Sunday, 12 March 2017

The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale: Leviticus: Chapter 24 - God and the Half Blood Blasphemer.



A long long long time ago we had a lot of instructions about how God's gaudy place of worship, the Tabernacle, was to be built and furnished and decorated. It's like a tart's boudoir really but with tables for killing animals in it. It's probably how Donald Trump has his penthouse furnished, although even God didn't specify that much gold. Modern day temples are laid out very much in the way specified in Leviticus.

Chapter 24 seems to be a bit all over the place, but it was trying, in a rather awkward way, to make a big point. God had made a sacred covenant with his people and this is his sledgehammer way of making the point. The good thing is though that, after all of these chapters of tedious instructions and rules, now we get a bit of story at last. It's not a very nice story but then this is the Bible, what do you expect?

So first of all we get a short revision of the way that the Tabernacle was to be laid out and used with the priests lighting lamps and making bread and so on.

Then suddenly and inexplicably it jumps off tangentially to a story about a blasphemer. One man, the son of an Israelite woman and an Egyptian, got into a spat with another Israelite man. The undercurrent here is of course that he's a bloody half breed and so what do you expect. More casual racism there from this holy book.

Anyway, during this spat this man of half Egyptian blood uttered something blasphemous. No, really. We are not told what this is, but for added colour let us assume it was God almighty you fight like a girl.

Anyway, word got back to Moses who sought God's guidance. Now, you would think that Moses might have been able to clear this matter up by himself. It couldn't have been the only time that blasphemy was committed after all. But that ignores the purpose of this clumsily inserted story.

So God told Moses to have the blasphemer brought into a circle outside the camp and there he was to be stoned to death. This is like Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu from earlier who also blasphemed by not doing things properly with regard to their priestly duties. They were killed with strange fire and removed from the camp if you recall.

This is all a very clumsy reminder that God is the law and that what he says goes. That just saying his name in vain meant death. But also that all of these other laws and regulations passed over supposedly by Moses in this book were to be treated with the same level of reverence. An eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, make amends for injured beasts and so on. God was the law they were saying and the people who heard this silly story were supposed to be impressed by all of this. We were getting a bit bored by all of this they probably said, but now someone has been stoned to death we are impressed, especially as he was half Egyptian.

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