Why so Severe?

Discussion in 'The Law of God' started by Ed Walsh, Jun 17, 2016.

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  1. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    A visitor to reformed.org wrote to me and asked the following question after reading an article on the site about homosexuality:

    Thank you for getting back to me Ed.

    My question is why God instituted the death penalty for homosexuality and other offenses in Leviticus 20?
    Why so severe?


    How would you answer William?
  2. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    I think often we focus on the act itself rather than the root cause, which is disobedience and rebellion against God's created order.
  3. Dekybo

    Dekybo Puritan Board Freshman

    I would try to help William to see that all sin is worthy of death.
  4. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    The death penalty was given for all the worst breaches of the Ten Commandments. There was no sacrifice for these most presumptuous sins, thus death was appropriate.

    It probably happened less frequently than we might imagine, because there had to be two or three witnesses, because in certain offences death could be commuted to a ransom, and because the offence had to exhibit the requisite presumptuousness, otherwise a lesser penalty could be imposed.

    The death penalty in Moses was an extreme form of excommunication, representing the utter cutting-off of the offender who had no sacrifice for sin under God's curse in Hell.

    God could have justly further limited the effectiveness of the Mosaic sacrificial system and extended the death penalty far further. But the combination of the sin and trespass offerings and the death penalty was what the Israelites needed to be taught about God's mercy and judgment.

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  5. Leslie

    Leslie Puritan Board Junior

    There was no option of prison during the trip from Egypt to Caanan. Simply sending these people out of the community would be a security threat since they would have inside information and would be motivated to ally themselves with Israel's enemies. Also, there is the factor of our promiscuous culture dulling our own moral senses.
  6. KeithW

    KeithW Puritan Board Freshman

    Bill the Baptist has the best answer. According to Romans 1 homosexuality is "against nature" (Rom. 1:26), against God's created order. In contrast the Bible is filled with positive statements regarding marriage between a man and a woman, the benefits and rightness of it.

    Why did death come to all men through Adam's one disobedience against God in the garden of Eden? Though God warned them beforehand what the consequences would be if they disobeyed, created beings rebelled against their Creator anyway.

    God declares, and Christians believe, that no matter what God declares or does that He is right and above reproach. The question of "why so severe?" starts from the viewpoint that God's judgments are unfair. The creature is questioning the Creator's fairness. The hard part for any of us is turning from our man-centered worldview where we think we rule, to a God-centered worldview where we believe God rules.
  7. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    That doesn't explain why the death penalty was a possibility under Moses for the greatest breaches of nine of the Ten Commandments, not just homosexuality which is unnatural. Ultimately it is to do with the special holiness of Israel and the relationship of the death penalty to the altar.

    Of course the Lord was free to set the parameters of His grace under the OT, and those who committed these gross sins and were executed or not, could look beyond the symbol of the blood of bulls and goats, which was not available for theie sin, to the grace of God in Christ.

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  8. SolaScriptura

    SolaScriptura Puritan Board Doctor

    "William - Because it's gross."


    "William - So we would know that it is really bad."
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2016
  9. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    Thanks to all who helped me with this question.

    Here's what I wrote back to William:

    Dear William,

    Sorry it took so long to get back to you.

    We are living in a time when homosexuality, for example, is accepted as a normal lifestyle, even a genetic predisposition. The Bible begs to differ by instructing us that some sexual sins require the death penalty. e.g., adultery, bestiality, (most) incest, etc.

    Why so severe?

    To ask this question is to pass judgment on God's sentences for various crimes (sins). The fact that these sins require the death penalty is because these crimes deserve severe punishment. For the Bible believer, we learn the severity of a crime by its penalty, not our opinion of what this or that crime might deserve.

    Not all sins are crimes punishable by the civil authorities, (covetousness is not a civil crime) but all sins, even the slightest, deserve eternal death in hell. (Romans 6:23) In the Old Testament, many sins required different kinds of sacrifices. For most of the crimes mentioned in Leviticus 20 (and other places) there was no sacrifice for those sins and therefore the authorities, by way of execution, delivered the offender directly to God for judgment.

    [some personal items are omitted]


    Ed Walsh
  10. KeithW

    KeithW Puritan Board Freshman

    Some of the God's reasonings are contained in Leviticus chapters 18 and 20. Some kinds of sin are such abominations that not only do they defile the people who commit them, they even defile the land.

    Can someone help me out here. Isn't there someplace which explains that some kinds of sin are so virulent (causes the next person to decide to sin and therefore the disobedience spreads throughout the people) that the death penalty for those was to stop them from spreading through all of Israel?

    Edit: added definition
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2016
  11. brendanchatt

    brendanchatt Puritan Board Freshman

    Homosexuality is in opposition to the furtherance of society and by Satan would hinder the birth of the elect if it were possible.
  12. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    Numbers 15:29-31 and the surrounding chapter, including the account of the Sabbath-breaker, gives the basic rationale for the extension and use of the death penalty under Moses being that if a sin was presumptuous enough, there wasn't a typological sin offering or trespass offering for it. See e.g. Fairbairn on the sin-offering in his book on "The Typology of Scripture".

    The additional rationale of deterrence for the death penalty is found in Deuteronomy 13:11, and Deuteronomy 21:21
    Since the New Testament Church is Israel now, the passages on judicial penalties in Moses first of all remind us of the importance of appropriate biblical church discipline for presumptuous sins by members of our churches in our own day.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2016
  13. richardnz

    richardnz Puritan Board Freshman

    Perhaps the severity attached to most of the sexual sins is because they defile marriage, which is given to us as a picture of that most holy relationship of Christ and the Church. (Eph 5:32)
  14. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    Under the Mosaic administration the death penalty was applied to the most presumptuous sexual sins, but also to the most presumptuous breaking of the Ten Commandments, all along the line.

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