King Solomon, Punishment for Killers, Then and Now

I am not an enthusiastic fan of the death penalty. There are two reasons:
1. I don’t have much faith in our government. When we make it too easy to implement the death penalty, we are not careful enough. We risk executing the innocent. When we make it too hard to implement the death penalty, the cost becomes absurd. Unfortunately, we are usually at one extreme or the other.
2. Someone has to kill the condemned. Even when someone has committed the most vile crimes, they remain human. Even when someone has been carefully tried and convicted, we always have a trace of doubt. If nothing else, we wonder if God approves. So it is not easy for a jury, a judge, and an executioner to pass judgement, put someone to death, and rest easy in their sleep.

So should we use capital punishment? What would King Solomon have said?

Rudy u Martinka

How did wise King Solomon punish a convicted killer vs. USA Christian inspired punishments?

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35 thoughts on “King Solomon, Punishment for Killers, Then and Now

  1. marmoewp

    You commented, “Having the murderers work for their upkeep may well be more expensive, as keeping them secured inside their cells is way easier than to keep them supervised in a working environment with access to all sorts improvised weapons.”

    True I agree.

    However, I wonder if a combination of sharp marketing to appeal to people to buy products made with prisoner labor, like clothing now imported from China, and who knows, made in prisons, might be profitable. If profitable enough, even pay prisoners wages that could be accumulated when free. At the same time experience a work discipline and skill.

    Right now, a prisoner is released, no one wants to hire them, and they wind up back in prison. Not very practical, Christian, virtuous, wise etc in my opinion.

    I wrote a post with a list of potential items, if interested.

    Regards and goodwill labor.

  2. I agree with both of your arguments against the death penalty, the chance of convicting innocent people and the burden carried by the poeple involved in carrying out a death sentence.

    As for the question of paying for the incarceration, let’s do a back of the envelope conservative estimate. There seem to be about 170,000 people incarcerated for murder. Let’s assume that each of them costs the upper estimate of $60,000 per year and that there are about 125 million households in the US. Then it comes down to about $80 per household and year to pay for the upkeep of the entire murderer population. Having the murderers work for their upkeep may well be more expensive, as keeping them secured inside their cells is way easier than to keep them supervised in a working environment with access to all sorts improvised weapons.

    1. @marmoewp

      Frankly, I think jails should be reserved for repeat offenders and those who commit crimes of violence.

      I also think jails should be unpleasant. When someone finds themselves in prison they should be wondering about the sheer stupidity of doing whatever they did that got them into such a place. So I have no special desire to spend $60,000 per year to keep someone locked up.

      I also think chain gangs are a great idea. From time-to-time potential criminals should see where a life of crime leads, picking up trash in the hot summer sun or in frigid winter weather along side the highway in the middle of nowhere..

      Note one detail. What is the worst thing about being in prison? It is the company you have to keep. Nothing I would propose would make being in prison worst than the fact the other inmates are criminals.

      Because the people in prison are almost by definition anti-social, I think it best to reserve such punishment, jail time, for violent offenders. We should find other ways to punish nonviolent offenders. Putting a shop lifter in stocks for a week would probably be less expensive and more effective than a longer period in jail. But we don’t do that anymore.

  3. I’m not a real advocate for the death penalty either, and I like the idea of making convicted person pay for his/her own keep via labor, but I’m sure the “indentured servitude” angle will come in. And if the choice is death or labor is that really a choice? Just sayin’. I like it, but I’m just sayin’.

    1. Just thinking further, I could probably add more value to the discussion with a relevant example.
      The olympics are going on right now in South Korea. It’s not the first time, some folks will probably remember back in 1987 they held the olympics in South Korea as well. This time they (the ROK) bribed the DPRK with money…which is being put to good use:

      Last time they must not have paid them…or paid them enough, because the DPRK bombed an airliner to “disrupt the olympics”. The person who bombed Korean Air Flight 858 on November 29, 1987, is walking free. Kim Hyon-hui was able to avoid serious punishment for murdering 115 people. I’m sure she is very sorry. I’m sure her upbringing and a lot of blackmail and brain washing, led her to do what she did. It’s not always just about the criminal though, is it?

