Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Is Capital Punishment Wrong?

Capital punishment is unfortunately a necessary corrective to violent crime.

In ancient Israel, there were no prisons. A thief was commanded to pay back four or five times what he had stolen or damaged (see Exodus 22:1). Public whippings were also administered to criminals.

In ancient Israel, it was believed that bloodshed in murder would defile the land and that shedding the blood of a killer was restitution to the land.

Those who were considered incorrigible, who had committed unseemly acts that turned Israel against God or destroyed the fabric of society, had only one alternative--capital punishment (see Leviticus 20). Through capital punishment, society was rid of that offense, and the land was cleansed of evil.

In the Ten Commandments there is the prohibition, "You shall not murder" (Exodus 20:13). Righteously administered judicial executions were not considered murder and therefore not prohibited by the Ten Commandments. In fact, the same law that included the Ten Commandments also had clear provision for capital punishment for specific offenses.

Capital punishment, if administered surely and swiftly, is a great deterrent to crime. It is no deterrent whatsoever if it is uncertain and continually delayed. But if those who scoff at society, and who constantly prey on innocent victims, were aware that death would be the penalty for their actions, we would see a dramatic drop in our crime rate.

Today we place criminals in penitentiaries--places of confinement in which the offender is supposed to become penitent or sorry for his sins. In truth, these places are breeding grounds for crime. In even the best of them, 85 percent of the inmates will be incarcerated again.

Society must pay for the anguish suffered by the victims of crime, then pay again each year to hold the criminal in prison, a cost equivalent to an Ivy League college education. The biblical model is far wiser. The perpetrator of lesser crimes was returned to society where he was made to make restitution to his victim. The hard-core, habitual criminal was permanently removed from society through capital punishment. In neither case was society doubly victimized as we are today.

Excerpt taken from Answers to 200 of Life's Most Probing Questions, Copyright 1984 by Pat Robertson. 

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