“Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). Several metaphors are used to show the relationship between Jesus and His church or the “called out” ones. We often read of Jesus as the Good Shepherd with Christians being His sheep. We are children with God as our Father and Jesus as our older Brother. We are God’s husbandry and His building (1 Corinthians 3:9), Christ’s household (Hebrews 3:6). Other analogies speak of Jesus as the Vine and His disciples as the branches (John 15:1-5). The church is called His body (1 Corinthians 12:12-27Ephesians 2:22-233:64:4-16Colossians 1:18), with Jesus being the Head of that body. Scriptures are replete with lessons about the kingdom (Matthew 13:38-4216:15-19Mark 9:114:25Luke 17:20-21John 3:3-5Ephesians 2:19Acts 1:3) with Jesus being the King of that kingdom. A deeper study of the church reveals about ten such metaphors with each comparison given to help us see our position or relationship to each other, to God and to Jesus.

Focusing on the temple analogy, we see Christ is the chief corner stone (Ephesians 2:20-221 Peter 2:6-9), and we are “lively stones” in that one temple (1 Peter 2:51 Corinthians 3:9-111 Corinthians 3:166:19Revelation 3:12), while the apostles are the foundation (Isaiah 28:16Ephesians 2:19-22Revelation 21:14). We are called “living” or “lively stones” in His holy temple.

Under the Old Testament Law, the stones of a building had to be cleansed if they became “infected” to be sure the whole building was not polluted (Leviticus 14:34-57). In a similar way today, we cleanse the “living stones” of the spiritual temple (the church) or deliver them to Satan for the benefit of the whole congregation (1 Corinthians 5:1-72 Corinthians 7:12). We must purge out the leaven (sin) so the whole building/temple/body comprised of other living stones can be saved.

Christians also serve as His holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), and it is our duty to offer up spiritual sacrifices (Psalm 50:1423141:2John 4:23-24Romans 12:1Hebrews 13:15-16), because this is acceptable to God by Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:114:18Colossians 3:171 Peter 4:11). Using the analogy of a royal priesthood, we see our relationship to our own High Priest. First of all, the priests in the Old Testament, chosen from the tribe of Levi (specifically the sons of Aaron), were continually serving God in the tabernacle (prior to the Temple), and He dealt with them there (Numbers 3:3-102 Chronicles 13:1026:18Luke 1:5-23). Today, we are a holy priesthood, a chosen people of God (Romans 8:28-291 Corinthians 1:27-29Ephesians 1:3-5James 2:51 Peter 2:9), and we serve Him in much the same way Aaron’s sons served under the Old Covenant, except that our sacrifices are primarily spiritual rather than physical (John 4:24).

As priests, we not only have a right to pray directly to God, but it is our duty to pray as part of our spiritual sacrifice (Hebrews 13:15). Like the priests in the Old Testament Temple, our prayers are heard because we have authority to go to God directly (John 16:23Ephesians 2:18). We are priests of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched (Hebrews 8:29:119:22-24) and Jesus is our high priest (Hebrews 2:17-183:1).

Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Beth Johnson

Chennai Teacher Training School

Women’s Studies

Muliebral Viewpoint

Articles and Books by Beth Johnson


To get the clearest picture of the word of God in the Scriptures it is absolutely necessary and essential that we discern between the “Old” Testament and the “New” Testament. Without discerning between the old and the new, we have to ignore the names given to each testament. Many combine the two covenants (testaments), and try to obey all the commands in the entire Bible. There are obvious problems such as the commandments to offer animal sacrifices. Then there is a command to go to Jerusalem three times a year for the three feasts. No Christian takes any of these commandments seriously because they have been nailed to the cross and do not apply to us today.

The Old Testament was not given until God formed the physical nation of Israel after they crossed the Red Sea. Now free from Egypt’s control, they had no national law to govern their new nation. God then gave 613 commandments to govern the nation. Most of these commandments (368) were negative to stop the Israelites from doing wrong. Another 268 commandments were given to direct Israelites and what they should do. These commandments included Temple worship and worship of God.

The New Testament was given to govern the spiritual kingdom of God. John the Baptist, Jesus, and the apostles all taught that the kingdom was at hand. Jesus promised that that kingdom would come in the lifetime of some of those standing in front of him as he taught. The Lord promised that the kingdom would come with power. That power came on the day of Pentecost when the apostles were baptized in the Holy Spirit, given power to speak in tongues, to lay their hands on others and give them the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-19). From that point the kingdom of God had come in the spiritual nation of Israel was established. The rest of the New Testament is to govern that new spiritual nation of Israel.

The Old and New Testaments are also called the old and new covenants according to Hebrews 8:7-10. We all know what a covenant is. If one party does not keep their part of the covenant, the other is not obligated to keep his part of the covenant. This is exactly what the Lord said concerning Old Testament Israel. In Hebrews 8:9, he points out that the Israelites were not careful to keep their part of the covenant, and so he no longer regarded them. He made many promises, especially in Deuteronomy 28 that he would fulfill if they would keep this entire covenant.

The Israelites thought that they were keeping God’s covenant, and search the Scriptures to find eternal life (John 5:39). Jesus himself testified that the Pharisees gave their tithe or ten percent (Matthew 23:23). The Pharisees did keep the Sabbath and condemned Jesus for not keeping it. Most of the Jews kept the Passover where we find many of the Jews from all over the world gathered in the second chapter of Acts when Peter preached the first gospel sermon. The Israelites also obeyed several other commandments, but Jesus testified that none of them kept the Law that Moses gave (John 7:39). In Matthew 15 Jesus pointed out that the Jews added many words to the old covenant, which caused them not to obey some of the commands of God (Matt. 15:4-6). God had commanded the Israelites not to add to or to diminish any of his commandments so that they would keep all of them (Deut. 4:2).

As we pointed out previously, we all know that all the conditions of the covenant must be kept or the covenant is void. The Lord argued in Galatians 3:15, that men respected each other’s covenants (wills), and did not change anything. The new covenant is God’s “will,” which the Lord makes clear in Hebrews 9:16-17, where he says “For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.” We all know that the conditions of any man’s will are to be followed in every detail. Should we have the same attitude or mind toward the Lord’s will?

