Why was a Sabbath-Breaker put to death?
While the Israelites were in the desert, a man was found gathering wood on the Sabbath day. Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and the whole assembly, and they kept him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him.
Then the LORD said to Moses, "The man must die. The whole assembly must stone him outside the camp." So the assembly took him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as the LORD commanded Moses.
This brings us to another Bible difficulty. Does picking up sticks deserve the death penalty? Skeptics of the Bible often point to this incident accusing God of being immoral and unfair.
Is it true that God was wrong in ordering this man to be stoned?
One’s first reaction may be to ask “Why?”
Let’s review the background to this story more closely.
When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and to whom much was entrusted, of him more will be asked (Luke 12:48b).
This man in the story had been given great favor along with the rest of
Ten times this man saw the Lord’s glory and the miraculous signs performed in
This ten-event accumulation of divine demonstration revealed the LORD as the God of gods as well as the King of Israel.
After the Israelites were released from slavery in
An amazing pillar of fire gave them light for night travel (Exodus 13:21). This pillar may have been as tall as a skyscraper building or as big as a mountain and functioned as a navigation system. The Israelites would remain in camp or set out for travel based on the movement of this supernatural pillar (also called the angel of God – Exodus 14:19). In this manner,
God’s presence in their midst was plain to see. With all this in mind, breaking God’s law would be a bold, daring act of transgression against the fullest evidence of Divine authority.
Yes. Moses assembled the entire Israelite community and said to them, "These are the things the LORD has commanded you to do: For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it must be put to death….” (Exodus 35:1-2)
Sabbath meals were cooked the day before thus collecting firewood for boiling or baking was prohibited (Exodus 16:23).
So Divine authority had been established & the whole Israelite community had been fairly instructed. Nevertheless, why such a high standard?
Here is a helpful example. Every branch of our military in the
God redeemed a nation for himself. He considered the Israelites his sons & daughters. However,
If disobedience were left unchecked, insubordination & compromise might spread. This would weaken
Even though we are not bound to the Sabbath like in Old-Testament-Jewish times, the Sabbath-rest principle is still alive today. Taking time to remember God is important. Whether it is 5 minutes in the morning or quiet time at night or worshiping on our way to work…waiting on him & honoring him is part of our everyday walk with Jesus. It’s time set aside for rest, relaxation, giving thanks, joy & worship.
It is an error to perceive God only as a strict Judge.
During the life & times of Jesus, a certain religious group (the Pharisees) abused the Sabbath-law turning it in to something so legalistic that it kept them from listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit in certain matters; specifically regarding compassion.
In the event there was a higher law like mercy (for example: moving somebody away from a flood or helping somebody out of a burning building)…the Pharisaic mind-set would have been to punish the ‘Sabbath-breaker’. The Lord Jesus combated this rigid thinking by picking ears of corn on a Sabbath day (Mark 2:23-27) and performing healing on the Sabbath (Luke 6:7-9). In contrast, he demonstrated that man was not made for the Sabbath but rather the Sabbath was made for humankind.
The answer is by daily relationship.
The Scripture says, “Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and the whole assembly”.
What should happen to the Sabbath-breaker? A full pardon, grant a lesser sentence or carry out the maximum penalty? Even though the law was clear, Moses asked God regarding his mind on a case-by-case basis. He had a relationship. Therefore, it is doubtful the law was applied in this exact fashion (maximum penalty) on a regular basis. Whenever possible the LORD prefers forgiveness, repentance & mercy above judgment (Ezekiel 18:23).
Here are two closing thoughts:
- Our relationship with God is strengthened when we set aside time to worship him, hear his voice and enjoy his presence.
- His justice & mercy are in perfect balance.