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Exodus, chapter 20 is where we find the Ten Commandments. Exodus, chapters 21-23 contain many of the particulars of the law the Lord had given to the children of God after He had led them out of Egypt by the hand of His servant, Moses.  In Exodus, chapter 22, the Lord gives different consequences for particular sins.  Three sins mentioned are punishable by death.  Let’s read Exodus 22:18-20, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death. He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed.”  These are offenses the Lord considered so great that capital punishment was required for them.  Of course, there were other offenses spoken of in other places that were also punishable by death.

All of these offenses must have been in practice at the time for the Lord to address this before His people.  Sadly enough, of the these three sins mentioned, only bestiality is against the law, and that is a minor offense.  Let’s consider these three offenses in Exodus 22.

First, a witch was not permitted to live.  We also read in Leviticus 20:27, “A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them.”  Israel, the Lord’s people were called to be a holy people.  The Lord had commanded His people in Exodus 20:2-3, “I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.  Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”  What an offense it was to the Lord for His people to seek after other spirits or demons for guidance, instead of seeking the guidance of their Lord and deliverer.

Secondly, those who would have sexual intercourse with animals were to be put to death.  These are people who give in to the most abominable and demeaning desires of the flesh.  This is a crime so detestable, shocking and dishonorable to human nature, that you would think it could never be committed by any human.  However, the depravity and corruption of mankind made it necessary for the Lord to condemn it for His people.  These are people who refuse to control even the worst lusts.

Then, the Lord told His people that if anyone made sacrifices to any God, rather than to the one true God, they were to be utterly destroyed.  As part of the first commandment, the Lord had told His people in Exodus 20:4-5, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.”

Why were these three sins so detestable in God’s sight?  They represent everything that is vile in principle and detestable in practice.  They represent the rebellion in man that causes him to chase after other gods and to live in the most reprehensible moral conditions.  Are these things still to be punished by death today?  Yes, they are, but in a different way that what you might think.  Colossians 3:5-6 tells us, “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience.”  To mortify means to put to death.  We, as believers on the Lord Jesus Christ, are called upon to put to death those thoughts that would lead us to disobey the Lord.  We learn in Romans 8:13-14, “…if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”  (107.4)