In the “Great Commission,” the Lord commanded the apostles to teach the disciples they made to observe all things that he had commanded them (Matt. 28:19-20). Jesus challenged his disciples in Luke 6:46, saying: “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”

We all know that when any man makes a new covenant, he has made the first old, which naturally vanishes away. The Lord said the same thing concerning the Old Testament in Hebrews 8:13, “In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.” Should we acknowledge that Jesus nailed the handwriting of ordinances (10 Commandments) to his cross? Circumcision was a part of the old covenant. Today, if a man is circumcised to obey the Law of Moses, the Lord says that he is a debtor to do the whole law (Gal. 5:1-4). No man can have two masters. The Jews claimed that they were Moses disciples, and thus could not be Jesus disciples (John 9:28). They acknowledge that the previously blind man was Jesus disciple, and therefore could not be Moses’ disciple. If we try to keep two covenants we really fully confused.

Thus, it is necessary to see the difference between the old and the new covenants and between the Old and New Testaments. We need to continue in the new covenant (Heb. 8:9), listen to our master and Lord (Luke 6:46), and observe all that he commands us (Matt. 28:20).

Beth Johnson

Chennai Teacher Training School

Women’s Studies

Muliebral Viewpoint

Articles and Books by Beth Johnson


  • Genesis 2:4-6 KJV These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, 5 And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. 6 But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.

So there was a mist that watered the ground. Because of the positive statement made about the mist, we may conclude there had not been rain. Henry Morris and John Whitcomb wrote THE GENESIS FLOOD, and they argued that there was a canopy of moisture above the earth, which God described in the creation:

  • Genesis 1:6-8 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. 7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

With the canopy of water above the heavens, it would have made the plants grow larger and man live longer because it would have stopped most of the cosmic rays which we know today destroy the cells of the body and causes our bodies to die sooner. When Noah was told to build the ark, God had already determined that he would reduce the age of man because he was “only evil continually.”

  • Genesis 6:3 KJV And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.

We see that is true [a promise was fulfilled] when we study the ages of the men who followed Noah’s father. In either case, when God made it to rain so that the water covered the mountains, men would fear that God would destroy the earth that way again.  The Lord comforted man by making the promise and causing the rainbow as a sign of that promise.

  • Genesis 9:9-17 KJV And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; 10 And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth. 11 And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth. 12 And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: 13 I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. 14 And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: 15 And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. 17 And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.

We see from the following scriptures that Noah was a preacher of righteousness, and that the people ignored his preaching as if he had said nothing.  Noah told the people that God promised rain. If they had never seen rain before, we can understand why they might doubt. Using words we know today, they may have even called him a fool or a conspiracy theorist. Can you imagine the mockery and disbelief as they watched Noah build a boat on dry ground?  But the day Noah and the animals entered the ark and shut the door, they may have started to wonder.  Finally, when the rain began to fall and the water rose, we can understand how desperately they wished to join Noah and his store of food.

  • Matthew 24:37-39 KJV But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, 39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
  • Luke 17:27 KJV They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.
  • Hebrews 11:7 KJV By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
  • 1 Peter 3:20 KJV Which (the spirits in prison) sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
  • 2 Peter 2:5 KJV And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;

Did Noah warn the people?  We can believe [know] that he was a preacher of righteousness and that he did indeed warn the people that God was going to send a flood to destroy the wicked.

Have men changed? God caused the flood to warn future generations of the coming judgment, but it seems that mankind has not learned this lesson.

  • 2 Peter 3:3-6 KJV Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. 5 For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: 6 Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:

Whether the world remembers and believes or not, we need to remember and prepare ourselves for that Great Day.

Beth Johnson

Chennai Teacher Training School

Women’s Studies

Muliebral Viewpoint

Articles and Books by Beth Johnson


Visual teaching image
What does SIN do?

Beth Johnson

And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things.  Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon.  Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife.  Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun.  For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.  And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD.  And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.  Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die (2 Sam. 12:7-14).

David sinned concerning Bathsheba and Uriah.  He obviously thought to cover his adultery by having Uriah killed in battle, but he was only fooling himself to think the people (especially his army) did not know what was happening.  He had shamed Israel and his own name before the world.

“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Prov. 28:13).

Notice the Psalm that was written about nine months after David’s adultery.

“For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psa. 51:16-17).

According to the Law of Moses, sin could be forgiven by animal sacrifice, but David did not seek to have his sins forgiven by any work of the Old Testament Law.

Pay particular attention to what David did after he committed adultery.

“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions” (Psa. 51:1).

In the next few verses we can see David’s heart as he pours it out before God.

“For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.  Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest” (Psa. 51:3-4).

One of the most beautiful passages in the Psalms is where David asked God to purge him and create a clean heart within him.

“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.  Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.  Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.  Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psa. 51:7-10).

In the Psalm that is quoted in the book of Romans, David acknowledged and confessed his sin.

“I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah” (Psa. 32:5).

We see in the original passage quoted above, that God forgave David’s sin.

“And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die” (2 Sam. 12:13).

When David confessed his sin and asked God for forgiveness, God (through Nathan) told David that his sin was forgiven but He also told him there would be three curses which he would have to endure.  Those were the consequences of his sin.

Some seem to think God indeed is blind that he did not see David’s sin.

“Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13).

We have learned that to confess and forsake sin is righteous before God.

“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Prov. 28:13).

David knew that God forgives sin, but He also takes vengeance on man’s inventions.  After David’s confession, God forgave his sin, but note what happened because of that sin.  Forgiveness is not the end of the matter.

“Moses and Aaron among his priests, and Samuel among them that call upon his name; they called upon the LORD, and he answered them.  He spake unto them in the cloudy pillar: they kept his testimonies, and the ordinance that he gave them.  Thou answeredst them, O LORD our God: thou wast a God that forgavest them, though thou tookest vengeance of their inventions” (Psa. 99:6-8).

God promised to shame David openly and David accepted God’s judgment as well as his punishment.  Let’s notice the events that lead to David’s punishment being fulfilled.

The third curse took place within seven days.  The child died.

And it came to pass on the seventh day that the child died. And the servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead: for they said, Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spake unto him, and he would not hearken unto our voice: how will he then vex himself, if we tell him that the child is dead?” (2 Sam. 12:18).

The second curse pronounced upon David was that the Lord would raise up evil against him out of his own house.  A man would lie with his wives in the sight of the sun.  This took place several years later, but be assured that David had not forgotten the Lord’s words.

“Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun” (2 Sam. 12:11).

Absalom began his treachery against David and was successful in his attempts to supplant his father.

