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The Death Penalty in Scripture

Posted by Stephen Pidgeon on Friday, June 28, 2019 at 12:00 AM

 

It is time to address the difficult issue of the death penalty in scripture.  For the Torah Observant community, this issue is omnipresent, as many who seek to come under the 613 mitsvoth identified by Maimonides and who identify themselves with these mitsvoth by wearing the tsiytsith on the beltloops tied in the gematria of 10-5-6-5, we must look now at the potential liabilities and the possibility of receiving a death sentence by any of those who might appoint themselves as judges of the community.

Let’s take a look:

Death Penalty by Stoning

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 20:2
Again, you shall say to the children of Yashar’el, Whosoever he be of the children of Yashar’el, or of the strangers that sojourn in Yashar’el, that gives any of his seed unto Molek; he shall surely be put to death: the people of the land shall stone him with stones.

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 20:27
A man also or woman that has a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them.

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 24:14
Bring forth him את eth-that has cursed without the camp; and let all that heard him lay את eth-their hands upon his head, and let all the assembly stone him.

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 24:16
And he that blasphemes the name of Yahuah, he shall surely be put to death, and all the assembly shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemes the name of Yahuah, shall be put to death.

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 24:23
And Mosheh spoke to the children of Yashar’el, that they should bring forth him את eth-that had cursed out of the camp, and stone him with stones. And the children of Yashar’el did as Yahuah commanded את eth-Mosheh.

Bemidbar (Numbers) 15:32-36
And while the children of Yashar’el were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the Shabbath. 33 And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto El-Mosheh and El-Aharon, and unto all the assembly. 34 And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him. 35 And Yahuah said unto Mosheh, The man shall be surely put to death: all the assembly shall stone him with stones without the camp. 36 And all the assembly brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as Yahuah commanded את eth-Mosheh.

Devariym (Deuteronomy) 17:2-7
If there be found among you, within any of your gates which Yahuah Elohayka gives you, man or woman, that has wrought את eth-wickedness in the sight of Yahuah Elohayka, in transgressing his covenant, 3 And has gone and served other elohiym, and worshipped them, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded; 4 And it be told you, and you have heard of it, and inquired diligently, and, behold, it be true, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought in Yashar’el: 5 Then shall you bring forth את eth-that man or את eth-that woman, which have committed את eth-that wicked thing, unto your gates, even את eth-that man or את eth-that woman, and shall stone them with stones, till they die. 6 At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death. 7 The hands of the witnesses shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So you shall put the evil away from among you.

Devariym (Deuteronomy) 21:18-21
If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: 19 Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; 20 And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. 21 And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shall you put evil away from among you; and all Yashar’el shall hear, and fear.

Death Penalty by Burning

Bere’shiyth (Genesis) 38:24
And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Yahudah, saying, Tamar your daughter in law has played the harlot; and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom. And Yahudah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt.

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 20:14
And if a man take את eth-a woman and את eth-her mother, it is wickedness: they shall be burnt with fire, both he and they; that there be no wickedness among you.

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 21:9
And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profanes את eth-her father: she shall be burnt with fire.

Death Penalty for murder

Bere’shiyth (Genesis) 9:6
Whoso sheds man's blood, by man shall את eth-his blood be shed: for in the image of Elohiym made he man.

Bemidbar (Numbers) 35:16-21
And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death. 17 And if he smite him with throwing a stone, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death. 18 Or if he smite him with a hand weapon of wood, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death. 19 The revenger of blood himself shall slay את eth-the murderer: when he meets him, he shall slay him. 20 But if he thrust him of hatred, or hurl at him by laying of wait, that he die; 21 Or in enmity smite him with his hand, that he die: he that smote him shall surely be put to death; for he is a murderer: the revenger of blood shall slay את eth-the murderer, when he meets him.

Bemidbar (Numbers) 35:30-33
Whoso kills any person, the murderer shall be put את eth-to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die. 31 Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death. 32 And ye shall take no satisfaction for him that is fled to the city of his refuge, that he should come again to dwell in the land, until the death of the priest. 33 So ye shall not pollute את eth-the land wherein ye are: for blood it defiles את eth-the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it.

Devariym (Deuteronomy) 17:6
At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.

Death Penalty by Hanging

Devariym (Deuteronomy) 21:22-23
And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and you hang him on a tree: 23 His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but you shall in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of Elohiym;) that את eth-your land be not defiled, which Yahuah Elohayka gives you for an inheritance.

Yahusha (Joshua) 8:29
And את eth-the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until evening: and as soon as the sun was down, Yahusha com-manded that they should take את eth-his carcase down from the tree, and cast it at the entering of the gate of the city, and raise thereon a great heap of stones, that remains unto this day.

Death Penalty for Beastiality

Shemoth (Exodus) 22:19
Whosoever lies with a beast shall surely be put to death.

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 20:15-16
And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and את eth-ye shall slay the beast. 16 And if a woman approach unto any beast, and lie down thereto, you shall kill את eth-the woman, and את eth-the beast: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

Death Penalty for Cursing Parents

Shemoth (Exodus) 21:15
He who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.

Shemoth (Exodus) 21:17
He who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 20:9
If there is anyone who curses his father or his mother, he shall surely be put to death; he has cursed his father or his mother, his blood-guiltiness is upon him.

Death Penalty for Desecrating the Sabbath day

Bemidbar (Numbers) 15:32-36
And while the children of Yashar’el were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the Shabbath. 33 And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto El-Mosheh and El-Aharon, and unto all the assembly. 34 And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him. 35 And Yahuah said unto Mosheh, The man shall be surely put to death: all the assembly shall stone him with stones without the camp. 36 And all the assembly brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as Yahuah commanded את eth-Mosheh.