      Sarah Hoyt talks about justice (also virtue), and I’m in basic agreement with her on this. Her experience comes from growing up in Portugal, having seen the prisoner rehabilitation angle played out many times:

      “But it was annoying the heck out of me, because I’ve heard all this before. I heard it in Europe. The poor prisoners, and the horrors they face on coming out, and and and. At the end of this is a judicial system where a wrist slap is considered harsh. I don’t have any clue what it is now, but when I came to the States, you could commit murder in Portugal and be out in seven years. MULTIPLE murders. And then several busybodies would busy themselves with virtue-signaling by giving you everything they could, things they wouldn’t bother giving/helping poor but honest people with. And when you failed, as most prisoners do, even with all the help in the world, to integrate back in society, it was society’s fault and more sappy stories were told about you, till they gave you another chance.

      This (and I’m not going into the reform/rehabilitation/death penalty matter right now, this one is just an instance) is virtue-signaling on the part of the do-gooders. These people wouldn’t bestir themselves to help a family in need that has never done anything wrong, because everyone agrees those people need help, and why isn’t the state helping them. But hey will put themselves out to help prisoners say because the very fact they’re “undeserving poor” makes the virtue of helping them greater. Not just prisoners, mind, there’s also drug users, or abusers of others, or as we’ve seen in our own field, pedophiles.

      Sometimes it’s as though the less deserving the object of concern, the greater the virtue signaling of this “compassion.”

      Which brings us to the fact most of this “virtue” is not even real. They’re not helping anyone. I have a friend who is a pagan prison chaplain. He puts his money where his mouth is. He puts his time, his attention, and his work in there too. Weirdly he’s one of those who doesn’t agitate for leniency in general. It’s also funny, given how different their traditions, how much he sounds like Peter Grant on the subject.

      Sure there are people in there who deserve help in building a new life. They’re ready to change and work for it, and even if they fail, they deserve help in trying to fix themselves/their lives. But they’re few and far between. Most of them are psychopaths and sociopaths, who are REALLY GOOD at pretending to want to change.

      The people who work closely with them and who know them as much as possible can tell the difference and are in the best position for changing their ways if they can be changed. Right prats who go on about how we should be lenient to everyone do more harm than good and lead to a world where we’re kind to the cruel and thus cruel to the kind.

      Which is what is wrong with all this virtue-signaling talk. Oh, it makes you feel so good to stand up say for a confessed pedophile and tell everyone how nice they are, and send them pictures of your kids (!) but in the end all that you are doing is enabling someone’s dysfunction.

      It makes you feel good to speak for the “voiceless” (because Marxist theory tells you that in a capitalist society the poor/minorities are voiceless, and you never considered Marxist theory is the product of college professors who wouldn’t know voiceless if it bit them in the fleshy portion of the back.) But in the end you’re just joining your voice to a chorus of out-of-touch academics pushing the world in a very bad direction, where envy is a virtue, the individual isn’t respected and society is a horror out of 1984.

      Real virtue is hard. Virtue signaling is easy. When you no longer have any real standards virtue signaling is all you have left.

      And that, ladies and gentlemen, small dragons and octopi, is what we face. They say and do these things, from twitter storms to rants about the rights of (insert supposed victim class here, the more repulsive the better) in the same way other religions light butter lamps or genuflect to show devotion.

      This absolves them from all real effort to help others, particularly since most of them think it’s someone else’s job, and just call the police, or government, to do the charity work they won’t do.

      Our society, from entertainment to news to civic teaching (such as there is, which is almost never formally taught) encourages this form of virtue-signaling over real virtue.

      We have a lot of work to do to turn it around. And most of this is small, private, modeling real virtue and calling out fools on virtue-signaling. None of it is pleasant or easy. All or it is needed.

      Their system if corrupt, impossible and failing. In the end they lose. But we only win if we cultivate real virtue and aren’t afraid to call out false one.

      Resist the easy feel-good of virtue signaling. Do what you can to cultivate real virtue. And teach your children well.

      No one said this would be easy.”

  4. Doug

    I agree looking back is foolish, for different reasons as King Solomon explained in his Ecclesiastes.

    Rather than explain, perhaps you might read the About of my blog to obtain a better perspective of my reasoning of relating the wisdom of King Solomon to today’s news.

    In my opinion, today is more complex because we make it more complex by not taking the time to learn from the folly of the past generations and “wising up ” to prevent doing the same follies..

    Nothing is new under the sun……..

    If interested,

    Regards and goodwill blogging.

