Russell and Duenes

Stone Your Son To Death

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“If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them, then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his hometown. They shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel will hear of it and fear.  ~ Deut. 21:18-21

This is another one of those texts in the OT law that is absolutely shocking to modern readers, this reader included, when I think of it in light of today’s “wisdom.” A few observations. If the son is a “glutton” and a “drunkard,” he would seem to be older than a child. I don’t know precisely how old he would have to be, but I doubt we’re talking about a 5-year old kid. Probably he is more like junior high school age or older. The son knows enough to be rebellious in a high-handed way.

Second, the son is “stubborn.” So we’re not likely not talking about a son who has disobeyed once or twice. We’re probably looking at a now long-established pattern of rebellion and disregard for his parents’ orders.

Third, it says he will not obey his father “or” his mother. This seems to indicate that both parents have equal authority over the boy. Rebellion against either parent is barred.

Fourth, these are parents who have sought to discipline the son. They “chastise” him in order to turn him from his rebellion. But he won’t listen.

Fifth, spiritual authority comes into play here as well. The parents are to bring the rebellious son before “the elders of his city.” This is not a private affair. I assume this is a matter of confirming what the parents are saying about their son.

Sixth, “all the men of his city” are to participate in putting the rebellious son to death. Again, it is a community affair, because the whole community has an interest in not letting the cancer of rebellion spread.

Finally, the boy is put to death because he will not obey his parents. This is his crime, and it is a capital crime. This is 100% at odds with our modern western culture, which considers it almost a positive virtue to rebel against parents. Indeed, we expect such rebellion as a “fact of life.” Obedience to and respect for parental wishes and orders is a concept that is under massive assault – in our books, our TV shows, our movies, our public schools, our popular press, our psychology, and our universities – and yet here is God giving it an incredible priority, on pain of death. Even Jesus quotes, positively, God’s command that “whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.” (Mark 7:10). And the apostle Paul says that the “perilous times” of the last days will be characterized by “disobedience to parents.” (2 Tim. 3:2).

These are astounding words. God would not have given them will-nilly.



Written by Michael Duenes

November 16, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Posted in Deuteronomy, Duenes

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