The Stoning of Baruch

A Midrash on Leviticus 20:13

My name is Philemon ben Phalaris. I am a Jew from the town of Elasa. Jonathan is king in Jerusalem. A fortnight ago I walked out to the barn and saw my son, Baruch, and Nathan his friend, the son of my neighbor, lying together, with their nakedness uncovered.

I shook my head sadly and said, “I am sorry my son, but the Law requires that you must be stoned to death, you and your friend Nathan. Please know that I do not hate you, that I only hate your sin. Neither does God hate you, but only your sin and your evil influence in Israel.” My son looked at the floor and was silent.

I said, “You know from Scripture that this evil must be purged from Israel,” and Baruch nodded.

Baruch was a gifted young man.  The favor of the Lord had been upon him from birth. My heart had swelled with pride when he read Torah in his twelfth year, the day he took his place among the men of Elasa and of Israel. He had been zealous for the Lord of the Universe, may his name be praised.

My son had always observed the commandments and the precepts of the Lord.  He loved the Almighty with all his heart, soul, and strength. I was sure he would one day sit with the rabbis. In the town he was not called Baruch ben Philemon, but was greeted with smiles and with honor as Baruch of Elasa.

I summoned my wife Mary, together with my sons and my daughters, with my neighbors, and the elders and rabbis of Elasa. We took my son Baruch and our neighbor Nathan to the outskirts of town that the town might not be defiled by their blood. It took one-half hour to gather the stones, and it took one-half hour to stone the young men, although it seemed longer. I confess my arm started to hurt after a few moments, but I was doing what the Lord required. And within two days the pain in my arm went away.

Baruch’s cries and wails were difficult on my ears. I am embarrassed to say I almost stopped. But being a righteous and upright man I did as the Scripture requires. I admit, I threw most of my stones at Nathan, the son of my neighbor. You can understand that.  But be sure of this: I loved my son. I still do. But I hate iniquity. We worship a holy and righteous God who requires that his people be holy, righteous, and blameless.

I am proud that my wife and my sons and my daughters helped to purge the unclean things from Israel. They are strong in the Lord, observe the Torah, and are of godly character. I was surprised that my wife came, heaving the large stones together with the other mothers. He cried out to her to stop us. I would have understood if Mary had stayed home. It would have been easier, but I am proud of her. She is a true Mother of Israel.

I have pondered this matter in my heart. I think my family has considered the matter, too. Mary rarely speaks, and has not smiled for a fortnight. My sons and my daughters are never here when I come home from the fields or from the village. I sometimes go out to the barn to look for them.

Baruch and Nathan did not flee, and I know why. They knew their blood was on their own heads, according to the Scripture.

My family is no longer greeted with smiles in Elasa, because the people of the village have seen the hand of God at work and fear the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom. I take refuge in the word of the Lord: “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord.” My family, indeed all of Elasa, honored the Lord God of Israel, observing his statutes and precepts, not like the gentiles, who do not know his righteous paths.


If you want to Demolish the Strongholds of shallow anti-gay slogans, click here.

If you want to respond to the Clobber Passages, click here.

About Ron Goetz

My first wife used to say, "There's nothing so sacred that Ron won't pick it apart." My desire to be a pastor -- that was a temperamental mismatch. She was so patient. If my birth mother had lived somewhere else, maybe I would've become a cold case detective. But I would have had to be J instead of a P, I think. And that mid-life reevaluation, starting adolescence as a GARB fundamentalist and transitioning to a non-theist, that gave me an unusual skill set.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christianity, Homosexuality, Leviticus, Midrash and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to The Stoning of Baruch

  1. Ed Hansen says:

    Ron – Painfully well done. Thank you for your commitment to share these perspectives.


  2. Erma Durkin says:

    This is a most excellent, moving narrative. Thank you for the inspiration, and the challenge.


  3. robert says:

    That is a sick and twisted perpective. wtf?


  4. stevemd2 says:

    The bible is full of stone age stories. Much of religion is anything but about God and love.
    And the problem with faith is that is all it is.
    Let one crack in the dike appear and the whole rotten thing will eventually crumble.
    So they never never dare change it

    As hitichens said – Religion poisons everything
    As Diderot said during the French revolution to break free of the cabal of church and king………

    mankind will be free when the last king is strangled with the (inards) of the last priest.


    • Ron Goetz says:

      Sorry, Steve.

      1. The oldest portions of the Bible date from the iron age and bronze age. Nothing dates from the stone age.
      2. All ideology, from conservatism to liberalism to radicalism, is based on faith.
      3. If religion never changed, it would never have embraced the printing press, radio, television, or the internet.
      4. If religion never changed, there would be no Protestants. We’d all be Roman Catholic, and Roman Catholicism would look considerably different.
      5. Religion poisons everything? Were the poisons of Hitler and Stalin religious poison, or secular poison?
      6. So did you want to get about of strangling every last priest? Where did intolerance and murder originate? And Jesus Followers, what becomes of them?


      • JayH says:

        (2) Not all ideology is based on “faith,” unless you use faith in the most broad definition – not isolated to “religious faith.”

        (4) If religion never changed… Christianity would not exist.

        (5) That stevemd2 cites Hitchens to criticize religion does NOT mean that Hitchens brand of atheism is to be equated with Stalin’s. (Hitler, in several sources, claimed to embrace Christianity.) The only thing in common about atheists is a rejection of gods and goddesses, divinities of any kind. On the other hand, Christians all claim to follow the words of Jesus and his apostles… so when Christians make this claim, then act in ways opposite the claim, hypocrisy is the appropriate reaction.

        And all this is moot… as the narrative is taken from the HEBREW BIBLE (aka Old Testament), the texts Christians believe were superseded by the New Testament. Instead, Christians use the Hebrew Bible for the narratives, and ignore ALL the commandments – 613 of them – in the Hebrew Bible. It’s a bit like reading Aesop’s Fables as a fun story, while ignoring the moral of the story.


  5. Bruce says:

    As a gay Jewish-Christian who’s been in a loving, monogamous relationship with the same man for 20 years, this breaks my heart … and I believe it breaks the heart of the Lord God, as well. How grateful I am to be under the New Covenant of love and grace, judged not by my (in)ability to keep and fulfill the letter of the Law but, instead, by the amazing grace and the love and acceptance granted to me by el Shaddai because I have faith in following ha Maschiach Yeshua, blessed be the Name!


    • Ron Goetz says:

      I agree — we are fortunate to live under the New Covenant, not the Old Covenant chiseled in stone and written on parchment. We have direct, unmediated connection with God.


  6. JayH says:

    Bear in mind, for all the Christians fixate on stoning to death as punishment, very few people were ever stoned to death. Had I time for better research, I would cite something other than Wikipedia… but, in a pinch:

    “However, even in Biblical times, it was very difficult to get a conviction that would lead to this prescribed punishment. The Jewish oral law states that capital punishment would only be applicable if two men were caught in the act of anal sex, if there were two witnesses to the act, if the two witnesses warned the men involved that they committed a capital offense, and the two men – or the willing party, in case of rape – subsequently acknowledged the warning but continued to engage in the prohibited act anyway. As such, it is not surprising that there is no account of capital punishment, in regards to this law, in Jewish history.”


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