“All murderers must be put to death, but only if evidence is presented by more than one witness. No one may be put to death on the testimony of only one witness.” (Numbers 35:30)
I haven’t quoted the Old Testament for a while. Partly because I’ve found Numbers to be very heavy going. Lots of repetition and pages of facts and figures.
But here’s a clear directive from God (via Moses). And this rule will be very important when it comes to the time of Jesus’ trial. There were many witnesses, but they did not agree.
How many people would approve of this command? Thanks to the internet, I can tell you.
63% of Americans (http://www.gallup.com/poll/159770/death-penalty-support-stable.aspx)
A maximum of 62% in the UK for the murder of a child (http://www.ipsos-mori.com/Assets/Docs/Polls/mediact-channel-4-death-penalty-drama-computer-tables.pdf)
So it seems that there is a small majority who would agree that murderers should be put to death. And yet some non-believers mock us for following the teachings of the Bible. We can at least answer them on this point by saying that, for the time being, most people would agree with Moses (who was giving us God’s words).
There is a lot of research done into the effectiveness of capital punishment. Many organisations say that it is barbaric and inappropriate.
It is not an easy question, that much is certain. But in this verse, God’s word is clear. If you kill someone (this chapter of Numbers gives specific instructions on what to do in the case of accidental deaths) in cold blood, you will die.
But is it a deterrent for a potential killer; or merely something to keep the majority satisfied that the law is being followed?