Death Penalty Monotheism was: "admittedly syncretistic..

Jonathan D. Safren yon_saf at bezeqint.net
Sun Jan 27 11:15:48 EST 2002


Shoshanna,
In all the cases discussed below, the death punishment is carried out by
human agent. Apparently you are referring to "karet" in its halakhic
interpretation, "mitah biydei $amayim", which applies only to infractions of
the cultic-religious, and not moral-social, law. Some  cultic sins are
liable to death punishment by human agent, such as violation of the Sabbath;
others by divine agent (in halakhic interpretation), such as not performing
circumcision; not so in moral-social sins, where all capital punishment is
carried out by human agent.

Note that I have not discussed the BIBLICAL sense of "karet", only the
halakhic one.  The biblical expression "wenikhretah hanefesh hahiy'
me(amayw" can be understood as ostracism from the tribal unit, meaning the
culprit no longer enjoys the legal protection of that tribal unit, and is
"fair game" to anyone who wants to kill him. This leads to the Rabbinic
interpretation "mitah biydei $amayim", death by heavenly agent.
---
Jonathan D. Safren
Dept. of Biblical Studies
Beit Berl College

..


> Aren't you distinguishing between when it was man's responsibility to
> put someone to death, and when G-d said He would do it??
>
> Shoshanna
>
>
>
>
>
> >>>[LSF] No murder isn't always punished by death, cf Exodus 21:20.
> >>>No punishment is listed. How do you translate naqom >>>yenaqem?
>
> >>[JDS] He shall be avenged. Blood vengeance, meanng the death
> >>penalty. In other words, a slave is worthy of blood
> >>vengeance >>just as is a free man. That;s the punishment. Casuistic
> >>law always has a sanction.
>
> >[LSF} I'm not sure about this.It seems if so, then it would say mut,
> >yamut. I don't think a punishment,
> >except what is avenged by God, i/e., if he has an accedental death.
> >But there is no punishment
> >assigned. The slave was his property, and the presumption is you
> >don't purposely destroy
> >your own property. So the assumption probably is that you can't
> >murder your own slave
> >(Like you can't rape your wife?), so that there is no death penalty.
>
> The death penalty is mentioned elsewhere in the Covenant Code without
> using the term "mot yamut".
> Ex. 22:1) If the thief is discovered while breaking in (at night) and
> he is smitten and dies, he has no blood [revenge].
> 2a) If the sun shone upon him (i.e., if he was discovered and killed
> in daylight), he has blood [revenge].
>
> (2b continues the law begun in 22:37. The principle of associative
> organization of the laws is operating here, as pointed out by Cassuto
> many years ago.)
>
> So both in Ex. 22:20 and in 23:2-3. terms other than "mot yamut" are
> used for the death penalty, indicating in both cases who was to carry
> out the death penalty - as also in 22:12-14.
>
> As for the presumption of a slave-owner not destroying his own
> property, this indeed is operative in 22:21, where the slave smitten
> by his master does not die immediately, but several days afterwards.
> Here, the cause-and-effect relationship between the blows inflicted
> by the master and the death of the slave is no longer unambiguous,
> and the master is given the benefit of the doubt.
> The principle of benefit of the doubt is still used in halakhic
> "pesiqa le-qula" .
> Jonathan
> ---
> Jonathan D. Safren
> Dept. of Biblical Studies
> Beit Berl College
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