Execution or capital punishment, among the Jews, when lawful and regular, was of one of the following kinds.
1. Death by the sword (לפִי חֶרֶב, or הִכָּה בחֶרב, also sinply הִכָּה; 2Sa 1:15; 2Ki 10:25; Jer 26:23), by which, however, we are not to understand beheading (in 2Ki 10:7, the bodies were probably decapitated after death), as the Rabbins will have it (Mishna, Sanhedr. 7:3), a penalty that early occurs in Egypt (Ge 40:1)), and later in the Roman period among the Jews, as the introduction of foreign princes (Mt 14:10 sq.), and as is probably meant in Ac 12:2 (comp. Josephus, Ant. 15:1, 2); but the offender was stabbed or cut to death, as the case might be.
2. Stoning (q.v.); since the shooting with a dart, mentioned in Ex 19:13, was only selected in place of this when an individual was to be put to death at a distance. These punishments were intensified by indignities to the corpse; namely,
(a.) Burning (שָּׂרִŠ בָּאֶשׁ, Levo 20:14; 21:9; compare Jos 7:15,25; Ge 38:24; Ge 1 Macc. 3:5; [see Michaelis in loc.]). That we are here not to think of a burning alive, we may gather from Jos 7:25; and it is the more probable from the procedure detailed in the Mishna (Sanhedr. 7:2), which directs that the delinquent's mouth should be forced open by a cloth drawn around the neck, and melted lead then be poured in!
(b.) Hanging (תָּלָה) on a tree or post (De 21:22; Nu 25:4; comp. Jos 10:26; 2Sa 4:12; 1Sa 31:8,10), with which mutilation of the dead body was often connected (2Sa 4:12). The person hung was regarded as execrated (De 21:23; comp. Ga 3:13), and was not allowed to remain suspended over night (De 21:23; comp. Jos 8:29; Jos 10:26 sq.), through fear of tainting the atmosphere, since putrescence soon began. The opposite treatment was deemed an extraordinary severity (2Sa 21:6,9 sq.). The hanging of a living person (Ezr 6:11) is a Persian punishment. Under the Herods this custom was likewise introduced among the Jews (Josephus, Ant. 16:11, 6), as in the Roman period in Egypt (Philo, 2:529).
(c.) Finally, a heap of stones (גִּל אֲבָנַים גָּדול) was thrown over the body, i.e., the grave (Jos 7:25 sq.; 8:29; 2Sa 18:17), This dishonor is still common in the East (Panlus, Neu. Repert. 2:53; Jahn, Archaol II, 2:353). One of these kinds of punishment is constantly referred to by the legislative precept, "That soul shall be cut off from the people" (ינִכרתָה הִנֶּפֶשׁ הִהיא מִקֶּרבֵ עִמּו, or מֵעִמֶּיהָ), as especially appears from Ex 31:14; Le 17:4; Le 20:17 (see Michaelis, Mos. Rech', 5:37 sq.; the cases are specified in the Mishna, Cherithuth, 1:1); but the Rabbins are not altogether agreed; comp. Abarbanel on Nu 15:30; also in Ugolini Thesaur. 30); not, as most will have it, a mere interdict from political or religious privileges. SEE EXCOMMUNICATION. All penal inflictions were usually speedy (Jos 7:24 sq.; 1Sa 22:16), and originally inflicted directly by the populace, but under the kings by their body-guard, or one of their attendants. SEE CHERETHITE.
Foreign punishments, unknown to the Jewish law, were the following:
1. Sawing in pieces (2Sa 12:31). SEE SAW.
2. Dichotomy, i.e., cutting asunder (διχοτομεῖν or μελίζειν=" quartering") or dismemberment (שִׁסֵּŠ, 1Sa 15:33; μελιστὶ διαιρεῖν, Josephus, Ant. 15:8, 4; a barbarous instance is given in Josephus, Ant. 13:12, 6; and an inhuman murder in Jg 19:29; but 1Ki 3:25, does not belong here) of the living being (see Krumbholz, Depznaper τὸ διχοτομεῖν signeiicata, in the Bibl. Brem. 7:234 sq.), which was universal among the Babylonians (Da 2:5; Da 3:29: in 2Sa 4:12; 2Sa 2 Macc. 1:16, mangling after death is indicated by way of infamy; compare Livy, 8:28; in Eze 16:40; Eze 20:47, dichotomy is not to be understood), as well as Egyptians (Herod. 2:139; 3:13) and Persians (Herod. 7:39; Died. Sic. 17:83; comp. Horace, Sat. 1:1, 99 sq.; 2 Macc. 7:8; Mt 24:51; Lu 12:46; Koran, 20:74; 26:49; Assemani, Martyrol. Or. 1:241 sq.). 3. Precipitation (שׁמִיטָה 2Ch 25:12; comp. Psalm cxli. 6 κατακρημνισμός, Lu 4:29; comp. 2 Macc. 6:10) from a rock ("dejicere de saxo Tarpeio" or "ex aggere," Suetonius, Calig. 27) is well known as a Roman mode of execution (for the Athenians, see Wachsmuth, Hellen. Alterth. 2:20). 4. Tympanisn (τυμπανισμός), or beating to death (Heb 11:35; A.V. "torture;" comp. Aristot. Rhet. 2:5; Lucian, Jup. Trag. 19, etc.), of which the instrument was a cudgel (τύμπανον, 2 Macc. 6:19, 28, A.V. "torment;" Aristophanes, Plut. 476); but it is uncertain whether we are thereby to understand simply a club with which the unfortunates were dispatched, or a wooden hoop upon which they were stretched in the manner of a rack (comp. Joseph us, De Maccab. 8:5 and 9). SEE TYMPANUM.
