An Eye for An Eye – Lev 24:10-23

The passage begins with a blasphemer being stoned to death, and then God laying out some of the guidelines in regard to damage done either to someone’s property, or to someone’s being. It all hinges upon the famous verse, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” We’ll get to the point later, lets first dive into this issue of blaspheme.

The son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father gets into a fight with an Israelite, and the son of the Israelite blasphemes God’s Name. Notice the care to not call this individual an Israelite. For, if he was an Israelite, he would have acted like one (a paraphrase of Jesus words in John 8:39). We find in Exodus 12:38 that there were some Egyptians who had cleaved unto Israel when they left. So, the point is not to make the distinction of half-breed from full-breed, but the distinction of where the man’s heart was. We can take this into our own lives, at least those of us who are Gentiles, when we entered the faith. We came unto the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is the duty of Japheth and Ham, whichever you might be from, to enter the tent of Shem, and not for Shem to change his nature to become more like Japheth or Ham.

This is the pattern set up in the Scripture. We are grafted into something already in existence, and if we desire to continue in the ways of our ancestors, then we will have no part in the Kingdom of God. To be grafted in requires that be completely cut off from our heritage to suck the juices of a different root. While we’re still Gentiles, and the fruit we bear is not the same as the natural branches, the roots are the same, our nourishment is the same, and we are now a part of Israel instead of Germany, America, Australia, Ethiopia, or whatever people we were formerly associated with. By grafting in different kinds of branches, we can get a completely different fruit. This is true in the natural as well as the spiritual. God has grafted us in, because He desires that we would bear the fruit of the Kingdom of God. Yet, diversity does not mean “bad”.

There is a prophecy in Genesis 48:19 concerning Ephraim. It is said by Jacob that Ephraim will be a melo goyim – a fullness of Gentiles. Most English translations would translate that as “multitude of nations”. Paul directly quotes it, though, in Romans 11:25. This is the only place in the whole Hebrew Bible where the phrase “melo goyim” appears. So, for Paul to be quoting it, and saying that whatever is happening in Ephraim (him being filled with Gentiles), it is directly linked to the redemption of Israel. What exactly it means that Ephraim shall be a fullness of Gentiles, I don’t know. I also don’t understand how the direct result of this would be the redemption of Israel. Yet, what Paul is explaining when he quotes this is the grafting in of Gentiles to Israel’s roots.

Paul warns us that we should not become conceited, because if God did not spare the natural branches, He won’t spare you. So we see this in Leviticus 24. The man who has been grafted in, who would have been a part of Israel had he not continued in the ways of Egypt, is stoned for blaspheming. The man is taken outside of the camp to be stoned, which is fitting because his heart was not at disposition to be one with the camp anyway. This not only fits the blasphemer, but also Israel, who are the dwelling place of God. You don’t keep within God’s dwelling a blasphemer. That is oxymoronic. Thus, he was thrust out of society as a sign that he has no part with Israel at all.

The people who heard him laid their hands upon his head, just like you would lay your hands upon the head of the goat or bull when you offered a burnt offering. This both forms a public testimony against him, and also puts whatever filth might have come upon others for hearing his words upon him. The Israelites were not held responsible for this man’s sin, but he was held responsible for all that he had committed – even that which took place in someone else’s mind as a result of him. This would be what happens to any Israelite or alien living among them. To blaspheme God meant separation and death. You no longer have inheritance or rights, because you willingly took the Lord’s name in vain.

Let us consider this in relation to us today. It isn’t simply that we claim that the man or woman who would blaspheme are to be stoned. Rather, we have a much more severe punishment. We banish them from our midst as a sign of the eternal judgment they shall receive. They have no part with us, any of us, and thus are cast into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. The Gentiles who come into this inheritance with an attitude of elitism ought to take heed lest they fall. The only reason you or I are in this is because God has willingly postponed the marriage of Himself unto His people until they would recognize who they are. Until the Jewish people realize that they are not to be God’s people without Gentiles, and until the Gentiles realize that they are not God’s people without Israel, God has willingly allowed division in His Body. He has been broken for us, not just in His physical body on the cross, but even spiritually between Israel and the Church.