“And Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate: and it was so, that when any man that had a controversy came to the king for judgment, then Absalom called unto him, and said, Of what city art thou? And he said, Thy servant is of one of the tribes of Israel.  And Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right; but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee.  Absalom said moreover, Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice!  And it was so, that when any man came nigh to him to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him.  And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment: so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel” (2 Sam. 15:2-6).

Absalom had no sooner arrived in Hebron than he pronounced himself king.

“But Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, As soon as ye hear the sound of the trumpet, then ye shall say, Absalom reigneth in Hebron.  And with Absalom went two hundred men out of Jerusalem, that were called; and they went in their simplicity, and they knew not any thing.  And Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counseller, from his city, even from Giloh, while he offered sacrifices. And the conspiracy was strong; for the people increased continually with Absalom” (2 Sam. 15:10-12).

The second curse was fulfilled by Absalom after David fled Jerusalem.

 “Then said Absalom to Ahithophel, Give counsel among you what we shall do.  And Ahithophel said unto Absalom, Go in unto thy father’s concubines, which he hath left to keep the house; and all Israel shall hear that thou art abhorred of thy father: then shall the hands of all that are with thee be strong.  So they spread Absalom a tent upon the top of the house; and Absalom went in unto his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel” (2 Sam. 16:20-22).

The first curse that God gave to David lasted his entire lifetime.   David fought with the sword the rest of his entire life.  The sword did not depart from him.

“Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife” (2 Sam. 12:10).

Consider these details in David’s life.  These are things written for our learning.

“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4).

Let us not be weary with the Lord’s correction or the Lord’s vengeance, if we have sinned against Him.


The Lord sees.

The Lord forgives when we confess and forsake.

And He also takes “vengeance of their inventions.”

Chennai Teacher Training School

Women’s Studies

Muliebral Viewpoint

Articles and Books by Beth Johnson


Premeditated Murder       (death penalty required)Exodus 21:12-14, 22, 23Matthew 5:38; Matthew 26:52; Gal 5:18-21; 1 John 3:15
KidnappingExodus 21:16; Deuteronomy 24:71 Tim 1:10; Rev 18:12, 13;
Striking or Cursing ParentsExodus 21:15, 17; Deut 27:16; Leviticus 20:9; Proverbs 20:20; Proverbs 30:11, 17;Matthew 15:4; Mark 7:10; 1 Tim 1:9
Magic or DivinationExodus 22:18; Lev 19:26; Lev 19:31; Lev 20:6; Lev 20:27; Deut 18:10-11; 1 Sam 28:3; Isa 19:3Acts 8:9-11; Acts 16:16-19; Acts 19:19; Gal 5:20; Rev 22:15
BeastialityExodus 22:19; Lev 18:23; Lev 18:25; Lev 20:15-16; Deut 27:21 
Sacrificing to False GodsExodus 22:20; Num 25:2-4 Num 25:7-8; Deut 13:1-15; Deut 17:2-5; Deut 18:20Gal 5:20-21;
Profaning the SabbathEx 20:9-10; Ex 23:12; Ex 31:13-16; Ex 34:21; Exodus 35:2; Lev 23:3; Numbers 15:32-36; Deut 5:12-15Luke 13:14-17; Col 2:16, 17
Offering Human Sacrifice to idolsLeviticus 20:21 Cor 13:13
AdulteryLeviticus 20:10-12, 17-21; Deuteronomy 22:22Matt 5:26-27
IncestLeviticus 20:11, 121 Cor 5:1-5
HomosexualityLeviticus 20:13Rom 1:26, 27
BlasphemyLeviticus 24:11-14, 16, 23Matt 13:31
False ProphecyDeuteronomy 13:1-10Gal 1:6-9
Incorrigible RebelliousnessDeuteronomy 17:12; 21:18-21Jude 10-13
FornicationDeuteronomy 22:20, 211 Cor 5:10-11
Rape of Betrothed VirginDeuteronomy 22:23-27 

Chart idea was taken from Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts, page 61.

Worshipping other godsEx. 22:30; 34:14Matt 4:10
ApostasyDe 13:1-8Heb 12:14-17
IdolatryEx 20:4-6; De 4:15-281 Cor 10:14
SorceryEx 22:18; De 18:9-14Rev 21:8
Sacrifice of ChildrenLe 18;21; 20:2-5 
BlasphemyLe 24:16; De 5:11Matt 12:31
False prophecyDe 18:18-20Matt 7:15
Labor on the SabbathEx 35:2, 3; De 5:12-16Matt 12:1-13
Perversion of justiceEx 23:8; Le 19:5; De 16:19, 20Rom 13:7, 8
PerjuryDe 5:20; 19:16-21Acts 5:1-10
AdulteryLe 19:20-22; De 5:18; 22:22-24Ma 5:27-30
Unlawful marriageLe 18:6-181 Cor 5:1-5
Against natureLe 18:19-25; 20:13Rom 1:24-27
ProstitutionLe 19:29; 21:91 Cor 6:15-18
CovetingDe 5:21 
LyingLe 19:11 
MurderGen 9:5, 6; Ex 21:12-14; Nu 35:14-34; De 5:17 
Assault and batteryEx 21:15, 18, 26, 27; Le 24:19Ma 5:39
RapeDe 22:25-27Ma 5:27-30
SeductionEx 22:16, 17;Re 2:20
OppressionEx 22:21-24; Le 19:14, 33; De 24:14; 27;18, 19James 1:27
KidnappingDe 24:7Lu 12:15; Ep 5:3; Phile 15, 16
SlanderEx 23:1; Le 19;16James 3:2, 13, 17, 18
TheftEx 22:1-4; Le 6:2-7Eph 4:28
Stealing of landDe 19:14; 27:17Lu 20:46, 47
False weights and measuresLe 19:35-37; De 25:13, 16Ro 12:17

Chart taken from The New Analytical Bible, John A. Dickson Publishing Co., page 1460.


Any act forbidden by the civil law and punishable upon conviction. As used in the Bible, however, the word crime refers to any act against God’s moral law as well as any transgression against God, or man, or both (Judg 9:24; Ezek 7:23; Acts 18:14). Specific crimes prohibited in the Bible include MURDER (Mark 15:7), theft (Josh 7:21-25), LYING (Isa 28:15), FORNICATION (Gal 5:19), and ADULTERY (Ex 20:14).

