Today’s taste of Torah is about the penalty of defaming the name from which we came. The text is Leviticus 24:13-16; 23. It reads: 13 Then the LORD spoke to Moses: 14 “Bring the one who has cursed to the outside of the camp and have all who heard him lay their hands on his head; then have the whole community stone him. 15 And tell the Israelites: If anyone curses his God, he will bear the consequences of his sin. 16 Whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD is to be put to death; the whole community must stone him. If he blasphemes the Name, he is to be put to death, whether the foreign resident or the native. 23 After Moses spoke to the Israelites, they brought the one who had cursed to the outside of the camp and stoned him. So the Israelites did as the Lord had commanded Moses.
Those verses point to an episode where the son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father was involved in a fight with an Israelite. And in the course of the fight he “blasphemed the name [of the LORD] with a curse “(v.11). In response to this the LORD demanded death by stoning as punishment in accordance with His righteous standard.
The “Name” in view here (v. 11, 16) is Yahweh; the name by which God manifested His nature to His people. And although we’re not told what this man said that deserved death, we do know that he made derogatory remarks about the LORD in a way that incorporated God’s name in a vile expression of profanity. His language was irreverent and disrespectful.
We also see here that the nature of the man’s sin was two-fold. Not only did he blaspheme the divine name, he also cursed the divine person. And when the witnesses to this event placed their hands on the head of the offender (v. 14) it symbolized the transference of the blasphemer’s curse, which had entered their ears, back onto the blasphemer’s head for the purpose of punishment. Clearly, the LORD takes the setting apart of His name from the profane very seriously!
Now given that the death penalty in this passage is not operative because the New Covenant has replaced the Mosaic Covenant as the believer’s rule of life, what are some applications we can legitimately glean from this? First, in terms of how we live and speak, we should treat the LORD’s name as if God’s reputation is at stake! His name is a holy name. It’s a name above every name. And it’s a name before which every knee will bow. Second, since blasphemy is so prevalent in our culture today, we need to warn blasphemers that God will hold them accountable for all of their words. We need to tell non-believers who blaspheme that judgment is certain unless they trust Yeshua as their substitute sin-bearer. And thirdly, while we leave vengeance to God, we also pray for His name to be revered and His will to be accomplished on earth. And certainly a major part of God’s will being accomplished on earth is for many to receive forgiveness for blasphemy through Messiah’s grace rhapsody (cf. 2 Pet. 3:9). Because defamation of the Name is one of the reasons Jesus came.