The Sabbath and Capital Punishment

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Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
Douglas Comin explains the rationale behind the execution of the Sabbath-breaker in Numbers 15:

In the 15th chapter of Numbers we find an account of the punishment of a man who boldly broke the fourth commandment. The fact that most modern readers tend to view the penalty, which was death by stoning, as too harsh for the crime indicates how backward our thinking has become.

The Sabbath was given to Israel as a continual reminder that the Lord God dwelt in the midst of His people. To ignore the Sabbath is to deny God as Creator, Governor, Judge and Redeemer.

As Creator, He sanctified the seventh day and declared it holy, as an example for His creatures in all their generations. To break the Sabbath is a practical denial of God as Creator.

As Governor, He instituted a command, based upon the pattern of creation, incorporated in the Moral Law which contains a summary of man’s whole duty toward God and toward his neighbour. To break the Sabbath is a rebellious denial of God as Governor, or Law-Giver.

As Judge, He holds men accountable for obedience to His commands, and punishes those who disobey. To break the Sabbath is a higher-handed denial of God as Judge, as though He had no power and no intention of enforcing His own word.

As Redeemer, God has provided an eternal rest from the ravages of sin – and the Sabbath rest is typical of this eternal rest which remains for the people of God. To break the Sabbath, therefore, is a denial of God’s gracious provision of salvation itself – and the transgression of the Sabbath deprives us of the very means by which God has ordained that this salvation be communicated and applied to His people.

In summary, Sabbath-breaking is a direct offence against God, tantamount to declaring Him dead. James Philip writes, “Reverence for the Sabbath symbolized reverence for God Himself, and violation of its sanctity was therefore…an insult to His majesty. It is in this regard that we can best understand the widespread contemporary neglect and desecration of the Lord’s Day. It symbolizes our generation’s neglect and contempt of the things of God. It is man’s refusal of God.”

This is precisely why Sabbath-breaking was a capital offence. The people themselves were to inflict the punishment for this serious crime, so that they might remember the importance of God’s command, and keep themselves from falling into the same disregard for the Holy One in their midst.
 

Thomas2007

Puritan Board Sophomore
The thing that I don't understand and maybe you can explain it to me, is this.

All agree that the moral law contained in the decalogue is a binding and eternal code upon all men, nations and tongues. The sabbath, murder, adultery are all included in it. However, when we then get to the case law, we find the death penalty for all three offenses, men tend to get upset, though, upon affirming this penalty for the sabbath or adultery, yet they don't for murder. Why is that?

Thomas
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
Samuel Rutherford, Divine Right of Church Government, (1646), pages 493-494:

But sure Erastus erreth, who will have all such to be killed by the magistrate under the New Testament, because they were killed by him in the Old: Why, but then the whole judicial law of God shall oblige us Christians as Carolostadius and others teach? I humbly conceive that the putting of some to death in the Old Testament, as it was a punishment to them, so was it a mysterious teaching of us, how God hated such and such sins, and mysteries of that kind are gone with other shadows. "But we read not" (saith Erastus) "where Christ hath changed those laws in the New Testament." It is true, Christ hath not said in particular, I abolish the debarring of the leper seven days, and he that is thus and thus unclean shall be separated till the evening; nor hath he said particularly of every carnal ordinance and judicial law, it is abolished. "˜But we conceive, the whole bulk of the judicial law, as judicial, and as it concerned the Republic of the Jews only, is abolished, though the moral equity of all those be not abolished; also some punishments were merely symbolical, to teach the detestation of such a vice, as the boring with an aul the ear of him that loved his master, and desired still to serve him, and the making of him his perpetual servant. I should think the punishing with death the man that gathered sticks on the Sabbath was such; and in all these, the punishing of a sin against the Moral Law by the magistrate, is moral and perpetual; but the punishing of every sin against the Moral Law, tali modo, so and so, with death, with spitting on the face: I much doubt if these punishments in particular, and in their positive determination to the people of the Jews, be moral and perpetual: As he that would marry a captive woman of another religion, is to cause her first to pare her nails, and wash herself, and give her a month, or less time to mourn the death of her parents, which was a judicial, not a ceremonial law; that this should be perpetual because Christ in particular hath not abolished it, to me seems most unjust; for as Paul saith, He that is circumcised becomes debtor to the whole law, sure to all the ceremonies of Moses his law: So I argue, a peri, from the like: He that will keep one judicial law, because judicial and given by Moses, becometh debtor to keep the whole judicial law under pain of God´s eternal wrath.
 

