Where has Justice Gone? Capital Punishment, and the Law of Retribution (Leviticus 23-24)

Where has Justice Gone? Capital Punishment, and the Law of Retribution (Leviticus 23-24)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 23-24

Leviticus 23 – Feast Days on Israel’s Religious Calendar

Although not a festival, the LORD commanded Moses to remind the people of the fourth command: “3Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings” (23:3; Exodus 20:8-11).

Leviticus 23:6-41 itemizes the annual feasts Israel was to observe as a nation.

The Passover (23:5), commemorating the LORD sparing the firstborn, and delivering the children of Israel from Egyptian slavery, was observed with the sacrifice of a one-year-old lamb. On the following day after the Passover, the people were to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, remembering Israel’s departure out of Egypt. Its observance lasted seven days, and was a reminder of how swiftly the people had to leave Egypt.  The first and last days of Unleavened Bread are counted as Sabbaths [High Sabbaths], though these days may not necessarily fall on the weekly Sabbath (23:6-8).

There was the Offering of the First Fruits, also known as the wave offering (23:9-14). A sheaf of wheat was brought to the priest, who waved the grain before the altar as a sign of praise and thanksgiving. Accompanying the wave offering was the Burnt Offering (23:12, the sacrifice of one male lamb, not more than one year old), the Meat (or meal) Offering (23:13), and a Drink Offering (23:13). All were reminders of God’s bountiful provision, even as we should pray and give thanks at every meal.

Pentecost (meaning fifty), also known as the Feast of Weeks or the Feast of Harvest (23:15-22; Exodus 23:16; Deuteronomy 16:9), was observed fifty days after the Passover (remember, fifty days after Christ’s Resurrection, Pentecost was the day the Holy Spirit came upon the LORD’S disciples, whom He told to remain in Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost (Acts 2).

Two loaves of wheat bread with leaven (23:17a) were also offered as “firstfruits unto the LORD” (23:17). Pentecost was observed with a burnt offering consisting of seven lambs, one young bull, and two rams, “all “without blemish of the first year” (23:18). There was also a meat offering (an offering of grain), drink offering, and a sin offering of “one kid of the goats…and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offering” (23:19).

Reminding the people, “I am the LORD your God,” the people were commanded to not harvest the corners of their fields, and “leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger” (non-Hebrews) to gather (23:22).

The Feast of the Trumpets was observed the seventh month, on the first day of the month in the Hebrew calendar (23:23-25). The Day of Atonement was observed on the tenth day of the same month (23:26-32; Leviticus 16-17).

The final feast on the Hebrew calendar was the Feast of Tabernacles (23:33-41), and was observed on “the fifteenth day of this seventh month” (23:34), the last day of the harvest. Each family would gather “on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook,” and live in the booths for seven days (23:40). Dwelling in booths commemorated Israel’s years of wandering in the wilderness, and living in tents (23:43).

Leviticus 24 – God’s Laws were not suggestions, they were commands.

After rehearsing the laws and guidelines regarding the for the lamps, and the lighting of the Tabernacle (24:1-9), we are alerted to a judicial crisis that arose in Israel, and demanded the death of the offender (24:10-16).

The son of Israelite woman, whose father was Egyptian, was witnessed cursing and blaspheming the name of the LORD, a violation of the third command, and one demanding the death of the offender (24:10-11; Exodus 20:17).  Realizing the severity of the offense, Moses did not rush to judgment, but “put [the offender] in ward [under guard], that the mind of the Lord might be shewed them” (24:12).

After hearing the witnesses, and seeking God’s will, Moses demanded the blasphemer be taken out of Israel’s camp, and those who witnessed his sin, lay hands on him as a testimony against him (24:14). The judgment was made that the blasphemer should be stoned to death (24:15-16), and “the children of Israel did as the Lordcommanded Moses” (24:23).

The Law of Retribution (24:17-22)

I close, reminding you God is merciful, and just. A murderer was to be punished by death (24:17, 21b). A man who killed the beast that belonged to another, was to restore the same, “beast for beast” (24:18). Injure or maim a man, and the law demanded you should suffer the same: “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (24:19-20).

A Closing Thought: Our world has lost its good sense of justice, and our judicial system has become a demoralizing failure. Too often in our society we find criminals are pampered, and their victims are left scarred, wounded, and frustrated with no hope of reprieve. Do you wonder why there is no justice, no fairness, in society? You need look no further than Proverbs 29:2.

Proverbs 29:22When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: But when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith