A Handbook of Bible Law - Judgment & execution of law

Copyright 1991 by Charles A. Weisman. 2nd Edition: Aug., 1992; 3rd Edition: Dec., 1994

Judgment & execution of law

Comments: The establishing of the laws and statutes in a nation would by itself be useless and futile without a means of rendering judgments by which the laws can be enforced and executed.

Judgments are needed to determine and declare the law in a particular situation and afford an appropriate award or punishment. Thus, some system of judging trespasses, complaints and suits between two parties needs to exist whereby judgments can be pronounced and executed. No rights or justice could exist in a nation if there did not exist a just judicial system that would prescribe the damages, restitutions, or compensations for offenses committed against the name, property, rights, or person of another.

The biblical concept of justice teaches that where one wrongfully or negligently causes an injury to some person or damage to his property, he is liable for that wrong. Centuries have changed many things, but the rights of individuals are still a basis of our punitive legal system.

Nowhere in the Bible were acts or laws of government which were contrary to the laws and statutes of God, a valid basis for crimes or punishments. This was exemplified in Daniel's defiance to the national decree that was contrary "to the law of his God" (Dan. 6:5). While the judicial system condemned Daniel for his defiance to this law, God saved him from their unjust judgment of the lion's den. Thus no punishable acts can be enacted and enforced which explicitly, or in principle, run contrary to Divine law.

A case at law (cause or controversy) might be criminal, civil or religious in nature. The same courts or judges had jurisdiction over all cases. Punishments for offenses and crimes were strict, but not arbitrary. The form and manner of punishment or restitution was usually fixed by law according to the crime committed, rather than being left to the discretion or judgment of the judge.

19A - Lawsuits and Court Procedure

  1. Ordinary cases submitted to judges. Deut. 25:1-2.
  2. Both sides of a case are to be heard -He that answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him. Prov. 18:13.
  3. The judges shall make diligent inquisition and investigation into the case before them. Deut. 19:18; Deut 21:1-3.
  4. One cannot be tried and sentenced without an accuser indicating the charges against him. Acts 23:35; Acts 25:16, 27.
  5. Some exceptional cases are to be tried by the priests. Deut. 17:8-12; Deut. 21:1-5.
  6. Extreme cases are submitted to the LORD. Num. 5:11-31; Deut. 1: 17.
  7. For all manner of trespasses concerning property, the cause of both parties shall come before the judges. Exod. 22:9.
  8. Suits against brethren should be avoided especially when tried before unbelievers. 1 Cor. 6:1-8.
  9. No man is to be judged until the court hears from him his case and knows the facts of what he has done. John 7:51.
  10. Do not go hastily to court to argue your case. Reflect what may be the result should your neighbor prevail against you. So discuss your case with your neighbor. Prov. 25:8-9.
  11. A thorough investigation is to be made before accusing anyone of a serious crime, or convicting him of it. Deut. 13:14; Deut. 17:3-5.
  12. Appeals can be made in difficult or important matters to a higher or more capable authority. Exod. 18:22,26; Deut 1: 17; Deut 17:8-9.
  13. When you appeal a case, you are to abide by the decision or verdict of the appellate judge or court. Deut. 17:10-11.
  14. The congregation of the people (jury) can judge matters in a criminal case. Num. 35:12, 24-25.
  15. There shall be no contempt of court. Deut. 17:12, 13; Rom. 13:1-3; Titus 3:1.
  16. An inquest is to be made of a person found slain when it is not known who has killed him. Deut. 21:1-9.
  17. Do not contend with a man in court without cause, if he has done you no harm. Prov. 3:30.

19B - Judgment Guidelines

  1. The aim of judgments in civil disputes should be to justify the righteous and condemn the wicked. Deut. 25:1; 2 Chron. 6:22-23; Prov. 17:15; Prov. 18:5.
  2. Judgments are to adhere to a just and standard system of weights, measurements, and balances. Lev. 19:35-36.
  3. Execute true judgment between man and man. Ezek. 18:8; Zech. 7:9.
  4. The man who will act presumptuously and will not listen to the proper authorities or the judges, should be put to death. Deut. 17:12-13; Num. 15:30-31.
  5. Controversies are to be judged according to God's judgments. Ezek. 44:24.
  6. Judge not according to the outward appearance of things. 1 Sam. 16:7; Matt. 23:27-28; John 7:24; 2 Cor. 10:7.
  7. Ignorance of a crime (or breaking a law unintentionally) does not excuse the crime or eliminate punishment. Lev. 4:27-28; Lev. 5:15-19; Num. 15:27-28.
  8. One who does anything unintentionally or out of ignorance is to be given a lighter sentence than a person who does anything defiantly or with outright contempt of the law. Num. 15:29-31; Luke 12:47-48.
  9. Fathers shall not be put to death for the crimes of their children, neither shall the children be put to death for the crimes of their father. Deut. 24:16; 2 Kings 14:6; 2 Chron. 25:4; Jer. 31:29-30; Ezek. 18:20.
  10. You shall not be afraid in any man's presence, for the judgment is God's. Deut. 1: 17.
  11. Do not show partiality in judgment. Exod. 23:3; Lev. 19:15; Deut 16:19; Prov. 24:23.