(from Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright (c)1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)


(krim), (krimz): This. term is used in English as the equivalent of the Hebrew Mishpat, “judgment,” “verdict” (Ezek 7:23); zimmah, “a heinous crime” (Job 31:11); ‘asham = “a fault,” “sin” (Gen 26:10, English Versions of the Bible “guiltiness”); and Greek aitia, “case,” “cause” (Acts 25:27, the Revised Version (British and American) “charges”). In the King James Version John 18:38; 19:4,6, the rendition is “fault.”

egklema, “indictment,” “charge” (Acts 25:16 the King James Version) is changed in the Revised Version (British and American) to “matter.” A crime is a transgression against the public right; serious offence against the law; a base weakness or iniquity, all of which are regarded by the Bible as offences against (1) God, or (2) man, or (3) both. An injury to the creature is regarded as obnoxious to the Creator. Specific forms of crime are the following:

Adultery. – See separate article.

Assassination. – This term does not occur in the English Versions of the Bible, but, of course, is included in the more general “to kill,” or “to slay” (haragh = “to smite with deadly intent” “destroy,” “kill,” “murder,” “put to death”). The law distinguished between unpremeditated and premeditated slaying, pronouncing a curse upon the latter (Deut 27:25). David expresses the deepest abhorrence of such an act (2 Sam 4:9-12). Instances are found recorded in Judg 3:15-22; 2 Sam 3:27; 4:5-7; 13:28-29; 20:9-10; 2 Kings 12:20; 19:37; Isa 37:38. See also separate article.

Bestiality. – According to Webster: “unnatural connection with a beast.” This form of vice was treated by the Mosaic law as something exceedingly loathsome and abhorrent, calling for extreme language in its description and rigorous measures in its punishment. Both the beast and the guilty human were to be put to death (Ex 22:19; Lev 18:23; 20:15-16; Deut 27:21), in order, as the Talmud says, to obliterate all memory of the crime.

Blasphemy. – See separate article.

Breach of Covenant (parar ‘eth ha-berith). – According to Poucher (HDB, article “Crimes”), this term included: (1) failure to observe the Day of Atonement (Lev 23:29); work on that day (Lev 23:28); (2) sacrifice of children to Moloch (Lev 20:3); (3) neglect of circumcision (Gen 17:14; Ex 4:26); (4) unauthorized manufacture of the holy oil (Ex 30:33); (5) anointing an alien therewith (Ex 30:33); (6) neglect of the Passover (Num 9:13). Note also the following: Gen 17:14; Lev 26:15-44; Deut 29:25; 31:16,20. Paul (Rom 1:31) speaks of asunthetoi = “Convenant-breakers.”

Breach of Ritual. – A term not found in the Scriptures, but designed to cover a number of acts prohibited by the ceremonial law. They have been exhaustively enumerated by Poucher (HDB, article “Crimes”): (1) eating blood, whether of fowl or beast (Lev 7:27; 17:14); (2) eating fat of the beast of sacrifice (Lev 7:25); (3) eating leavened bread during the Passover (Ex 12:15,19); (4) failure to bring an offering when an animal is slaughtered for food (Lev 17:4); (5) offering sacrifice while the worshipper is under the ban of uncleanness. (Lev 7:20-21; 22:3-4,9); (6) making holy ointment for private use (Ex 30:32-33); (7) using the same for perfume (Ex 30:38); (8) neglect of purification in general (Num 19:13,20); (9) slaughtering an animal for food away from the door of the tabernacle (Lev 17:4,9); even the alien must comply, so that the introduction of worship at other places might be avoided; (10) touching holy things illegally (Num 4:16,20 the Revised Version (British and American) “the sanctuary”). The punishment for the non-observance of these prohibitions was the “cutting off” from the transgressor’s people (nikhrath miqqerebh  = “cut off from among,” i.e. excommunicated)

(from International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright (c)1996 by Biblesoft)


(pun’-ish-ments) (‘awon, “fault,” “iniquity,” “punishment for iniquity,” “sin” (Gen 4:13; Lev 26:41; Job 19:29; Ps 149:7; Lam 4:22; Ezek 14:10; Amos 1:3,6,9,11,13; 2:1,4,6), `onesh, “tribute,” “fine,” “punishment” (Lam 3:39), chaTa’ah, or chaTTa’th, “sin” and its retribution, “penalty,” “expiation” (Zech 14:19); kolasis, “punishment,” “torment” (Matt 25:46), epitimia, “poll tax,” hence, “penalty” (2 Cor 2:6), timoria, “vindication,” hence, “penalty” (Heb 10:29), ekdikesis, “vindication,” “retribution” (1 Peter 2:14 the King James Version)): A court could inflict for a crime against the person, a sentence of (1) death in the form of stoning, burning, beheading, or strangling, etc.; (2) exile to one of the cities of refuge in case of manslaughter (Num 35); or (3) stripes, not to exceed 40, in practice 39 or less (Deut 25:3; 2 Cor 11:24). Offences against property (theft, fraudulent conversion of deposit, embezzlement, robbery) were punished by exacting more than the value of the things taken (Luke 19:8), the excess going to the injured party, thus differing from a fine, which goes into the treasury of the community. The housebreaker was liable to be slain with impunity (Ex 22:2). A fine in the modern sense is unknown in the Scriptures, unless Lev 5:6-19 be interpreted as referring to such.

1. History of the Hebrew Law concerning Punishment: The earliest theory of punishment seems to have been that of retaliation – “blood for blood” – and to some extent this principle appears even in the Law of Moses (Lev 21:19-20; Matt 5:38). Early in the history of the race, punishment was administered for sin and crime. Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden, and Cain, the first murderer, though not executed in retaliation for his deed, had a mark set on him. The words of Lamech (Gen 4:24) indicate that death was regarded as the fitting punishment for murder, and the same thought apparently was in the minds of the brethren of Joseph (42:21). Judah, as head of his family, seems to have had power of life and death (38:24), and Abimelech threatens his people with the extreme punishment in case they injure or insult Isaac or his wife (26:11). Similar power is ascribed to Pharaoh (41:13).

2. The Mosaic Law concerning Punishment: Under the Law of Moses, the murderer was to be put to death without mercy. Even if he took refuge at the altar in a sanctuary or in an asylum city, he would not be immune from arrest and execution, and the same principle was applied in the case of an animal (Ex 21:12,14,23,28,36 parallel). But punishment under the Mosaic Law was not to be entailed or transmitted (Deut 24:16), as was the case among the Chaldaeans (Dan 6:24) and the kings of Israel (1 Kings 21; 2 Kings 9:26).

