August 9, 2016
I originally posted this last year – with a slight grammatical editing, but no editing of content. It covers curses in the Bible (in general) and the Curse of the Bambino on the Red Sox.
Curses! Foiled Again! 4 Elul 5775 August 20, 2015
What is the last verse of the First Covenant (also called the Old Testament)? That would be Malachi 4:6. In the NASB (New American Standard Bible), it’s this:
“He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.”
In the KJV (King James Version), it’s this:
“And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
The New Living Translation has it like this:
“His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.”
A simple commentary on this explains its meaning:
.God says that Elijah will come to warn people. He will warn them that the day of the *LORD is near. Joel 2:31 also calls it ‘a great and terrible day’. It is the day when God will do something. It often happens, but one day it will really be for the last time. Then it will be very terrible indeed. Verse 6 Elijah’s job will be to change people’s attitudes. Then people can obey God’s commands. They will prepare their lives for God’s work among them. But God will punish those who do not obey him. Luke repeated Malachi 4:6 in Luke 1:17. This links John the *Baptist with Elijah. Jesus did the same thing in Matthew 11:10-15. Jesus also repeated Malachi 3:1 in these verses. (My Messenger, by Gordon Churchyard)
The last verse of the First Covenant is “curse”. There are curses throughout the Bible – actually, a lot of them. It starts with the very first sin by Adam and Eve. Yahweh curses (or, declares judgment on) the man, his wife, and the serpent, Satan. In Genesis 12:3, the first time we hear what Elohim promises Abram (not yet named Abraham) – “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Much of the Torah, especially in Deuteronomy, includes many curses that Yahweh warns the Israelites will happen to them if they turn from Him and worship other gods.
There’s the curse on Judah’s line – the family line that will eventually bring the Messiah – because his son of promise, Perez, was illegitimate by his incestuous relationship with his daughter-in-law, Tamar. The curse on the Messiah’s line lasted 10 generations, until David came along. David’s kingly line was also cursed. Considering how evil the Scriptures say that kings of Judah Manasseh and Amon were, the son of the righteous king Josiah, Jeconiah (also called Jehoiachin) must have been extremely wicked. The curse of Jeconiah is found in Jeremiah 22. First, Yahweh likens the king to a signet ring on God’s hand—a ring that God will pull off (verse 24). Then, Yahweh pronounces a curse: “Record this man as if childless, a man who will not prosper in his lifetime, for none of his offspring will prosper, none will sit on the throne of David or rule anymore in Judah” (verse 30).
This is the reason for the Virgin Birth of Jesus: to bypass the curse on the physical descendents of Jeconiah (the Messianic line), Jesus could not be the human son of Joseph. Matthew traces the earthly kingly line from David through Solomon; Luke, on the other hand, traces Mary’s human ancestry through David’s son, the prophet Nathan. This is why Luke starts the genealogy of Jesus by saying: “He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph,” Jesus had to be human, so he was the physical son of Mary. But, He had to be conceived supernaturally by the Holy Spirit to avoid the curse.
Jesus declared “woes” on the Pharisees – essentially cursing them for their hypocrisy. When He cursed the fig tree, it withered and died. The fig tree was a symbol of the nation of Israel – when they had their Messiah crucified, they became, as a nation, cursed. Now, Abba Father is gracious, even when a curse had to be declared and judgment had to proceed – those saved in the early days of the church were all Jewish – but those who rejected Jesus have been under a curse to this day. The curse will finally be lifted when “They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.” Zechariah 12: 10). Someday, during the “time of Jacob’s trouble”, the seventieth week of Daniel’s prophesy, the time known in Scripture as “The Great Tribulation,” the Jewish people will finally recognize Jesus as their Messiah. The curse will be lifted and blessings will be poured out on the Jews in the time known as the Millennial Kingdom. Jesus will reign on the earth for 1000 years from Jerusalem.
So, in general, Yahweh promises blessing for those who are obedient and faithful to Him, and cursing to those who disobey Him and turn away from Him. He promised Blessings to those who bless Abraham’s offspring, and cursing to those who curse them.