God awaits a moment in time when the fullness of Gentiles shall display to Israel her destiny and inheritance. It is in that same time, when the fullness of Gentiles has given Israel mercy because they have obtained mercy, that Jesus shall return at the end of the age to marry the two and they will both be His Bride together. I would even suggest that the Church is not separate from Israel even now. We aren’t something altogether different and other than Israel, but instead the selfsame remnant that has always existed in Israel. Just like there has always been the remnant that God dwells within, so too there is a remnant now. That remnant is not just Jewish, or Israelite, people, but also the Gentiles.

For someone to then curse the very sap that they are drinking from only goes to show that they aren’t truly drinking from it at all. If you or I, as Gentiles, decide to cast off the Israel of God as outside of the promises, and they have to come unto us in order to be saved, then we do the same thing that this half Egyptian man did. We curse the very foundation from which we come, namely the God who became a Jewish rabbi in the land of Israel to be the Messiah of Israel. He is our chief cornerstone, and even the twelve apostles were all Jewish (meaning from the southern country of Judah, and not necessarily the tribe). How can we boast against our roots? Do you not know that the root holds you up, and that you aren’t holding up the roots?

Therefore, God goes into this discussion with Israel about what to do when someone will take human life, or the life of an animal, or an animal takes the life of a man, or the life of another animal. When you or something that you have charge over will harm another human being or something they possess, you are held responsible. How does this tie into the previous discussion? Don’t forget how this even took place. A fight broke out in the camp, and the result was this man blaspheming.

God now gives guidelines. Instead of blaspheming or fighting or doing something stupid, here is what you are to do. Notice the point is not to say that you have a right to take from them, but is instead to show that you don’t take revenge. The focus is not upon the person who was harmed, but upon the one who did the harming. If you harm someone, or damage their stuff, then you need to take responsibility for it and replace it. At the same time, if you have been harmed, or your stuff has been damaged, you are allowed to go to the elders of the city and tell them. Then, the man who is responsible will be held accountable.

When God says, “fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth,” God is setting a standard. What happens when someone breaks something that is yours? You feel that anger rise up, and you want to then break something of theirs. Only, you don’t just break something of the same value. If they damage your shovel, you use the broken shovel to damage their car. When they see you’ve fought back by damaging their car, they then set fire to your lawn. Then, you retaliate by setting fire to their home. (I’m being ridiculous on purpose here.)

We understand this, don’t we? If someone damages something that is mine – we’ll use the example of injuring my dog – I’m not going to allow them to get away with this. Revenge is in order. But, revenge is never just getting even. Getting even would require that they pay for whatever damage they’ve caused. We don’t want to get even. We want to utterly destroy them. So, they hurt my dog, and I’ll kill theirs. What happens when they see your reaction of taking it even further? Well, they want to ‘get even’. Once again, their thoughts don’t simply leave it at “even”, but go so far as to retaliate in even more extreme manner.

When God says, “an eye for an eye,” He is stopping the madness. Yes, the person is to be held responsible. Yes, there should be justice. Yet, God reminds us that justice requires that the man who injured be injured only to the same degree that he injured, and not more. That is justice. When I hear claims of people who have been injured by a cup of coffee at McDonalds, and so they sue and get millions of dollars compensation, I can’t help but shake my head and be staggered. When a couple who is homosexual ask for a cake to be baked for their wedding, and a company kindly refuses, I am utterly appalled when that lesbian couple then says that they suffered over 70 different diagnosed cases of trauma, and they demand over 130,000 dollars in compensation. Not only has the business already been shut down and the family paying dearly through court costs, paying for part of the wedding, and other means. Now, they also have to pay $130,000 and compensate the couple for their psychiatric trauma.

God simply says, “an eye for an eye.” These kinds of ludicrous court cases only display the very reason why God would establish this regulation. Ultimately, it is better for someone to fess up and deal with the consequences than to allow the issue to fester until it leads to death. If we’re unwilling to do that, then we only show how wicked we truly are. We claim to want justice, but then our idea of justice is entirely unjust. We don’t want justice; we want revenge. We want to know that the other person will suffer more than I will. In this, we show both that we are unloving, and we show that we are liars. God’s requirements are the exact prescription to both reveal to us our own wicked heart, and to stop the injustice and madness.

Then, we have people who will read this and mock because it says to stone a blasphemer. It entirely misses the point of the passage, and focuses upon a detail that really is minor in the overall scheme of Scripture. It is after this passage that we come to the laws regarding the Sabbath year and the Year of Jubilee. Both of these are exciting, and both of them are extremely difficult to communicate. Just like there is needed delicacy of expounding the feast days and their significance, so too do we need to venture into Leviticus 25 carefully.

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