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 and said, “I am sorry my son, but Torah commands that you 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.” 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, along with my neighbors, and the elders and the rabbis of Elasa, according to Scripture.

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. In two days the pain in my arm ceased.

The cries and wails of Baruch were difficult on my ears. I am embarrassed to say I almost stopped. But being a righteous and upright man I did as Torah 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, and righteous, and blameless.

I am proud that my wife and my sons and daughters helped to purge the unclean thing from Israel. They are strong in the Lord, observe the Torah, and are of godly character. I was surprised that my wife came. She heaved the large stones, as did the other mothers.

My son 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. I do not see my sons and daughters when I return from the fields or from the city. I sometimes go 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 neighbors no longer greet greet us with smiles in Elasa, because the people have seen the hand of the Lord 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.

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.
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