speech. Jesus admonished “to bless those cursing you.” (Luke 6:28) “Keep on blessing those who persecute, be blessing and do not be cursing.” (Rom. 12:14) This does not mean to praise opposers, but good conduct toward such ones, coupled with kind, considerate, truthful speech that would be beneficial to them if heeded, may result in winning their goodwill. (1 Cor. 4:12; 1 Pet. 3:9) The manner of speaking must also be considered. (Prov. 27:14) To turn someone away from wicked deeds is indeed a blessing, working for that person’s best interests and to Jehovah’s praise.—Acts 3:26.
BEING A BLESSING TO OTHERS
One can be a blessing to his fellowman by following a course of obedience to God. The association of such ones whom Jehovah blesses brings blessings to others. Laban was blessed because Jacob kept his flocks. (Gen. 30:27, 30) Potiphar’s household and field prospered due to Joseph’s oversight. (Gen. 39:5) The presence of ten righteous citizens could have caused God to spare Sodom. (Gen. 18:32) The dedicated servant of God can bring God’s favorable consideration to an unbelieving mate and their young children. (1 Cor. 7:14) Jesus said that, in the world’s time of greatest tribulation, “on account of the chosen ones those days will be cut short,” otherwise “no flesh would be saved.” (Matt. 24:21, 22; compare Isaiah 65:8.) To imitate the example of God’s blessed ones brings even greater blessings. (Gal. 3:9; Heb. 13:7; 1 Cor. 11:1; 2 Thess. 3:7) Doing good to Christ’s brothers, God’s “chosen ones,” brings Jehovah’s blessings to the “sheep,” with the reward of everlasting life.—Matt. 25:34, 40, 46.
Blindness appears to have been quite a common affliction in the ancient Near East. Besides a sizable number of references to it in the Bible, secular writings, such as the Ebers Papyrus from Egypt, frequently refer to the condition, describing several forms of the disease and its symptoms, prescribing eyewashes and naming some of the surgical instruments used.
The standard of cleanliness set by the Law must have made eye diseases less prevalent among the Israelites than among the Egyptian and Arabian peoples; and we cannot assume that the situation in these lands now is an accurate picture of the condition of Israel in Bible times. Today a large percentage of people in the Near East are afflicted with some form of eye trouble and many are blind. Among some of these peoples it is considered “bad luck” to disturb the flies that infest the dried secretion on the eyes, even those of infants. This spreads the most highly infectious eye diseases. The breaking of God’s law concerning sexual morality spreads syphilis and gonorrhea, which diseases can cause blindness and are the source of much congenital blindness, the conjunctiva or mucous membrane of the eyes receiving the infection from the mother at the time of birth.
Israel’s law of retaliation requiring soul for soul, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, not only emphasized the sanctity of life, but also impressed strongly upon the Israelites the need for extraordinary care to avoid doing injury to another and also to be sure that any testimony they presented in court was true and accurate, since the one bearing false testimony would suffer the very punishment he would have brought on an innocent person. (Ex. 21:23, 24; Deut. 19:18-21; Lev. 24:19, 20) If a master caused his slave to lose an eye, the master did not have one of his own eyes put out, but the slave was set free. (Ex. 21:26) While slaves could be required to work and could be beaten if rebellious, yet the master was thereby kept conscious of the need to refrain from being unduly severe.
It was a common practice of the Assyrians and Babylonians to put out the eyes of those whom they defeated in warfare. Blindness was induced by passing a red-hot copper plate before the eyes or by piercing the eyes with spears or hot irons. It may be that at times a dagger or sword was used. Samson was blinded by the Philistines, and King Zedekiah by Nebuchadnezzar. (Judg. 16:21; 2 Ki. 25:7; Jer. 39:7) Nahash, the king of the Ammonites, said that he would accept the surrender of the city of Jabesh in Gilead “on the condition of boring out every right eye of yours, and I must put it as a reproach upon all Israel.” (1 Sam. 11:2) For certain crimes Persian law punished the guilty by blinding.
The Bible records several cases of blindness from senility or old age, where the eyes were not diseased, but “dim” or “set.” Because of it Isaac was led to bestow the blessing on the deserving one, Jacob. High Priest Eli began to lose his vision sometime before his death at the age of ninety-eight years. Jeroboam’s wife schemed to take advantage of the aged prophet Ahijah’s blindness, but Jehovah thwarted the plot. (Gen. 27:1; 1 Sam. 3:2; 4:14-18; 1 Ki. 14:4, 5) However, at the advanced age of 120 years it is reported of Moses that “his eye had not grown dim.”—Deut. 34:7.
Jehovah, who made the eye, can also bring about blindness. (Ex. 4:11) He warned the nation of Israel that if they rejected his statutes and violated his covenant he would bring upon them burning fever, causing the eyes to fail. (Lev. 26:15, 16; Deut. 28:28) He inflicted temporary blindness in the cases of the wicked men of Sodom and the sorcerer Elymas. (Gen. 19:11; Acts 13:11) Saul of Tarsus was blinded by the brilliance of the light when Jesus appeared to him “as if to one born prematurely.” He regained sight when Ananias laid his hands on him and “there fell from his eyes what looked like scales.” (1 Cor. 15:8; Acts 9:3, 8, 9, 12, 17, 18) In a prophetic utterance by the prophet Zechariah, Jehovah points out that the horses of those who come against Jerusalem will be stricken with loss of sight (Zech. 12:4), and that in the day belonging to Jehovah all the peoples that will actually do military service against Jerusalem will experience a scourge in which their very eyes will “rot away in their sockets.”—Zech. 14:1, 12.
The blindness that was brought on the military force of the Syrians at the word of Elisha was evidently mental blindness. If the entire army had been stricken with physical blindness, they would all have had to be led by hand. But the account simply says that Elisha told them: “This is not the way, and this is not the city. Follow me.” On this phenomenon William James in his Principles of Psychology, Volume 1, page 48, states: “A most interesting effect of cortical disorder is mental blindness. This consists not so much in insensibility of optical impressions, as in inability to understand them. Psychologically it is interpretable as loss of associations between optical sensations and what they signify; and any interruption of the paths between the optic centres and the centres for other ideas ought to bring it about.” This was possibly the kind of blindnes removed by Jehovah when the Syrian army reached Samaria.—2 Ki. 6:18-20.
Blindness disqualified a man from serving as a priest at Jehovah’s sanctuary. (Lev. 21:17, 18, 21-23) The sacrifice of an animal that was blind was also unacceptable to Jehovah. (Deut. 15:21; Mal. 1:8) But Jehovah’s law reflected consideration and sympathy for the blind. The one who put an obstacle in the way of a blind man or misled him was cursed. (Lev. 19:14; Deut. 27:18) God’s righteous servant Job said: “Eyes I became to the blind one.” (Job 29:15) Jehovah himself indicates that in time he will do away with blindness.—Isa. 35:5.
When Jesus Christ was on earth, he miraculously restored the sight of many blind persons. (Matt. 11:5; 15:30, 31; 21:14; Luke 7:21, 22) When Jesus was near Jericho he cured blind Bartimaeus and his companion. (Matt. 20:29-34; Mark 10:46-52; Luke 18:35-43)