The death penalty is clearly commanded by God, and it is the responsibility of mankind to carry it out. It is in all five books of Moses, and the first time it is mentioned is most significant.
Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.
This first verse commanding the death penalty is important because it tells us exactly what God expects. He gives people the responsibility to maintain a safe society by executing people who murder others. Both Scripture and history make it clear that, with a few exceptions, God Himself will not kill evildoers in society. There have been a few exceptions, such as the Flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, but there were foreshadowings of God’s future destruction of all evil people at the Final Judgment, and of course there is the Final Judgment itself. However, this Judgment is future. The Flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah were exceptions, necessitated by God’s plan to preserve the lineage from which the Redeemer would come. The rule, plainly spelled out in Scripture, is that if a man sheds the blood of another man, it is by other men that justice must by meted out.
Some people are against the death penalty, saying that mankind is the creation of God, and therefore a man does not have the right to take the life of another man. While that may sound good at first, it is contrary to Scripture. A man does have the right, and even the responsibility, to execute murderers. God gave us that right and responsibility, and He will not “take it back” just because it is distasteful to us. God gave man the wisdom and ability to take care of his own society and its problems. People today are busy and overburdened, yet God is not running around among us mowing lawns, fixing broken appliances in the home, driving the kids around from place to place, and people do not expect Him to. We know that God will not go grocery shopping for us, so we do it ourselves. We do realize, of course, that sometimes when we are having a problem, God will send a person to help. When it comes to the protection of society, those whom God sends are those who live in that society. God is specific. He said that if a man sheds the blood of another man, then it is the job of men to bring justice and avenge that bloodshed so that society will remain safe.