10.And the son of an Israelitish woman. In what year, and in what station in the desert this occurred, is uncertain. I have, therefore, thought it advisable to couple together two cases, which are not dissimilar. It is probable that between this instance of punishment, and that which will immediately follow, there was an interval of some time: but the connection of two similar occurrences seemed best to preserve the order of the history; one of the persons referred to having been stoned for profaning God’s sacred name by wicked blasphemy, and the other for despising and violating the Sabbath. It is to be observed that the crime of the former of these gave occasion to the promulgation of a law, which we have expounded elsewhere: f81 in accordance with the common proverb, Good laws spring from bad habits: for, after punishment had been inflicted on this blasphemer, Moses ordained that none should insult the name of God with impunity.
It was providentially ordered by God that the earliest manifestation of this severity should affect the son of an Egyptian: for, inasmuch as God thus harshly avenged the insult of His name upon the offspring of a foreigner and a heathen, far less excusable was impiety in Israelites, whom God had, as it were, taken up from their mothers’ womb, and had brought them up in His own bosom. It is true, indeed, that on his mother’s side he had sprung from the chosen people, but, being begotten by an Egyptian father, he could not be properly accounted an Israelite. If, then, there had been any room for the exercise of pardon, a specious reason might have been alleged why forgiveness should be more readily extended to a man of an alien and impure origin. The majesty of God’s name, however, was ratified by his death. Hence it follows that it is by no means to be permitted that God’s name should be exposed with impunity to blasphemies among the sons of the Church.
We may learn from this passage that during their tyrannical oppression many young women married into the Egyptian nation, in order that their affinity might protect their relatives from injuries. It might, however, have been the case that love for his wife attracted the father of this blasphemer into voluntary exile, unless, perhaps, his mother might have been a widow before the departure of the people, so as to be at liberty to take her son with her.
To proceed, he is said to have “gone out,” not outside the camp, but in public, so that he might be convicted by witnesses; for he would not have been brought to trial if his crime had been secretly committed within the walls of his own house. This circumstance is also worthy of remark, that, although the blasphemy had escaped him in a quarrel, punishment was still inflicted upon him; and assuredly it is a frivolous subterfuge to require that blasphemies should be pardoned on the ground that they have been uttered in anger; for nothing is more intolerable than that our wrath should vent itself upon God, when we are angry with one of our fellow-creatures. Still it is usual, when a person is accused of blasphemy, to lay the blame on the ebullition of passion, as if God were to endure the penalty whenever we are provoked.
The verb bqn, nakab, which some render to express, is here rather used for to curse, or to transfix; and the metaphor is an appropriate one, that God’s name should be said to be transfixed, when it is insultingly abused. f82
13. And the Lord spoke unto Moses. It must be remembered, then, that this punishment was not inflicted upon the blasphemer by man’s caprice, or the headstrong zeal of the people, but that Moses was instructed by Divine revelation what sentence was to be pronounced. It has been elsewhere stated f83 why God would have malefactors slain by the hands of the witnesses. Another ceremony is here added, viz., that they should lay their hands upon his head, as if to throw the whole blame upon him.