“Take the man who cursed outside the camp, have everyone who heard him lay their hands on his head, and have the entire community stone him.”-Leviticus 24:14
We’re in the process of examining the details of the chilling scene depicting a man about to be executed for blasphemy.
The context of this whole situation is similar to how a case would be presented before a judge.
Let’s take a look at a couple of interesting points.
First, verse 14 tells us that the “blasphemer” was to be taken OUTSIDE THE CAMP before his execution.
“Outside the camp” is no throw-away phrase.
It literally means away from where the Israelites pitched their tents.
The condemned person was about to become a corpse and as we all know, having a corpse inside the camp would render the camp ritually unclean.
Understand that public executions only take place outside the camp.
This is why we’re told that Yeshua was also executed OUTSIDE THE CAMP per Jewish Law.
This give us a huge clue as to where Yeshua may have been crucified and it certainly isn’t any of the the traditional locations where most Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem visit because those sites are INSIDE the camp borders of the city of Jerusalem as defined in those times.
Second, understand that stoning was the chosen method of execution because it was symbolic of the blasphemer being rejected by the community as a whole.
Third, the laying of hands on the criminal before he was stoned had nothing to do with the men of Israel grabbing him and roughing him up before his execution.
This laying on of hands had great symbolic significance.
Although what was about to happen was an execution and NOT a sacrifice, the laying on of hands was similar in meaning to what occurred when a worshipper laid his hands on the head of the animal he was about to sacrifice.
This act carried two important meanings.
It signified that the ownership of the animal was now being transferred from the worshipper to God and also in some unexplainable way it signified that the worshipper’s transgressions were being transferred from himself to the animal who would have his blood shed as an act of substitutionary atonement.
Fourth, we’re told that it was only those people who had heard the man utter the blasphemy who were to lay their hands on the transgressor.
Many folks would have SEEN the fight between the half-Israelite and the Israelite occur, but many more would have HEARD the man scream out the blasphemy.
So we can see that according to Bible standards, a person who hears is just as qualified as one who sees in terms of serving as a witness.
This community of witnesses by collectively placing their hands on the blasphemer were in effect announcing their agreement on the judgement that was about to fall upon the sinner.
They were all in unison that the man’s blood was to be on his own head.
Fifth, the expression, “his blood shall be on his own head” doesn’t really mean what we think it means according to our modern Western mindsets.
According to our way of thinking, this expression usually carries the idea of poetic justice, or that the individual in question rightfully got what was coming to him.
But that is NOT how the Hebrews viewed it.
Let’s explore this just a bit more because it really does contain the key to understanding ancient Hebrew society and the justice system in this era which ultimately forms the context of the entire Holy Scriptures.
When an animal was sacrificed, the guilt of the worshipper was symbolically transferred to the animal by the worshipper LAYING HANDS on the head of the animal.
In other words, it is this idea of substitution that lay at the heart of YHWH’s justice system.
This is the entire basis of YHWH’s justice system and the entire basis for Messiah’s death on the cross.
I want to again share a quote I’ve shared before because I think it articulates this principle very well.
As a result of this principle, suffering and pain may be imposed on a tzaddik (righteous person) as an atonement for his entire generation. This tzaddik must then accept the suffering with love for the benefit of his generation, just as he accepts the suffering imposed upon him for his own sake. In doing so, he benefits his generation by atoning for it, and at the same time is himself elevated to a very great degree. For a tzaddik such as this is made into one of the leaders in the Community of the Future World, as discussed earlier.”-RAMCHAL
What I find funny is that if we operate under the assumption that Yeshua did away with the law, Yeshua’s death is meaningless because the principles of ATONEMENT and SUBSTITUTION were at the center of the Law.
In other words, minus the Levitical sacrificial system, Yeshua’s substitutionary death would be meaningless.
It would have zero context or meaning.
So what “his blood shall be on his own head” really meant in ancient Israel is that the nature of the crime committed was so terrible that there was NO SUBSTITUTE that could atone for it.
The guilt of the transgressor could NOT be transferred to a sacrificial animal (the Levitical sacrificial system only provided atonement for intentional sins).
As the final act of his life, the blasphemer would die both physically and eternally for his own sins.
Keep in mind that for the Israelites, life after death was a very hazy concept.
There was no idea of dying and going to heaven.
So it’s hard to know exactly what the Israelites believed would happen to the blasphemer after he died.
However, if they harbored the idea that the blasphemer was forgiven of his sin by means of shedding his own blood, they were WRONG!
An execution for blasphemy meant permanent separation from YHWH and His Chosen People.