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It’s almost embarrassing to say that I am someone who believes in the Bible in today’s modern society. From animated TV shows to everyday conversation I hear many objections to the credibility of this best-selling book of all time. One such objection is that the Bible is barbaric. How else would you explain a book that commands parents to stone to death a child who is rebellious? Let’s examine this seemingly repulsive commandment more closely as I take you on my own journey in trying to understand this.

Does the Bible really command this? Yes it absolutely does. Deuteronomy 21:18-21 says that if a parent has a stubborn, rebellious son, then they are to take him to the elders of the city and stone him to death. So the punishment for a weekend of partying and getting stoned with friends is to actually get stoned –stones were to be thrown at the person until dead! And that’s not the only place something so seemingly barbaric is commanded. Exodus 21:15 says that if a son strikes his mother or father, he was to be put to death.  How are we to make sense of this?

In taking a more in-depth look at this commandment, given more than 3000 years ago, I found that it was important to ensure that I was evaluating it in light of their culture and not mine. For instance, the concept of cutting off the head of a slain enemy seems barbaric to me. But in a culture without photo IDs and passports, it was a verifiable way of proving that a certain king or battle hero was indeed dead (2 Samuel 20:21-22). One thing I found was that the concept of stoning (as barbaric as it sounds to me) was actually a part of the culture at that time. In Exodus 8:26, before God ever talked about the idea of stoning, Moses talks to Pharaoh about being afraid that the Egyptians would stone them. I learned that just because something sounds barbaric to my modern-day 21st century ears doesn’t mean that it was barbaric to the time and culture for which it was intended.

So does this mean then that parents today are still supposed to kill unruly children just in a less barbaric way because the Bible commands it?

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