In Genesis 12:3, God tells Abraham:

וַאֲבָֽרְכָה֙ מְבָ֣רְכֶ֔יךָ וּמְקַלֶּלְךָ֖ אָאֹ֑ר וְנִבְרְכ֣וּ בְךָ֔ כֹּ֖ל מִשְׁפְּחֹ֥ת הָאֲדָמָֽה׃ -- And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And all the families of the earth will bless themselves by you.

This implies that everybody will love Abraham. Who is it, then, that will curse him?

  • 1
    ונברכו בך doesn't mean "will bless you." It means "your name will be used as a blessing." See Rashi.
    – shmosel
    Commented Oct 27, 2023 at 2:28
  • Bilaam sure tried ...
    – Shalom
    Commented Oct 27, 2023 at 2:29
  • @shmosel -- People who curse him will use his name as a blessing? Commented Oct 27, 2023 at 2:34
  • Of course not. כל משפחות האדמה doesn't literally mean every family on the planet, as there are surely some families composed entirely of mutes. If I say "everyone on my block uses Dr. Goldberg," it doesn't mean everyone on my block is ill.
    – shmosel
    Commented Oct 27, 2023 at 2:41

1 Answer 1


Many Rishonim observe a nuanced distinction in the text. They highlight that "וּמְקַלֶּלְךָ֖" is expressed in the singular form, whereas "מְבָ֣רְכֶ֔יךָ" is written in the plural. From this grammatical distinction, they draw an interpretation that those who curse Avraham are relatively few, while those who bless him are numerous. In the Targum Yonason's interpretation, the verse is taken quite literally, suggesting that only one individual, Bilam, will be the one to curse Avraham. (see Baal Hatorim that explains: ומקללך אאור – בגימטריא זה בלעם הבא לקלל בניך.) Rabeinu Bichayeh, on the other hand, identifies this individual as Nimrod.

However, it doesn't seem like everyone liked Avraham at the time of this blessing, especially since we know that he was thrown into a furnace of fire. (see Rabeinu Bichayeh)

  • So some suggest "the one who curses you I will curse" refers to only one person! Clever. But where exactly is my English translation faulty, as you say? Commented Oct 27, 2023 at 14:08
  • @MauriceMizrahi There are a few nuances that the English translation fails to capture but I now realize that it is not related to your question
    – user6781
    Commented Oct 27, 2023 at 15:08

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