Tuesday, May 30th, 2023
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Pett's Commentary on the Bible Pett's Commentary
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Leviticus 24". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ pet/ leviticus-24.html. 2013.
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Leviticus 24". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://studylight.org/
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The Law of Holiness (Leviticus 17-27).
The main section of the Book of Leviticus is constructed on a definite pattern. It commences with a description of the offerings and sacrifices of Israel (chapters 1-7), and ends with a description of the times and seasons as they are required of Israel (chapters 23-25). It continues with the establishment of the priesthood (chapters 8-10), which is balanced by the section on the maintenance of the holiness of the priesthood (chapters 21-22). This is then followed by the laws of uncleanness (chapters 11-15) which are balanced by the laws of holiness (chapters 17-20). And central to the whole is the Day of Atonement (chapter 16).
This second part of the book has been spoken of as ‘The Holiness Code’. We may balance this by calling chapters 1-15 ‘The Priestly Code’. The first part certainly has a priestly emphasis, for the priests control the offerings and sacrifices (chapters 1-7) and administer the laws of cleanness and uncleanness (chapters 11-15), and the second part a holiness emphasis. But this must not be over-emphasised. The whole book is mainly addressed to the people, it is for their benefit as God’s covenant people, and the maintenance of the holiness of the priests is just as important in the second half. It is to be seen as a whole.
We may thus analyse it as follows (note the chiasm):
1). THE PRIESTLY CODE (chapters 1-15).
a) Offerings and Sacrifices (chapters 1-7) b) Establishment of the Priesthood (chapters 8-10) c) The Laws of Cleanness and Uncleanness (chapters 11-15)
2) THE DAY OF ATONEMENT (Leviticus 16:0)
3) THE HOLINESS CODE (chapters 17-25)
c) The Laws of Holiness (chapters 17-19) b) Maintenance of the Holiness of the Priesthood (chapters 20-22) a) Times and Seasons (chapters 23-25).
As will be seen the Day of Atonement is central and pivotal, with the laws of cleanness and uncleanness and the laws of holiness on each side. This central section is then sandwiched between the establishment of the priesthood (chapters 10-12) and the maintenance of the holiness of the priesthood (chapters 20-22). And outside these are the requirements concerning offerings and sacrifices (chapters 1-7) and the requirements concerning times and seasons (chapters 23-25).
So the Holiness Code may be seen as a suitable description of this second half of the book as long as we do not assume by that that it was once a separate book. The description in fact most suitably applies to chapters 19-22. It describes what Israel is to be, as made holy to Yahweh.
It was as much a necessary part of the record as what has gone before. The Book would have been incomplete without it. The Book of Leviticus is, as it claims, the record of a whole collection of revelations made to Moses at various times, brought together in one book, and carefully constructed around the central pivot of the Day of Atonement. There is no good reason for doubting this, and there are possible indications of colophons to various original records which help to substantiate it. It was the necessary basis for the establishment of the religion of Yahweh for a conglomerate people.
So having in what we know of as the first sixteen chapters of the Book laid down the basis of offerings and sacrifices (chapters 1-7), the establishment of the Priesthood (chapters 8-10), the laws of cleanness and uncleanness (chapters 11-15), and the requirements of the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:0), the whole would have been greatly lacking had Moses not added some further detail of the holiness that God required of His people and of His priests.
The former is contained in Leviticus 17:1 to Leviticus 20:27. In this section Moses deals with the sacredness of all life (Leviticus 17:0), the sexual relationships which can defile (Leviticus 18:0), and the positive requirements for holiness in the covenant (Leviticus 19-20).
It is then followed by the further section dealing with the maintenance of the holiness of the priesthood (Leviticus 21:1 to Leviticus 22:16), with Leviticus 22:17-33 forming a transition from speaking to the priests to speaking to the people.
Chapters 23-25 then deal with sacred times and seasons, including the seven day Sabbath (Leviticus 23:1-3), the set feasts of Israel (Leviticus 23:4-44), the daily trimming of the lamps and the weekly offering of showbread (Leviticus 24:1-9), the Sabbatical year (Leviticus 25:1-7), and the year of Yubile (Leviticus 25:8-55). Included in this is a practical example of blasphemy against the Name (Leviticus 24:10-23), which parallels the practical example of priestly blasphemy in Leviticus 10:1-7. Thus practical examples of the blasphemy of both priests and people are included as warnings.
