Is the Death Penalty Scriptural Today? (Part 4)
In our prior lesson, we noted a dozen capital crimes under the Mosaic law (i.e., murder, adultery, incest, homosexuality, bestiality, rape of a betrothed virgin, kidnapping, harlotry, human sacrifice, striking one's parents, cursing one's parents, & rebellion against parents). Let us continue with this list:

13. Blasphemy against God.
Leviticus 24:16 - "And whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall certainly stone him, the stranger as well as him who is born in the land. When he blasphemes the name of the LORD, he shall be put to death."

14. Violation of the Sabbath day.
Exodus 35:2 - "Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh day shall be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death."

15. Prophesying falsely.
Deuteronomy 18:20 - "But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die." (cf. 13:1-10).

16. Sacrificing to false gods.
Exodus 22:20 - "He who sacrifices to any god, except to the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed."

17. Encouraging apostasy.
Deuteronomy 13:6-9:

"If your brother, the son of your mother, your son or your daughter, the wife of your bosom, or your friend who is as your own soul, secretly entices you, saying, 'Let us go and serve other gods,' which you have not known, neither you nor your fathers, of the gods of the people which are all around you, near to you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth, you shall not consent to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him or conceal him; but you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people."

18. Refusing to abide by an authoritative decision.
Deuteronomy 17:12 states - "Now the man who acts presumptuously and will not heed the priest who stands to minister there before the LORD your God, or the judge, that man shall die. So you shall put away the evil person from Israel."

19. Sorcery.
Exodus 22:18 - "You shall not permit a sorceress to live" (cf. Lev. 20:27).

20. Unauthorized persons setting up or taking down the tabernacle.
Numbers 1:51 - "And when the tabernacle is to go forward, the Levites shall take it down; and when the tabernacle is to be set up, the Levites shall set it up. The outsider who comes near shall be put to death."

21. Lying, if you lied to try to get someone else executed.
Deuteronomy 19:18,19 - "And the judges shall make careful inquiry, and indeed, if the witness is a false witness, who has testified falsely against his brother, then you shall do to him as he thought to have done to his brother; so you shall put away the evil from among you."

22. Failing to prevent your animal--that is known to be aggressive--from killing a person.
Exodus 21:29 - "But if the ox tended to thrust with its horn in times past, and it has been made known to his owner, and he has not kept it confined, so that it has killed a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned and its owner also shall be put to death."

Although I have been trying to be thorough, it appears that this list is incomplete for there are a number of Old Testament passages that speak of criminals being "cut off" for certain sins (e.g., Exo. 12:15; 30:33; etc.). There is some debate as to whether this phrase refers to the death penalty or simply being exiled. I lean toward the former view (cf. Exo. 31:14).

Also, it should be noted that the Law of Moses even required a severe penalty for accidental death (i.e., manslaughter; cf. Num. 35:22-28).

So Stephen, why spend all this time reading these offenses and supporting Scriptures? My aim was to make the severity of capital punishment under the Old Law really resonate with us today. The Hebrews lived under a theocracy, where their religious and civil laws both came directly from God. Even though we're not bound by these laws today, these laws were in force approximately 1500 years, and they show just how serious sin is. Even though these people were made in God's image (as we are today), the LORD was clear that certain offenses did not justify attempted rehabilitation but speedy extermination (this is true individually and nationally; cf. Deut. 20:16-18). No mortal is in a position to judge the Sovereign Creator on this point.

Sadly, there were offenses that deserved the death penalty under Moses that much of our society doesn't even recognize as being sinful today (e.g., homosexuality, blasphemy, etc.). As far as I understand, murder would be the only action on this list that an American today could commit and perhaps forfeit his life over.

What does the New Testament teach about the death penalty? We're ready to move on to that aspect in our next lesson.