All that transpires in the book of Leviticus occurred within the 50-day period between the completion of the tabernacle and Israel’s departure from Sinai. With the exception of chapters 8-10 and the text before us, Leviticus is a record of the law which the Lord commanded Moses to deliver to the children of Israel. The entire fifty days of Leviticus can be viewed as the giving of the law with the historical segments serving as illustrations of law application. In the text before us, the stoning of the son of Shelomith, the Israelitish woman, is such an illustration.
In verse 10, there is contention between two men. One is of Israel and the other is of the mixed multitude. New Testament believers are the spiritual seed of Abraham. We side with the man of Israel. In so doing, we may fail to hear that which the Lord makes known to us in verse 16 and verse 22. There is no difference between one of Israel and one of the mixed multitude. Believers know that God looks upon the hearts of men. The Old Testament (Leviticus 10:22) testifies of that which the New Testament declares: the Jew and the Gentile have equal standing before God.
The son of the Israelitish woman blasphemed the name of the Lord and cursed. There are four different Hebrew words in the Old Testament which are translated as blasphemed. Each expresses blasphemy in a different manner. In verse 11, the Hebrew word means to pierce with the intent of inflicting physical harm. The word which is translated as “cursed” means to declare one to be without significance or power. Both the blaspheming and the cursing of the man were attacks upon the person of the Lord God.
Those who heard the man’s words knew that he had sinned against God but did not know what action that should be taken. They brought him to Moses. The Lord gave Moses three specific instructions.
The man was to be removed from the camp. Those who heard the man’s words were to lay their hands upon the man’s head. All the congregation of Israel was to stone the man. There are three pictures.
Consider the first. The tabernacle, representing the very presence of the Lord, was at the center of the camp. There would have been some of the camp who were physically close to the tabernacle and some at the edge of the camp who were distant from the tabernacle. The Lord’s judgment, death by stoning, would take place outside the camp, totally removed from the presence of the living God.
The second picture, laying hands upon the condemned man’s head, is an act which symbolizes the transfer of any guilt which those who heard might share with the condemned. The condemned man would bear the entire consequence of his iniquity. His death is pictured as payment of both his personal sin and the effect of his sin upon others.
The last picture, that of the condemned man’s execution, involves the whole congregation of Israel. All were to stone the man. The congregation of Israel consisted of more than 600,000 adult males, not counting the mixed multitude. Death by stoning does not require a massive number of stones or stone throwers. Not all would cast stones but all stones that were cast were cast for the entire congregation of Israel. No one individual or group of individuals were exempt from doing as the Lord commanded. All were to do as the Lord had said.
New Testament believers are to do as the Lord commands. We are to love one another as He loves us. We are to reach out to all who will hear that they might escape the judgment to come. The ministries of a few are to be the expression of the entire body of Christ.
In speaking to Moses, the Lord showed Israel much more than the action He would have taken against the blasphemer. The Lord reveals the basis of His judgments in verses 17-21. The punishment shall be equal to the offense. Leviticus 24:20, Exodus 21:24, and Deuteronomy 19:21 all declare His justice to be an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. The Lord first spoke these words to the children of Israel before they turned aside to worship the golden calf. The text before us was spoken before the children of Israel departed from Sinai. The third time God spoke these words was in the days before the children of Israel would enter into the promised land. God’s justice does not change because of man’s disobedience.
The God of the Old Testament and the New Testament is the same. God is more fully revealed in the New. The Lord Jesus taught that an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth did not mean that one has license to exercise personal vengeance (see Matt 5:38-39). The wages of sin is death — both in the New and in the Old. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. God’s justice system did not change. Believers rejoice because He who was without sin has satisfied the Father’s unchanging righteous requirement -(John 3:16).
The plan of salvation was in place before the foundations of the earth were laid (I Pet. 1:20). Let us proclaim that which God has revealed to us.