Leviticus 26:0 seals the book with the promises of blessings and cursings regular in covenants of this period, and closes with the words ‘these are the statutes and judgments and laws which Yahweh made between him and the children of Israel in Mount Sinai by the hand of Moses’ (Leviticus 26:46). Leviticus 27:0 is then a postscript on vows and how they can lawfully be withdrawn from, and closes with a reference to tithing, the sanctifying of a tenth of all their increase to Yahweh.
Chapters 11-15 dealt with the uncleannesses of Israel, leading up to the Day when all uncleannesses were atoned for (Leviticus 16:0). But the Day of Atonement covered far more than those. It covered every way in which the covenant had been broken. It also covers the direct transgressions of Israel. Leviticus 17:0 onwards therefore deals further with the basis of the covenant against which they ‘transgressed’ and for which they also needed atonement. Chapters 11-15 dealt with practical matters considering what was ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ as they faced daily life, these chapters from 17 onwards now deal with the basis on which they should live their lives as Yahweh’s holy people, and the attitudes that they should have. They deal with prospective sin and disobedience. The former were more within the cultic section up to Leviticus 16:0, but the latter are firmly directed at the people’s moral response, so that their responsibilities under the covenant might be made clear directly to them. The distinction must not be overpressed. They are all still, of course, cultic, but the latter from a less direct viewpoint. They do not have so much to do with priestly oversight. They come more under the jurisdiction of the elders.
There is, however, no change of direction in overall thought. The whole of Leviticus emphasises holiness from start to finish. There is not a change of emphasis only a change of presentation because God is now directly involving the people.
It must, however, be firmly asserted that, as we shall see in the commentary, there is nothing in what follows that requires a date after the time of Moses. Having been given by God control of a conglomerate people (Exodus 12:38), with a nucleus made up of descendants from the family and family servants of the patriarchs (Exodus 1:0 - ‘households’), he had to fashion them into a covenant keeping nation under Yahweh and provide the basis on which they could be one nation and kept in full relationship with their Overlord. It was precisely because the disparate peoples believed that his words came from God that they were willing mainly to turn their backs on their past usages and customs and become one nation under Yahweh, culminating in them all being circumcised into the covenant when they entered the land (Joshua 5:0).
And with such a conglomeration of people with their differing religious ideas, customs and traditions, it is clear that this could only have been successfully achieved by putting together a complete religious system which was a revelation from Yahweh, which would both keep them together as one people and would ensure that when they reached Canaan they would have no excuse for taking part in the Canaanite religious practises such as he knew of from his time of administration in Egypt and from his time with the Priest of Midian. Had they arrived in Canaan without a single binding system, they would soon have fallen prey (as they almost did anyway) to the attractions of Canaanite religion. It was only the firm foundation that Moses had laid (combined with God’s own powerful activities) that finally resulted in their rising above their backslidings, and in their constantly turning back to Yahwism, because Moses had rooted it so deeply within them. And this finally enabled the establishing of the nation under Samuel and David after times of great turmoil.
This system did not come all at once. He had to begin instructing them soon after the crossing of the Reed Sea (Exodus 15:26), and a system gradually grew up (Exodus 17:13-16) as they went along, based as we learn later on a tent of meeting set outside the camp (Exodus 33:7-11), until at Sinai the book of the covenant (Exodus 20:1 to Exodus 23:33) was written down as a result of God’s words to the people and to Moses. Then in his time in the Mount this was expanded on. But it would continue to be expanded on in the days to come, until the time came when Moses knew that he had to accumulate in one record all the regulations concerning sacrifices, priesthood and the multitude of requirements that went along with them. By this time he had much material to draw on.
For leaders from different groups had no doubt been constantly coming to him for direction and leadership (Exodus 16:22), and especially for those who were not firmly established in the customs of Israel he no doubt had to deal with a wide number of diversified queries, and seek God’s will about them. This explains why sometimes the collections may not always seem as having been put together in as logical order as they might have been. They partly depended on what questions he had been asked, and what particular problems had arisen, and what particular issues were important at the time. But it was on the basis of all this activity that we have the Book of Leviticus as a part of the wider Pentateuch.
Our Times Are To Be In His Hands (Leviticus 23:1 to Leviticus 25:55 ).
We now come to the final section of the book before the listing of the blessings and cursings, which deals with different aspects of how Israel should celebrate and regulate the passing of time. In the make-up of the book this parallels the section dealing with offerings and sacrifices (chapters 1-7). All their lives were to be an offering to God.
