XXXVII. (196) Accordingly, this man of mixed race, having had a quarrel with some one of the consecrated and well-instructed house of Israel, becoming carried away by his anger, and unable to restrain himself, and being also an admirer and follower of the impiety of the Egyptians, extended his impiety from earth to heaven, cursing it with his accursed, and polluted, and defiled soul, and with his wicked tongue, and with the whole power of all his vocal organs in the superfluity of his ungodliness; though it ought to be blessed and praised, not by all men, indeed, but only by those who are most virtuous and pious, as having received perfect purification. (197) Wherefore Moses, marvelling at his insanity and at the extravagance of his audacity, although he was filled with a noble impetuosity and indignation, and desired to slay the man with his own hand, nevertheless feared lest he should be inflicting on him too light a punishment; for he conceived that no man could possibly devise any punishment adequate to such enormous impiety. (198) And since it followed of necessity that a man who did not worship God could not honour his father either, or his mother, or his country, or his benefactors, this man, in addition to not reverencing them, dared to speak ill of them. And then what extravagance of wickedness did he fall short of? And yet evil-speaking, if compared with cursing, is the lighter evil of the two. But when intemperate language and an unbridled tongue are subservient to lawless folly, then inevitably and invariably some iniquitous conduct must follow. (199) O man! does any one curse God? What other god can he invoke to ratify and confirm his curse? Is it not plain that he must invoke God to give effect to his curses against himself? Away with such profane and impious ideas! It would be well to cleanse that miserable soul which has been insulted by the voice, and which has sued the ears for ministers, keeping the external senses blind. (200) And was not either the tongue of the man who uttered such impiety loosened, or the ears of him who was destined to hear such things closed up? unless, indeed, that was done in consequence of some providential arrangement of justice, which does not think that either any extraordinary good or that any enormous evil ought to be kept in darkness, but that such should be revealed in order to the most complete manifestation of virtue or vice, so that it may adjudge the one to be worthy of acceptance and the other of punishment. (201) On this account Moses ordered the man to be thrown into prison and bound with chains; and then he addressed propitiatory prayers to God, begging him to be merciful to the necessities of the external senses (by means of which we both see what it is not proper to see, and hear what it is not lawful to hear), and to point out what the author of such a strange and unprecedented blasphemy and impiety ought to suffer. (202) And God commanded him to be stoned, considering, as I imagine, the punishment of stoning to be a suitable and appropriate one for a man who had a stony and hardened heart, and wishing at the same time that all his fellow countrymen should have a share in inflicting punishment on him, as he knew that they were very indignant and eager to slay him; and the only punishment which so many myriads of men could possibly join in was that which was inflicted by throwing stones. (203) But after the punishment of this impious murderer, a new commandment was enacted, which had never before been thought worthy of being reduced to writing; but unexpected innovations cause new laws to be devised for the repression of their evils. At all events, the following law was immediately introduced: “Whoever curses God shall be guilty of sin, and whoever names the name of the Lord shall Die.”{2}{#le 24:15.} (204) Well done, O all-wise man! You alone have drunk of the cup of unalloyed wisdom. You have seen that it was worse to name God than even to curse him; for you would never have treated lightly a man who had committed the heaviest of all impieties, and inflicted the heaviest punishment possible on those who committed the slightest faults; but you fixed death, which is the very greatest punishment imaginable, as the penalty for the man who appeared to have committed the heaviest crime.