Besides the above, the following methods of execution are. named in the Bible as practiced by nations in the neighborhood of Palestine: 1. Burning alive in a furnace (Da 3:6,11,15,19 sq.), which occurs in modern Persia (Chardin, Voyage, 6:218), is of very early date (if we may trust the traditions concerning Abraham [q.v.], Targ. on 2Ch 28:3); likewise roasting or boiling convicts over a slow fire. (Jer 29:22 [see Hebenstreit, De Achali et Zelekie cupplicio, Lips. 1736]; 2 Macc. 6:5). SEE JOHN (THE APOSTLE). An example of burning alive does not occur (2Sa 21:22, marg. מלבן; see Thenius. in loc.) until the time of Herod (Josephus, War, 1:33, 4); but in Egypt the vindictive Roman magistrates took pleasure in burning Jews (Philo, 2:542, 527). No instances of burying alive (Ctesias, Pers. 41:53; Livy, 8:15, etc.) are found in the Scriptures (Nu 16:30 sq., is not in point). 2. Casting into the lions' den (Daniel 6). SEE LION; DEN.
3. Sufocation in hot ashes (2 Macc. 13:5 sq.; comp. Valer. Max. 9:2, 6, "He filled with ashes a place inclosed by high evalls, with a beam projecting within, upon which he placed the doomed, so that, when overcome with drowsiness, they fell into the insidious ash-heap below;" see Ctesias, Pers. 47 and 52). SEE ASHES.
4. Dashing in pieces children (sucklings) an the corneas of walls, which occurred on the sack of cities (Isa 13:16,18; Ho 14:1; Na 3:10; comp. Ps 137:9), like the ripping open of pregnant women (2Ki 8:12; 2Ki 15:16; Ho 14:1; Am 1:13), is, with the exception of 2Ki 14:16, only a heathenish barbarity. On crucifixion, SEE CRUCIFY.
5. Finally, drowning (καταποντισμός, Mt 18:6), and fighting with wild beasts (θηριομαχία, 1Co 15:32), are but casually alluded to in the N.T. Drowning, as a mode of inflicting death, is old (comp. Ex 1:22). Among the Romans, those guilty of parricide were sewed in sacks (culei) and then drowned (Cicero, Rose. Am. 25; ad Herean. 1, 13; Seneca, Clem. 1:15; Juvenal, 8:214); but this in the time of the emperors came to be deemed an inhuman mode of execution (comp. Josephus, A at. 14:15, 10; War, 1:22, 2; Lactantius, Mort. persec. 15:3); and thus remaining under the water (Jer 51:63) was thought a peculiarly severe fate (Josephus, Apiosm, 1:04; comp. Mt 18:6; see Gitz, De pistrinis vett. page 131 sq.; Grdfe, De καταποντισμῷ, num fuerit supplic. Judaeorums, Lips. 1662.; Welleius, De supplicio submers. Havn. 1701; Scherer, De καταποντ ap. antiq. Argent. 17:4). Such cruel punishments sometimes followved the mutilations of martyrdom (2 Macc. 7:4, 7, 10). On tlmairomachy, SEE GAMES; and on the passage 3 Macc. 5, comp. Porphyry, Abstin. 2:57. See generally Carpzov, Appar. page 581 sq.; Alichaelis, De judiciis poenisque capitatibus in S.S. (Hal. 1749; also in Ugolini Thesaur. 26, and Pott's Sylloge, 4:177 sq.); Jahn, Archdol. II, 2:347 sq.; Alichaelis, Mosaisches Racht, 5:11 sq. SEE PUNISHMENT.