Leviticus 23:0 covers the Sabbath and the religious festivals which were to be celebrated at different times in the year throughout the years (a year of twelve moon periods, with an extra intercalary moon period added when necessary in order to keep the seasons in line), chapter 24 covers the daily and weekly indicators of the passage of time in the tabernacle, and Leviticus 25:0 looks at the longer outlook and includes instructions concerning the sabbatical year, which was to come every seven years, and the year of jubile which was to come every fifty years. The whole of their lives in both the short and the long term were to be seen as regulated by, and under the control of, Yahweh.
Chapter 24 Ministrations In The Tabernacle: All Life is Continually Watched Over By Yahweh; The Man Who Cursed The Name.
Having established the importance of the seven-day Sabbath, and the set periods of sevens over the year when His people will gather to worship Him and renew the covenant, he now goes on to deal with the day by day ministry in the Tabernacle which will demonstrate Yahweh’s continual interest in and concern over His people. For His watch over them is not only on the Sabbath, and at special times and seasons, but day by day, and week by week over the years and the centuries. They are ever remembered before Him.
The Israelites had no theoretical concept of time. Indeed they had no word for time. All their time words spoke of the passage of time. But they were very conscious of that passage of time, and were concerned to know that as time went by, Yahweh was always with them. This was what the Sabbath and the feasts of Israel assured them of. He controlled the times and the seasons, and He was over all time. Through all they were in His hands.
But they were also assured of it daily in the Tabernacle. For Yahweh graciously assured them of it through the continual burning in the Holy Place of the seven-branched golden lampstand, and through the Bread of the Presence (the ‘bread of the face’) set continually on the holy table.
The sevenfold golden lampstand, representing divinely perfect (sevenfold) light, revealed the One Who was the Light of the world, and was symbolic of the presence of God among His people, calling to remembrance the pillar of fire and all the times when God had revealed Himself in fire. He was the One Who gave light to Israel in deliverance (Exodus 13:21; Exodus 14:20 compare Psalms 18:28; Psalms 27:1; Psalms 36:9; Psalms 43:3; Psalms 78:14; Psalms 105:39; Psalms 112:4; Psalms 118:27; Psalms 119:105; Psalms 119:130; Isaiah 60:1). The ‘light of His face’ is a regular expression (Psalms 4:6; Psalms 89:15; Psalms 90:8). It was a reminder that behind the veil, at least at the beginning, was revealed the full glory of Yahweh, but that in the Holy Place His reflection was, as it were, revealed more dimly and more bearably in the lampstand that the priests could look on. It shone brightly on in the darkness.
This is confirmed by the fact that Jesus applied the same picture to Himself when He called Himself the Light of the world (John 8:12; John 9:5). It is the constant stress of John’s Gospel that God’s light had come among us (John 1:4; John 1:9; John 1:14; John 3:19), His lampstand in a dark world (John 9:5), to be later represented by seven lampstands representing His people (Revelation 1:12-13).
It is stressed that all Israel contributed the olive oil in order to keep the flame burning continually. While the flame shone they knew that He was there and that they were His people. And it was up to them to ensure that it remained so.
In the Old Testament a man’s life was often called his ‘lamp’ (Job 21:17; Proverbs 20:20; Proverbs 24:20 see also 2 Samuel 21:17; 1 Kings 11:36), and this golden lampstand was God’s perfect sevenfold lamp, representative of Himself, of His life, of Himself as the living God. Thus the lampstand represents the very life of God present with His people.
This was gloriously illustrated in Zechariah 4:0 where the two sons of oil who stood by ‘the Lord of the whole earth’ (Zechariah 4:14), and stood by the lampstand, received ‘the golden (oil)’ from the golden lampstand (Zechariah 4:12) as the anointed ones of Yahweh. However we translate that verse in context ‘the golden’ can only come from the golden lampstand, the only golden thing mentioned. The lampstand thus signified the presence of the living God, the Lord of the whole earth, Who would work through His Spirit, and the seven lamps were the seven eyes of Yahweh, the all-knowingness of God (verse 10), active throughout the earth. The olive trees were the instruments though which He worked, those whom He had anointed, who received ‘the golden’ from the lampstand upon themselves. (Incidentally you do not pipe oil from an olive tree).
So the sevenfold lampstand here represents divine life, and indicates that God is ever present with His people and is ready to illuminate them and to show His power in a divinely perfect way, just as in Zechariah 4:0 it represented the living God, ‘the Lord of the whole earth’, fully present and fully aware and able to impart life and power through His Spirit.
