Exodus 20:6 says, “Thou shalt not kill” (KJV), and many people quote that as if it was a stand-alone verse and universally applicable, forbidding the death penalty. However, a study of the subject of the death penalty reveals a totally different picture.
First, comparing the KJV to other modern versions, including the New King James Version,
reveals that almost all modern versions read, “You shall not murder,” and doing a lexical study
of the Hebrew word shows that “murder” is indeed the better translation, especially in light of
our modern culture.
Beside that, the next chapter in Exodus proscribes the death penalty for murders, saying, “Anyone who strikes a man and kills him shall surely be put to death” (Ex.21:12).
Continued study of the scope of the subject shows that the death penalty was proscribed by the Law for several crimes, including attacking one’s father or mother (Ex. 21:15), and
kidnapping (Ex. 21:16) and, under certain conditions, rape (Deut. 22:25). In fact, every book of
the Torah, the five books of Moses, proscribes the death penalty for specific crimes, and a
detailed study of the New Testament shows that the New Testament does not forbid the death
Study will show that many of the leaders we look up to as the heroes of the Bible executed people, including Moses (Nu. 15:36), Joshua (Josh. 7:25) and Solomon (1 Kings 2:25;46). Far from forbidding the death penalty, the Bible mandates it as a means of keeping society
John Schoenheit, The Death Penalty: Godly or Ungodly (Christian Educational Services, Indianapolis, IN, 2000)
Note: Although not completely opposed, I personally struggle with some aspects of the death penalty. But I thought that this author made some interesting points.