Bygracealone

Puritan Board Sophomore
Rowland Ward wrote an interesting article entitled : "The Lord's Day and the Westminster Confession" and it's published in a book entitled "The Faith Once Delivered: Essays in Honor of Dr. Wayne Spear" (my systematics prof. in seminary :) )

In the article, Ward has this to say about the prohibitions of the Sabbath: "... As for specific prohibitions, work during the plowing and harvest times was prohibited on teh Sabbath (Ex. 34:21), presumably because people claimed that the limited period available to complete these tasks justified ignoring the Sabbath. Nehemiah (13:15-22) and Jeremiah (17:21-27) prohibited the bearing of burdens on the Sabbath, but the context indicates that commercial activity was involved. There are two other prohibitions. Fire in dwellings is banned in Exodus 35:3, but occurs in the context of instructions about the building of the tabernacle, no doubt to offset any tendency to justify working on the materials for the tabernacle on the Sabbath. In other words, building a place of worship was not a proper activity for God's day. The other reference (Num. 15:32-36) sets the death penalty for gathering wood, but the context is that of defiant transgressors. The case in question is surely that of a fuel merchant who plies his trade on God's day. One other text (Ex. 16:23) has been taken as excluding any preparation of food gathered the previous day, but this is to draw too much from the passage. This approach to the cited passages is essentially that found in writers such as Thomas Shepard (1604-49) in his work on the Sabbath published in the year of his death, and reminds us that Puritans were not necessarily the rigorists often alleged." (pgs. 198-199) Emphasis added by me...
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
Rowland Ward wrote an interesting article entitled : "The Lord's Day and the Westminster Confession" and it's published in a book entitled "The Faith Once Delivered: Essays in Honor of Dr. Wayne Spear" (my systematics prof. in seminary :) )

In the article, Ward has this to say about the prohibitions of the Sabbath: "... As for specific prohibitions, work during the plowing and harvest times was prohibited on teh Sabbath (Ex. 34:21), presumably because people claimed that the limited period available to complete these tasks justified ignoring the Sabbath. Nehemiah (13:15-22) and Jeremiah (17:21-27) prohibited the bearing of burdens on the Sabbath, but the context indicates that commercial activity was involved. There are two other prohibitions. Fire in dwellings is banned in Exodus 35:3, but occurs in the context of instructions about the building of the tabernacle, no doubt to offset any tendency to justify working on the materials for the tabernacle on the Sabbath. In other words, building a place of worship was not a proper activity for God's day. The other reference (Num. 15:32-36) sets the death penalty for gathering wood, but the context is that of defiant transgressors. The case in question is surely that of a fuel merchant who plies his trade on God's day. One other text (Ex. 16:23) has been taken as excluding any preparation of food gathered the previous day, but this is to draw too much from the passage. This approach to the cited passages is essentially that found in writers such as Thomas Shepard (1604-49) in his work on the Sabbath published in the year of his death, and reminds us that Puritans were not necessarily the rigorists often alleged." (pgs. 198-199) Emphasis added by me...

Yes, its not that people should be executed for lifting sticks today, but that defiant transgressors should be punished. In the context of Numbers 15, the man who gathered the sticks was a defiant transgressor.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
The thing that I don't understand and maybe you can explain it to me, is this.