( Note. While this contradicts the commonly held view that the lampstand in Zechariah 4:0 represents God’s people as a witness fed by the olive trees, that view is not at all borne out by a careful examination of the narrative in Zechariah 4:0 and the applications actually given there. If we look for the interpretation in the passage, that is not the picture it presents at all. The lampstand was rather declared in the passage to be symbolising (1) the Lord of the whole earth (Zechariah 4:14), (2) the Spirit of God as empowering Zerubbabel (Zechariah 4:6), and (3) the seven eyes of Yahweh (Zechariah 4:10). It is true that the seven lampstands in Revelation did represent God’s witness in the churches but central to them as lampstands was the glorious Son of Man, like the sun shining in its strength. It was He Who was manifested through the churches, the Light of the world shining through His people, and Who was the mainspring of His people. He it was Who was the equivalent of the stem of the sevenfold lampstand. The church had become one with Him and was part of His revelation of Himself as the light of the world (John 8:12 with Matthew 5:14), just as it was also the Suffering Servant (Acts 13:47). But that was progressive revelation. In Zechariah 4:0 the golden lampstand was the living God, with the seven lamps that were His active eyes, and Who fed the olive trees, the servants of God, with golden oil, in Revelation 1:0 the Son of Man, the living Christ Who shone like the sun, ‘fed’ the lampstands. The final idea was similar).
And as the lampstand was a reminder of God present in fire among His people, the ‘light of His face’, so was the ‘Bread of the face’ a reminder of the Manna that God had provided for His people. So did they pray that He would continually supply them with bread. And so do we look constantly to Him Who is the true manna, the Bread of Life (John 6:35).
This Is The Word Of Yahweh.
‘And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,’
Once again we are assured that these are Yahweh’s words through Moses.
The Golden Lampstand (Leviticus 24:2-4 ).
“Command the children of Israel, that they bring unto you pure olive oil beaten for the light, to cause a lamp to burn continually. Without the veil of the testimony, in the tent of meeting, shall Aaron keep it in order from evening to morning before Yahweh continually. It shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations. He shall keep in order the lamps on the pure lampstand before Yahweh continually.”
In the tabernacle, in the Holy Place outside the veil, was the seven-branched golden lampstand (Exodus 25:31-37). This represented the perfect light of God shining in Israel (see above). While it shone out God was present with His people. This light had to be maintained by Aaron, the High Priest, so that one of its lamps burned ‘continually’, fed with olive oil specifically provided by the people of Israel. Whether God remained with His covenant people or not depended on them. Its sevenfoldness declared the perfection of God’s light. It declared that day after day, on and on throughout their generations, God was present with His people, ready to act if they were responsive to Him. In Zechariah 4:0 we have an illustration of that action (see above).
But the prime emphasis here in line with the emphasis in this part of Leviticus is on the people’s responsibility. This was to provide pure oil for the lamp so that it could burn continually. Aaron is then to ensure that it maintains its function day by day continually (see Exodus 25:37-38; Exodus 30:7-8; Exodus 40:4; Numbers 4:9; Numbers 8:2-3 compare 2 Chronicles 13:11).
The Showbread (Leviticus 24:5-9 ).
The showbread consisted of twelve large cakes placed on the table in the Holy Place. It was the responsibility of the sons of Kohath (1 Chronicles 9:32). The number twelve suggests that the cakes represented in one way or another the twelve tribes of Israel. But the fact that they are eaten by the priests is against literal identification with the twelve tribes (although the argument could be used that once the new replaced the old the symbolism ceased for the old so that they could be disposed of conveniently).
To interpret their significance we need to look at the situation carefully. They were twelve, they were placed on the golden table, they were before Yahweh for seven days, part was then offered as a sacrifice made by fire (and thus had not ceased to be symbolic), and the remainder was eaten by the priests.
Twelve connects them with the twelve tribes, their being brought in and placed on the golden table suggests that they were a kind of grain offering, that they were before Yahweh for seven days (a divine period) suggests that they were being drawn to His attention, that part was offered as an offering made by fire confirms that they are an offering, and that part is eaten by the priests as most holy confirms His acceptance of that offering. It would appear then that we are to see in these twelve loaves a symbol of the whole of God’s physical provision for His people, and of the people’s gratitude for it, a perpetual grain offering before Yahweh. As ever the eating is not even hinted at as being intended to be by God, it is by the priests.
