Stoning (סָקִל, רָגִם [Talmudic, סקילה]; λιθάζω, λιθοβολέω), as a mode of capital punishment, was ordained by the Mosaic law (see the Mishna, Sanhedr. 7, 8) for the following classes of criminals:
1. All who trenched upon the honor of Jehovah, i.e. idolaters (Le 20:2; De 17:2 sq.) and enticers to idolatry (13:6 sq.); all blasphemers (Le 24:10 sq.; comp. 1Ki 21:10 sq.; Ac 6:13; Ac 7:56 sq.), Sabbath breakers (Nu 15:32 sq.), fortune tellers and soothsayers (Le 20:27); also false prophets (De 13:6.; comp. ver. 11; Mishna, Sanhedr. 11, 1); in fine, those who had shared in any accursed thing (Jos 7:25). SEE ACCURSED.
2. Notoriously and incorrigibly disobedient ,sons (De 21:18 sq.).
3. Brides whose tokens of virginity were wanting (22:20 sq.); and so an affianced woman who had complied with a seducer, together with the seducer himself (ver. 23 sq.). According to Jewish criminal procedure (Mishna, Sanhedr. 7, 4), the same penalty was incurred by those who cursed their parents, or had sexual connection with their mother (or step- mother), or daughter-in-law, or with a beast. In the Mosaic statute these last crimes are classed together (Le 20:9 sq.), but no special mode of execution is prescribed; the connection, however, seems to point to stoning (comp. Eze 16:40; Eze 23:47; Joh 8:5) Finally, Moses enacted this punishment in one case for an animal, namely, one that had been the means of destroying a human life (Ex 21:28 sq.; the same is presumable in Le 20:15 sq.). SEE LAW.
The process of stoning is nowhere described in the Bible; it only appears that the place of execution was outside the city (Le 24:14; Nu 15:36; 1Ki 21:10,13; Ac 7:56; comp. Mishna, Sanhedr. 6, 1 sq.), and that the witnesses threw the first stone upon the culprit (De 7:7; Ac 7:57 sq.), in order to do which they divested themselves of their outer garments so as to as have the freer use of their hands (loc. cit.). The Talmudists give greater details as to the execution (Mishna, Sanhedr. 6, 3, 4; comp. Winer, Chrestom. Talm. p. 1 sq.; Otho, Lex. Rab p. 361 sq.). According to them, the offender, if of the male sex, was wholly divested of clothing down to the private parts and if of the female sex, both before and behind; and then, after being raised upon a scaffold twice as high as a man, was thrown down backwards by one of the witnesses. If he was thereby killed, the penalty thus fulfilled upon him was called דַּחַיָּה, impulsio; but if he survived this shock, it became the duty of the other witness to cast a large stone (see Lightfoot, Hor. Heb. p. 420) upon the criminals heart; and if this were not fatal the bystanders were to fall to stoning. According to some rabbins (as Maimonides), the condemned man was treated to a bitter draught (wine mingled with myrrh or gall), in order to stupefy him. SEE CRUCIFIXION. How much of these details is of ancient origin it is impossible to determine. The precipitation of the culprit may have arisen from a false interpretation, of Ex 19:13
(see B. Michaelis, in Pott's Sylloge, 4, 186); but this is improbable, and the allegations against this Talmudical mode of lapidation (Heinii Dissert. p. 145 sq.; Carpzov, Appar. Crit. p. 584) are without weight Moreover, stoning was a frequent resort of a mob (a very old practice, Ex 8:26; Ex 17:4), in order to avenge itself on the spot upon such as had excited popular ill will (1Sa 30:6; 2Ch 24:21; 2Ch 2 Macc. 1:16; Mt 21:35; Lu 20:6; Joh 10:31 sq.; 11:8; Ac 5:26; 2Co 11:25; Josephus, Ant. 14, 2, 1; 16, 10, 5; War, 2, 1, 3; 19, 5; Life, 13, 58), even among the Jewish [and heathen] populace in foreign cities (Ac 14:5,19). It was likewise resorted to by the Greek rabble (Herod. 9, 5; Thucyd. 5, 60; Pausan. 8, 5, 8; AElian. Var. Hist. 5, 19; Curtius, 7, 2, 1; see Wachsmuth, Hellen. Alterth. 2, 790 sq.), although the legitimate practice of stoning occurs among the Greeks, i.e. Macedonians (Curtius, 6, 11, 38; Schol. ad Eurip. Orest. p. 432); so among the Spaniards (Strabo, 3, 155) and Persians (Ctesias, Fragm. c. 45, 50); even the provincial officers used this punishment (against the Jews) (Philo, Opp. 2, 542). B. Michaelis adduces an example among the Germans in the Middle Ages (De Judiciis Poenisque Capit. § 6). See, generally, Carpzov, Appar., Crit. p. 583 sq.; Selden, Jus Nat. et Genit. p. 534 sq.; Ring, Del Lapidatione Hebroeor. (Frcf. 1716). SEE PUNISHMENT.