“A man whose mother was an Israelite and whose father was an Egyptian came out among the people of Israel. The Israelite woman’s son and a certain Israelite began fighting in the camp. The Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the Name in a curse. They brought him to Moses. Now his mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan. They put him in custody until the decision of Yahweh should be made clear to them.”
What happens when there is a fight? Here is the story of an unnamed son of Shelomith, who was the daughter of Dibri, from the tribe of Dan, whose father was Egyptian. It is not clear whether the father was in the camp or was left behind in Egypt. This Shelomith appears five times in the biblical writings, but there are others with the same name. Her unnamed son got into a fight with another unnamed Israelite and Shelomith’s son blasphemed the Name in a curse. This Name would have been Yahweh. He blasphemed, abused or spoke irreverently about, the name of God, a very serious crime. They brought him to Moses and put him in custody.
“Yahweh said to Moses. ‘Take the blasphemer outside the camp. Let all who were within hearing lay their hands upon his head. Let the whole congregation stone him. Speak to the people of Israel, saying, that anyone who curses God shall bear the sin. One who blasphemes the name of Yahweh shall be put to death. The whole congregation shall stone the blasphemer. Aliens as well as citizens, when they blaspheme the Name, shall be put to death.’”
Moses went to Yahweh and he responded with a simple answer, anyone who curses God shall bear the sin. One who blasphemes the name of Yahweh shall be put to death. The whole congregation shall stone the blasphemer. They sent him outside the camp, laid hands on his head and stoned him. Stoning was the communal punishment, so that the evil person was removed from their community, the death penalty. Notice that this blasphemer was not a pure Israelite. Perhaps there was some prejudice against the non-pure Israelites. However, the same rules apply to the aliens as the citizens.
“Anyone who kills a human being shall be put to death. Anyone who kills an animal shall make restitution for it, life for life. Anyone who maims another shall suffer the same injury in return. Fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The injury inflicted is the injury to be suffered. One who kills an animal shall make restitution for it. But one who kills a human being shall be put to death. You shall have one law for the alien and for the citizen. I am Yahweh your God. Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel. They took the blasphemer outside the camp, and stoned him to death. The people of Israel did as Yahweh had commanded Moses.”
Having solved this problem, they move on to the problem of retaliation or revenge that was also in Exodus, chapter 21. What is the punishment for various actions?
1) Anyone who kills a human shall be put to death;
2) Anyone who kills an animal shall make restitution for it;
3) A life for life;
4) Anyone who maims another shall suffer the same injury in return;
5) Fracture for fracture;
6) Eye for eye.