What crimes required the death penalty in the Old Testament?

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By BibleAsk Team


The Crimes that Required the Death Penalty

The Lord instructed Moses to administer the death penalty to at least sixteen capital crimes or offenses:

Civil Offenses

1- Premeditated murder (Exodus 21:12-14,22-23; Leviticus 24:17; Numbers 35:16-21). This regulation even included the situation in which two men might be fighting and, in the process, cause the death of an innocent bystander or an unborn infant.

2- Kidnapping (Exodus 21:16; Deuteronomy 24:7).

3- Striking or cursing one’s parents (Exodus 21:15,17; Leviticus 20:9). Jesus alluded to this point in Matthew 15:4 and Mark 7:10.

4- Incorrigible rebelliousness (Deuteronomy 17:12). For example, a stubborn, disobedient, rebellious son who would not submit to parents or civil authorities was to be stoned to death (Deuteronomy 21:18-21).

Religious Offenses

5- Sacrificing to false gods (Exodus 22:20).

6- Violating the Sabbath (Exodus 35:2; Numbers 15:32-36).

7- Blasphemy, or cursing God (Leviticus 24:10-16,23).

8- The false prophet, specifically one who tried to entice the people to idolatry, was to be executed (Deuteronomy 13:1-11), as were the people who were so influenced (Deuteronomy 13:12-18).

9- Human sacrifice (Leviticus 20:2). The Israelites were tempted to offer their children to false pagan deities, like Molech which was despicable to God.

10- Divination, or the dabbling with the occult. Under Mosaic law, witches, sorcerers, wizards, mediums, charmers, soothsayers, diviners, spiritists, and enchanters were to be put to death (Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 19:26,31; 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:9-14).

The last six crimes deal with sexual sins.

11- Adultery (Leviticus 20:10-21; Deuteronomy 22:22).

12- Bestiality, i.e., having sexual relations with an animal (Exodus 22:19; Leviticus 20:15-16).

13- Incest (Leviticus 18:6-17; 20:11-12,14).

14-. Homosexuality (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13).

15- Premarital sex (Leviticus 21:9; Deuteronomy 22:20-21).

16- Rape of an engaged or married woman (Deuteronomy 22:25-27).

Judgement in the Old Testament and New Testament

It is clear that God has instituted capital punishment in the Scriptures as seen in the Old Testament. But in the New Testament, God has given governments the authority to determine when capital punishment is due (Romans 13:1-7).

In the ultimate sense, every sin we do, will result in the death penalty because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). But praise the Lord, He has made provision for not just our forgiveness but also for our cleansing from all sin. He promised, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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