My wife and I were reading Leviticus 24 this morning, and it struck us that blasphemy is being displayed to be on the same level as murder. The key event in the chapter is an event in which the son of an Israelite woman and Egyptian man ‘blasphemes the Name with a curse’ (24:11). He is brought into custody, and the Lord tells the people that he is to be put to death as a blasphemer. He then adds a number of other commands, headed up with, ‘Anyone who takes the life of a human being is to be put to death’ (24:17). Following this extra series of commands, it is affirmed that Israel is to hold the same law for the foreigner and the native-born, and then the blasphemer is taken outside the camp and stoned.
One impact of this structure is for the hearer to recognise that blaspheming the name of the Lord is like killing a person: both result in forfeiting one’s life. This is shocking. It gave my wife and I a little sympathy for those Pharisees who were so touchy about the issue of blasphemy in Jesus’ day: they weren’t at fault for being touchy about blasphemy; they were at fault for failing to recognise the Name in Jesus.