Recompense for an Offense
Today we come to a story which seems to abruptly appear out of nowhere, and for no logical reason. The Lord has identified a host of things, the last three of which were the Feasts of the Lord, then the care of the lamps, and then the bread in the tabernacle. Now, suddenly, it introduces this passage. This is not unlike a similar account in Numbers 15. There, a person who violates the Sabbath will be introduced, and eventually executed. That appears right in the middle of laws and instructions as well. The placement of these is not arbitrary, but rather intentional.
In this case, feasts being followed by the care for the lamps and the bread, are detailed in order to show attentiveness to the Lord, day in and day out, week in and week out, and even throughout the year. But the name of the Lord is what identifies who He is. To defile the name of the Lord is to bring dishonor to Him. To allow this to be done and not punished on the first recorded offense would make any future punishment arbitrary and vindictive.
Therefore, either His name will now be sanctified among the people, or it would always be open to defilement upon their lips and in their lives. After this will come more calendar events, but this account must precede it in order for those events to be considered in their proper light. The Lord is God, and He is to be regarded as holy – daily, weekly, yearly, and throughout the years to come. Always and forever, the name of the Lord is to be held in the highest sanctity.
Text Verse: “Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek. 4 And as they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily.” Acts 16:1-5
Was the Lord’s name only to be kept in honor and esteem by Israel, among those who were Israelites? Or was the honor of the Lord’s name to be sacred among all who dwelt among Israel as well, even if strangers? The answer is today’s lesson. In Acts, Paul saw something new in his young protege Timothy. He saw a person who was in the same category as the person in our sermon verses today, and yet he was to now be a representative to his own people, Israel. How could they ever be expected to respond to an uncircumcised half-breed when they were the possessors of the law, and the defenders of the Name?
And so as an expediency, Paul circumcised Timothy. In this, it would make their ministry for Jesus, the Name above every name, more likely to succeed among the Jews. Such ironic twists flow like rivers of gold through the pages of Scripture, and they together form a marvelous tapestry of God’s unfolding redemption of the people of the world. Jew, Gentile… we are all accountable to the Lord for who we are, for what we do, and for how we conduct our lives in His presence. This is a truth which is to be found in His superior word. And so let’s turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.
I. Out of Egypt, but Not of Israel (verses 10-12)
10 Now the son of an Israelite woman,
Verses 10 & 11 of this account are the only time that the feminine adjective Yisreelith or “Israelite” is used in the Bible. The patronymic adjective Yisreeli, or Israeli, is also used here, and one more time in 1 Samuel. Thus, there is a stress on this connection which is being highlighted. The term is being used in opposition to “Egyptian.” It has been noted that the name of the mother is given, but that of the father is not, demonstrating that the son left Egypt with the mother, but that the father remained in Egypt. There is nothing to substantiate this. The name of the mother is given, as always, because it is relevant to the story. The name of the father isn’t. Further, it is that she is the Israelite, which is being stressed.
Whether the father is back in Egypt, or with the camp now, alive or dead, young or old, or whatever else – those things are irrelevant and are left unstated. Jewish tradition says that the father was the Egyptian slain by Moses in Exodus 2:11. Again, even if that was true, it is irrelevant to the story. The Bible is providing specifics to focus on, and so they are where our thoughts are to be focused.
10 (con’t) whose father was an Egyptian,
v’hu ben ish mitsri – “and who son (of) man Egypt.” The contrast here is made. There is Israel, and there is Egypt. He was of mixed race, but it is through the father that one’s line is reckoned. He was not a circumcised Hebrew, just as Timothy was not circumcised, despite having a Jewish mother. His father was a Greek. Only when he traveled with Paul among the Jews as an adult was he then circumcised. Having said this, what can be inferred is that this person chose to remain identified with Egypt even after the Exodus. How can we know this? Because in Exodus 12, it said –
“And when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it. 49 One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you.” Exodus 12:48, 49
Because of this, it is without a doubt, that the son did not get circumcised, and he did not observe the Passover. He was simply one of the mixed multitude who joined Israel as they departed. Otherwise, he would have here been reckoned as one native of the land. This is further seen with the next words…
10 (con’t) went out among the children of Israel;
b’tok bene Yisrael – “among (the) children of Israel.” There are two different ideas of what is being said here. One is that it means he “went out of Egypt with the children of Israel.” The other is that he “went into the midst of the children of Israel,” meaning as a non-native, he came into an area of the camp where he was not allowed.
