Is the Death Penalty Scriptural?
Today’s Question: My question is about the death penalty. Does
the Bible say one way or another if capital punishment is right or wrong? I know
that it was okay in the Old Testament, but then Jesus stopped people from
stoning the adulteress. I would really like to know the biblical stance on this
Bible Answer: According to the Bible
the death penalty was instituted after the flood, during Noah's time.
And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will
demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will
demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. "Whoever sheds
the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of
God has God made man. (Gen 9:5-6)
Before the flood, you might recall that Cain killed his brother, yet
God protected him from someone else killing him. Cain was fearful that
others will revenge his brother's murder. He exclaimed:
Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from
your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever
finds me will kill me." But the LORD said to him, "Not so; if
anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over." Then
the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.
It's clear that the death penalty did not originate until after the
flood. After the flood God instituted human government, and it is the
government’s job to keep justice. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a
tooth, is the Law’s way of describing justice.
Jesus came on the scene and told us to turn the other cheek. Jesus
taught us that personal vengeance rarely accomplishes justice. His words
should not be construed to mean that government has been abolished. He is
simply making sure we don’t act in the place of government. I believe
the government still should follow the law God laid down to Noah. We are
all offspring of Noah, thus we should continue to follow what He
instructed to do, and that includes the death penalty.
It is true that Jesus stopped the stoning of the woman caught in
adultery. But we should remember that adultery does not deserve the death
penalty. Adultery is a terrible sin, but it is not the same as murder.
Capital punishment should only be instituted for murderers, and no one
else. Manslaughter is not the same as murder. Accidental killing should
not be punished with death. In the Old Testament God instructed Israel to,
"Select some towns to be your cities of refuge, to which a person who
has killed someone accidentally may flee. They will be places of refuge
from the avenger, so that a person accused of murder may not die before he
stands trial before the assembly" (Num 35:11-12).
Clearly manslaughter was not punishable by the Law as far as the death
penalty was concerned. The person still had to stand trial before the
There are two reasons for capital punishment: justice and deterrence.
Our common sense of justice tells us that capital punishment is just. If someone takes the life
of another, then they need to be prepared to give their life. That’s
I also believe capital punishment will deter people from murder, but,
only if it is instituted fairly and swiftly. I am disappointed in the
amount of minorities who are executed. It is not fair when minorities are
more likely to be executed than non-minorities. Those injustices need to be worked out if
Americans and other societies are going to embrace capital punishment.
Another thought: due process needs to be swifter and yet maintain
fairness. People should not be on death row for 10 to 15 years before
getting what they deserve. Most murderers rarely fear capital punishment
because they are unlikely to be put to death, and they know it. For
capital punishment to work, the government must make it clear to all the
likely consequences of murder. Right now, most murderers don’t fear
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