Capital Punishment

is reserved for things that strike at the heart of how society functions.

Exodus 21:12-17 (NKJV)

“He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death. However, if he did not lie in wait, but God delivered him into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place where he may flee.

“But if a man acts with premeditation against his neighbor, to kill him by treachery, you shall take him from My altar, that he may die.

“And he who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.

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

“And he who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.”

These verses introduce capital punishment. Capital crimes include first degree murder (but not second degree murder), shanghaiing someone into slavery, possessing such a shanghaied slave, and egregious violations of the fifth commandment.

Murder comes first, as it should. However, there are lots of details and special cases to consider. The distinction between first and second degree murder is important. All this, including how each case should be handled, is detailed in Numbers 35.

At first glance, capital punishment for merely possessing a shanghaied slave seems excessive. However, unlike any other stolen property, slaves can testify to the fact that they were stolen. So, no one can claim ignorance about where their slave came from. This law destroys the market for shanghaied slaves.

The punishment for grossly dishonoring your parents seems incredibly severe. Okay, so don’t do that; it’s apparently very important to God. He makes the rules, right?

Besides, a strong family structure is essential to society, and honoring parents is key to that.

If you’re looking for an explanation for why our society is going down the tubes, look no further than the collapse of traditional families. Nothing correlates more with success than coming from a stable family. Nothing correlates more with crime than coming from a broken one.

But why are families breaking up so often nowadays? If it’s the church’s job to help, how can we help?

The answer is not to treat the symptoms but to treat the disease. Divorce and out-of-wedlock births are not the root cause. Sin is. The answer is the gospel. You save marriages by saving people.

I know this sounds like I’m saying that the gospel is the answer to everything.

That’s because I am saying that the gospel is the answer to everything.

The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.