    1. Well, Rudy… I have followed your blog posts for a different perspective and actually I thought your “King Solomon” in your titles was an interesting “schtick” approach.. and accepted it as such… hence I was not actually critiquing your use of Solomon. My comment was more to Tom because him and I have been so vastly different in our political perspectives that I thought this was one area I was also sharing some moral struggle. While I commented on HIS reference of Solomon it was to present my caution of his going too far with it. 🙂
      I did read your “about”… as I always do on blogs. A blog post generally represents a specific point in time where an emotion can take over.. or when I want to understand, “Where does this guy come from?”… I will check the “About” section.

      1. Doug


        I prefer to relate Citizen Tom’s posts and philosophy more relevant to the New Testament of Love and mine to relate to the Old Testament of Wisdom.

        Each a cord to strengthen our individual opinions and styles to try to make our world just a little bit of a better place.
        When you consider the billions of people now on our planet and the folly we read about, all with the potential to be less folly by the knowledge available in the Bible, in opposition to secular and atheistic philosophy, I prefer to believe and follow the song verses in this song to be a better solution for both the past and future, to make the world a little better place.

        If interested

        Regards and goodwill bloggiing

        1. I think you might be assigning my term of “Schtick” as a negative. That’s just a term to suggest the angle of approach any one of us might select to try and make ourselves distinctive from the rank in file. When you visit my blog there’s nothing but “schtick” in there… it’s just in my case I don’t happen to mask it as a “typically liberal” anti-Trump blog.. yet I totally try to make the focus less about some some political agenda and more along the line of himself as a person. That’s my schtick. I want Trump out of the Oval Office for his persona… not his agenda. Call me a liberal, call me some rino, call me old school republican… hell, call me an asshole. The man is the worst president in modern history and has already caused damage to American prestige around the world… and he’s the singular reason our country is so divisive.
          But here’s my point, Rudy… as much as I get frustrated with the conservative “nonsense” (and they toward my alleged “liberal” nonsense)… they do miss the point in that we are all Americans and we truly need to foment some compromise out of all this because NO side.. not conservatives, not liberals, are going to win a damn thing in the end.

          1. Doug

            You said, “ I want Trump out of the Oval Office for his persona… not his agenda.”

            Not too sure you should say that. It may imply that you may lack a professional view about the different styles of management. A professional will recognize that each style has plus or minuses, but what is most important in a leader is his success in obtaining goals of an agenda.
            Trump is not a smooth talking politician and in many ways violates many of King Solomon’s advices and proverbial descriptions to describe a wise man.
            However, compared to Obama’s social study background vs. Trump’s business background, in my opinion we need someone to tell us in blunt or crass way the facts rather than to smooze and placate us.
            Trump style is identified as a driver. Obama an amiable. Our country needs business expertise, and someone to drive an agenda, which you seem to agree he is obtaining.
            In my opinion, he has an agenda he promised and is making an attempt to fulfill his campaign promises. Obama just did not have his business experience and listened to the wrong economists.
            As for Hillary, his description of her as “ Crooked Hilliary” appears to be correct based on the information of the Mueller investigation of her approving the sale of 20 percent of US Uranium mine to Russia.
            Frankly, I recommend you move back to the Midwest where the air is not contaminated by hot air and gas emissions, pot smoke, and political leaders who are so vain that they will stand for eight hours on 4 inch-high heels. An actress who esteemed by her peers even though she described a movie mogul raping actress, a God.
            I have a theory that brains in California may become infected with some kind of bacteria that effects common sense brain functions because the weather never freezes in the winters to kill the bacteria as it does in the Midwest.
            Nothing personal, if you ever visit Elmhurst, look me up and I will share some more of my theories over a beer. I cannot do the same because I visited Los Angelus two years ago, walked on Venice Beach, drove on freeways, which now with legalize pot are “High Ways,” and vowed never to visit there again. However, I might someday go back to Yosemite where the air freezes in the winter, but never again in the lower areas and cities surrounded by halos of smog and brain eating bacteria.
            Regards and goodwill blogging.


          2. Actually I am heading back there for two weeks in May; doing a road trip to see the kids. If I need a political opinion “fix” I’ll look ya up.
            I lived in Villa Park for a while.. kinda very near where the first Portillos “A” frame building was. Believe it or not.. they actually have one here about an hour away.. and once in a while it’s worth the trip.
            Oh.. speaking of blowing smoke in California… Trump has no management style.