It has been noted that capital punishment is extensively prescribed by the Mosaic Law, and undoubtedly the Law was carried out. This circumstance has been explained by reference to the fact that the nation consisted of newly emancipated slaves, and therefore required harsh measures to keep them in check.

Under the Mosaic Law, the offences that made one liable to the punishment of death were: (1) striking or reviling a parent (Ex 21:15,17); (2) blasphemy (Lev 24:14,16,23; 1 Kings 21:10; Matt 26:65-66); (3) Sabbath-breaking (Ex 31:14; 35:2; Num 15:32-36); (4) witchcraft and false pretension to prophecy (Ex 22:18; Lev 20:27; Deut 13:5; 18:20; 1 Sam 28:9); (5) adultery (Lev 20:10; Deut 22:22); (6) unchastity: (a) before marriage, but detected afterward (Deut 22:21), (b) in case of a woman with someone other than her betrothed (Deut 22:23), (c) in a priest’s daughter (Lev 21:9); (7) rape (Deut 22:25); (8) incestuous and unnatural connections (Ex 22:19; Lev 20:11,14,16); (9) man-stealing (Ex 21:16); (10) idolatry, actual or virtual, in any form (Lev 20:2; Deut 13:6; 17:2-7); (11) false witness in capital cases (Deut 19:16,19)

(from International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright (c)1996 by Biblesoft)


(See CROSS, etc.) Death was the punishment of striking or even reviling a parent (Ex 21:15,17); blasphemy (Lev 24:14,16,23); Sabbath-breaking (Num 15:32-36); witchcraft (Ex 22:18); adultery (Lev 20:10); rape (Deut 22:25); incestuous and unnatural connection (Lev 20:11,14,16); man stealing (Ex 21:16); idolatry (Lev 20:2). “Cutting off from the people” is ipso facto excommunication or outlawry, forfeiture of the privileges of the covenant people (Lev 18:29). The hand of God executed the sentence in some cases (Gen 17:14; Lev 23:30; 20:3,6; Num 4:15,18,20). Capital punishments were stoning (Ex 17:4); burning (Lev 20:14); the sword (Ex 32:27); and strangulation, not in Scripture, but in rabbinical writings. The command (Num 25:4-5) was that the Baal-peor sinners should be slain first, then impaled or nailed to crosses; the Hebrew there (hoqa’) means dislocated, and is different from that in Deut 21:22 (thalitha tolwi), Deut 21:23.

The hanged were accounted accursed; so were buried at evening, as the hanging body defiled the land; so Christ (Gal 3:13). The malefactor was to be removed by burial from off the face of the earth speedily, that the curse might be removed off the land (Lev 18:25,28; 2 Sam 21:6,9). Punishments not ordained by law: sawing asunder, and cutting with iron harrows (Isaiah, Heb 11:37; Ammon, in retaliation for their cruelties, 2 Sam 12:31; 1 Sam 11:2); pounding in a mortar (Prov 27:22); precipitation (Luke 4:29; 2 Chron 25:12); stripes, 40 only allowed (Deut 25:3), the Jews therefore gave only 39; the convict received the stripes from a three-thonged whip, stripped to the waist, in a bent position, tied to a pillar; if the executioner exceeded the number he was punished, a minute accuracy observed in 2 Cor 11:24. The Abyssinians use the same number (Wolff, Travels, 2:276). Heaps of stones were flung upon the graves of executed criminals (Josh 15:25-26; 2 Sam 18:17); to this day stones are flung on Absalom’s supposed tomb. Outside the city gates (Jer 22:19; Heb 13:12). Punishment in kind (lex talionis) was a common principle (Ex 21:24-25). Also compensation, restitution of the thing or its equivalent (Ex 21:18-36). Slander of a wife’s honour was punished by fine and stripes (Deut 22:18-19).

(from Fausset’s Bible Dictionary, Electronic Database Copyright (c)1998 by Biblesoft)


Payment for crime or sin. Punishment of sin is one of the basic truths of the Old Testament. Mosaic Law spelled out the proper punishments for each crime. The punishments generally took the form of retribution, “eye for eye” (Ex 21:24) and other punishment in kind being the most memorable. Retribution such as this was only a small part of the ideas of compensation and restitution of value emphasized under the Old Testament law (Ex 21:18-36). For example, if one person injured another in a fight, he was required to repay the victim for any time lost from his job because of the injury. In the case of disfigurement, the person committing the crime might also suffer the same violence as a punishment handed down by the court.

Since punishment was tied so closely to crime and sin, it was only natural that this concept should extend from the temporal world into the spiritual world. God meted out His own punishment to those who broke His moral law, notably against Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19:12-29) and the Hebrew people wandering in the wilderness (Num 14:26-35).

In the New Testament, the concern with temporal punishment became secondary to Christ’s message of redemption. An eternal spiritual punishment falls upon those who refuse to accept God’s message.

(from Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright (c)1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)


The final judgment of God upon the wicked. The classic example of eternal punishment in the Old Testament is the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19:15-28). While speaking about wicked angels who are being held in “everlasting chains,” the writer of Jude in the New Testament likened these wrongdoers to the wicked men of Sodom and Gomorrah, who “are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 7).

In his second letter to the Thessalonians, the apostle Paul wrote about the final judgment. He explains that those who do not know God “shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thess 1:9). This same idea was expressed by Jesus in the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matt 25:31-46). After separating the two, Jesus blessed the sheep-those who have cared for the unfortunate and poor. Then he pronounced judgment upon the goats-those who did not have compassion: “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire” (v. 41).

The essential meaning of the phrase everlasting punishment involves banishment from the presence of God and Christ forever-a fate made vivid by the image of eternal fire (Rev 19:20; 21:8).

Also see HELL.

(from Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright (c)1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

PUNISHMENT. The rendering of a considerable variety of Heb. and Gk. words in the Scripture. The principal meanings expressed by these terms are reproof, chastisement, restraint, penalty, full justice, and vengeance. The specific meaning in each case must be determined by the terms employed and the connection.

Biblical View. The biblical view of punishment differs in the two testaments.

