also known as: penalty, sentence
Biblical punishment proceeds on the principle that there is an eternal distinction between right and wrong, and that this distinction must be maintained for its own sake.
Biblical punishment is not primarily intended for the reformation of criminals, nor for the purpose of deterring others from sin. These results may be gained, but crime in itself demands punishment. (See: MURDER; THEFT.)
Criminals were punished outside the city gates (1 Kings 21:13; Acts 7:59). The New Testament lays down the general principles of good government, but contains no code of laws for the punishment of offenders.
PUNISHMENT TAKEN ON BEHALF OF ANOTHER—expiation and propitiation. In 1 John 2:2; 4:10, Christ is called the “propitiation for our sins.” Jesus Christ is “the propitiation,” because by His becoming our substitute and assuming our obligations he expiated our guilt, covered it, by the punishment which he endured on our behalf.
Evils among God’s Chosen People that were severely punished, as required by God
- MURDER—Murderers were to punished with death (Genesis 9:5). The blood of the murdered “crieth for vengeance” (Genesis 4:10). The “avenger of blood” was the nearest relative of the murdered, and he was required to avenge his death (Numbers 35:24, 27). No other satisfaction could be made for the guilt of murder (Numbers 35:31).
- MAN-STEALING (kidnapping)—(Exodus 21:15-17; Deuteronomy 27:16)
- FORNICATION—Levicus 21:9; Deuteronomy 22:20-11, 23-29; 23:18; Exodus 22:16
- IDOLATRY BY GOD’S CHOSEN PEOPLE—The individual offender was devoted to destruction (Exodus 22:20). His nearest relatives were not only bound to denounce him and deliver him up to punishment (Deuteronomy 13:6-18), but their hands were to strike the first blow when, on the evidence of two witnesses, at least, he was stoned (Deuteronomy 17:2-7).
- PRACTICE OF MAGICAL ARTS—punished with death under Mosaic law
- Cursing a parent
- Striking a parent
Examples of punishments in biblical times
- ANGELS are sometimes used by God to punish sin. An angel of the Lord went forth and smote an Assyrian camp (2 Kings 19:20-34)—“behold, they were all dead corpses.” The Assyrian army was annihilated. / A destroying angel was sent, but later withheld, to punish David for his vanity in taking a census of the people.
- for BLASPHEMY
- BLINDNESS was sometimes a punishment for disobedience (1 Samuel 11:2; Jeremiah 39:7). Conquerors sometimes blinded their captives (2 Kings 25:7; 1 Samuel 11:2).
- BRIMSTONE—Two extremely evil cities of the plain were destroyed by God with a rain of fire and brimstone (Genesis 19:24-25; Isaiah 34:9).
- CONSUMED BY FIRE from God (Leviticus 10:1-2, etc.)
- CRUCIFIXION—a common mode of torturous execution among heathen nations in early times
- DEATH (physical)—a common punishment
- DEATH OF INFANT—Due to King David’s adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of her husband, he was punished by the sickness and death of his newborn son at seven days old (2 Samuel 12:12-14, 22-23).
- DEATH, ETERNAL
- DESTRUCTION—The mighty Assyrian capital Nineveh, a “bloody city all full of lies and robbery” (Nahum 3:1), was destroyed as punishment for the wickedness of its inhabitants.
- DROWNING—used by Syrians for capital punishment
- DUNGEON imprisonment
“…cuts the ground from under the gospel… blots out the attribute of retributive justice; transmutes sin into misfortune instead of guilt; turns all suffering into chastisement; converts the peculiar work of Christ into moral influence… The attempt to retain the evangelical theology in connection with it is futile” (Shedd).
- EXILE—Due to their idolatary, Israel was effectually rebuked by the Babylonian exile. That exile finally purified the Jews of their idolatrous tendencies.
- FAMINE—three year Israelite famine due to murder of Gibeonites (2 Samuel 21:1-14)
- FIERY SERPENTS—used to punish sinful Israelites
- FIRE—Punishment of death by fire was inflicted on such as were guilty of certain forms of unchastity and incest (Leviticus 20:14; 21:9). The burning of captives in war was not unknown among the Jews (2 Samuel 12:31; Jeremiah 29:22).
- INVASION BY FOREIGN NATION—For example, an Assyrian king invaded the land of King Hoshea to punish Hoshea for failing to pay tribute which he had promised to pay.
- LEPROSY—Miriam temporarily punished by God with leprosy for publically criticizing His faithful prophet Moses for marrying an Ethiopian woman (Numbers 12). Naaman the Syrian, guilty of duplicity and dishonest conduct, was punished with leprosy (2 Kings 5:20-27).
- LIGHTNING—During the Exodus to the Promised Land, God’s chosen people lost faith in Him and began complaining bitterly, possibly about the heat, the work, and the deprivations of the march, and then God punished them by lightning, which fell on the rear of the camp, killing many there at Kibroth-hattaavah.
- LIONS—Daniel was cast into “the den of lions” (Dan. 6:16-17). Some recent discoveries among the ruins of Babylon have brought to light the fact that the practice of punishing law offenders by throwing them into a den of lions was common.
- MADNESS/INSANITY—King Nebuchadnezzar was afflicted by God with some peculiar mental aberration as punishment for his pride and vanity.
- PLAGUES—divine plague punishment due to Israelite idolatry and sexual sin—killed 24,000 people (Numbers 25).
- PROPHECY OR PREDICTION OF FUTURE PUNISHMENT was often provided by God’s prophets
- SCOURGING/WHIPPING—By order of Pashur, the prophet Jeremiah was wrongly punished by Temple police with forty stripes save one, Deuteronomy 25:3; compare 2 Corinthians 11:24).
- POISONOUS SNAKES—Serpents were sent by God to punish Israelites for their murmurings against God and against Moses (Numbers 21:4-9).
- PILLAR OF SALT—Lot’s wife was punished by God when she looked back to Sodom and Gomorrah. She became a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:24).
- TORTURE—Evil King Nero wrongly tortured Christians as punishment for not worshipping him, and for crimes they did not commit.
- WANDERING—the repeatedly disobedient Israelites of the Exodus were eventually forced, by God, to wander until they all died in the wilderness—only their descendants were then allowed to enter the Promised Land
- justice of God
- judgments of God
- the final judgment
- avenger of blood
- law of Moses
- Book of Nahum