. Let us ask ourselves if this is a sincere desire and a sincere prayer of theirs to God for us, or these people have hidden plans and through these “blessings” they want to win us over, to manipulate us and use us for their dirty and pathetic purposes. By no means does the Word of God mean that we should not receive the morning blessings or that we should not bless someone early in the morning. Through this proverb we are taught to be people with discernment, who distinguish between true and false blessings, and to behave wisely. So help us God.
Translated by Liza Bîrlădeanu