Do gods exist? 24 No blasphemy

Picture adapted from Rembrant’s Moses Smashing the Tablets of the Law

The third commandment of the Christian god is that you should not blaspheme or you will be stoned to death.

According to the Bible, the third commandment is

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” (Ex 20:7, Deut 5:11)

The Bible most often calls him YHVH, which Christians pronounce as Yahweh or Jehovah. The punishment for breaking this rule was death by stoning (Lev 24:15-16).

“24:15 Then you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. 16 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.”

When the Israelites brought a blasphemer before Moses, God instructed everyone who had heard the blasphemy to put their hands on the blasphemer’s head, after which the entire congregation must stone him to death.” (Lev 24:11-14).

24:10 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. 11 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.) 12 Then they put him in custody, that the mind of the Lord might be shown to them. 13 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 14 “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.”

But a prophet could curse other people in the name of this god, for even trivial reasons, with horrific results. When a group of little children mocked the prophet Elisha for being bald, Elisha cursed the children in the name of the Lord, and two bears came out of the wood and killed forty-two of the children (2 Kings 2:23-24).

“2:23 Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up the road, some youths came from the city and mocked him, and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” 24 So he turned around and looked at them, and pronounced a curse on them in the name of the Lord. And two female bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths.”

The ‘youths’ were described as ‘little children’ in earlier versions of the Bible. Later Christians have argued that these children were actually young men, as if that would make it more justifiable to set wild animals on them for teasing a bald man.

Also, the same god blessed Jacob after he had specifically used the Lord’s name when lying to his father in order to steal his brother’s birthright (Gen 27:19-20, 27-29).

“27:19 Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn; I have done just as you told me; please arise, sit and eat of my game, that your soul may bless me.” 20 But Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?” And he said, “Because the Lord your God brought it to me.”

“27 And he came near and kissed him; and he smelled the smell of his clothing, and blessed him and said: “Surely, the smell of my son Is like the smell of a field Which the Lord has blessed. 28 Therefore may God give you Of the dew of heaven, Of the fatness of the earth, And plenty of grain and wine. 29 Let peoples serve you, And nations bow down to you. Be master over your brethren, And let your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, And blessed be those who bless you!”

So that is commandment number three. I will examine the fourth commandment in my next post.

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