In Leviticus 24:11-23 we have a case inserted within a legal dialogue. The Son of a foreign man and an Israelite woman profaned God's Name and (it seems that because of His status as a foreigner) they didn't know what's to do with him. So God gave a ruling through Moses that the same law applies to Israelite and non-Israelite who dwelled in the land (v22).

Why was the death penalty prescribed for taking God's Name in vain? And, why does it seem that no offer of atonement was extended to this foreigner?

  • I'm not sure why you think this person was a foreigner... My translation says "and the Israelite woman's son blasphemed the Name, and cursed. ...His mother's name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan." V. 22 applies the penalty for murder or a person or livestock to the foreigner, but has nothing to do with cursing/blasphemy. Commented May 14, 2019 at 19:13
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    @JamesShewey He was also the son of an Egyptian man
    – b a
    Commented May 14, 2019 at 19:51
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    Yes, but the case is interrupted by that pericope and then resumes. As said above he is the son of an Egyptian, in the text in v16 the ruling makes special mention that both alien and native receive the same penalty. This coupled with the abnormal genealogical information seems to connect the case to two conclusions. One, swearing gets the death penalty, two even non Israelites are subject to the law. But all that is beside my question. Commented May 14, 2019 at 23:17

2 Answers 2


The word translated as "cursed" in the English is from Stong's Heb 7043, "קָלַל" / qalal. It means to slight, or treat as trifling, to despise and dishonor, or hold in contempt.

Cursing did not mean saying a bad word. The sense of this event is not that the son of the Israelitish woman and the Egyptian father was treated any differently than would the Israelite man would have been treated had he been the one to dishonor and blaspheme God's name. The context was dealing with the disrespect and dishonor to God.

"And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, Whosoever curseth his God shall bear his sin." (Lev. 24:15, KJV)

The "half" Israelite son had blasphemed and showed contempt for God. God made it clear that anyone who did so would be punished by death. He then laid forth other conditions that were punishable by death. IT was not discrimination against a "stranger in the camp".

  • But why in the case of profaning God's Name is the penalty stoning and not something lighter. Like excommunication or a fine, for example in Exodus 21:21 if you beat a slave within an inch of their life, but they die three days later the death penalty is lifted. Manslaughter also does not get the death penalty. But taking the Lord's name (with no mention of intent) gets the death penalty... why? How is this fair or proportionate? Commented May 16, 2019 at 21:01
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    @Christopher Blasphemy is still an exceedingly serious offence in related cultures. The idea, I think, is that wrong done to God is that much greater than wrong done to human life, by the same proportion that God is greater than humanity. Recall that blaspheming the Holy Spirit is also the one sin Jesus says is unforgivable. Cause/effect explanations have been given (cursing God is the same as cutting yourself off from God's mercy, or blaspheming God undermines society and the law itself), but I think it's probably simply the high value put on the Name. Commented May 16, 2019 at 23:15
  • @Christopher - it speaks volumes about the decay of society. So many ppl don't even know the hatred they r pouring out upon their very Creator. We do not exist without Him. He breathed life into each one of us. We breathe the air He gives us; we drink the water He provides; we eat the fruit of the plants He created for us. He could remove His atmosphere & we would die within seconds. That so many are so very easy in their contempt of His name, denying His existence, & calling Him a liar (blasphemy) is the ultimate evil. They r elevating themselves above their Creator. Not a light thing.
    – Gina
    Commented May 17, 2019 at 12:37

Is it reasonable that God be held in less esteem that fathers and mothers?

Exodus 21:17 (KJV)
And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.

The modern sense of what is right and wrong has no way to accommodate such laws. Today, treating leaders with contempt is the social norm, and many even make a good living at it.

God knows that the integrity of a nation depends on the citizens revering those who lead them in the ways of righteousness. Any community that is encouraged to curse/make light of/treat with contempt/dishonour such leaders will inevitably fall apart.

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