David Guzik Commentary on the Bible
Leviticus 24 - The Law Put Into Action
A. Care for the Tabernacle.
1. (1-4) Care of the tabernacle lamps.
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: "Command the children of Israel that they bring to you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to make the lamps burn continually. Outside the veil of the Testimony, in the tabernacle of meeting, Aaron shall be in charge of it from evening until morning before the Lord continually; it shall be a statute forever in your generations. He shall be in charge of the lamps on the pure gold lampstand before the Lord continually."
a. Pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to make the lamps burn continually: The lamps in the tabernacle - standing on the solid gold lampstand - were the only source of light for the tabernacle. They had to be tended to continually, supplied with pure olive oil and trimmed wicks, so they would continually give light.
b. From evening until morning before the Lord continually: Jesus never stopped being the light of the world (John 8:12); He never took a break from it. As well, we are never to take a break from being the light of the world (Matthew 5:14), but we can only do this as we are continually supplied with oil (the Holy Spirit) and have our wicks trimmed (undergo training through trials).
2. (5-9) Care of the tabernacle bread.
And you shall take fine flour and bake twelve cakes with it. Two-tenths of an ephah shall be in each cake. You shall set them in two rows, six in a row, on the pure gold table before the Lord. And you shall put pure frankincense on each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, an offering made by fire to the Lord. Every Sabbath he shall set it in order before the Lord continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant. 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 from the offerings of the Lord made by fire, by a perpetual statute.
a. You shall take fine flour and bake twelve cakes with it: This bread of the tabernacle speaks of fellowship and communion with God - a symbolic "breaking bread" with God, and speaks of the continual fellowship God wanted with Israel.
i. This bread is called showbread in Exodus 25:30, which literally means "bread of the face" in the sense of it being eaten in the presence or before the face of God.
b. They shall eat it in a holy place: Significantly, God wanted the fellowship fresh. He didn't want a stale communion with His people, but a fresh, new relationship.
B. The case of the Egyptian blasphemer.
1. (10-12) The crime of the Egyptian blasphemer.
Now the son of an Israelite woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the children of Israel; and this Israelite woman's son and a man of Israel fought each other in the camp. And the Israelite woman's son blasphemed the name of the Lord and cursed; and so they brought him to Moses. (His mother's name was Shelomith the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan.) Then they put him in custody, that the mind of the Lord might be shown to them.
a. Now the son of an Israelite woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the children of Israel: This man, half Egyptian and half Hebrew, was part of the mixed multitude (Exodus 12:38) that went with Israel out of Egypt.
b. The Israelite woman's son blasphemed the name of the Lord and cursed: He committed the crime of blasphemy, which is to attack someone - especially God - with your words. It is somewhat like the modern idea of "verbal abuse," but usually directed at God.
i. "In the Near East the name of a person was bound up intimately with his character, so that in the case of God, blasphemy was in effect an act of repudiation." (Harrison)
ii. It seems that it was common for Egyptians to curse their many gods. The root of this man's sin is he considers the Lord God of Israel on the same level as the petty Egyptian gods.
2. (13-16) The penalty for the Egyptian blasphemer.
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. Then you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: 'Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. And whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. 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.'"
a. Then let all who heard him lay their hands on his head: In accord with the principle of Deuteronomy 17:6-7. Two or three of the witnesses publicly laid hands on the accused, as a sure testimony to his guilt - and so the accused would know his accuser.
b. And let all the congregation stone him: God commanded execution by stoning for several reasons. First, stones were and are plentiful in Israel, so it was a ready means of execution. As well, it was so that the community could participate in the execution, for both a deterrent and a means of proclaiming, "This man has not only sinned against God, he has sinned against the community."
c. Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death: To keep themselves from blaspheming the name of the Lord, the Jews, in their traditions, went to extreme lengths to avoid saying or writing the name of God - because, in their thinking, you could not blaspheme God's name if you never said it.
i. So, only the High Priest was allowed to pronounce the holy name of God (Yahweh), and only once a year - on the day of atonement. The proper pronunciation of the name would be passed on from the high priest to his successor, with the former's last breath. This is why where was confusion for many years about the exact pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton (YHWH), some mistakenly pronouncing the name "Jehovah" instead of "Yahweh" or "Yah-veh."
ii. The Jews also did not write the name of God, because if that paper were destroyed, it might be considered blasphemy or taking the name of the Lord in vain. So, they would write Adonai ("Lord") instead of Yahweh, and instead of "God" write "G-d" and refer to God with names like "the Name" instead of saying "God."
3. (17-22) Provisions for law and order.
Whoever kills any man shall surely be put to death. Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, animal for animal. If a man causes disfigurement of his neighbor, as he has done, so shall it be done to him; fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he has caused disfigurement of a man, so shall it be done to him. And whoever kills an animal shall restore it; but whoever kills a man shall be put to death. You shall have the same law for the stranger and for one from your own country; for I am the Lord your God.
a. Whoever kills any man shall surely be put to death: In the context of giving the penalty for the Egyptian blasphemer, God stated a fundamental principle of His justice - crimes must be punished, but in proportion appropriate to the crime.
b. Fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth: Many people have taken eye for eye, tooth for tooth as a command; instead, God intended it as a limit - so no man or judge would be able to make up his own punishment. Human nature wants to hurt our attacker worse than they hurt us; God here puts a limit on the vengeful tendency of man.
i. Jesus rightly condemned the taking of this command regarding law and order in the community and applying it to personal relationships, where love, forgiveness, and going the extra mile - not equal retribution - is to be the rule (Matthew 5:38-42).
4. (23) The execution of the Egyptian blasphemer.
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.
a. They took outside the camp him who had cursed, and stoned him with stones: This verse is important. It demonstrates to us that the law of God was not given to Israel for interesting facts or mere guidelines; God expected them to obey it. Here, they obey even when it is difficult.