human sacrifice and death penalty

Paul K. Manansala kabalen at MAIL.JPS.NET
Mon Apr 27 21:10:32 UTC 1998

> From:          Lars Martin Fosse <lmfosse at ONLINE.NO>
 What is
> interesting about Medhatithi's comments upon punishment, is that the same
> question about the usefulness of punishment is being asked today, and the
> same simpleminded answer is given by some persons: Because some criminals
> continue to commit crimes, punishment doesn't "help". Therefore, M.
> rationalises punishment as purification.

I haven't done much reading on this subject, but the death penalty
certainly has some similarities to sacrifices of atonement.  The
Bible has an interesting story about the sacrifice of King Saul's sons by
King David.  Although the story doesn't involve the direct punishment
of criminals, it is definitely an example of atonement.

There was a long famine of three years in Israel, so  King David, after
inquiring of an oracle,  found that King Saul's harsh treatment of
the Gibeonites was the cause.  When David asked how he could make
atonement, the Gibeonites requested that David hang seven men of the
sons of  Saul "unto the Lord."  David complied with the request, and
it is stated that drought-breaking rain fell on the bodies of Saul's sons as they
were heroically guarded by Saul's concubine Rizpah.

Of course, many would see this only has a ploy by the king to get
rid of possible threats to his power.

Paul Kekai Manansala

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