Those who were circumcised and accepted as a part of the congregation dwelt separately from the others. The latter seems the more likely. It is obvious that he went out of Egypt with Israel, but the opposition of the use of the terms Israeli and Egyptian seems to show that they were now identified as separate groups.
10 (con’t) and this Israelite woman’s son and a man of Israel fought each other in the camp.
The word for “fought” is natsah. It is generally used to indicate contention or strife. When Korah rebels against Moses in Numbers 26, this is the word used. We could think of a loud shouting match with fingers pointed and faces flushed. Again, there are several Jewish traditions about why they came to this point. It is not worth repeating them, because the Lord hasn’t told us.
To insert something extra to the account would only muddy what we have been given. There are times when extra-biblical additions can be helpful, and there are times when they are not. There is nothing from those accounts which helps us to understand the overall intent of the passage. It is simply the case that the two fought. One is only the son of a Yisreelith, and one is a Yisreeli.
There is a contrast between the two, just as there was a contrast between Timothy and those he would have to eventually dispute with. This account perfectly explains why Paul circumcised Timothy even though he argues against such a thing vehemently in Galatians for Gentile believers. The Jews could no more accuse Timothy of being a foreigner after being circumcised, than they could say that the words of Exodus 12 were untrue. If asked if he kept the Passover, he could truthfully say, “Yes,” even if he had never sat down to a Passover meal. He had observed the true Passover found in Christ.
The word translated as “blasphemed” is naqav. It means to bore or pierce. It is used elsewhere to “designate or express by name” – either honorably or by reproach. The word “cursed” is qalal. It signifies to make light, trifling, curse, and so on. The words “of the Lord” are inserted by the translators, but are not in the Hebrew.
All it says is “ha’shem, the name,” not ha’shem Yehovah. The only time that the term ha’shem is seen when speaking of the Lord is in Deuteronomy 25:58 when it is used in conjunction with the Divine name, Yehovah. In verse 16, it will say, shem Yehovah, or “name Yehovah,” not ha’shem Yehovah, or “the name, Yehovah.” And finally, the reason for his stoning, as given in verses 14 & 23 is not blaspheme, but because he had cursed.
And so, there is debate as to whether he blasphemed the name of the Lord, or if he exalted the name of an Egyptian god. Even if the latter, which is actually probably correct, he is fighting with a man of Israel, for whatever reason, and he has sworn by the name of an Egyptian god, and then cursed. It would be a high crime to come into the camp and challenge the Lord by invoking an Egyptian god who had done nothing but suffer disgrace at the hand of the Lord when judgment fell upon Egypt.
11 (con’t) and so they brought him to Moses.
The plural indicates that the people understood that a major infraction had taken place. There may have been a discussion among the elders, or the people as a whole may have simply been so upset at what happened, that they manhandled him off to Moses. Moses’ name means, “He who draws out.” He will be the one to draw out from the Lord that which must be done through judgment.
11 (con’t) (His mother’s name was Shelomith
Names are always given for a reason, when given. Three more names are given now, asking us to translate them into meaning. We can know this, because the corresponding account for the Sabbath breaker in Numbers 15 doesn’t give anyone’s name except Moses and Aaron. Here, along with Moses, these are specified.
