What does the Bible say about the Death Penalty?

The Bible commands us to implement the death penalty for the good of all.

After the flood of Noah’s day, God commanded that “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed(Gen 9:6). God is now holding man responsible for issuing justice for capital crimes. Most opposition to the death penalty comes from a misunderstanding of the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” (Exod. 20:13 KJV). The King James Version uses the word “kill,” but most modern versions of the Bible like the ESV, NASB, NIV, and even the New King James Version correctly use the word “murder” instead of kill. We know that killing is condoned in Scripture because under certain circumstances it was necessary for the sake of:

  • National defense, as in war. (Josh. 11:21).
  • For a safe society, as in civil laws (Exod. 21:12).
  • In self-defense of individuals (Exod. 22:2).

Capital punishment might seem cruel to some, but it’s actually loving and just to remove evil from a society. Sentencing someone to death is always a difficult thing to do, but God told the judges of Israel to “Show him no pity. ‘You must purge from Israel the guilt of shedding innocent blood, so that it may go well with you’(Deut 19:13). We have to think of capital punishment in light of the whole of society, and not just the offender. We can see that God wants life to “go well” for us all.

When properly implemented according to Scripture, capital punishment is a deterrent to crime. It will:

  • Give everyone a fearful respect for the law (Deut. 21:21).
  • Prevent perjury and death of the innocent (Deut. 19:16-21).
  • Instill the safety of others over reckless disregard for life (Exodus 21:28-29).

The Bible does command us to “love our enemies” (Matt. 5:44) and treat them well, but biblical love is to keep God’s commandments. If anyone commits a capital crime like murder, rape, or kidnapping, then that person has placed himself under God’s commandment for breaking His civil laws. In this instances, it isn’t unloving to keep God’s commandments regarding the death penalty, and thus remove that evil from a society.

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  1. I appreciate you for this exposition. This has help me more to understand the area of capital punishment and the commandment ” Thou shall not kill”.

  2. The 6th commandment is actually “Thou shalt not murder.”

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