Updated: Dec 14, 2020
Crime and punishment in national laws – these words describe Deuteronomy 19. This chapter offers three thoughts that are different from our cultural norms.
First, God always looks at our heart – even for the crimes we commit. This chapter places crimes, particularly murder, into two categories based on the perpetuator’s “heart” or intentionality. The verdict is different depending on whether the crime was intentionally committed or unintentionally committed.
Second, there is no prison sentence or prison system! This is surprising because the Egyptians and others around the Israelites had a prison system (Genesis 39:20). The lack of prison system ensured that the punishment was swift, and the personhood of the criminal was not discarded.
Third, the punishment was always equal to the crime – no more, no less. The reason for this was to deter others from committing the crime. There is no guess work about the verdict. So, someone thinking about committing a crime recognize that the same thing will be done to them and will not commit the crime.
Unfortunately, throughout history people have suffered greatly under the criminal justice systems or victims have not got the justice they are due. Sadly, there is no easy way to change this warp we are caught in. When we look at our world today, we can only say, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus” and heal our world.