          3. Well, to be sure, I was being VERY sarcastic when I suggested he had no business style. In truth, you take homeless guy off the street and put him in charge of people, he will have some style.
            Hitler even had management style (and no.. I am in no way comparing Trump to Hitler as we are talking simply management style here) and he managed to get done what he wanted to do as well… for a while.
            You also don’t want to confuse personal drive with being some sort of management style either. He’s “driven” alright.. over the bodies of others. In some venues, like real estate where the product is a combination of renovation, construction, and market values, you could make money in spite of yourself. Put him in a team environment with goals.. he’s likely fall flat on his face.
            Yep.. he’s richer than me for sure, more accomplished in real estate and personal branding.. and he did well with millions of his dad’s seed money. I’ll wager you have had enough of your own management experience that if you has his starting millions you could have built that up too. No.. his success was in no means built on his management style.. his drive and persistence, considerable bravado (which sometimes might be interpreted by others as confidence) and a power to persuade people is likely what has made him successful. Personally I think his success was his ability to brand his popularity. That was very nicely done.

          4. @Doug

            Please consider your own style. Have you considered the possibility that logic has more substance than sarcasm?

            Trump is producing results. Is he doing a perfect job? Nobody does a perfect job. Nevertheless, he is doing a much better job than his predecessor, and nobody is being deprived of their rights or threatened with the loss of their life.

            Moreover, he is not using the absurd hyperbole his opponents are guilty of. When they have no responsibility, you clowns are trying to make the NRA responsible for school shootings. And you think Trump is irresponsible? And yes, you did just compare Trump with Hitler. Grow up. We can’t have our cake and eat it too.

          5. Being human? Reason is a large part of what separates from beasts.

            Here is a question for you. What is the significance of calling someone left or right wing? We usually associate Communists with the extreme left wing and Nazis with the extreme right wing. What’s the difference? Both were socialist totalitarian regimes.

          6. All the reason to concern ourselves that the extremes either way is not a good position. The other day when I said there is no center, does not mean we don’t strive for it because that defines compromise.
            This is why when I hear people pound their chests because they voted straight democratic (or republican) because dad did, grandpa did, great great grandpa did.. yada yada. That’s sheer ignorance of the fact that times change, policies change, philosophies change, party platforms change. But hey.. free country.. your right to use your vote anyway you wish. I’ve voted both sides consistently for decades in spite of the fact that I typically register republican to get into a primary if I so desire. But my republicanism is nothing like what is floating around in confusion these days.

            To specifically answer your question… like most I adopt the current identifiers that tend to reflect the common usage of the term. I am constantly be accused of being a liberal simply because I dislike Trump’s persona as a president, and much of his agenda was not “republican” before but it is now and I simply don’t sign up on it.

          7. My point is that the terms “left” and “right” are meaningless. How can we talk to each other if we don’t know what we are saying?

            The state of education in this country is abysmal, especially with respect to politics. There no left or right. There is a tradeoff between too much and too little government. If we don’t have any government, we have anarchy. Then we exist at the sufferance of hoodlums. At the other extreme, we have a police state, and become the slaves of our rulers. Our problem is to figure our how to maintain a good compromise between too much and too little government. That is exactly what the Framers of the Constitution sought.

            Trump comes closer to advocating what I think that good compromise than any president since Ronald Reagan. You don’t think so. Well, we each only get one vote.

        2. “he’s the singular reason our country is so divisive.”

          Harvey Weinstein funded a movie accusing the sitting president of being behind the mass murder of thousands of our citizens, right before the election. That surely wasn’t divisive at all. Yes, it’s all Trump. And Russian trolling on Facebook.
          Good grief.

  5. Thanks for your reblog. I wish another million bloggers would do the same.

    PS I made reference to your blog this morning in a new post about reality of guns in schools.

    Two cords are stronger than one and three……… Just think how strong a million cords would be against folly?

    Regards and good will blogging.

  6. I agree with Emma above.

    But more importantly, Tom.. I also am with you on this one; it’s a mixed quandary for me too. I am banging away for a broad national mental health policy and this is yet another application of it. There may be a point in time in the future where “capital punishment” will be some sort of technological behavior modification rather overtly killing someone. Then the moral issue will shift from killing to more toward a lack of administering an eye-for-an-eye vengeful-based justice that make victims and/or their survivors feel better. Isn’t the eye-for-an-eye one of Solomon’s concepts anyway?