Old Testament. The punishments most frequently mentioned in the OT, and upon which chief stress is laid, are temporal. They were inflicted directly by God, or were divinely prescribed to be inflicted by persons duly authorized. Instances of the former are found in Gen 3:16-24; 4:10-13; 6:12-13; 19:24-25; Num 16:28-33, and many other places. In early times we find punishment authorized to be inflicted by the hand of man (Gen 9:5-6), but more and more plainly it appears that this was to be done in accordance with divinely appointed and developed social order. The penalties prescribed under the Jewish economy were of great variety and were related to every kind of crime and breach of civil and ecclesiastical regulations. Among capital offenses were blasphemy (Lev 24:14,16,23), Sabbath-breaking (Num 15:32-36), witchcraft (Ex 22:18), adultery (Lev 20:10; cf. 18:20), rape (Deut 22:25), incest (Lev 20:11-12,14,17,19-21; cf. 18:6-18), kidnapping (Ex 21:16), idolatry (Lev 20:1-5; cf. 18:21), and murder (Ex 21:12-14; Lev 24:17,21). (See further Ex 21:15,17; 22:19-24; Lev 21:9; Deut 19:16-19; 22:21-24.)

The ordinary mode of capital punishment was stoning, although other forms, such as hanging and burning, are also mentioned. It is believed, however, that these latter were preceded by death in the ordinary way of execution (Ex 19:13; Lev 21:9; Num 25:4; Josh 7:25).

The meaning of the phrase “cut off from his people” or “cut off from Israel,” as descriptive of punishment, is disputed. It is used many times in the OT, sometimes with reference to crimes the penalty for which is death, but frequently also with reference to offenses the penalties for which are not so clear (Ex 12:15-19; 30:32-33,38; Lev 7:25; 17:9; 19:8). Among minor forms of punishment were exemplified the principles of retaliation (Ex 21:24-25; Lev 24:19-22) and of compensation (Ex 21:18-36; 22:2-4,6-7; Lev 6:4-5; 24:8-22; Deut 19:21; 22:18-19). Stripes, stocks, and imprisonment also appear among penalties prescribed or employed (Deut 25:3; Jer 20:2).

The severity of the OT dispensation in this respect has often been made a subject of unfavorable criticism. But the character of the people, the condition of the times, and the necessity for impressing the importance of morality and religion and of developing the right national life furnish the sufficient explanation. It is not to be forgotten, moreover, that the doctrine of a future life, as a state of reward and punishment, was not as strongly emphasized in those times as afterward. See Immortality.

New Testament. We find in the NT a relaxing of the severity of the OT with respect to temporal penalties; but in connection with this is the bringing into prominence of the motives and influences of the gospel revelation (Matt 5:19-48; Luke 7:37-50; John 8:3-11).

That capital punishment is discountenanced by the NT is, however, an unwarranted opinion. The sanctity of human life still has around it its ancient safeguard (cf. Gen 9:6 with Rom 13:1-6; Matt 26:52; Rev 13:10). The retribution, however, upon which the NT lays chief stress is that of the future. The teachings of Christ and the apostles leave no room for doubt of the fact of future punishment and of the eternal duration of punishment in some form (Matt 12:32; chap. 25; 26:24; Mark 3:29; 9:43; Rev 14:11; 20:10). See Hell.

Theological and Ethical. The primary ground for the infliction of punishment is not the reformation of offenders. In the divine administration a distinction is clearly made between chastisement and punishments properly so called. In the administration of human government the object of reformation often has a proper recognition, though the reason and warrant for the penal sanctions of law are still deeper than that. The chief end is not the discouragement or prevention of crime or wrongdoing. This is often an important effect, and a proper though still subordinate object. The underlying idea-that most deeply fundamental-is justice.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: H. B. Clark, Biblical Law (1944); G. Mendenhall, Law and Covenant in the Ancient Near East (1955); R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions (1961), pp. 143-63; S. Mendenhall, Criminal Jurisprudence of the Ancient Hebrews (1968).

PUNISHMENT, MOSAIC LAW. The law of retribution seems to underlie punishment in all ages. It is found in the form of blood revenge among many ancient peoples as a primitive (Gen 27:45) custom, going back for its final basis to Gen 9:5-6 (see Redeemer). Very naturally, in acting as redeemer the person would be tempted to inflict greater injury than that which he avenged. According to the Mosaic code, punishment was made to correspond to the heinousness of the offense, that there should fall upon the culprit what he had done to his neighbor, no more, thus giving no authority for personal revenge. It also limited the punishment to the guilty party without extending it to his children (Deut 24:16). In the case of property, punishment was required only in order for restoration; and by way of restitution, if the guilty man had invaded his neighbor’s property or violated the integrity of his house. What is said (19:19-21) in regard to the false witness holds good of all the penal enactments of the Mosaic law: “Then you shall do to him just as he had intended to do to his brother. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you. And the rest will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such an evil thing among you.” Thus we see, at the root of all the enactments of the Mosaic penal code there lies the principle of strict but righteous retribution, and its intention is to extirpate evil and produce reverence for the righteousness of the holy God in the heart of the people.

Capital Punishment. That death was regarded as a fit punishment for murder appears plain from the remark of Lamech (Gen 4:24). In the postdiluvian code, if we may so call it, retribution by the hand of man, even in the case of an offending animal, for bloodshed, is clearly laid down (9:5-6). In the Mosaic law we find the sentence of capital punishment, in the case of murder, clearly laid down. The murderer was to be put to death, even if he should have taken refuge at God’s altar or in a city of refuge, and the same principle was to be carried out even in the case of animals (Ex 21:12,14,28,36; Lev 24:17,21; Num 35:31; Deut 19:11-13; etc.). The wide range of crimes punishable by death according to the Mosaic law may be accounted for by the peculiar conditions of the Israelites. A nation of newly emancipated slaves, they were probably intractable; and their wanderings and isolation did not permit penal settlements or remedial punishment. They were placed under immediate divine government and surveillance. Willful offenses under such circumstances evinced an incorrigibleness that rendered death the only means of ridding the community of such transgressors, and this was ultimately resorted to in regard to all individuals above a certain age, in order that a better class might enter into Canaan (Num 14:29,32,35).

Capital Crimes. Capital crimes in the OT can be divided into absolute and relative classes.

