On Capital Punishment
The foundations for human morals and ethics are found in the book of Genesis. The issue of capital punishment was given Genesis 9:6, God’s Covenant with Noah upon leaving the ark and entering the new world after the Flood: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.” In the former world, from the Creation to the Flood, permission had not been given to take the life of the murderer. Instead, the murderer was to be exiled as in the example of Cain who murdered his brother, Abel (Genesis 4:8-16). We are not told what the “mark of Cain” was (v.15) but the ancient Greeks may have provided a clue. In their mythology Adam became the deified Zeus and Cain became the deified Hephaistos. Hephaistos was master of the forge (conflated with Tubal-Cain), and exiled for some unspecified crime; he had been given a limp. It will be recalled that Jacob was also given a limp (Genesis 32:25). The Greeks exiled their murderers and often cut off their noses and/or ears as a warning to others. However, following the Genesis Flood God had made His Covenant with Noah and Mankind. The words in Genesis 9:11-17 speak of God’s Covenant seven times. God promised never again to flood the Earth if Mankind would keep his part of the covenant, part of which was to put to death the murderer. God gave His reason for this in verse 6: “for in the image of God He made man.” In other words, since the murdered victim was made in the image of God, the crime was thus against God Himself, not society. It might be recalled that this is the principle of invultuation, i.e. the voodoo doll and the crucifix. It was a secondary matter that society was protected by execution of the murderer but if society took no action, society itself would be held accountable.
It has never been a matter of dispute that the passage, Genesis 9:6, is the beginning of human government where man was given permission by God to enforce law and order by the death penalty. Justice by the scales and judgment by the sword. The importance of this commandment is given by the fact that it is repeated several times throughout Scripture: e.g. Numbers 35;30-34, Leviticus 18:24-25 and the occasions where God commands individuals, usually Kings, to put to death certain pagans. The death was always to be mercifully swift by beheading or stoning. Scripture expands upon the reason for capital punishment a number of times. Example, Numbers 35:33: “Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which the blood has been shed except by the blood of the one who shed it. Do not defile the land where you live …“ The atonement principle depends upon “life for life” and in the Old Testament the life of certain “clean animals” was given in place of the life of the sinner. We are reminded that the animals were not fallen as are the descendents of Adam and thus in this sense their lives are a more acceptable offering than man’s life. Human sacrifice is not being suggested here but in God’s eyes every sin is worthy of death. However, the one sin where animal sacrifice did not apply was that of murder as stated in the passage above. The reason given was that it polluted or defiled the land. Other passages show that the land is defiled by murder, blasphemy and adultery. Scripture indicates that when the total defilement of the land reaches a certain point, God causes the rain to cease, there is a famine and the land “vomits out its people [society].” Leviticus 18:25:“Even the land was defiled; so I [God] punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants.” It is sometimes erroneously argued by those who are opposed to capital punishment that the execution of the murderer is simply another murder. Scripture makes it very clear that this is not the case. There are several passages that point out that the murderer is responsible for his own death expressed as his blood being upon his own head“ For David had said to him, ‘Your blood be upon your own head. Your own mouth testified against you when you said, ‘I killed the Lord’s anointed [Saul]’.” (2 Samuel 1:16). “May the guilt of their blood rest on the head of Joab and his descendents forever.” (1 Kings 2:33).
In the New Testament era and particularly since evolution has been accepted by the liberal Church, the early chapters of Genesis have been dismissed as myth or allegory and thus the understanding of Genesis 9:6 has largely been lost. Thus, the meaning of man made in the image of God has unconsciously been replaced by man having been made in the image of the ape. In other words, God has been replaced by the ape! The murderer thus commits a crime, not against God, but against society; the issue thus becomes a social issue rather than a moral issue. The bleeding- heart liberal having little understanding of the origins and implications of morals and ethics, at first pleaded with society for the “rehabilitation” of the murderer. We even hear more recently of the “rights” of the murderer! With less than a whimper of protest the liberal Church has submitted under a barrage of liberal claims that capital punishment is a “barbaric practice” and that “it does not deter the crime of murder” etc. With a more subtle appeal to the Christian element of society, some liberals have pointed out that Jesus shed His blood for all the sins of mankind, including those of the murderer. The argument is then made that if God Himself can forgive the murderer’s sins then surely the Church and society can also forgive. This is a false argument because while the sin can be forgiven, Divine justice must still be done; the land must still be healed. Everyone must experience the first death whether by natural causes, accident or execution but God has promised His own that it is the second death that will have no power over them: the second death is for the unrepentant who suffer in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:5-6, 14). Yet the argument has seemingly slipped past the sleeping Church. While it is true that Jesus died for the sins of all mankind, it is also true that the sinner must truly repent and accept Jesus first before God’s forgiveness can be received. It is understood that in the prisons of North America, those prisoners that are held for capital punishment are presented with the Gospel message and an opportunity given to repent; often this is taken into account by the sentencing judge. However, according to media reports many of the most notorious murderers refuse to even make a false repentance. Keeping self-confessed murderers alive, especially the unrepentant, is not only a burden to society but ensures continued defilement of the land and prevents closure in the minds and hearts of the family of the murdered victims. The only exception would seem to be where the accusation is in doubt since execution of an accused innocent would then lay the burden of murder upon the jury, judge and executioner.
Photo: Old Sparky, the electric chair used at Sing Sing prison.