Thursday, October 15, 2009

40: A Blasphemer Stoned

Leviticus 24-25
Leviticus 24 starts with repeating the types of oil and bread to be brought to God. Not too interesting.

The second half of Leviticus 24, however, is very interesting. It is titled "A blasphemer stoned". The bible says there was a fight between a half Egyptian/half Israeli (his father was Egyptian, his mother was Israeli), and an Israeli. It says the son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the name of God. But that's both of them! So who was it? Why would they go out of their way to mention who was fighting then leave it completely ambiguous about who blasphemed?

It says this horrible blasphemy, deserving of death, was cursing the name of God. God commands Moses that all of the people that heard him curse are to put their hands on his head, and then the entire assembly is to stone him to death. The bible goes on to repeat several times that you should kill people who blaspheme.

Wow, this is one of those "WTF!" moments. The paragraph that talks about stoning the blasphemer happens to come right next to one of those random times that God decides to hand down rules. So the very end of the paragraph (Leviticus 24:16 if you'd like to read along) says anyone who blasphemes must be stoned to death. The very next sentence says if anyone takes the life of a human being, they are to be killed. This is not "Thou shall not murder", this specifically says anyone who takes human life (for presumably any reason) is to be put to death. I will momentarily over look that this causes infinite regression (whoever kills the killer has to be killed, who is then killed by the next person till everyone is dead) and focus instead on God saying not even a sentence ago that blasphemers should be slaughtered. So God says you can't kill anyone for any reason and also says you have to kill many people for many reasons. What is the innocent Israeli to do? Start the long walk to hell I presume, because God can obviously not be pleased.

The majority of Leviticus 25 is the description of the year of jubilee. Every 7 years you are supposed to have a sabbath year where you harvest nothing from the land. Then every 50 (7 X 7 + 1) years you are supposed to have a year of jubilee. This year is essentially when all debts are returned and if you are a servant you are free (not slaves though).

It randomly lays out, in this section, an endorsement of slavery. I don't think this has anything to do with the year of jubilee, God seems to regularly get off topic. The bible, in plain language, says that you may own slaves from the land around you. You are allowed to will them to your children and rule over them for life. So what am I, as a hypothetical Christian, supposed to think of slavery? I obviously only get my morals from the bible, which says that owning and beating slaves is acceptable, but is slavery really moral? I thought we cleared this up in 1865.


  1. When it comes to killing vs. murdering, there are three different Hebrew words: ratsahk (the word translated in the 10 commandments as murder), muwth (the word used for killing as a punishment), and nakah (the word used for killing in battle or conquest). The commandment from the 10 Commandments only forbids ratsahk. I don't know the Hebrew of this particular passage in Leviticus, but I would guess that the word for the punishable killing is ratsahk and the word for the punishment itself is muwth.

  2. The word used is nakah (which means to strike mortally according to my reference). At the bottom of this page it goes word by word. So anyone who kills (nakah) will be killed (muwth). So you've gotten rid of the infinite regression but not the inconsistency, because there seems to be a lot of nakah going unpunished.



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