Blasphemy Laws Ancient and Modern

Sometimes Old Testament narratives can provide striking parallels to social realities in modern traditional societies.

Reading 1 Kings 21, I find that the way Naboth can be removed as an obstacle to land acquisition by Ahab and Jezebel in ancient Israel is by means of a trumped-up blasphemy charge.  Upon the accusation of two witnesses-for-hire, “Naboth has blasphemed God and the king,” Naboth is taken outside the city and stoned to death (1 Kings 21:13).

You might remember hearing a story in the news where something similar has been done recently in a couple of traditional societies, in one case using bricks.  I recently heard a thoroughly researched presentation describing how blasphemy laws in Pakistan have been utilized at an exponentially increasing rate in the last two decades, and at the same time, hardened so that a life sentence has been ruled out as the lenient option.  On conviction, it is death alone.

Aside from the ethics of prosecuting blasphemy with death, which I would propose is already an ugly side of a theocratic society, this sort of law leaves itself open to this kind of vindictive abuse – a way to get even with or get rid of an enemy, or someone refusing to co-operate with one’s own evil plan.  Another fact that came out in the abovementioned presentation was that since the witness cannot repeat the blasphemy without incurring guilt himself or herself, all that is needed is the accusation, without further evidence.

Upright and evenhanded law is a prized possession in any society.  Let none of us take it lightly.

And where righteous law is unenforced, endangered or lost, there is comfort in this passage: “In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, dogs shall lick your blood, even yours” (1 Kings 21:19).  Only notice that this is not achieved by vengeance killing by Naboth’s family.  That way lies neverending conflict.  “”Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord” (Heb. 10:30, from Deut. 32:35).  If we choose to live by the sword, we will die by the sword (Matt. 26:52).  The way of Christ is the way of the yielded sword.

 

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