Capital Punishment for Rebellion
Today’s reading: Deuteronomy 19:1-22:12
My selection: Deuteronomy 21:18-21
18 “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, 19 then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, 20 and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ 21 Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.
This section of the law lists a number of crimes which our legal system does not recognize or punish severely (e.g. cross-dressing 22:5). Here we have the law concerning a rebellious son. In this case the offenses include disobedience to parents, lack of response to his parents discipline, gluttony and drunkenness. It is not surprising that these behaviors should be found punishable. It is surprising that they should be ultimately punishable by death by public stoning.
I, for one, am glad that we apply the moral law (ten commandments) to our Christian behavior and, to some degree, it influences our legal system. I am glad we have a system which is more patient with rebellious children. However, we see that the law of Israel in the Old Testament theocracy did not tolerate chronic rebellion, idleness and substance abuse by youth. This law seems to say that once these behaviors have settled in they are impossible to root out. Make this offender a horrible example for the rest of the nation.
Today we spend huge amounts of money and effort to try to rehabilitate the chronically rebellious, lazy drug addict. There seem to be more cases of failure than of success. The generally recognized approach to psychotherapy assists clients to shift blame to others for their problems and thus reduce guilt while decreasing motivation or hope to change. Our law releases youth at age 18 from any obligation to their parents.
1. Youth be warned. Rebellious children need to know that their behavior is serious and, once deeply rooted in ones character, is hard to eliminate. This is why in Ancient Israel it would result in public stoning to death. Maybe some of our youth will be motivated by this warning to stop blame shifting and start working to change.
2. Parents must discipline their children because of the seriousness of rebellion in their children. It must not be encouraged or tolerated in the toddler, much less the teenager.
I know of no record in the Bible that this law was ever applied. There are a number of cases where it was ignored to the detriment of the nation (the sons of Eli, David’s sons Ammon and Absalom). Parents beware. Children beware. The gospel gives hope to the worst sinner. Forgiveness comes through Christ and He is able to save those who come to God through Him. Nevertheless, there will be great suffering and temporal loss to parents of rebellious children and to children who rebel against their parents.
Tomorrow’s reading: Deuteronomy 22:13-25:19