"A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed. If a malicious witness rises up against a man to accuse him of wrongdoing, then both the men who have the dispute shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who will be in office in those days. The judges shall investigate thoroughly, and if the witness is a false witness and he has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him just as he had intended to do to his brother. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you. The rest will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such an evil thing among you." (Deuteronomy 19:15-20)This scripture defines three principles relating to witnesses in judicial cases.
Error on the side of the Innocent: While we would like to believe that everyone appearing before the court would discharge their civic duty with fidelity and honor, this is not always the case. We may have originally been made in the image of God, but now it is at best a fallen image. The heart of man is corrupt and wickedness exists in the depths of all of us. For this reason, God instituted safeguards in the laws of justice to protect the innocent. While some might contend that such safeguards may, at times, frustrate justice against the guilty, the principle contained in these safeguards is that it is better to error on the side of the innocent than on the side of the guilty. In other words, it is better that a few guilty should go free than a few innocent be condemned to judgment. Good government will always provide safeguards to protect the innocent from malicious witnesses and abuses of power in the investigation and prosecution of alleged crimes.
Confronting your accusers: God provided for the right of all accused to confront their accusers face-to-face before a court of law. Every accused has the right to defend their case and to examine their accusers before those who are to pass judgment. Solomon understood the importance of cross examining a witness when he said, "The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him." (Proverbs 18:17)
Punishment for Perjury: The punishment for perjury was punishment in kind. The malicious witness was to receive the punishment they sought to inflict upon the innocent. If they lied about a theft, then they were to receive the punishment of a thief. If they lied about a murder, then they were to receive the punishment of a murder. This was not only to provide justice for the falsely accused but also provide a deterrent to others who would consider a similar act of perjury. If a witness understood that they could face the same judgment that their testimony could bring upon the accused, they might be more likely to refrain from false accusations and to simply tell the truth.
Powered by ScribeFire.