The name of the offender isn’t given. The name of the man he strived with isn’t given, only the name of the mother, Shelomith, is. The name finds its source in the word shalom. But one cannot get to shalom, or a state of peace, without correcting for any offenses. And an offense has been made. Shelem, a corresponding masculine noun, indicates a peace offering or a sacrifice for alliance or friendship. The name Shelomith looks to be the result of a feminine plural form of this. In this case, it would indicate intensity rather than a plural number. The only such feminine derivative found in the Bible is in Psalm 91 –
In this then, Shelomith indicates a requital, recompense, or retribution. A close synonym would be, “To avenge.” At times in the Bible, the Lord is said to avenge while giving recompense. The name of the Lord has been challenged, and therefore, the name of the Lord will be avenged, while recompensing the offender. Only in this, can there be shalom, or peace, once again.
11 (con’t) the daughter of Dibri,
Another name is given, and thus it is expected to be explained. The name Divri, is used just this once in the Bible. It is derived from the verb davar, or speak. The “i” at the end is either possessive, and so it would mean, “My word,” or it is a reference to Yehovah, and so it would mean, “Word of the Lord.” Either way, in picture the result is the same. The word of the Lord will lead to recompense for the offender.
11 (con’t) of the tribe of Dan.)
The tribe of the individual is named, Dan. Dan means, “Judge.” The given names anticipate the sentence which will follow. The Lord will judge, the man’s life will be forfeit for his misdeed, according to the word of the Lord, and the Lord will recompense the man for his wickedness. However, Israel will be the agent of this action. Should they fail to follow through in making his life an offering of appeasement, there can be no peace. All of this is tied up in what is presented here.
The verse literally says, “And they rested him in custody – to explain to them by (the) mouth (of) Yehovah.” The mouth is what speaks, and thus the spoken word will be the basis for judgment.
What shall be done to the offender of the Name?
What will Moses tell us to do?
Is the judgment for us and for an outsider the same?
Will he be allowed to live, or will we to him bid adieu?
Surely the Name is to be held as sacred
And in sanctity will the Lord hold His name
If not, then any who wishes, on His name they will tread
Ignominy will be the result, ignominy and not fame
We shall wait upon His word to reveal what to do
And what He decides will surely be just and correct
For the Lord is God, holy and true
In Him no unrighteousness will we ever detect
II. The Stone of Israel (verses 13-23)
It goes unstated how the Lord spoke to Moses, so we can only assume that it was in the regular manner where he went into the Most Holy place, and there he spoke directly to the Lord, and the Lord spoke directly in return. The word of the Lord, from the seat of the Lord, is now given…
The same word, qalal, as in verse 11 is given as the basis for the judgment. The one who made a trifling, and thus brought the name of the Lord into contempt, is to be taken outside the camp. The sanctity of the camp meant that no such punishment as will be rendered could take place within it. Just as a leper or any other unclean person was sent outside the camp, so was this man to be taken out of it. He had no part in Israel, and he was to be removed from their sight. Things do not look good for this guy…
14 (con’t) then let all who heard him lay their hands on his head,
The laying of the hands on the head is specified. In the case of the Sabbath breaker of Numbers 15, there is no such instruction given. But here, there is. Those who heard were to place their hands on the man’s head. This seems to be another indication that the person invoked the name of another god. They are witnesses of this and are avowing the name of the Lord as the rightful Judge, and denying the name of the false god at the same time.
The Lord has rendered the judgment through His spoken word, and now recompense upon the individual must be made. Should this not occur, there could be no peace. Another god has been placed as a challenge to the name of the Lord, and this could not stand.
14 (con’t) and let all the congregation stone him.
The word “let” doesn’t do these words justice. It says, “And stone them him all the congregation.” It doesn’t say they could opt out if they wanted to. It simply says that all the people were to stone him. If this was literally carried out by all the people, the pile over him would be massive by the time they were done with the job. It would stand there as a testimony to the severity of the crime.
The Lord has given the punishment for the offender, but now He gives a general law to ensure that there is no question in the people’s minds concerning future violations of this type. There is again a dispute as to what is being referred to here. Some see this as not speaking about the true God at all, and this is probably correct. If someone were to curse the name of his god, he would bear the sin of an idolater.
