Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Ransom for Murder

A reader asked the following question.

In your discussion of the death penalty under law and government, you state that Num. 35:31 allows for the payment of "blood money" or a ransom in lieu of the death penalty. It actually says "you shall accept no ransom for the life of a murderer, who is guilty of death, but he shall be put to death." ESV Can you explain?
He is referring to my article Crime and Punishment. My answer is follows.

The first reference to financial compensation for crime in Exodus 21:22-25, includes “life”, so financial compensation is appropriate where a life has been taken. In a world without state social welfare, this provides financial sustenance for the victim’s family, so I am fine with that.

In Num 35:31, the subject of the command, which is the murderer, is qualified, so it does not apply to all murderers. It does not come out in the English translatons, but the qualification uses the Hebrew word “rasha”, which means “wicked”. I infer this to mean that no ransom is allowable for murderers that are staunch in their wickedness. This makes sense to me. Some murderers are so evil and incorrigible that the death penalty is the only realistic solution.

Generally, I take a minimalist approach to death. God loves life. So I assume that interpretations, that minimise the taking of a life are the correct ones. Violent cultures love taking lives. The prefer interpretations that maximise the taking of life.

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