Monday, December 19, 2005

Ransom Principle

An important aspect of biblical mercy is the ransom principle. A person sentenced to death can pay a ransom to have their sentence commuted. The law allows a convicted criminal to pay a ransom to the victim’s family as an alternative to the death penalty (Num 35:31). In many cases the victims of the crime will prefer a ransom, as they would benefit economically, whereas the criminal’s death would bring them no benefit.

The court would decide the value of the ransom in agreement with the victims of the crime (or their family). The value of the ransom should approximate the discounted value of the victim’s future earnings. Likewise, an aggrieved wife should be given the discounted value of the income that her adulterous husband would have provided her during the rest of his working life. Some criminals would want to die, but most would prefer to make restitution to the family of their victim.

Evil men who are a risk to society would not be allowed to pay a ransom for their freedom.

Do not accept a ransom for the life of a murderer, who deserves to die. He must surely be put to death (Num 35:31).
A ransom must not be accepted for a serious murder that “deserves death”. This confirms the view that some murders are so awful that the murderer “deserves to die”, but a ransom is sufficient for less horrendous murder and relationship crimes like incest, adultery or homosexual activity.

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