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Death penalty

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The lawful taking of human life by the civil or military authorities. The death penalty was inflicted by all nations in the ancient world. In Israel, the main method was stoning, amongst other nations, other forms such as hanging, beheading and crucifixion were used.

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The ultimate authority for the death penalty lies with God alone

Examples of God taking human life

Exodus 12:29 NKJV
And it came to pass at midnight that the Lord struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of livestock.
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God may delegate his authority to human beings

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The role of the civil authority

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Causes of the death penalty

Sacrilege

Exodus 19:12–13 NKJV
You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, ‘Take heed to yourselves that you do not go up to the mountain or touch its base. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. Not a hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned or shot with an arrow; whether man or beast, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds long, they shall come near the mountain.”

Serious abuse of one’s parents

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Witchcraft

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Rape of a betrothed virgin

Deuteronomy 22:23–29 NKJV
“If a young woman who is a virgin is betrothed to a husband, and a man finds her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry out in the city, and the man because he humbled his neighbor’s wife; so you shall put away the evil from among you. “But if a man finds a betrothed young woman in the countryside, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. But you shall do nothing to the young woman; there is in the young woman no sin deserving of death, for just as when a man rises against his neighbor and kills him, even so is this matter. For he found her in the countryside, and the betrothed young woman cried out, but there was no one to save her. “If a man finds a young woman who is a virgin, who is not betrothed, and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are found out, then the man who lay with her shall give to the young woman’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife because he has humbled her; he shall not be permitted to divorce her all his days.

Bestiality

Exodus 22:19 NKJV
“Whoever lies with an animal shall surely be put to death.

Child sacrifice

Leviticus 20:2–5 NKJV
“Again, you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘Whoever of the children of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell in Israel, who gives any of his descendants to Molech, he shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones. I will set My face against that man, and will cut him off from his people, because he has given some of his descendants to Molech, to defile My sanctuary and profane My holy name. And if the people of the land should in any way hide their eyes from the man, when he gives some of his descendants to Molech, and they do not kill him, then I will set My face against that man and against his family; and I will cut him off from his people, and all who prostitute themselves with him to commit harlotry with Molech.

Adultery

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Blasphemy

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Idolatry

Leviticus 20:2 NKJV
“Again, you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘Whoever of the children of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell in Israel, who gives any of his descendants to Molech, he shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones.

Immorality

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Kidnapping

Exodus 21:16 NKJV
“He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death.

Murder

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Rebellion

Deuteronomy 17:12 NKJV
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 from Israel.

Sabbath-breaking

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Means of executing the death penalty

Beheading

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Burning

Daniel 3:6 NKJV
and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.”

Crucifixion

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Hanging

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Impalement

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Stoning

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Stoning was the duty of the whole community:

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Stoning carried out lawfully:

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Stoning carried out unlawfully:

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The attempted stoning of Jesus Christ:

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Jesus Christ refuses to carry out a stoning.

The sword

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Wild beasts

Daniel 6:16 NKJV
So the king gave the command, and they brought Daniel and cast him into the den of lions. But the king spoke, saying to Daniel, “Your God, whom you serve continually, He will deliver you.”

The commutation of the death penalty

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