Death Penalty and Sacredness of Life
Death Penalty and The Sacredness of Life
God gives life. God holds such a gift as a sacred trust among men. Men are thereby not to murder one another. Such was true before the law of Moses (Gen. 9:5-6), it was true under the law (Exod. 20:13; Deut. 5:17), and is still true as John stated that "no murderer has eternal life" (1 John 3:15).
For Israel, the shedding of innocent blood was what defiled the land … God warned: "You shall not pollute the land in which you live, for blood pollutes the land, and no atonement can be made for the land for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of the one who shed it. You shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell, for I the Lord dwell in the midst of the people of Israel” (Numbers 35:33-34)
It is interesting that the PENALTY for murder was the forfeiting of the murderer's life - the death penalty. Before the law, during the time we call the Patriarchal period, God proclaimed: "And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image" (Genesis 9:5-6) Under the law the penalty for homicide: "Moreover, you shall accept no ransom for the life of a murderer, who is guilty of death, but he shall be put to death" (Numbers 35:3).
(Note: under the law there were other crimes that also were to be given the death penalty - see below). When we turn to the New Testament Paul wrote that the governments do "not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer" (Romans 13:4).
God made provision for unintentional killing (Num. 35:22-5; Deut. 19:4-6). God made a distinction between shedding blood in war versus doing it in times of peace (1Kings 2:5). God had Israel set aside cities of refuge to allow the accused the opportunity for safety until a trial could be set. God decreed that this penalty could only be given at the mouth of two or three witnesses (Deut. 17:6; 19:15). God decreed that the son should not be put to death for the sin of the father - nor the father for the sin of the child ( Ezek. 18:20 ). God hedged this death penalty in so that it would be done fairly, righteously, and justly. But He did decree the penalty of death.
Numerous offenses in the Law of Moses were punishable by death, including:
a. Murder - Exo. 21:12-14; Lev. 24:17.
b. Kidnapping - Exo. 21:16.
c. Abuse of parents - Exo. 21:15,17; Lev. 20:9.
d. Sorcery - Exo. 22:18.
e. Bestiality - Exo. 22:19; Lev. 20:15>16.
f. Idolatry - Exo. 22:20; Deut. 17:2-7.
g. Adultery - Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:22.
h. Incest-Lev. 20:11,12,14.
i. Homosexuality - Lev. 20:13.
j. Rape - Deut. 22:23-29.
k. Blasphemy - Lev. 24:15,16.