Shemoth (Exodus) 35:2-3
Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you a holy day, a Shabbath of rest to Yahuah: whosoever does work therein shall be put to death. 3 Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the Shabbath.

Death Penalty for Sexual Sins

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 20:10-13
And the man that breaks wedlock with את eth-another man's woman, even he that breaks wedlock with את eth-his neighbour's woman, the man and the woman that breaks wedlock shall surely be put to death.

11 And the man that lies with את eth-his father's woman has uncovered his father's nakedness: both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

12 And if a man lie with את eth-his daughter in law, both of them shall surely be put to death: they have wrought confusion; their blood shall be upon them.

13 If a man also lie את eth-with mankind, as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

Death Penalty for Kidnapping/Slave trading

Shemoth (Exodus) 21:16
And he that steals a man, and sells him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.

Devariym (Deuteronomy) 24:7
If a man be found stealing any of his brethren of the children of Yashar’el, and makes merchandise of him, or sells him; then that thief shall die; and you shall put evil away from among you.

Death Penalty for False prophets

Deuteronomy 13:1-5
IF there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spoke unto you, saying, Let us go after other elohiym, which you have not known, and let us serve them; 3 You shall not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for Yahuah Elohaykem proves you, to know whether ye love את eth-Yahuah Elohaykem with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 Ye shall walk after Yahuah Elohaykem, and fear him, and guard את eth-his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. 5 And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he has spoken to turn you away from Yahuah Elohaykem, which brought you out of the land of Mitsrayim, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust you out of the way which Yahuah Elohayka commanded you to walk in. So shall you put the evil away from the midst of you.

Death Penalty for acting presumptuously

Devariym (Deuteronomy) 17:12
And the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that stands to minister there before את eth-Yahuah Elohayka, or unto the judge, even that man shall die: and you shall put away the evil from Yashar’el.

Death Penalty for Rape

Devariym (Deuteronomy) 22:25
But if a man find את eth-a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die:

Death Penalty for Witchcraft

Shemoth (Exodus) 22:18
You shall not suffer a witch (enchanter or spell caster) to live.

But what of a statute of limitations?  Does any such thing exist in Mosheh’s Torah?

Devariym (Deuteronomy) 15:1-3
AT the end of every seven years you shall make a release. 2 And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lends ought unto his neighbour shall release it; he shall not exact it of את eth-his neighbour, or of את eth-his brother; because it is called Yahuah’s release. 3 את eth-Of a foreigner you may exact it again: but that which is yours with את eth your brother your hand shall release;

Bemidbar (Numbers) 35:25-29
And the assembly shall deliver את eth-the slayer out of the hand of the revenger of blood, and the assembly shall restore him to the city of his refuge, whither he was fled: and he shall abide in it unto the death of the high priest, which was anointed with the holy oil. 26 But if the slayer shall at any time come without את eth-the border of the city of his refuge, whither he was fled; 27 And the revenger of blood find him without the borders of the city of his refuge, and the revenger of blood kill את eth-the slayer; he shall not be guilty of blood: 28 Because he should have remained in the city of his refuge until the death of the high priest: but after the death of the high priest the slayer shall return into the land of his possession. 29 So these things shall be for a statute of judgment unto you throughout your generations in all your dwellings.

Such is the death penalty in Mosheh’s Torah.

Now, consider the capital crimes set forth in the Massachusetts Body of Liberties adopted as law by the General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Bay December 1641: https://www.winthropsociety.com/liberties.php

  1. If any man after legal conviction shall have or worship any other god, but the Lord God, he shall be put to death.

NOTE: “Lastly, it is ordered by the Authoritie aforesaid that all Constables may, and shall from time to time duly make search throughout the limits of their towns upon Lords dayes, and Lecture dayes, in times of Exercise; and also at all other times, so oft as they shall see cause for all offences and offenders against this Law in any of the particulars thereof.” The Book of the General Lawes and Libertyes Concerning the Inhabitants of the Massachusets (1648; facsimile edition, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1929). http://puritanism.online.fr/puritanism/sources/lawslibertyes1648.html

  1. If any man or woman be a witch (that is, hath or consulteth with a familiar spirit), they shall be put to death.

  2. If any person shall blaspheme the name of God, the Father, Son or Holy Ghost, with direct, express, presumptuous or high handed blasphemy, or shall curse God in the like manner, he shall be put to death.

  3. If any person commit any willful murder, which is manslaughter committed upon premeditated malice, hatred, or cruelty, and not in a man's necessary and just defense, nor by mere casualty against his will, he shall be put to death.

  4. If any person slayeth another suddenly in his anger or cruelty of passion, he shall be put to death.

  5. If any person shall slay another through guile, either by poisoning or other such devilish practice, he shall be put to death.

  6. If any man or woman shall lie with any beast or brute creature by carnal copulation, they shall surely be put to death. And the beast shall be slain, and buried and not eaten.

  7. If any man lyeth with mankind (with another man in homosexual intercourse) as he lyeth with a woman, both of them have committed abomination, and they both shall surely be put to death.

  8. If any person committeth adultery with a married or espoused wife, the adulterer and adulteress shall surely be put to death.

  9. If any man stealeth a man or mankind (i.e.: kidnapping), he shall surely be put to death.

  10. If any man rise up by false witness, wittingly and of purpose to take away any man's life, he shall be put to death.

  11. If any man shall conspire and attempt any invasion, insurrection, or public rebellion against our Commonwealth, or shall indeavour to surprise any Town or Towns, fort or forts therein, or shall treacherously and perfidiously attempt the alteration and subversion of our frame of polity or government fundamentally, he shall be put to death.

In the words of Phillip Morris: “You’ve come a long way baby.”

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