Leviticus 20:2-27
Again, you shall say to the children of Israel, Whoever he be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel…

Lapidation, as is well known, was frequently resorted to by excited mobs for the exercise of summary justice or revenge. But as a legal punishment it was not usual in the ancient world; it is only mentioned as a Macedonian and a Spanish custom, and as having been occasionally employed by the Romans. Among the Hebrews, however, it was very common; it was counted as the first and severest of the four modes of inflicting capital punishment — the three others being burning, beheading, and strangling — and it was in the Pentateuch ordained for a variety of offences, especially those associated with idolatry and incest; in certain cases it was even inflicted upon animals; and its application was by the Rabbins considerably extended. As regards the proceedings observed, the Bible contains no hints except the statements that it took place without the precincts of the town, and that the men by whose testimony the criminal had been convicted were obliged to throw the first stones. But the Mishnah gives the following account, some features of which are possibly of remoter antiquity: When the offender is being led away to the place of execution, an official remains at the door of the law-court, while a man on horseback is stationed at some distance, but so that the former can see him wave a handkerchief, which he does when any one comes declaring that he has something to say in favour of the condemned; in this case the horseman at once hastens to stop the procession; if the convicted himself maintains that he can offer proofs of his innocence or extenuating circumstances, he is taken back before the tribunals; and this may be repeated four or five times, if there appears to be the least foundation for his assertions. A herald precedes him all the while, exclaiming, "So-and-so is being led out to be stoned to death for this and this offence, and so-and-so are the witnesses; whosoever has to say anything that might save him let him come forward and say it." Having arrived about ten yards from the appointed spot, he is publicly called upon to confess his sins; for "whosoever confesses his sins has a share in the future life"; if he is too illiterate to confess, he is ordered to say, "Let my death be the expiation for all my sins." At four yards from the place he is partially stripped of his garments. When the procession has at last reached its destination, he is conducted upon a scaffolding, the height of which is that of two men, and after drinking "wine mingled with myrrh," to render him less sensible to pain, he is by one of the witnesses pushed down, so that he falls upon his back; if he is not killed by the fall the other witness throws a stone upon his breast; and if he is still alive all the people present cover him with stones. When the corpse, which is usually nailed to the cross, is in a state of decomposition, the bones are collected and burnt in a separate place; then his relatives pay visits to the judges and the witnesses, in order to prove that they bear them no hatred, and that they acknowledge the justice of the sentence; and they must show their grief by no external mark of mourning.

(M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Again, thou shalt say to the children of Israel, Whosoever he be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that giveth any of his seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death: the people of the land shall stone him with stones.

WEB: "Moreover, you shall tell the children of Israel, 'Anyone of the children of Israel, or of the strangers who live as foreigners in Israel, who gives any of his seed to Molech; he shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones.

Sin unto Death
Top of Page
Top of Page