Now the son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father went out among the Israelites, and a fight broke out in the camp between him and an Israelite.
Leviticus 24:10-162 Chronicles 26:10-23; Daniel 5:1-4, 30. The sanctity of the Name of God is distinctly declared in the third commandment. There the Lord declared that he would not hold the blasphemer "guiltless." But it was not till the incident now before us that God showed his sense of the enormity of the crime. He here puts it into the category of capital crimes, and decrees the death of every blasphemer, whether he be a stranger or one born in the land. Now, when we inquire, we find that he calls it "this glorious and fearful name, THE LORD THY GOD" (Deuteronomy 28:58). So glorious is it that inanimate things, when his Name is put upon them, cannot be desecrated with impunity. Thus his tabernacle could not be treated even by a king according to his capricious pleasure, but Uzziah, for presuming to burn incense within it, is doomed to leprosy and exile all his life (2 Chronicles 26:16-23). Belshazzar too paid the penalty of his life for desecrating the vessels belonging to the tabernacle (Daniel 5:1-4, 30). The case before us was one of pure blasphemy. This reckless youth, the son of an Egyptian father, had blasphemed "the Name," and for this he was stoned to death after those who heard the blasphemy had laid their hands on his head.
I. LET US START WITH THE FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH THAT THE NAME OF GOD IS THE REVELATION OF HIS CHARACTER IN WORD. Hence to take up the Name of God lightly is to treat his character lightly. It is, in fact, to despise the Person, and is nothing less than treason against the Supreme King. The individual who blasphemes "the Name" would take up arms against the Person, and so must be treated as a rebel. When, therefore, we bear in mind that God makes known his Name that men may trust in him (cf. Psalm 9:10), the blaspheming of his holy Name is really the rejection of his appeal for trust, the rejection of his merciful manifestation, and deserves the penalty attached to it.
II. MAN'S ATTITUDE TOWARDS GOD'S NAME DETERMINES HIS CHARACTER. In other words, the Name of God is the touchstone of human character. The person who curseth the holy Name, as this reckless youth did, is thereby judged. He has voluntarily set himself against the Almighty, he has become a rebel not in heart only but openly, and if the Most High is to exercise his authority, the blasphemer should die. It is, moreover, a mistake to imagine, because sentence is not now executed so speedily against blasphemers, that their awful sin has become less heinous in the lapse of ages. The shortsighted individual who defies the Almighty will find eventually how hard are the bosses of his buckler.
III. THE PENALTY ATTACHED TO BLASPHEMY IS TO BE ACQUIESCED IN BY THE PEOPLE OF THE LOUD. The whole congregation in this case is called upon to repudiate the awful crime. Those who heard it are required to lay their hands on the blasphemer's head, to indicate that the guilt must be his own. They will not share it, and then the whole congregation are to be the executioners of the Divine decree. Now we are bound to entertain a similar and holy abhorrence of such a crime. We are most assuredly sinking in character if, through association with careless men, we come to regard blasphemy when indulged in as a light thing. The truth is, if we are making spiritual progress, we shall be advancing in the fear of his Name. Greater awe, not greater familiarity, will characterize us, until at length we shall see it to be just and right, if treason towards mere potentates on earth is regarded as a capital offense, much more ought treason against "the blessed and only Potentate" to be visited with death.
IV. LET US IN CONSEQUENCE ALL BOW AT THE NAME OF JESUS. To him hath the Father given a Name that is above every name, that at it every knee should bow (Philippians 2:9, 10). Submitting reverently to him, we shall find in his Name that marvelous significance which was heralded before his birth (Matthew 1:21). As our Saviour from sin, he will show us how reasonable is the exhortation, "Let every one that nameth the Name of Christ depart from iniquity" (2 Timothy 2:19). Baptized in his Name, as well as in the Name of the Father and of the Holy Ghost, we shall look to him for the fulfillment of the covenant promise therein implied. Under the shadow of the Name and in the light of the face of God revealed in Jesus Christ, we shall be enabled to pass on reverently and peacefully towards our everlasting rest. - R.M.E.
I. His PERSON. He is said to be the son of an Egyptian by an Israelitish woman. His father was one of that mixed multitude which came out of Egypt with Israel (Exodus 12:38), whom this woman married as many other women then married Egyptian men, to decline their rage and fury. For at that time the law prohibiting marriages with the heathen was not given them, and some charitably say he was a seeming proselyte; it is more probable that as his mother taught him to speak his father taught this his son to blaspheme.
I. THE EVIL RESULTING FROM CONNECTION WITH THE UNGODLY, "whose father was an Egyptian" — said by the Rabbins to be the man whom Moses killed.
Blasphemed the name of the Lord.
I. THE HISTORIC INTEREST OF THIS INCIDENT. This act of blasphemy, and the judgment which it called forth on the sinner —
1. Brought out clearly that the name of the Lord was Israel's most solemn trust.
2. Introduced the significant custom of avoiding the very use of the name of the Lord. Certainly this may admonish us against an undue freeness in the use of the august name either in pious speech or effusive prayer.