Death is not mandated for such a thing, but sin is born by those who are, by default, not followers of the Lord. No death penalty is mandated for such a person because he is accountable to the Lord on a completely different level than those who are either followers of the Lord, or who would blaspheme the name of the Lord, even if not His follower.
On the other hand, any person who blasphemes the name of the Lord, whether a follower or not, was to be put to death. The words are emphatic – “stoning, he shall be stoned.”
There is one God, and His name was not to be violated, ever. The words here also seem to confirm what was proposed earlier concerning the Egyptian. First, it says, “the stranger as well as the native.” The stranger could be any person following any religion. If he were to curse the name of his god, who would care? Only the Lord would, who is not considered his God.
And so the Lord would deal with him in due time. But if a stranger among the people blasphemed His name, then it would be an offense worthy of immediate consequences, lest His name be defiled among the people, and degraded in their eyes. Secondly, it says v’noqev shem Yehovah – “and he who blasphemes name Yehovah.” Unlike verse 11, there is no article, no “the,” in front of “name.” And this follows through to the next words…
16 (con’t) When he blasphemes the name of the Lord, he shall be put to death.
b’naqevow shem yumat – “When he blasphemes Name, put to death.” Again, the words “of the Lord” are inserted, and unlike verse 11 there is no article in front of Name. It simply says, shem. Thus, there is a stress on the very idea of His name. It is completely other, completely distinct, and without match or rival. The contrast between verse 11 & here clues us in to what was being referred to there.
It seems curious at first that this, and the following commands, are suddenly placed here, especially as some are repeats of previous commands. But what is being done is including anyone who would commit such crimes within the company of the Lord. The commands previously given pertained solely to Israel. However, it is now understood that anyone within the jurisdiction of Israel was bound to these same laws as well.
The words here say, “And he who strikes all the soul (of a) man.” The implication is murder. There are times when killing was prescribed by the Lord, such as in war, or in capital punishment, like the sentence which was just pronounced. That is not what this is speaking of. Rather, it is the intentional, unjustifiable murder of another. Nobody had the right to kill another without there first being a legal tribunal, even for a blasphemer.
Some laws concerning animals were given in Exodus 21. Those dealt with different matters than this. This is a provision of lex talionis or retaliation in kind (like for like), whereby a punishment resembles the offense committed in kind and degree. If someone purposefully killed another animal he was to replace it, in kind.
The obvious reason for this inclusion is to show that an animal is not in the same category as man. There can be no justification for anyone to find guilt beyond replacement for the killing of an animal. It is a precept which has become fashionably ignored in modern society where animals are placed in an unhealthy level of supposed dignity, at times bordering on that of humans.
The same punishment for blaspheming the name of the Lord was given to one who murders another, and rightfully so as the man is made in the image of God. But such was not, and is not, to be the case with an animal.
The word mum, or defect, is used here. Should someone do something to another to cause a defect in him, then the law of lex talionis was to be enacted. Though seemingly harsh, this law is actually as much a curb on retribution as it is a means of punishment. No greater punishment was to be meted out than that which had been inflicted. Thus the punishee was not to be unduly or overly punished.
If Vic McGregg broke Sam’s leg
Then Sam could do the same in turn…but he could do no more.
If he were to instead, crack him on the head
Vic McGregg’s punishment would have been overly sore.
And so to break Vic’s leg is what the law says should be
And when that was over, Vic and Sam could make up
And they could together hobble home clumsily
20 (con’t) eye for eye,
If Jim poked out Tom’s eye… out of spite
We know that wouldn’t be right
And so the law says that Tom could do the same to Jim in turn
And so, from this loss of his own sight
Jim would his lessen learn
20 (con’t) tooth for tooth;
If Jay punched Alex and knocked out his tooth
Alex could not in turn break Jay’s arm
Instead he got to knock out Jay’s tooth too
But maybe Alex still suffered the greater harm
Because Jay’s whistle became pronounced
And it incessantly announced
What Alex in retaliation to Jay did do
20 (con’t) as he has caused disfigurement of a man, so shall it be done to him.
