Bible reading notes:
Capital Punishment,
Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing
in the Old Testament

This page:

Capital punishment

Genocide and ethnic cleansing


the Bible

Old Testament structural index

index pages:

Prescribed capital punishment in the Old Testament

Violent crimes Exodus 21:12fatally striking a man (intentionally)
Exodus 21:14
Deuteronomy 19:11-13
premeditated murder
Numbers 35:16-21murder
Numbers 35:31murder – payment to avoid execution prohibited
Exodus 21:15striking one’s parent
Exodus 21:16
Deuteronomy 24:7
Exodus 21:23death (aside from miscarriage) caused by fighting
Leviticus 24:17homicide
Domestic misconduct Exodus 21:15striking one’s parent
Exodus 21:17
Leviticus 20:9
insulting one’s parent
Leviticus 20:2bgiving one’s offspring to Molech
Deuteronomy 21:18-21being a disobedient and defiant son, a glutton and a drunkard
Undermining the law Deuteronomy 17:12-13disregarding judgment by a priest or magistrate
Deuteronomy 19:16-21false testimony accusing another of a capital crime
Undermining society Joshua 1:18disobeying military orders (shirking duty)
Joshua 6:17-21keeping proscribed (dedicated) loot
– extended in practice (7:24-25) to the culprit’s family
Reckless conductExodus 21:29owning and failing to control an ox that gores someone to death and had gored before
Impiety Exodus 22:17sorcery
Leviticus 20:2bgiving one’s offspring to Molech
Leviticus 20:27having a ghost or familiar spirit
Leviticus 21:9harlotry by the daugher of a priest
Leviticus 24:15-16blasphemy
Exodus 35:2
Numbers 15:32-36
laboring on the sabbath
Deuteronomy 18:20false prophecy in the name of the Lord
Serving other gods Numbers 25:1-5worship of Baal-peor (god of the Moabites)
Deuteronomy 7:2-6prophecy or divination in the name of other gods

Deuteronomy 7:7-19, 17,2-7

worshipping other gods
Deuteronomy 18:20prophecy in the name of other gods
Encroachment on privileged religious duties Numbers 1:51on the encampment of the Levites, or on their setting up or taking down the tabernacle
Numbers 3:10on priestly duties of Aaron’s family
Numbers 3:38on the encampment of Aaron’s family (as priests)
Incest Leviticus 20:11incest with father’s wife
Leviticus 20:12incest with daughter-in-law
Leviticus 20:14marriage involving a man, a woman, and her daughter
Leviticus 20:20incest with uncle’s wife
Other sexual misconduct Exodus 22:18
Leviticus 20:15-16
Leviticus 20:10
Deuteronomy 22:22
Leviticus 20:13male homosexual intercourse
Leviticus 21:9harlotry by the daugher of a priest
Deuteronomy 22:20-21woman marrying under false pretenses of virginity
Deuteronomy 22:23-24engaged woman having sex with another man in the town (and presumably not crying for help)
man having sex with a woman engaged to another man
Deuteronomy 22:5rape of a woman engaged to another man
Other executions attributed to divine mandate 2 Samuel 21:1-9Descendants of Saul handed over to Gibeonites for execution, to settle their demand to avenge Saul’s violation of a treaty. Although the executions and the targeting of descendants of the guilty king were demanded by the Gibeonites, David’s acquiescence is motivated by a famine, God’s punishment for national guilt.
I Kings 18:40Prophets of Baal slaughtered by edict of the prophet Elijah
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Old Testament prescriptions or precedents for
genocide, ethnic cleansing, or cultural annihilation

BookVersesTargeted peopleExtent

Adult males killed in battle.

Male children and non-virgin women killed as captives

Deuteronomy 2:32-34Amorites of HeshbonGenocide
3:3-7Amorites of BashanGenocide

22-24, 20:15-18

Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, Jebusites (inhabitants of the promised land)Cultural annihilation commanded
20:10-14towns far from Israelite territory that will not surrenderSlaughter of all adult males
25:17-19AmalekitesGenocide commanded
Joshua 6:17-21JerichoGenocide
10:28-40Makkedah, Libnah, Lachish, Eglon, Hebron, DebirGenocide
11:16-20inhabitants of the hill country of Judah, the Negeb, Goshen, the Shephelah, the Arabah, and the hill country and coastal plain of Israel (except for Hivites in Gibeon)Genocide
11:21Anakites from Hebron, Debir, Anab, and the hill country of Judah and IsraelGenocide
Judges 1:8JerusalemGenocide
1:17Canaanites in ZephathGenocide
1:25LuzGenocide (excepting a quisling and his family)
I Samuel15:2-3AmalekitesGenocide: said to have been completed, though Amalekites do appear in later stories
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