In the Bible, we are commanded to treat God, His name, and His Word with reverence and respect, but a term we do not hear used in the United States any more is the word “BLASPHEMY.” I was teaching part-time at a Christian university, and during the discussion, I had mentioned that there were two sins that God will not ever forgive, “not in this life or in the next”: the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit and receiving the Mark of the Beast. This raised a lot of questions, including one of the students asking me the question, “What is Blasphemy”? There were then others who likewise wanted to know the answer to this question as well, and I am sure if there are students at a Christian college who want to know the answer to this question, there are others who may have this same question.
WHAT IS “BLASPHEMY”?
The best biblical definition that I found for “BLASPHEMY” is in the book of Numbers:
But the person who acts defiantly, whether native or foreign [non-Jewish] resident, BLASPHEMES the LORD. That person is to be cut off from His people. He will certainly be cut off, because he has despised the LORD’s word and broken His command; his guilt remains on him. (Numbers 15:30-31)
BLASPHEMY is a willful affront, an act of willful defiance, against the Royal Throne and Majesty of YHWH, the One True God, the King of kings and Lord of lords, whether it is in words or in actions, and as such, it is a capital crime within His Kingdom.
BLASPHEMY – DEFIANT WORDS AGAINST GOD?
First of all, “BLASPHEMY” or “BLASPHEME” (its verb form) is used to describe the willful, defiant violation of the following commands:
The third commandment: “You shall not take the name of the L-RD in vain; for the L-RD will not hold him guiltless that takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7; Deuteronomy 5:11).
For example, someone cursing, slandering, insulting, or speaking evil of God and/or His commandments. The phrase “in vain” is the English translation of the Hebrew shaw [H7723], which not only means “profanity” or “swearing falsely,” but it also means to use God’s name “lightly or without thinking.”
A CASE STUDY
The first case we see of someone accused of BLASPHEMY occurs in the book of Leviticus. In this case, a fight broke out between two men: one was a man, whose father was Egyptian and his mother was an Israelite named Shelomith of the tribe of Dan, and the other man was a native Israelite. The names of the men are not given in the account. But during the fight, the man who was half-Egyptian and half-Israelite cursed and BLASPHEMED God’s name (Leviticus 24:10-11). The man is then taken into custody, and Moses goes before YHWH to see what should be done. In response to his inquiry, YHWH tells Moses the following:
Bring the one who has cursed to the outside of the camp and have all who heard him lay their hands on his head; then have the whole community stone him. And tell the Israelites: If anyone curses his God, he will bear the consequences of his sin. Whoever BLASPHEMES the name of the LORD is to be put to death; the whole community must stone him. If he BLASPHEMES the Name (Heb. HaShem), he is to be put to death, whether the foreign [non-Jewish] resident or the native. (Leviticus 24:14-16; Emphasis Added)
So whether one was a native Israelite (i.e., Jewish) or half-Israelite or not an Israelite at all (i.e., non-Jewish) , the crime of BLASPHEMY was to be treated the same across the board. If God’s Law had been only given to the Jews, as I’ve heard many Christian ministers say, then this would only be a crime for Jews; however, as we can see, this is not the case. It doesn’t matter what the ethnicity of the individual, if the person commits BLASPHEMY, God says they are to be tried before the community, and if there are witnesses who heard the crime being committed, that person is “to be put to death.”
WHY IS IT A CAPITAL OFFENSE?
For most people today in the United States, they would question, “Why is this crime a capital offense? Why should someone die for cursing or BLASPHEMING the name of God? Doesn’t God believe in ‘Free Speech’?” Unfortunately, most people do not see YHWH, the Holy One of Israel, the One True God, as an actual King who is ruling and reigning over an actual Kingdom but as a belief. Therefore, they don’t understand why cursing or BLASPHEMING an idea should result in someone dying, but YHWH is not an idea or a belief, He is a personal Spirit Being, who does objectively exist outside of the minds and imaginations of people.
To openly and defiantly BLASPHEME, or curse, criticize, slander, insult, or speak evil of any king or kingdom would be an affront to any crown. But YHWH is not any king, He is the King above all kings and the Lord above all Lords, and therefore, BLASPHEMY is a crime punishable by death.
The reason people ask this question of “Why should people die?” is because they have lost sight of something very basic about God, and that is, “He is holy.” Holiness is not an attribute of God, like His love, His mercy, His grace, His patience, His justice, etc., but it is the very essence of God. It is what makes God “God.”
In the Bible, when someone wants to emphasize something, it is repeated. For example, when Yeshua (Jesus) begins a statement with “Verily, verily,” this indicates that what follows is to be understood emphatically. He is emphasizing the point. For example, in speaking with the Pharisee, Nicodemus, Yeshua (Jesus) says,
Verily, verily, I say to you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God…Verily, verily, I say to you, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:3)
These statements are not just casual remarks, but they should be understood emphatically. Now to repeat something three times in succession is the ultimate form of emphasis. And two times in the Bible, the word “Holy” is repeated three times in succession to describe God.
In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I [Isaiah] saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the Temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory. (Isaiah 6:1-3)
And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD God Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come. (Revelation 4:8),
But what does it mean to say that “God is holy”? To “be holy” does NOT mean “to be morally pure,” as I’ve often heard people define the term, but it means “to be separate, distinct, other than,” so to say that “God is holy” is to say that God is “separate, distinct, and other than” anything that we have experienced or can imagine in the world. To speak of His holiness is to speak of His uniqueness, His transcendence, His separateness from this world.
And because He is holy, we are to treat Him, His name, and His Word [the Bible] as something holy, sacred, special, distinct, separate, other than, or unique from anything else in the world. There is no one in all of the universe like God. In fact, God says that those who come near Him, or want an intimate relationship with Him, are to treat Him as holy (Leviticus 10:3).
Therefore, when we curse, slander, insult, or speak evil of God, His name, and/or His commandments, then we BLASPHEME, or demean, slander, or curse His holiness, i.e., the very character and nature of God. And in the kingdom of God, this is a punishment worthy of death.
BLASPHEMY – A DEFIANT ACTION AGAINST GOD?
However, there are a few times when the word “BLASPHEME” is also used when referring to someone’s DEFIANT ACTIONS against God. An obvious example of this is when the ancient Israelites got involved in worshiping idols or false gods. In the giving of the Ten Commandments given by God at Mt. Sinai, this is a direct and willful violation of both the first and second commandments. God commanded,
Do not have other gods besides Me.
Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. You must not bow down to them or worship them. (Exodus 20:3-5; Deuteronomy 5:7-9)
For example, Israel violated these commandments in their worship of the golden calf, as well as their worship of Ba’al and Asherah or Astarte. in response to Israel doing this, God says through the prophet Isaiah,
Your iniquities, and the iniquities of your fathers together, says the LORD, which have burned incense upon the mountains, and BLASPHEMED Me upon the hills: therefore will I measure their former work into their bosom. (Isaiah 65:7)
And God says, through the prophet Ezekiel,
Therefore, son of man, speak to the house of Israel, and tell them: This is what the LORD God says: In this way also your fathers BLASPHEMED God by committing treachery against Me. (Ezekiel 20:27)
Therefore, BLASPHEMY is any act of defiance we make against God, whether it is in word or in action. So if this is the biblical definition of “BLASPHEMY,” then what about “BLASPHEMY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT“?
In Part 2 of this study, we will build on this study and examine the question, “What is ‘ THE BLASPHEMY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT – WHAT IS IT?”