All agree that the moral law contained in the decalogue is a binding and eternal code upon all men, nations and tongues. The sabbath, murder, adultery are all included in it. However, when we then get to the case law, we find the death penalty for all three offenses, men tend to get upset, though, upon affirming this penalty for the sabbath or adultery, yet they don't for murder. Why is that?

Thomas

Basically, because they are in love with humanism.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
Samuel Rutherford, Divine Right of Church Government, (1646), pages 493-494:

But sure Erastus erreth, who will have all such to be killed by the magistrate under the New Testament, because they were killed by him in the Old: Why, but then the whole judicial law of God shall oblige us Christians as Carolostadius and others teach? I humbly conceive that the putting of some to death in the Old Testament, as it was a punishment to them, so was it a mysterious teaching of us, how God hated such and such sins, and mysteries of that kind are gone with other shadows. "But we read not" (saith Erastus) "where Christ hath changed those laws in the New Testament." It is true, Christ hath not said in particular, I abolish the debarring of the leper seven days, and he that is thus and thus unclean shall be separated till the evening; nor hath he said particularly of every carnal ordinance and judicial law, it is abolished. "˜But we conceive, the whole bulk of the judicial law, as judicial, and as it concerned the Republic of the Jews only, is abolished, though the moral equity of all those be not abolished; also some punishments were merely symbolical, to teach the detestation of such a vice, as the boring with an aul the ear of him that loved his master, and desired still to serve him, and the making of him his perpetual servant. I should think the punishing with death the man that gathered sticks on the Sabbath was such; and in all these, the punishing of a sin against the Moral Law by the magistrate, is moral and perpetual; but the punishing of every sin against the Moral Law, tali modo, so and so, with death, with spitting on the face: I much doubt if these punishments in particular, and in their positive determination to the people of the Jews, be moral and perpetual: As he that would marry a captive woman of another religion, is to cause her first to pare her nails, and wash herself, and give her a month, or less time to mourn the death of her parents, which was a judicial, not a ceremonial law; that this should be perpetual because Christ in particular hath not abolished it, to me seems most unjust; for as Paul saith, He that is circumcised becomes debtor to the whole law, sure to all the ceremonies of Moses his law: So I argue, a peri, from the like: He that will keep one judicial law, because judicial and given by Moses, becometh debtor to keep the whole judicial law under pain of God´s eternal wrath.

Samuel Rutherford holds pretty much the same view as R.J. Rushdoony and Gary North on the penalty for Sabbath-breaking; only problem is that it does not say that in the Bible. :violin:
 

Amazing Grace

Puritan Board Junior
The thing that I don't understand and maybe you can explain it to me, is this.

All agree that the moral law contained in the decalogue is a binding and eternal code upon all men, nations and tongues. The sabbath, murder, adultery are all included in it. However, when we then get to the case law, we find the death penalty for all three offenses, men tend to get upset, though, upon affirming this penalty for the sabbath or adultery, yet they don't for murder. Why is that?

Thomas

Basically, because they are in love with humanism.

Daniel, this is an unwarranted conclusion. Not all who would propose the truth that penology is not carried over into the NC is plagued with humanism as a derogatory label. Since there are different 'kinds' of humanism, which do you mean exactly?
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
The thing that I don't understand and maybe you can explain it to me, is this.

All agree that the moral law contained in the decalogue is a binding and eternal code upon all men, nations and tongues. The sabbath, murder, adultery are all included in it. However, when we then get to the case law, we find the death penalty for all three offenses, men tend to get upset, though, upon affirming this penalty for the sabbath or adultery, yet they don't for murder. Why is that?

Thomas

Basically, because they are in love with humanism.

Daniel, this is an unwarranted conclusion. Not all who would propose the truth that penology is not carried over into the NC is plagued with humanism as a derogatory label. Since there are different 'kinds' of humanism, which do you mean exactly?

Humanism is the idea that man is the measure of all things. If man is the standard of determining what constitutes just and righteous penology then that is humanism.
 
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