The reason for bringing all of this up has to do with other curses that the Bible does NOT talk about. Are any of these curses real? Let’s examine a curse that was well known in Major League Baseball: the “Curse of the Bambino.” Wasn’t that just a joke, though? And, again, why would Elohim, the God of the universe, care enough about a form of entertainment?
To start off: sports are not just a form of entertainment. They are the genuine “reality TV” – one team or individual is trying to defeat the other team or individuals. In golf, each individual is trying to defeat a whole lot of individuals. Sports take the place of war in our modern world. Real wars today are far too deadly and impersonal; sports allow us to have competition without anybody (usually) getting killed. We need warfare to help us understand the spiritual warfare that goes on all the time. Sports are a picture, then, of the spiritual warfare against the forces of evil that we often face.
So – how was the “Curse of the Bambino” real? Do you have to ask that question? Ask any knowledgeable Red Sox fan – they know only to well. For some reason, selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees in early 1920 was not just a terrible baseball move – it caused a curse on the Boston Red Sox franchise. After winning four World Series from 1912 to 1918, they crashed and burned for many years. For three seasons in the 1920’s (1925, 1926, and 1927), they lost over 100 games. It wasn’t until 1934 that they finally at .500 and were, for the most part, competitive. In 1939, a rookie named Ted Williams gave them respectability, joining established stars Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, Joe Cronin, and Bobby Doerr. They finished a very solid second (to the Yankees, of course). They added rookie center fielder Dom DiMaggio in 1940, but slipped to fourth. They finished second again in 1941, when Teddy Baseball hit .406. Like many teams, they lost many of their players to the war effort. In 1946, the year after the end of WWII, they won their first pennant in 28 years. They lost to the Cardinals in a seven game World Series, when the Cardinals’ Enos Slaughter made a mad dash, scoring from first on a double, when shortstop Johnny Pesky held the ball just a little too long before throwing it home.
The Red Sox couldn’t get any traction as their aging stars left the team and were not replaced with the same quality players. They finished a strong second in 1948, ’49, and ’50, but couldn’t catch the Yankees. Other than occasional news from Ted Williams, the ‘50’s and early ‘60’s saw the Bosox struggle year after year, while their hated rivals were winning year after year.
Finally, they got to the World Series in 1967, only to fall to the Cardinals (again) in seven. The Curse continued – Jim Lonborg, star pitcher of the ’67 AL Champs, was hurt in a skiing accident the next winter, never to return to his Cy Young form; Tony Conigliaro, a promising young slugger, was hit in the eye by an Eddie Fisher fastball… he came back, but never really regained his form. It wasn’t until 8 years later (in 1975) that they won another pennant – and lost in another seven game series to the Cincinnati Reds. Despite Carlton Fisk’s famous walk-off dinger in Game Six, the Sox just couldn’t contain Joe Morgan and Tony Perez in Game Seven.
And so it goes… and so it goes … In 1978, the Red Sox had a commanding lead over their New York enemies, which they promptly lost… and in that tragic playoff game, Bucky Dent’s three-run shot over the Green Monster shot them down – again.
Of course, in the infamous World Series of 1986, after getting to the championship on Dave Henderson’s dramatic home run off Angels’ reliever Donnie Moore, were winning Game Six when… Calvin Schiraldi… Fred Stanley… and – Billy Buck (no need to fill in the tragic details) … Ray Knight scores… and the Mets, not the Red Sox, become World Champions.
It only got worse (if that is possible) when another layer of playoffs was added in 1995. Now, the Red Sox could be beaten by the hated Yankees BEFORE they even got to the World Series. In 1995 and 1998, they lost the LDS to Cleveland. In 1999, they lost the ALCS to the Yankees. In 2003, they suffered several embarrassments. First, in Game Three, the great Pedro Martinez threw 72-year-old Don Zimmer, Yankees coach, to the ground when the older man charged him during a fight. Then, Grady Little, with a three run lead in Game Seven, famously left Pedro in too long, losing the lead, then losing the game and the Series when Aaron Boone hit a dramatic walk-off home run off of Tim Wakefield in the eleventh. The Yankees fans rubbed it in – the galling chants of “Whooo’s your Daddy?” must have been ringing in Pedro’s and the Red Sox players all winter.
