After Noah landed, a new constitution was written for this new people in a new land. Before the flood God told Adam to be a) fruitful and multiply1 b) to eat of all the trees, except the tree of good and evil,2 and c) forbade the death penalty.3 After the flood, God re-affirmed a) the dominion mandate to be fruitful and multiply,4 b) gave access to all the trees and animals,5 but c) affirmed the death penalty.6 God was intent in making sure that what happened before the Flood would never happen again.
In Genesis 9:6 we find the Divine support for the death penalty: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”7 Before the flood God maintained that the exercising of the death penalty belonged to Him alone, but in the New World, God grants that responsibility to humanity. We may find here the first glimpses of an organized civil government clearly stated later in the nation of Israel and affirmed in the New Covenant in Romans 13.
In order to defend the position that the death penalty for incorrigible children must be applied today, it is important that the Biblical idea of the death penalty is established. It is clear that without the death penalty, any society is bound to destruction. In the words of Gordon Tullock, of Virginia Polytechnic Institute: “Eighty percent of the people who seriously think about crime think of punishment as a deterrent – except for the sociologists, and they wrote all the textbooks. Statistically speaking, for each prisoner executed there are 50 murders averted. This has been documented in the U.S. between the years 1967-1984. During these years, capital punishment was abolished in most states and then reinstated with new guidelines. During the years that capital punishment was not allowed, murders began to rise.”8 The reason it is so effective is because it is God’s Law.9 Only His righteous laws can judge a nation.
The uniqueness of God’s Law (Theonomy) is that it is comprehensive. It may not deal with modern crimes in particular, but the penology associated with the case laws given may prove to be applicable in just about any situation. This does not mean it is always easy to determine what penalties go with what, but nevertheless, God has provided a just system of punishment. The law provides a lex talionis for each crime.
It is because of the uniqueness of this law, that the attention is now turned to the incorrigible child. What is the just punishment for the delinquent juvenile? The Older Covenant provides for us grounding for the execution of the incorrigible child. In Deuteronomy 21 we read:
If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.
Unlike humanism, which seeks to improve depraved man by unbiblical techniques of recovery, the Bible offers a unique solution for certain crimes.
At this point, the idea of fairness and justice may be brought to question by some. After all, the law of God is too harsh and strong on this issue. Some say that it has no more validity in light of this particular sanction concerning rebellious children. This, for them, proves that the Old Testament laws died with the “theocracy” of Israel and has no permanent validity for us today.
Rev. William Einwechter states in his authoritative article on this case law10 :
…this objection to the use of the Old Testament case laws is based on a shallow reading of the law, a misunderstanding of the actual case law requirement, and an attachment to sentimental impulses as opposed to a commitment to the high ethical provisions of Biblical law. When this case law, which applies the moral law of the Fifth Commandment to a specific circumstance, is understood it will prove to be “holy, just, and good,” a delight to the heart of God’s true people (Rom. 7:12, 22).
- Genesis 1:28. [↩ back]
- Genesis 1:29. [↩ back]
- Genesis 4:15. [↩ back]
- Genesis 9:1-2. [↩ back]
- Genesis 9:3-4. [↩ back]
- Genesis 9:6. [↩ back]
- English Standard Version [↩ back]
- Tullock, Gordon. Capital Punishment,” Biblical Principles, (Plymouth Rock Foundation), 1984, p. 17. [↩ back]
- Dr. Mark Ross, from Erskine Theological Seminary argues persuasively that in an imperfect world, there will be cases where the unjust will go free and the just will be punished. Professor Ross argues that God could have chosen 7 witnesses as his model (in this case little conviction would take place) or He could have chosen only one witness to convict of a crime (in which case many would go unpunished), but he chose 2 to 3 witnesses as the universal standard. [↩ back]
- Rev. William Einwechter, Stoning Disobedient Children, see link: http://www.patriarchspath.org/Articles/Docs/Stoning_Disobedient_Children.htm. I will be using his exegesis at a few points. [↩ back]