II. THE HEINOUS QUALITY OF THE CRIME.
1. The crime defined. Blasphemy is calumny and insult against the holy God, uttered with the intention to defame Him. It not only expresses the hatred of Him in the speaker's own heart, but aims at awakening in his hearer's mind an equal loathing of Jehovah and all His claims. It is held up in Scripture as an assault upon the dignity and sanctity of God's name (Psalm 74:18; Isaiah 52:5; Romans 2:24).
2. The root of the sin. This must be traced to the vileness of the human heart, and its natural enmity to God (cf. Matthew 15:19). It should be noticed also as being the outgrowth of folly and pride (see 2 Kings 19:22; Psalm 74:18). Of all sins, blasphemy is an indication of a mind mad with impiety.
3. Its great offensiveness to God and man. How hateful to God is evident from the penalties inflicted (see v. 16 and cf. Isaiah 65:7; Ezekiel 20:27-32; Ezekiel 35:11, 12; Matthew 12:31, 32), how hurtful to man is manifest from Psalm 44:15, 16; Psalm 74:10, 18, 22. They who revere "this glorious and fearful name, The Lord thy God" (Deuteronomy 28:58) are distressed at its profanation. Louis IX. of France branded swearers' lips with a hot iron for this offence, and when some complained that the punishment was too severe, he replied, "I could wish that by searing my own lips I could banish all profanity from my realm."
III. FACTS EXPLANATORY OF SUCH BLASPHEMOUS SPEECH. The sin of profanity points to —
1. An ungoverned tongue.
2. Passionate contention and strife.
3. An unsanctified heart.
(W. H. Jellie.)
II. The danger ARISING FROM INDULGENCE IN PASSIONATE ANGER: "strove"; the blasphemy was uttered in a quarrelsome passion.
III. THE BLASPHEMY which, in this case, RESULTED FROM SUCH INDULGENCE. "Cursed" the holy name of Jehovah; which, the Israelites claimed, belonged to none but Israelites.
IV. THE PUNISHMENT WHICH ALL LIKE SIN MERITS.
(W. Wayland, B. A.)
II. THE OCCASION. He was of a quarrelsome, boisterous, and passionate temper, which demonstrates the danger of mixed marriages. For children, like the conclusion of a syllogism, follow the worst part.
III. His HEINOUS ACTION. He both blasphemed and cursed. In the heat and height of contention, what will not graceless persons both say and do? If this man was drunk, it was with frenzy, which made him belch forth blasphemies and horrid execrations out of his black mouth, and blacker gipsy heart.
1. He blasphemed ("Nakab," Hebrew signifies "perforate," to bore through). Thus blasphemers do pierce and strike through the sacred and tremendous name of God. Such diabolical wretches would both "bore" His name and" gore " His person if they could.
2. He cursed ("Kalal," Hebrew signifies "leviter de aliquo loqui,"to vilify and scoff at). Thus he set at naught the God of Israel, against whom, it seems, his quarrel was (saith )more than against that Israelite he quarrelled with. Thus he (like those three unnatural sons, that tried their archery which could shoot nearest their father's heart) shot his arrows at God and cursed himself. Cursing men are cursed men; such dogs come not into heaven by barking (1 Corinthians 6:9, &c.; Revelation 22:15).
IV. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF HIS SUFFERING. AS —
1. He was apprehended as a grand malefactor, even against God Himself; impeaching the Divine honour by blasphemy and cursing out of a deep intestine malignity.
2. This capital offender is carried away to Moses, the chief magistrate, who soon committed him to custody, and probably confined him with chains and fetters; for it is improbable there could properly be any strong prisons in the wilderness, where they lived only in tents. Though Moses might have put him to death by virtue of that law against cursing father, &c. (Exodus 21:17), but the crime being very heinous against God Himself, as he used to do in other arduous cases, so in this he consults with God for a condign punishment.
3. God, the judge of all the earth, denounces his doom, "He shall be stoned": a punishment answerable to his stony heart. Let those that teach their tongues to lie, swear, curse, and blaspheme by a daily custom, consider this severe sentence of God, and what danger hangeth over their heads every day.
4. The people stone him, for —
1. It was a common quarrel to vindicate the contempt cast upon their common Benefactor, from whom they had their being and well-being.
2. That by executing this severity, they might be cautioned from committing the like abominable crime. Thus the reason is rendered, "That all Israel may fear" (Deuteronomy 13:11). And —
3. This was a means to pacify God, by putting away that evil (both person and thing) from among them; whereas His anger would have been incensed against them, had they permitted the blasphemer to pass unpunished. And whereas God had not as yet made a particular law against blasphemy; now upon this particular occasion a general law is here superadded for punishing blasphemers in all succeeding ages (vers. 15, 16).And God ordained also, that the witnesses who heard him blaspheme should lay their hands upon his head when he was to be stoned.
1. To confirm their testimony and the truth of it, that they did not, by slander, take away his innocency, nor, by murder, his life.
2. That his blood might be upon his own head, and that they were not guilty of his sin. If so —
4. This sacrifice of justice expiates wrath from the survivors.
(C. Geikie, D. D.)
(T. De Witt Talmage.).
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