What to do? Get someone who has had great career success against the Yankees; a pitcher who rose to the occasion with three strong starts against them in the 2001 World Series. On November 28, 2003, they traded four players to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Curt Schilling.
Curt Schilling had been in the Majors for 16 years. At age 37, he still seemed to have it – the physical strength to still throw good heat, and a will to win (especially under pressure) that has been rarely matched in the history of sport. Maybe… finally, the Red Sox might have the guy who could get them over the top, into the winner’s circle.
Things looked good for the Sox this time. They finished second to the Yankees in their division, but they made it to the playoffs as the Wild Card team with an impressive regular season record of 98 wins. They started their ace – not Pedro, but Curt – against the Angels in Anaheim. Schilling had been a sparkling 21 – 6 during the regular season. He led the team with a WAR of 7.9, well ahead of Martinez, who had a 5.5, a distant second. He was his normal overpowering best – he won the game easily, setting the tone for a Red Sox sweep of the hapless California team. But – Curt suffered a torn tendon sheath when he was hit by a line drive. The injury was made worse when he fielded a ball rolling down the first base line in the seventh inning. Nobody knew how serious it was except Schilling…
Until he pitched in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the hated Yankees… Schilling was “Schill-acked” : after scoring six runs off him on six hits in three innings, it was obvious that the injury was more severe than anybody knew. The Red Sox went on to lose Games 2 and 3. The frustration was deep: Boston was behind 3 games to none. In the entire history of Major League Baseball, the number of teams to come back from a 3 – 0 deficit was… ZERO.
But the Red Sox wouldn’t give up. They won Games 4 and 5 in Boston, then came back to New York for Game 6. The ball was handed to … Curt Schilling. To help stabilize the tendon in his ankle, Red Sox doctors had placed three sutures connecting the skin with the ligament and deep connective tissue next to the bone, effectively creating a wall of tissue to keep the peroneal tendon from disrupting Schilling’s pitching mechanics. During the game, blood began to appear just above his shoe on his right ankle. Needless to say, the bloody sock inspired his teammates without any words. He was giving it all for the team.
Schilling pitched 7 strong innings, allowing only 1 run; Boston won 4 – 2. And they were so inspired that they won Game 7, becoming the first MLB team out of 26 others to come back to win after trailing 3 – 0.
And the Red Sox just kept on winning – the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals was almost anticlimactic. Schilling pitched Game 2, producing the second bloody sock. And the Boston Red Sox were the 2004 World Champions in the minimum 4 games.
We understand the significance of blood in the Bible. From the very beginning, God made it clear that blood is a powerful symbol. In Genesis 3:21: “And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.”(ESV) As soon as Adam and Eve sinned, God showed them graphically that bringing sin into the world brought death. And blood would have to be spilled to pay the price.
Blood represents death, but it also represents life. In Leviticus 17:11 “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.” (ESV) Blood had already protected the Israelites on the first Passover. Exodus 12:13 – “The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.” (ESV)
The Scriptures teach that blood is an absolute necessity for our forgiveness – Hebrews 9:22 states “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins…” (ESV) The whole Old Testament sacrificial system was very bloody. And that’s why the Lamb of God had to be sacrificed on that cross in such a bloody way.
So – just like every bloody sacrifice in the First Covenant (or Old Testament), Curt Schilling made a blood sacrifice to break the “Curse of the Bambino”. It was certainly symbolic, just like the animal sacrifices – his blood couldn’t really break the curse unless Elohim allowed it. When our Lord Jesus died a bloody death on the cross, it really was sufficient to pay the price of forgiveness for all who believe in Him. Jesus poured out His blood, genuinely breaking the curse of sin. Schilling’s blood sacrifice was a powerful symbol, but it was just that – a symbol.
And the Red Sox have enjoyed significant success since then. Not only did they win it all in 2004, they repeated as Champions in 2007 and 2013. The “Curse of the Bambino” is no more…
Stay Tuned for Part 4: The cursed Philadelphia Phillies.