Any disfigurement, of any type, was to be paid in kind, but the punishment was to go no further. The Lord’s decision in this was intended as a curb against any initial offense, and it was intended as a curb against excessive retaliation, either by the individual, or by an unjust court.
Here we have a shortened repeat of verses 17 & 18. They are reversed as well. Here, the Hebrew simply says, “He who strikes a beast,” and “…he who strikes a man.” If one were to read this verse only, they might come to the conclusion that merely striking another man, whether death occurred or not, was worthy of death. Therefore, the words must be considered in connection with the passage, and not alone. The intent is to strike and kill.
But the reason for the repetition is to again stress the difference between animals and humans. It cannot be considered murder to kill an animal, and it must be considered murder to kill a man. Further, the word for “man” here is adam, not ish. It is not speaking of a man, as in an adult male, but rather as a member of the human race – one of mankind.
Although the perverse would say there is a difference between a human in the womb, and a human born from the womb, the Bible does not make this distinction. Biblically, the life of the human is one which begins at conception. The logical, moral, and correct evaluation of this then is that to kill a human in the womb is murder, and it is worthy of death. What our society, and the world at large finds acceptable, will be judged by the all-righteous, always moral, and perfectly just God.
Again, the words here hearken back to verse 16, and that in turn takes us back to the account of the son of the Egyptian and the Israelite woman. There were two groups of people at the camp that were to be held to the same standard. Upon arrival in Canaan, the same would be true with any foreigner to the people of Israel.
If they received the benefits of residing in the jurisdiction of the people Israel, they were to be bound to these same laws as the people of Israel. What they did with and towards their own gods was not to be of concern to the Israelites as long as it was not otherwise forbidden by the Lord. But what they did, to and towards both the Lord, and the Lord’s people was. This was because…
22 (con’t) for I am the Lord your God.’”
ki ani Yehovah elohekem – “for I am Yehovah your God.” They are the Lord’s people; He is their God; and so anything which affected either them in this capacity, or Him as being in this position, was to be considered equal for all people who dwelt within His boundaries. The emphasis stands because the offender of verse 11 was not a member of the covenant people, but he was within the jurisdiction of the Lord nonetheless. Because of this, Moses now has words for the people to hear…
Moses has drawn out from the Lord that which was needed to resolve the dilemma of the congregation. And with that, he speaks forth the word. Here, it doesn’t say, “Then Moses spoke to all the people.” Instead, it says that he spoke to bene Yisrael – the “children of Israel.” Although it is a standard form of address, it is they who have been given the full authority, from this point forward, to deal with all cases of blasphemy. Such was the desire of the people towards Jesus as is recorded in John 8:54-59 –
Jesus answered, “If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. 55 Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”
The same type of attempt against the Lord was made again in John 10. Thus we have another one of the ironies of the Bible before us. The Lord who gave the commandment of stoning for blaspheme against His name, was treated as a blasphemer. And the people, who bore the authority of His name, attempted to stone Him. Such was not to be the case however. Christ would die in fulfillment of Scripture, but it would not be by stoning at the hands of Israel. It would be by crucifixion on a tree.
23 (con’t) and they took outside the camp him who had cursed, and stoned him with stones.
The Hebrew reads, “and stoned him stone.” It is singular. In Numbers 15, the corresponding account of the Sabbath breaker says, ba’abanmin, or with stones, but here it simply says, aben, or stone. The man has blasphemed the name of the Lord, and though the congregation is instructed to destroy the man, it is the Lord who is the Judge and who made the decision, and therefore it is by the Stone of Israel, the Lord Yehovah, that the man was destroyed.
He the Judge (Dan), spoke the word (Divri), and recompense (Shelomith) was made upon the man for his transgression. Surely the Bible is true when it says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). And surely we can see why the names of the people were specifically included in the account of this passage.
*23 (fin) So the children of Israel did as the Lord commanded Moses.
