The death penalty / capital punishment
More examples from the Hebrew Scriptures
|(sometimes) for committing murder: Levitucus 24:17 requires
that "he that killeth any man shall surely be put to death."
Leviticus 24:21 repeats this requirement. See also Numbers 35:16 and Deuteronomy 17:6.
The Hebrew word "ratsach" in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old
Testament) and the Greek word "phoneuo" in the
Christian Scriptures (New Testament) are generally
mistranslated into the English word "kill." They actually mean "to
murder with premeditation." |
However, Exodus 21:20, states that if a slave-owner kills his male or female slave, he shall be merely "punished." The nature of the punishment is not specified. The murderer would presumably not receive the death penalty; if he were to be killed, then one would expect the text to say this directly. However, if the injured slave lives for a while after the beating before dying of the abuse, the owner is not punished at all.
|for kidnapping: Exodus 21:16 states: And he that stealeth a man, and selleth
him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.
This involves kidnapping for the purpose of selling him into slavery. See also
|for human sacrifice: Leviticus 20:2-5 states: Whosoever.... giveth any of his
seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death. To "give ones seed to
Molech" means to ritually sacrifice one's child to a Pagan God.
|for cursing parents: Exodus 21:17 states: And he that curseth his father, or
his mother, shall surely be put to death. See also Leviticus 20:9. The exact meaning
of the key Hebrew word is ambiguous; it might mean, in English, to curse or blaspheme, or to degrade or
|for abusing one's parents: Exodus 21:15 states: And he that smiteth his father, or
his mother, shall be surely put to death. |
|for careless handling of an animal: Exodus 21:29 states: But if the ox
.....hath killed a man or a woman; the ox shall be stoned, and his owner also shall be put
to death. If an animal has the habit of injuring others, and the owner
does not kill it, then the both the owner and the ox may be put to death.
|for stubbornness and rebellion: Deuteronomy 21:18-21 states: If a man have a
stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of
his mother.....all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die.....
Because of the ambiguities in some of the words used in the original text, the death
penalty might not have been required in this case.
|for blasphemy: Leviticus 24:16 states: And he that blasphemeth the name of the
LORD, he shall surely be put to death. Blasphemy was defined as uttering the name of
Jehovah while cursing.
|for working on Saturday: Exodus 35:2 states: ...but on the seventh day
there shall be to you an holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD: whosoever doeth work
therein shall be put to death. Numbers 15:32-36 described a man who was executed
because he gathered wood on Saturday.
|for ignoring the decision of a priest or judge: Deuteronomy 17:12 states: And
the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to
minister there before the LORD thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die....
|for perjury: Deuteronomy 19:15-21 states in part (with reference to a murder
trial) ....if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his
brother; then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother....
That is, a perjurer would himself be killed.
|for accidentally killing a pregnant woman: Exodus 21:22-23 states:
"If men strive [i.e. fight], and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.
And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe." If two
men are fighting and accidentally hurt a pregnant woman so that she has a
Some Bible translations, supported by conservative Christian denominations, translate miscarriage as "premature birth." And they interpret verse 23 to include death of the newborn. However, this translation is rare.
|A male who was not circumcised: Genesis 17:14|
|Eating leavened bread during the Feast of Unleavened Bread: Exodus 12:15|
|Manufacturing anointing oil: Exodus 30:33|
|Engaging in ritual animal sacrifices other than at the temple: Leviticus 17:1-9|
|Consuming blood: Leviticus 17:10. This would include eating rare meat.|
|Eating peace offerings while ritually unclean: Leviticus 7:20|
|Waiting too long before consuming sacrifices: Leviticus 19:5-8|
|Sexual activity with a woman who is menstruating: Leviticus 20:18|
|Going to the temple in an unclean state: Numbers 19:13|
|Persons teaching another religion: Deuteronomy 13:1-11|
|A prophet whose prophecy does not come true: Deuteronomy 18:22|
|Gluttony and excessive drinking: Deuteronomy 21:20|
God killed individuals because they engaged in various transgressions:
|for wickedness In Genesis 6, God was disappointed at the wickedness and evil acts
of humanity. He sent the flood in Genesis 7:6 which killed every man, woman, child, infant,
new-born, except for those six who were in Noah's ark. This is as
close as humanity has come to a complete genocide. The exact nature of the
wickedness is not defined. God also killed Er in Genesis 38:8 for some unknown form of
|for being abusive to strangers In Genesis 18:20, God had heard that the people of
Sodom were wicked and evil. He sent some angels there, who confirmed the stories. In
Genesis 19:24, God demolished Sodom and all of its men, women, children, infants,
new-born, plants and animals, except for Lot's family. The crime of the people of Sodom
has been interpreted by some to be homosexual rape, and by others to be any
form of homosexual behavior. But other references to Sodom in the Bible show clearly that it was a lack of hospitality
to strangers, and concern for the poor. See Jesus' comments in Matthew 10:14-15 and Luke 10:7. These are
confirmed in Ezekeiel 16:48-50.
|for being excessively curious: In Genesis 19:17, the angels
told Lot to: ....Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all
the plain; escape to the mountain.... Lot's wife looked back. God killed her and
turned her into a pillar of salt.
|for practicing birth control: Onan was required by Jewish law and tradition to marry his brother's widow and have a male child who would be considered the brother's heir. This is called levirate marriage. He didn't want to do this, and so practiced an elementary form of birth control (coitus interruptus). God killed him. This was first interpreted by the Church as punishment for a sexual sin: avoiding pregnancy through the use of a birth control technique. Later, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, the Church said it was masturbation. "Onanism" became a synonym for auto-eroticism. Recent Biblical scholars interpret his crime as refusal to follow Jewish custom and provide an heir.|
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Latest update: 2011-MAR-09
Author: B.A. Robinson
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