Friday, May 22, 2009

Do not pity in Judgment (Part 2): Dt 19:21

"Thus you shall not show pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot." (Deuteronomy 19:21)
In the previous post we looked at one purpose of punishment, here are three more.

Purging evil: Throughout the Book of Deuteronomy we read this phrase: "Thus you shall purge the evil from among you." (Deuteronomy 19:19) Some offenses can be settled by fines and other forms of restoration. However, for some crimes -especially violent crimes - and for habitual offenders, there is a need to remove the offender from society. This can be done via incarceration, exile, or even execution. The goal is to remove the violent or habitual offender so they can no longer harm or hurt others within society. This purpose of punishment is to provide for the safety of society as a whole.

Restitution: For some crimes, the purpose of punishment is to restore what was taken or to compensate for a wrong inflicted on another. For example, consider the following rules for punishing thieves. "If a man steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he shall pay five oxen for the ox and four sheep for the sheep. If the thief is caught while breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there will be no bloodguiltiness on his account. But if the sun has risen on him, there will be bloodguiltiness on his account. He shall surely make restitution; if he owns nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. If what he stole is actually found alive in his possession, whether an ox or a donkey or a sheep, he shall pay double." (Exodus 22:1-4) As part of the restitution, there is a punitive amount that is added to the sum and the restitution is paid to the one who was wronged. In my country, most crimes are punished with incarceration, including some non-violent crimes. However, for some crimes restitution, and a punitive fine, paid to the victim can better provide for justice then just locking up the criminal.

Deterrence: In several places we read this statement, "Then all Israel will hear and be afraid." (Deuteronomy 13:11) Another purpose of punishment is to be a deterrent for others who might consider committing the same offence. We have looked at punishment as a deterrent in a previous post. Suffice it to say, punishment is not just for the punishing of the one who committed the crime but also acts as a warning for the rest of society; to warn them of the consequences of committing criminal acts.

David Robison

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