The offering of the violator’s life, if it can be so termed, has been made. The name of the Lord has been sanctified, and the obedience of the people has been proven. Though this is a remarkable example of such obedience, an abundance of examples of failure lie ahead. It is a chronic problem with Israel, and it is a chronic problem with us.
It is easy to find fault in others, and it is an easy thing indeed to execute judgment when a reward for doing so can be expected. But it is a much harder thing to find fault in our own actions, and it is a terribly hard thing to ferret out those who are offenders when there is no perceived benefit, and maybe even loss to do so.
How many churches turn a blind eye to sin because they would rather have the donations coming in! How many of us would turn a blind eye to sin because it involves a loved one, and thus the consequences for taking a stand against what they are doing will cause a disruption in our own lives?
Are we willing to put the word of God and His commands for our lives first? And even more, are we willing to defend the honor and sanctity of the Lord’s name above all else? He cherishes His name, and He safeguards it as the most precious thing – because it is. His name reveals who He is, and His name defines everything about Him. Is our relationship with Him in understanding of this? Is our reverence of Him in accord with this?
Let us endeavor to live with the thought in our mind that the Lord is indeed holy; He is indeed good; and He is indeed righteous and just. In keeping this understanding of who He is in our minds, we will then be in a better position to honor Him, to bring Him glory, and to be attentive to our lowly state in His magnificent presence.
Closing Verse: “For I proclaim the name of the Lord:
Ascribe greatness to our God.
4 He is the Rock, His work is perfect;
For all His ways are justice,
A God of truth and without injustice;
Righteous and upright is He.” Deuteronomy 32:3, 4
Next Week: Leviticus 25:1-7 A provision marvelous and grand… (The Sabbath of the Land) (45th Leviticus Sermon)
The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. Even if you have a lifetime of sin heaped up behind you, He can wash it away and purify you completely and wholly. So follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.
Recompense for an Offense
Now the son of an Israelite woman
Whose father was an Egyptian
Went out among the children of Israel
According to the account’s description
And this Israelite woman’s son and a man of Israel
Fought each other in the camp, so the word does tell
And the Israelite woman’s son
Blasphemed the name of the Lord and cursed
And so they brought him to Moses
Because of his irreverent outburst
His mother’s name was Shelomith the daughter of Dibri
Of the tribe of Dan was her family tree
Then they put him in custody, probably holed up alone
That the mind of the Lord to them might be shown
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying
“Take outside the camp him who has cursed
Then let all who heard him lay their hands on his head
And let all the congregation stone him
———- for his unholy outburst
“Then you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying:
‘Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin, so I am to you relaying
And whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord
Shall surely be put to death, be sure to understand
All the congregation shall certainly stone him
The stranger as well as him who is born in the land
When he blasphemes the name of the Lord
He shall be put to death, according to this word
‘Whoever kills any man shall surely be put to death
So you shall extinguish his life, ending his breath
Whoever kills an animal shall make it good
Animal for animal; ensure this is understood
‘If a man causes disfigurement of his neighbor
As he has done, so shall it be done to him, most certainly
Fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth
As he has caused disfigurement of a man
———-so it shall be done to him, so shall it be
And whoever kills an animal shall restore it
But whoever kills a man shall be put to death, so to you I submit
You shall have the same law for the stranger
And for one from your own country as well
For I am the Lord your God
You shall do these things as to you I tell
Then Moses spoke to the children of Israel
And they took outside the camp him who had cursed
And stoned him with stones
So the children of Israel did as the Lord commanded Moses
———-for the man’s unholy outburst
Thank You, O God, for this hope You have given to us
As sons of Adam we are dead in sin
But through Your Son we are made alive, yes, through Jesus
A new and eternal life we have been granted to live in
And so may we reverence Your name always, O Lord
And cling fast to the truths of Your superior word
Praise You! Praise You O God. Yes, hear our praise
That which our hearts will sing to You for eternal days
Hallelujah and Amen…