Absolute. Capital crimes for which no mitigating factor could alter the severity of the sentence included the following: (1) striking or reviling a parent (Ex 21:15,17); (2) blasphemy (Lev 24:14,16,23); (3) Sabbath-breaking (Num 15:32-36; Ex 31:14); (4) witchcraft, and false pretension to prophecy (Ex 22:18; Lev 20:27; Deut 13:5; 18:20); (5) adultery (Lev 20:10; Deut 22:22); (6) unchastity (Deut 22:21,23; Lev 21:9); (7) rape (Deut 22:25); (8) incestuous and unnatural connections (Lev 20:11-17; Ex 22:19); (9) kidnapping (Ex 21:16; Deut 24:7); (10) idolatry, actual or implied, in any shape (Lev 20:2; Deut 13:6,10,15; 17:2-7; see Josh 7; 22:20; Num 25:1-8); and (11) false witness, in certain cases (Deut 19:16,19).

Relative. There are some thirty-six or thirty-seven cases in the Pentateuch where the penalty named was that of “cutting off from the people.” Controversy has arisen concerning the meaning of this expression, and some hold that only excommunication and not the death penalty was the punishment prescribed (see discussion below, under Capital Penalties, no. 7). The offenses included in this category were those involving a breach-either of morals, of the covenant, or of the Levitical ritual.

1. Breach of morals: willful sin in general (Num 15:30-31); fifteen cases of incestuous or unclean connection (Lev 18:23,29; 20:9-21).

2. Breach of covenant: uncircumcision (Gen 17:14); neglect of the Passover (Num 9:13); Sabbath-breaking (Ex 31:14); neglect of the Day of Atonement (Lev 23:29); or work done on that day (v. 30); offering children to Molech (20:3); witchcraft (20:6); anointing a stranger with holy oil (Ex 30:33).

3. Breach of ritual: eating leavened bread during the Passover (Ex 12:15,19); eating the fat of sacrifices (Lev 7:25); eating blood (7:27; 17:14); eating the sacrifice in an unclean condition (7:20-21; 22:3-4,9); eating of the sacrifice on the third day after its being offered (19:7-8); making holy ointment for private use (Ex 30:32-33); making incense for private use (30:34-38); neglect of purification in general (Num 19:13-20); offering a sacrifice elsewhere than at the Tabernacle (Lev 17:8-9); slaying an animal elsewhere than at the Tabernacle door (17:3-4); touching holy things illegally (Num 4:15,18,20; cf. 2 Sam 6:7; 2 Chron 26:21).

Capital Penalties. Some capital penalties were natively Hebrew; others were borrowed from foreign lands.

Those Properly Hebrew. The Hebrew law prescribed a number of capital penalties.

1. Crucifixion (which see).

2. Stoning. Stoning was the ordinary mode of execution (Ex 17:4; Luke 20:6; John 10:31; Acts 14:5). “So far as can be learned from the Pentateuch stoning is enjoined for those cases in which sentence of death was to be executed on individuals judicially; when, on the contrary, either the avenger of blood carried out the punishment, or where many were to be executed, the sword was used, the spear (Num 25:7), or arrow (Ex 19:13), to kill from a distance. Thus stoning is enjoined (Lev 20:27; Deut 17:3-5) to punish the individual who practiced idolatry and seduced others; on the contrary (13:16), for the punishment of a whole city which was given over to idolatry, it is commanded, ‘Thou shalt slay the inhabitants of that city with the sword.’ Accordingly it is no doubt stoning is meant when the law merely uses the formulas ‘He shall be put to death’ or ‘his blood be upon him'” (Keil, Arch., 2:357-58). If the crime had been proved by testimony, the witnesses were to cast the first stones at the condemned (Deut 17:7; John 8:7; Acts 7:58). It was customary to add the raising of a heap of stones over the body or its ashes (Josh 7:25; 8:29; 2 Sam 18:17).

3. Hanging. Among the Jews hanging was generally spoken of as following death by some other means (Num 25:4; Deut 21:22; 2 Sam 21:6,9), as a way of aggravating capital punishment. The law provided that persons hanged should not be allowed to remain suspended overnight, but should be buried the same day, lest-he that was hanged being accursed of God-Jehovah’s land should be defiled (Deut 21:23).

4. Death by the sword, spear, or arrow; death by beheading. Death by the sword or spear was the mode adopted when either the avenger of blood carried out the punishment or where many were to be executed (Ex 32:27; Num 25:7-8); the arrow was used to kill at a distance (Ex 19:13). Beheading, practiced in Egypt from most ancient times (Gen 40:19), first appeared among the Jews in the Roman period (Matt 14:10-12).

5. Burning. In pre-Mosaic times burning was the punishment for unchastity (Gen 38:24). The Mosaic law enjoined burning for unchastity only in the case of a priest’s daughter (Lev 21:9), or in the case of a man’s having carnal intercourse with both a mother and her daughter, all three to be put to death (20:14). Burning is mentioned as following death by other means (Josh 7:25), and some have thought that it was never used except after death. Certainly this was not the case among other nations (Dan 3).

6. Strangling. Death by strangulation is said by the rabbis to have been regarded as the most common but least severe of the capital punishments and to have been performed by immersing the convict in clay or mud and then strangling him by a cloth twisted around the neck.

7. “Cutting off.” The penalty described by the expression “cutting off from the people” has been variously understood, some thinking that it meant death in all cases, others that in some cases only excommunication (which see) must be understood. Jahn (Arch., p. 258) says, “When God is introduced as saying in respect to any person, ‘I will cut him off from the people,’ the expression means some event in divine providence which shall eventually terminate the life of that person’s family” (see 1 Kings 14:10; 21:21; 2 Kings 9:8). Saalschutz explains it to be premature death by God’s hand. Knobel, Corn, and Ewald held that the death punishment absolutely was meant. Keil observed (Arch., 2:358): “From Lev 20:2-6, so much only appears, that God himself will cut off the transgressor if the earthly magistrate shuts his eyes to the crime of idolatry and does not cut off the idolater. Certainly in Lev., ch. 20, all the abominations of which it holds in the comprehensive formula (18:29), ‘Whosoever shall do any of these abominations, even the souls that do them shall be cut off from among their people,’ have not the punishment of death attached to them. For some of the forbidden marriages only childlessness is threatened (20:20, sq.). But from this it merely follows that for certain cases God reserved the cutting off to be otherwise executed; and in these cases the civil magistrate was not to intervene. But in connection with all other offenses, for which the law prescribes cutting off without any such reserve, the civil magistrate was obliged to carry out sentence of death as soon as the guilt was judicially established; even for transgressions of the laws of purification and other matters of ritual, if the sin was proved to have been committed ‘with a high hand,’ i.e., in presumptuous rebellion against Jehovah, and not merely in thoughtlessness and haste.”

