"Thus you shall not show pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot." (Deuteronomy 19:21)Judgment for offenses was to be judgment in kind; a hand for a hand, an eye for an eye. One of the primary requirements of a judicial system in its dispensation of justice is that judgment must be without pity. This is not to say that the judicial process is to be harsh and without compassion, mercy, and dignity. Rather that judgment must not be set aside for the purpose of assuaging our feelings of the reality of judgment. The Hebrew word used here for "Pity" is the same word God uses when He speaks of his sparing Nineveh of her impending destruction. "Then said the Lord, 'Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: and should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?'" (Jonah 4:10-11 KJV)
In my country, all too often the defense of the guilty includes a graphic description of the pitiful conditions and circumstances that lead to their life of crime. We are treated to a recitation of their terrible family life, the abuse they experienced as they grew up, and the deplorable economic situation in which they live. While these things are horrible and, it is certain, serve to shape a person's life and character, we must never let our feelings of pity for ones life and condition dissuade us of the necessity of justice and judgment. Justice must be with dignity, but it must not be denied because of our feelings of pity.
The scripture outlines a few of the manifold purposes and necessities of Judgment.
Social guiltiness: When an offense is committed there is a measure of guilt that is imputed to the society as a whole. We saw this in the previous scriptures that spoke about bloodguiltiness and the need for a nation to cleanse itself from innocent blood. This principle is also illustrated in other places within the scriptures as well. For example, when preparing for the battle of Jericho, God warned the people to completely destroy everything within the city. However, Achan took and hid some of the treasure that God had commanded to be destroyed. Later, when Joshuah sent men to fight against Ai, they were soundly defeated. Josuah prayed and asked God why they had been defeated. God replied that it was because of the contraband that had been taken from Jericho. "Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. And they have even taken some of the things under the ban and have both stolen and deceived. Moreover, they have also put them among their own things. Therefore the sons of Israel cannot stand before their enemies; they turn their backs before their enemies, for they have become accursed." (Joshuah 7:11-12) The next day a search was made and the contraband was found and Achan confessed. Joshuah and the Israelites executed judgment on Achen and God's wrath against the nation was appeased. "And all Israel stoned them with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones. They raised over him a great heap of stones that stands to this day, and the LORD turned from the fierceness of His anger." (Joshuah 7:25-26) One purpose of punishment is to cleans a nation of its collective guilt for the evils committed in her land. By punishing the guilty, judgment is satisfied and her guilt cleansed.
More to come... David Robison
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