Leviticus 24:15b–16: A Crux Revisited -- By: Bernon P. Lee

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 16:2 (NA 2006)
Article: Leviticus 24:15b–16: A Crux Revisited
Author: Bernon P. Lee


Leviticus 24:15b–16: A Crux Revisited

Bernon P. Lee

Grace College, Winona Lake, Indiana

The occurrence of אלהיו in the first law (v. 15b) of Lev 24:15b–16 has led to the understanding that the law envisions a distinct circumstance (for example, an insult directed at other deities) in contrast to that of the second law in v. 16 (an insult directed at the name of God). This article argues that both laws (vv. 15b and 16) have the same case in view (explicitly stated in v. 16) by demonstrating that the use of אלהיו is part of a literary pattern displaying a movement toward specificity through the course of vv. 15b–16.

Key Words: blasphemy, divine name, Lev 24:15-16

A series of two laws in Lev 24:15b–16 prescribes penalties for the abuse of the divine person and name.

איש כי־יקלל אלהיו
ונשא חטאו
ונקב שם־יהוה מוֹת יומת
רגום ירגמו־בו כל־העדה
כגר כאזרח בנקבו־שם יומת

Any man, if he disparages his God, he shall
bear his crime. (v. 15b)
The one uttering the name of the Lord
surely shall be put to death; indeed, the
whole congregation shall hurl rocks upon
him. Just as the sojourner so the native, by
his uttering the name surely shall be put to death. (v. 16)

The designation for the object of the insult in the first law (v. 15b), אלהיו, has led to a series of conflicting interpretations for the group of promulgations as a whole. Dillmann and, more recently, Fishbane follow Philo in understanding אלהיו to refer to deities other than Israel’s God.1 Dillmann

Author’s note: My gratitude to Professors D. Brent Sandy and Cynthia L. Miller for reading earlier drafts of this essay and assisting in clarifying its arguments.

and Fishbane do not take the following imprecise statement of a consequence (ונשא חטאו) as the prescription of a penalty. For Dillmann, the mention of the ...

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