We may, perhaps, conclude that the primary meaning of “cutting off” is a sentence of death to be executed in some cases without remission, but in others avoidable, either (1) by immediate atonement on the offender’s part, or (2) by direct interposition of the Almighty, i.e., a sentence of death always “recorded,” but not always executed.

Those Coming from Other Lands. Capital punishments borrowed from other lands were the following:

1. Beheading. The Egyptians knew and practiced beheading (Gen 40:17-19), as did the Hebrews in the time of the early kings (2 Sam 4:8; 20:21-22; 2 Kings 10:6-8). Herod and his descendants ordered decapitation (Matt 14:8-12; cf. Acts 12:2).

2. Dichotomy, cutting in pieces (1 Sam 15:33). Dichotomy was common among the Babylonians, Egyptians, and Persians.

3. Death by torture. Conscious suffering in death was inflicted by burning the offender alive in a furnace (Dan 3:20-26); roasting him in the fire (Jer 29:22; 2 Macc. 7:5); putting him to death in hot ashes (2 Macc. 13:5-8); casting him into the lion’s den (Dan 6:7,16-24); beating him to death on the tumpanon (2 Macc. 6:19), probably a circular instrument of torture, on which prisoners were stretched and tortured or beaten to death. In war we find the sawing in pieces of captives (2 Sam 12:31; 1 Chron 20:3; cf. Heb 11:37); the hurling of enemies from precipices (2 Chron 25:12; cf. Ps 141:6; Luke 4:29), the latter a frequent punishment among the Romans; the cutting open of the bodies of pregnant women (2 Kings 8:12; 15:16; etc.), and the dashing of children against walls, when hostile cities were taken (Isa 13:16,18; Hos 13:16; etc.). In the NT are incidentally mentioned drowning (Matt 18:6; Mark 9:42) and fighting with wild beasts (1 Cor 15:32).

Secondary Punishments. Secondary punishments were of a less severe nature.

Retaliation. The law of retaliation, exacting “eye for eye” (Ex 21:24-25) is, probably, the most natural of all kinds of punishment, and would be the most just of all, if it could be instantaneously and universally inflicted; but when delayed, it is apt to degenerate into revenge. To prevent this, the law specified the maximum revenge obtainable. It was thus illegal to demand a life when only an eye had been damaged. Moses accordingly adopted the principle, but lodged the application of it in the judge: “If a man injures his neighbor, just as he has done, so it shall be done to him: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (Lev 24:19-22). This law applied also to the beasts.

But the law of retaliation applied to the free Israelite only, not to slaves. In the case of the latter, if the master struck out an eye and destroyed it, i.e., blinded the slave with the blow, or struck out a tooth, he was to let him go free, as a compensation for the loss of the member. The willful murder of a slave was followed by capital punishment.

Compensation. If compensation was identical, then it was retaliation (see above); but it was also analogous, thus a payment for loss of time or power (Ex 21:18-36; Lev 24:18-21; Deut 19:21). A stolen sheep (killed or sold) was to be compensated for by four others, a stolen ox by five others (Ex 22:1). The thief caught in the act in a dwelling might be killed or sold; if a stolen animal was found alive in his possession, he might be compelled to restore double (22:2-4). Damage done by an animal was to be fully compensated (v. 5); as was damage caused to a neighbor’s grain (v. 6). A stolen pledge found in the thief’s possession was to be compensated double (v. 7); a pledge lost or damaged was to be compensated (vv. 12-13); whereas a pledge withheld was to be restored with 20 percent of the value (Lev 6:4-5). All trespass was to pay double (Ex 22:9). Slander against the woman by her newly married husband was to be compensated for by the payment of one hundred shekels, and the man further punished with stripes (Deut 22:18-19).

Corporal. Stripes, consisting of forty blows with a rod, were to be applied (Deut 25:2-3); whence the Jews took care not to exceed thirty-nine (2 Cor 11:24; Josephus Ant. 4.8.21). If a man struck his servant with a rod so that he or she died, he was punishable (Ex 21:20).

Scourging with thorns is mentioned (Judg 8:16), as is scourging with “scorpions,” i.e., whips with barbed points like the point of a scorpion’s sting (1 Kings 12:11). In addition, there is mention of the stocks (Jer 20:2); passing through fire (2 Sam 12:31); mutilation (Judg 1:6; 2 Macc. 7:4); plucking out hair (Isa 50:6; Neh 13:25); and later, imprisonment, confiscation, or exile (Ezra 7:26; Jer 37:15; 38:6; Acts 4:3; 5:18; 12:4; Rev 1:9).

The Scriptures mention the following corporal punishments inflicted by other nations: putting out the eyes of captives, flaying captives alive, tearing out the tongue. Exposure to wild beasts is mentioned by the apostle Paul (1 Cor 15:32; 2 Tim 4:17), but without any particulars.

Imprisonment. Although imprisonment was not unknown to the Israelites from their acquaintance with Egypt (Gen 39:20; 40:3; 41:10; 42:19), it is not recognized in the Mosaic law as a mode of punishment. “They put him in custody” (Lev 24:12) means that the offender was secured until a decision concerning his case had been made. Imprisonment is wholly superfluous where bodily punishments prevail and where fines in the case of those without means must be paid by servitude. At the time of the kings imprisonment was introduced, especially as a punishment of too outspoken prophets (2 Chron 16:10; Jer 20:2; 32:2). After the Exile imprisonment was quite a common punishment, along with others, in cases of debt (Ezra 7:26; Matt 18:30). Prisoners were bound with chains (Judg 16:21; 2 Sam 3:34; Jer 40:1); and when the punishment would be made severer, they were placed in stocks (20:2). The Roman custodia militaris (military imprisonment) consisted in chaining the prisoner by one or both hands to the soldier who watched him (Acts 12:4; 21:33), or if the offender was in prison, in putting his feet in the stocks (16:24).

BIBLIOGRAPHY: G. Vos, The Mosaic Origin of the Pentateuchal Codes (1886), pp. 63 f., 65-70, 81-84, 195-98, 200. See also Punishment.

(from The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)