But we need not doubt that they would also be a reminder of the Manna. That was the bread on which God had fed His people continually. Pieces of it lay within the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh (Exodus 16:33). Here in the ante-room, as with the light, was its visible reminder.
“And you shall take milled grain, and bake twelve cakes with it: two tenth parts of an ephah shall be in one cake. And you shall set them in two rows, six on a row, on the pure table before Yahweh.”
Like the lampstand the table is also ‘pure’ (compare 2 Chronicles 13:11). It receives on God’s behalf this continual offering of the twelve baked cakes which symbolise God’s provision for His people in the grain, the people’s activity in the milling and the baking, and their worship in the frankincense. They are a continual grain offering, and are a continual reminder to Him of His people.
“And you shall put pure frankincense on each row, that it may be to the bread for a memorial, even an offering made by fire to Yahweh.”
On the bread is placed the frankincense. This is primarily intended to be a pleasing odour to Yahweh, an act of worship and homage (compare Psalms 141:2; Malachi 1:11; Jeremiah 6:20; Jeremiah 18:15), but it may also represent the outside world from which it comes (this is not the product of His people, but of Arabia - Jeremiah 6:20) who are also to be seen as under His overlordship. See notes on Leviticus 2:1-2. It is a memorial to be offered by fire to Yahweh while the bread will be eaten by the priests.
“Every sabbath day he shall set it in order before Yahweh continually; it is on the behalf of the children of Israel, an everlasting covenant.”
Again the continuity of time is emphasised. It is to be set before Yahweh every Sabbath day, it is set on behalf of the children of Israel, and it is for an everlasting covenant. It represents the oneness of Yahweh with His people in their lives in continuity and emphasises their covenant responsibility. The aim is a continual act of worship and that it will result in His provision of their needs as promised in the covenant, for ever.
“And it shall be for Aaron and his sons; and they shall eat it in a holy place, for it is most holy to him of the offerings of Yahweh made by fire by a perpetual statute.”
And in the end, like all grain offerings, once the memorial has been offered by fire to Yahweh, the remainder is for the priests as a most holy thing. It is indeed the most holy of the offerings made by fire to Yahweh. And this too is for a perpetual statute like the non-eating of fat and blood (Leviticus 3:17); the priesthood (Exodus 29:9); and the sprinkling of the water of purification for those who have been in contact with a dead human being (Numbers 19:21).
So the stress with regard to the lampstand and the showbread is on their continual nature day by day and Sabbath by Sabbath before Yahweh, representing Yahweh’s presence with His people as their covenant God and His continual dealings with them over time as His covenant people, and His continual provision for them, into the far distant future. But both depend on His people’s response.
But we who are more privileged enjoy a greater blessing. We walk in His light (1 John 1:7) because we have the light of life (John 8:12) and have His light continually in our hearts. We are the children of light (John 12:36). And we partake continually of Him as the Bread of Life (John 6:35).
Blasphemy Against The Name (Leviticus 24:10-14 ).
In the midst of all the ritual instructions in the first part of the book came the practical example as a warning of the sons of Aaron who offered strange fire before Yahweh. It was a warning that the ritual must be carried out meticulously. Now here in the second part of the book, which concentrates more on the practical expression of the covenant and its moral demands as associated closely with the name of Yahweh (we have noted the continual stress on ‘I am Yahweh’ in Leviticus 18-22), comes a practical example of the danger of blaspheming the Name. God’s instructions are not to be taken lightly.
‘And the son of an Israelitish woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the children of Israel; and the son of the Israelitish woman and a man of Israel strove together in the camp, and the son of the Israelitish woman blasphemed the Name, and cursed; and they brought him to Moses. And his mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan.’
An incident takes place in which a man ‘blasphemes the Name and curses’. His father was an Egyptian and his mother a true-born Israelite whose genealogy can be traced. These were the facts. However the Egyptian had no doubt become a partaker in the covenant (Exodus 24:0) and identified himself with a tribe, probably the tribe of Dan, as had all the ‘mixed multitude’ which had come out of Egypt. The description is not derogatory but because the man had no antecedents in the tribe. The contempt is revealed in the failure to give the name of either the son or the father. The son has made himself a nonentity and an outcast whose name was not to be mentioned. But the mention of ‘an Egyptian’ would have the underlying significance that this was something that harked back to the influence of Egypt.
The incident was merely a brawl between this man and an Israelite, but the crime lay in the blasphemy against the Name. It would appear that he cursed Yahweh in disobedience against the third commandment (Exodus 20:7).