    You know, I don’t deny that Solomon was a bit wise for his historical age in attempting to apply some morality into common law… and we can certainly refer back to the comparatively simplistic application of common law… but to always look back on him as something the modern world should admire to the point of emulating or applying his apparent “wisdom” is ridiculous. We are a far more complex society and generally speaking we hail the rights of individual freedoms far more than Solomon ever did. Simply lopping of the hand of some poor soul who was convicted of robbery creates far more social ramifications than some abstract “deterrence”… we can’t even decide if the sentence for a crime should be punitive to the individual, a public display to deter future social crimes, or rehabilitative to “fix” the individual. Old Solomon did’t give a damn… as long as it was “just” and equally applied without prejudice… which in itself was a marked improvement for that time in history.

    But I do agree with your own struggle with the concept as I feel the same.

    1. King Solomon cared. You need to read the Bible.

      The Bible does not teach hatred, not even the Old Testament. The Old Testament speaks of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth (Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21), and Matthew 5:38-42 references those verses. In Matthew 5:38-42, Jesus emphasized that what the Old Testament already said. We should love everyone. The law, however, in order to function, must be just. Thus, those Old Testament verses required proportional punishment.

      In ancient times, prisons were not practical. So they used punishments we now regard as brutal, but the Jews did not invent torture, and the Bible frowns on the practice.

      Try reading Proverbs. Still works today. People have not changed.

      1. I will not dispute religion, Tom. But.. you make a very excellent reference…. “In ancient times, prisons were not practical. So they used punishments we now regard as brutal”. Yet those reasons for punishments have become greatly more complex. Basic humanism may not change.. but social structure and the demands do.

        1. @Doug

          People have not changed much. What has changed is what people believe. If you don’t discuss religion, then you cannot understand what people believe. You also cannot understand the significance of the change between now and ancient times.

          Some make fun of the word ideology. They call people who believe in certain ideologies ideologues (Christians they refer to as Jesus freaks.). They then puff themselves up and call themselves pragmatists, but that sort of response to an ideology is a measure of one’s ignorance. Since it does not truly work, it is not even pragmatic.

          To work effectively with other people, we have to understand what motivates them, what they believe. When we don’t try, we just harm ourselves.

          All religions and political systems involve ideologies, or belief systems. Christianity has proven to be the most powerful in its influence. About 2,000 years ago, Jesus organized a small group of followers. His followers spread the beliefs that Jesus had taught them, Christianity, and changed the world.

          Most of us don’t just how significant the change was. Most people don’t know much about either history or Christianity. Our education does a poor job of teaching both.

          There is a good book on this subject. I wrote a series of post on it => Please read it.

  7. I can agree with forced labor as an alternative to the death penalty. There is no reason to leave able-bodied people locked away for thousands of hours. Put them to work.

    The issue for me is “mental illness”. I don’t think we are good at differentiating between illness and evil. I’m not sure there is any practical difference. Nikolas Cruz has obviously got “something wrong” inside of him. Whether we call is psychosis or sin seems arbitrary.

  8. This fellow is a victim of a poor government that sets protocols for doctors on how to treat patients. His act might have been monstrous but he is no monster. He is a victim just like all of us…certainly the students. The Government that is broken is the criminal.

    A person in pain needs meds, I should know. If you don’t treat the pain correctly, you can lose your mind.

    Blessings, Emma

    1. Is Nikolas Cruz insane? I don’t know.

      Insanity is something I find difficult to define. When someone formulates a plan to kill people and executes that plan, I think that requires a considerable amount of hatred. What role does insanity have? I am uncertain, but I don’t think it is required to make a monster.

      Is hatred insane? Hatred makes us do insane things, but is that the same thing as insanity? No.

      We are insane when our minds fail to function properly. That is, we cannot take the information our senses give us, process that information coherently, and make correct judgements with respect to what our sense perceive. Whatever the reason, our mental processes are physically incapable of working as they should.

      When someone is full of hatred, their mental processes are working physically as they should, but hatred shapes their attitude. Hatred is an attitude problem, not insanity. When we hate, we take the information our senses give us from the perspective of our anger. Each unintended slight becomes magnified. Each actual abuse is amplified. Eventually, if we are dominated by hatred we cannot contain that hatred. We explode with it. That explosion of anger is the definition of a monster.

      When an explosion of hatred is calculated and carried out seemingly in cold blood, we may still think it is insane, but is the person who planned and executed an act of violence actually insane or just full of hatred? That’s what a judge and jury will have to decide.

      1. Good points. Analyzing the mind of someone can be taxing. Where I believe our opinions differ is that I strongly believe his depression and anxiety caused him to hate based on his hurt. While the hurt remains, the mind can begin calculating monstrous actions, etc.

        Have a blessed day, Emma

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