You know what is really awful? Having two holes in your stomach and no painkillers. I need to figure out how to do something about that, especially if they really want me going back to work next week.

What counts as blasphemy? That’s an important point to define when you’re supposed to communally stone someone to death if they do it. The Greek blasphemein ultimately comes from the word “to slander,” and the Japanese used here, boutoku, is composed of the characters, one which means “damage” or “defy” and the other “defile.” Later, when the English says “Anyone who curses God shall bear the sin” (v 15), the Japanese again uses norou, “to put a curse on.”

So I one idea is that the unnamed half-Israelite blasphemer said something genuinely awful about God or accused him of something. But it actually says he blasphemed the Name, i.e. YHWH, the holy, true name of God that you’re not supposed to use in vain. He and another man were in a fight; did he try to use God’s sacred name to compel God to harm the other man?

I wonder why they were fighting. Maybe it was over the half-Israelite man’s mixed heritage. It seems important that the text bothers to note this. I know that in Ezra’s time, after the return from Exile and not long after the Torah was redacted, there was a push to break up mixed marriages. Is this an insertion of that agenda, making sure to note that his father was Egyptian?

But as a modern reader, I’d imagine that his mother, a former slave, didn’t marry his father. Let’s face it, the poor kid was probably the product of rape. If the other man had ridiculed him over that, one could see the temptation to misuse the Name, or to be angry at the God of Israelites who didn’t accept him.

We learn the name of this mother, who brings him in for punishment, but not his. He’s wiped out of history for his crime.

Right after ordering the man stoned, God declares that no punishment shall be worse than the crime: “fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (v 20). Killing another human demands taking a life, killing an animal means offering restitution for it.

And then right after that, they reportedly stone the man.

So is misusing God’s name somehow an act of “killing”? That again brings us back to how did he misuse the Name. If he tried to invoke God’s name in such a way as to harm the other man, that might be seen as attempted murder, the same way that “cursing” a parent might (following the NCT’s norou).

I’d rather have that theory than God feeling so insecure that one man badmouthing him was somehow a threat to his glory.

The Japanese: kakuretsu “each column,” soeru “to flavor, season” (v 7), kissui “born-and-bred, native” (v 10), boutoku suru “to blaspheme, profane, desecrate,” renkou suru “to bring in, to take a suspect to the police” (v 11), ryuuchi suru “to detain” (v 12), keibatsu “penalty, punishment.”

Sunday. Sunday I finish this book, and we move on to Numbers, which has a lot more narrative, once it’s done with the census. That’ll be a good change of pace.

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