‘And they put him in ward, that it might be declared to them at the mouth of Yahweh.’
As it was the first time that this had happened he was kept under guard until they could discover from Yahweh what should be done with him.
‘And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, “Bring forth him who has cursed outside the camp; and let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him.”
Moses approaches Yahweh about what should be done and Yahweh gives His verdict. It is given in such a way that the man’s crime is compared and contrasted with what are seen as the worst sins of men, harm against the person.
In it He commands that the man was to be brought outside the camp, identified with the laying on of hands by those who had heard him, and then stoned by the whole congregation. This latter would mean that the whole congregation was gathered together for the judgment and execution, while some of their representatives actually hurled the stones on their behalf. The point is that all are a part of the execution.
One reason for the method of execution was probably so that the man would not need to be touched once the execution began. The man could be buried under the cairn of stones. But it may be significant that he was not burned with fire. This may have been because he could not be devoted to Yahweh because of his crime.
Instructions Arising From The Incident (Leviticus 24:15-23 ).
The incident, and the execution, followed by these instructions, are intended to bring out the sacredness of life and the awfulness of the crime. It was true that life was sacred, but for one who had cursed or blasphemed God, or who took human life, it was forfeit.
The instructions cover all forms of assault moving downwards: cursing God (spiritual weapons against a spiritual God), blaspheming the Name (ditto), deliberate murder, killing an animal belonging to another, physically harming a neighbour. Each strikes at a life principle and they move from high to low, and punishment is to be tempered to the level of the crime. By so listing these greatest of crimes in descending order the enormity of what this man has done is brought out.
The punishments are also in descending order. Death by stoning (in both cases of crime against God), death, full substitution, like for like.
“And you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying, Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin.”
Anyone who curses God will ‘bear his sin’, that is will be judged and punished accordingly as previously declared by God in Leviticus 24:14.
“And he who blasphemes the name of Yahweh, he shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the sojourner, as the home-born, when he blasphemes the Name , shall be put to death.”
Anyone who blasphemes the Name of Yahweh will surely be put to death. In this case the crime is so serious that the whole congregation will be gathered and participate in the execution as in the example above. This applies to all, both home-born and resident alien. Anyone who comes under the authority of Israel is bound by this requirement.
“And he who smites any man mortally shall surely be put to death.”
A man who deliberately slays another shall be put to death. Provision is to be made elsewhere for one who does so accidentally. For such the cities of refuge are provided.
“And he who smites a beast mortally shall make it good, life for life.”
Anyone who slays a beast belonging to another will replace it with another its equal.
“And if a man cause a blemish in his neighbour; as he has done, so shall it be done to him, breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he has caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be rendered to him.”
But if anyone cause a blemish in his neighbour this is not to be the reason for a revenge killing. Rather the punishment shall be limited to the same blemish being given to the guilty party. The purpose of this law was to prevent revenge killings and put a limit on the extent of punishment, while still satisfying the sense of justice of the injured party. In practise satisfactory compensation would no doubt often have been agreed on and accepted. This was merely the maximum that could be demanded.
“And he who kills a beast shall make it good: and he who kills a man shall be put to death.”
This now summarises the two main principles above to make clear the differences in punishment for different deaths. It differentiates quite clearly between capital punishment for a human death and some other form of punishment for a beast’s death. It is to stress that no one must be slain because of the death of a beast, but that human life is sacred so that the murder of a human being must result in death for the perpetrator. Both these were something on which there must be no doubt. Death for death only applies to when a man is slain. (Hotheads ever needed to be reminded of this).
“You shall have one manner of law, as well for the sojourner, as for the home-born. For I am Yahweh your God.
All laws are to be applied equally to home-born and resident alien. Both are to be treated equally. For Yahweh is their God and He is totally just and fair.
‘And Moses spoke to the children of Israel; and they brought forth him who had cursed out of the camp, and stoned him with stones. And the children of Israel did as Yahweh commanded Moses.’
Then Moses communicated God’s decision about the man and he was taken out of the camp and stoned with stones. It is stressed that all the people did as Yahweh commanded Moses. All were appalled at the blasphemy.
The placing of this incident here would seem to be because it follows the examples of Yahweh’s continual daily and weekly presence with and watch over His people. The sons of Aaron had sinned grievously in the responsibility that was theirs as priests, this man had sinned grievously against the very light of Israel. It was a warning of the fact that God’s presence among His people made them a holy people, and that to dishonour His name in any way could only bring supreme judgment.