וַיֹּאמֶר יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהִים׀ אֶֽל־הַנָּחָשׁ כִּי עָשִׂיתָ זֹּאת אָרוּר אַתָּה מִכָּל־הַבְּהֵמָה וּמִכֹּל חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶ֑ה עַל־גְּחֹנְךָ תֵלֵךְ וְעָפָר תֹּאכַל כָּל־יְמֵי חַיֶּֽיךָ
The LORD God then turned to the serpent and said, “Because you did this, cursed are you more than all domesticated beasts, And more than every wild animal; On your belly you will go, And dust you will eat All the days of your life;
cursed: in Hebrew, there are at least 6 words that can be (and are) translated as the English word, “curse”. The distinctions between each of these 6 words have been thoroughly explainedBrichto, H. C., The Problem of “Curse” in the Hebrew Bible, JBL Monograph Series, vol. XIII, 1963 . But for this Hebrew word, אָרוּר (arur), Brichto and othersNotably Harris et al, #168a have shown that arur takes its meaning from an Addadian cognate meaning “to snare” or “to bind”. By using arur, the biblical authors mean to convey the idea that the subject of the curse is to be restricted or constrained in the way — and not always as a punishment — for example, as a horse might be hobbled.
However, punishment is clearly in view here. God punishes the serpent (“because of you”) for its deceit (specifically, telling a half-truth about God’s warning). In this case, the “curse” constrains the Serpent’s mobility (“on your belly you will go”).
On the other hand, in verse 3:17, arur is used to describe the [lack of] fertility of the soil from which Adam will now eke out a living. Specifically, the soil is described as less fertile than the soil of the garden. In this case, the use of arur is descriptive, not retributive. God is not punishing the earth, instead He is describing the toil and rigor required of mortal life outside the boundaries of the Garden — one of the many consequences of ignoring God’s truths.
domesticated beasts … wild animals: the literal translation of הַבְּהֵמָה (habbəheimah) is the-cattle or the-beasts. Idiomatically, habbəheimah is used when referring to domesticated animals such as cattle, sheep, goats, and camels. Similarly, the Hebrew phrase literally translated as living of the field (see below) is understood as wild (non-domesticated) animals.
My translation conventions can be found here.
And-said the-LORD God to-the-serpent, “Because you-did this cursed [are] you from-all-the-cattle and from-all the-living-of the-field. On-your-belly you-shall-go-to-and-fro and-dust you-shall-eat all-the-days-of your-life
And said the LORD God to the serpent, “Because you did this, cursed are you greater than all the cattle and greater than all the living things of the field. On you belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat [for] all the days of your life.
Commercial Bible Translations
- (nas) And the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly shall you go, And dust shall you eat All the days of your life;
- (kjv) And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:
- (niv) So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.
- (nlt) Then the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all animals, domestic and wild. You will crawl on your belly, groveling in the dust as long as you live.