Friday, August 17, 2012

A Blasphemer Put To Death (Leviticus 24:10-23)

The following quote is taken from

"Death For Blasphemy - "One day a man who had an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father got into a fight with one of the Israelite men.  During the fight, this son of an Israelite woman blasphemed the LORD's name.  So the man was brought to Moses for judgment.  His mother's name was Shelomith. She was the daughter of Dibri of the tribe of Dan.  They put the man in custody until the LORD's will in the matter should become clear.  Then the LORD said to Moses, "Take the blasphemer outside the camp, and tell all those who heard him to lay their hands on his head.  Then let the entire community stone him to death.  Say to the people of Israel: Those who blaspheme God will suffer the consequences of their guilt and be punished.  Anyone who blasphemes the LORD's name must be stoned to death by the whole community of Israel.  Any Israelite or foreigner among you who blasphemes the LORD's name will surely die."  (Leviticus 24:10-16 NLT)  

Let's examine the story of Shelomith's son.  You can read the full chapter here:

            This event took place when the Israelites were on their way to the land of Canaan, being led by God out of slavery in Egypt.  God was giving the Israelites the Law.  He had already warned them against blasphemy of his name (Exodus 20:7; 22:28). defines blasphemy as "to speak impiously or irreverently of; to speak evil of; slander; abuse" [1].  To blaspheme God is to speak about him with contempt, often in a slanderous way. 
            The text is unclear as to exactly what Shelomith's son said.  What we do know is that he used the name of God in an irreverent and contemptuous manner in front of witnesses.  In the Ancient Near East, a name had more power than often ascribed to names in our time period and culture.  A name revealed the character of the person, or in this case, of God.  Shelomith's son sought to damage the reputation of God by misusing his name.
            Why was capital punishment prescribed for those who blasphemed?  It showed utter contempt and disrespect for God, the Creator of the universe and all living things, and the one who delivered the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt.  After all God had done for that man, the man chose to repay God by speaking of him contemptuously and rebelling against his commands.  Such blatant disrespect was as serious as high treason.  This is why Shelomith's son was ordered to be executed.    
            Again, it is important to note that capital punishment commands such as these were given specifically to the nation of Israel during the time period and culture of the Ancient Near East.  All of Scripture, both Old and New Testament, condemns blasphemy; however, the capital punishments prescribed do not apply in our time period and culture (Romans 6:14; Galatians 3:24-26).