Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Stoning Angry Young Immigrant Men: Leviticus 24:10-23

This post is part of a revolutionary Bible commentary, sponsored by the Church of the Orange Sky.

I've skipped over chapter 23 and the first half of chapter 24, because it strikes me as totally irrelevant to the present project. God institutes a number of annual feasts, some of which he's mentioned before, some of which he hasn't. The priests get a new task: they must keep the lamps burning at the Tent of Meeting (apparently they'd been forgetting to do this on their own and needed guidance). God asks for a serving of bread to be given to him every week; since he isn't eating it himself, the food is given to the high priest's family for food.

After all this has been done, though, two young men in the camp get into a fight. We're not really told what the cause was, but we are told that one of the men is half-Egyptian. Immediately we know there's trouble. After the whole "love the foreigners among you" bit, Leviticus has veered into "be wary of immigrants" territory - immigrants being criminals, prone to violence, like this young punk here, who goes out and starts fights and blasphemes almighty God. In this case, the man in question apparently "blasphemed the Name [of God] with a curse." He's "put into custody" while Moses waits for God's guidance on what to do with the man.

Apparently God hasn't established his will on the subject of blasphemy yet (I thought he had, but apparently I was wrong). Moses hears from God - or pulls out of his hat - that "the blasphemer" must be stoned. Actually, the Bible says that the eyewitnesses to the fight are to lay their hands on "the blasphemer" and he is to be stoned, which sounds risky for the eyewitnesses, if anyone who attends the execution happens to have bad aim.

God justifies the new sentence with a long detour into the old "life for life, eye for eye" regulations. I'm not sure how those apply here but in any event Moses proclaims the judgement and the poor fellow is stoned.

It's interesting that this guy gets a punishment which hadn't yet been instituted at the time he committed the crime. The underlying implications about the danger of the alien are also intriguing, and in marked contrast to God's concern for the aliens a couple of chapters ago. Perhaps it's only that this guy is of mixed blood, i.e. is impure from birth. I'm not sure.