19C - Damages and Restitution

  1. The restitution and punishment should be according to the crime--Life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. Exod. 21:23-25; Lev. 24:17-20; Deut. 19:21.
  2. Stolen livestock which is slaughtered is to be repaid four or five times. Exod. 22:1.
  3. Stolen livestock which is found alive in the thief's possession is to be repaid double. Exod. 22:4.
  4. If one man's animal kills another man's animal, then the live animal is to be sold and the money equally divided between them. Exod. 21:35.
  5. If property or money is left in another's possession and is stolen, but the thief is not caught, then the judges will determine if the items were stolen by the one in possession of the goods. If stolen by the one in possession then he will pay double. Exod. 22:7-9.
  6. Fines are to be assessed by judges for some personal injuries. Exod. 21:22.
  7. If a man causes injury or blemish to another, he shall have the same injury done to him. Lev. 24:19-20; Deut. 19:21.
  8. If a thief is caught breaking in a building and is killed, the killer is not guilty of the crime of murder. Exod. 22:2.
  9. If two men are quarreling and one injures the other, he shall compensate the injured party for his loss of time and shall provide for him until he is completely healed. Exod. 21:18-19.
  10. A thief shall pay double for stolen property. Exod. 22:7, 9.
  11. Restitution is required for acts done out of ignorance. Lev. 5:15-16.
  12. If a man delivers an animal to his neighbor to keep for him and it is injured or dies while in his possession, he shall make full restitution . But if the owner is with the animal, he shall not make restitution. Exod. 22:14.
  13. If a man lets his animal loose so that it grazes in another man's field, he shall make restitution from the best of his own field. Exod. 22:5.
  14. Whoever kills another's animal shall make it good, animal for animal. Lev. 24:18, 21.
  15. If one gains property or money by way of a false report, lying, deceit, or extortion, he shall make full restitution plus an additional fifth part of its value. Lev. 6:2-5
  16. If a man starts a fire which causes damages, he is to make restitution for all that is destroyed by the fire. Exod. 22:6.
  17. If a pregnant woman is inadvertently struck and as a result gives birth prematurely, yet no lasting harm follows, the one who struck her is to be fined as the woman's husband may demand of him and he shall pay as the judges decide. But if any lasting harm follows, then you shall give life for life. Exod. 21:22-23.
  18. If a thief is unable to make restitution for his theft, then he shall be put in servitude to pay what he owes with his labor. Exod. 22:3.
  19. In civil trespasses involving property deceitfully obtained, the person guilty shall confess his crime and make restitution in full for his wrong, and add to it one-fifth of it, and give it to him whom he has wronged. Lev. 6:1-5; Num. 5:5-7.
  20. A personal trespass that results in a loss of property is to be repaid in the principal amount plus an additional fifth part added to it. Num. 5:6-7.
  21. Laws regarding recompense for trespasses. Lev. 5; Lev. 12; Lev. 14; Lev. 15.

19D - Modes of Punishment

  1. Death for murder. Exod. 21:12; Lev. 24:21; Num. 35:16-21, 309 31 2 33; Ezra 7:26.
  2. Scourging or whipping (not to exceed forty stripes). Lev. 19:20; Deut. 25:1-3.
  3. Stoning. Lev. 20:2; Lev. 24:14; Josh. 7:25; 1 Kings 21:10.
  4. Hanging. Gen. 40:22; Num. 25:4; Deut 21:22-23; Ezra 6:11; Esth. 2:23.
  5. Burning. Gen. 38:24; Lev. 20:14; Lev. 21:9; Josh. 7:25.
  6. Beheading. 2 Kings 6:31; 2 Kings 10:7.
  7. Mutilation (dismemberment). Deut 25:11-12.
  8. Confiscation of goods. Ezra 7:26; Ezra 10:8.
  9. Banishment. Ezra 7:26; Ezra 10:8.
  10. Compensation and restitution for lost time, property damage or injury. Exod. 21:18-19, 22, 32-36; Exod. 22:12-15.

19E - Execution of Punishment

  1. A sentence is to be executed speedily. Deut. 25:2-3; Ezra 7:26.
  2. One found guilty of breaking the law can be confined or placed under guard until execution of sentence. Num. 15:34.
  3. Slay not the innocent or the righteous. Exod. 23:7.
  4. Punishment executed by a state executioner (revenger of blood). Num. 35:21,27; Rom. 13:3-4.
  5. Punishment administered by the people (the men of the city). Deut 17:7; Deut 21:21; Josh. 7:25.
  6. Punishment executed by civil leaders. 1 Sam. 15:33.
  7. Punishment by officer of the court. Deut. 25:2.
  8. You shall take no ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death (no parole or prison sentence). Num. 35:31.
  9. If one is hanged, his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall bury him that day. Deut. 21:22-23; Josh. 10:26-27.
  10. No punishment allowed by lynch mobs. Exod. 23:2.
  11. No pity is to be given in the execution of punishment. Deut. 19:13, 21; Deut 25:12.
  12. Those guilty of transgressing the law are to be rebuked and punished in the presence of all the people, so that others may be fearful of sinning. Deut 19:19-20; 1 Tim. 5:20.

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