Is there a biblical instruction to stone rebellious children?
In the Old Testament, the Mosaic Law was given to Moses on Mount Sinai and served as the authoritative statutes during the period before Christ came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17). The law that relates to this question was found in Leviticus 20:9: "For anyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death; he has cursed his father or his mother; his blood is upon him."
Deuteronomy 21:18-21 would later comment on this command, teaching, "If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, 'This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.' Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear."
As stated, the law was to be applied as follows: First, the command applied only to a son who had been rebellious to his parents over an extended period of time despite discipline.
Second, the law required that both parents as well as the town's leaders (called elders) were witnesses of this crime. In other words, both parents had to consent and the elders of the town would have to agree that the son's rebellion was so bad as to apply the death penalty.
Third, if both parents and the leaders approved, it required that "all the men of the city" were to help in putting the rebellious son to death. As such, this crime would have to be one known to the parents as well as enough people in the community that the entire community would consent to capital punishment.
Fourth, the goal was to remove evil from the community. This crime was not intended to kill children but rather to protect the community from future crime and to cause others to realize the importance of living according to the law of the Lord.
Fifth, there is no record in the Bible of this law being enforced.
It must be remembered, too, that this Mosaic Law is not to be applied by Christians today. Christ came to fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17) and offers a new way of life based on faith through Him. The New Testament does continue to teach that children are to honor their father and mother (Ephesians 6:1-3) but the application of this Old Testament law is not mentioned by Jesus or His early followers in the New Testament as one Christians are to follow.
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