Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Leviticus 24

Leviticus 24: bread for the LORD, stoning commanded for blasphemy

Synopsis

This chapter outlines some more rules for the Israelites, but also has a “live action” sequence: someone blasphemes “the Name” (verse 11), and the LORD outlines the rules for blasphemy, before they are carried out on the guilty party.

But first…

The LORD tells Moses to have the Israelites bring olive oil, for the lamps in the Tabernacle (which are to be burning continually). Aaron—or future High Priests—is to tend to the lamps in the Holy Place continually.

Twelve loaves of bread are then to be baked—verse 5 indicates that 4.5 litres of flour are to be used for each loaf—and set on the gold table in the Holy Place. They are to be placed in two rows, six loaves per row. Along each row, they are also to put some incense, as an offering to the LORD. This ceremony is to be carried out every week, on the Sabbath. The bread will then belong to Aaron and his sons, and they are to eat it in a holy place.

After these rules are given, the blasphemy occurs: a man with an Israelite mother and Egyptian father gets into a fight, and, during the fight, he blasphemes “the Name”—meaning the LORD’s name—with a curse (verse 11). The Israelites don’t know what to do about it, so they put the man in custody, and seek Moses, to inquire about the LORD’s will in this matter.

The LORD commands that the man must be taken outside of the camp, and stoned. And then He outlines some general rules:

  • Anyone who curses God will be “held responsible” (verse 15)
  • Anyone who blasphemes the name of the LORD is to be put to death; I’m not sure if this is a separate rule, or simply a continuation of the first point above. (It’s part of the same sentence, if that helps.) It depends on whether cursing God is the same as blasphemy, I guess.
  • Anyone who takes the life of a human being is to be put to death.
    • I believe this is referring just to murder, or premeditated killing—we know that it doesn’t apply to accidentally killing someone, because there are separate rules for that, given elsewhere.
  • Anyone who takes the life of someone else’s animal is to make restitution—“life for life” (verse 18).
    • The above two rules are reiterated again, in verse 21:

      Whoever kills an animal must make restitution, but whoever kills a man must be put to death.
  • If anyone injures his neighbour, the same injury is to be applied to him; “fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (verse 20).
  • These laws are to apply both to the alien and the “native born” Israelites.
After God has handed down these rules—some of which are reiterations of previously given rules—the Israelites take the guilty man outside of the camp, and stone him.

Thoughts

Because the LORD hadn’t yet given the Israelites specific rules regarding blasphemy, they didn’t know what to do with this man; they knew that he was guilty, but not how to punish him.

But I find it interesting that the LORD doesn’t just give them rules about blasphemy, and let the matter drop; He also takes the opportunity to remind them about the rules for murder, and to remind them that killing an animal is a different matter from killing a person. And I think He is doing that for a specific reason; He is teaching them that blaspheming His name is, as crimes go, on par with taking another human’s life.

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