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Q: #199. How was someone killed by stoning in the Bible?

     A: Stoning (also called lapidation) was a brutal and gruesome way to die. Depending on the method used, the criminal could die fairly quickly, but more often, it would take anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours to die. Obviously, this would be more like torture.

     The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly how people were stoned, but we do have accounts over the centuries that tell us some of the methods used. One account is given to us in the Jewish Mishnah (multiple oral Jewish traditions combined into a single work). In (Sanhedrin, ch. 6, Mishnah 4) it says this on how a person was to be stoned:

#1. The place of stoning was twice a man’s height (with rocks below).

#2. One of the witnesses pushed him by the hips, [so that] he was overturned on his heart (fell face first on the rocks).

#3. He was then turned on his back.

#4. If that caused his death, he had fulfilled [his duty]; but if not, the second witness took a (large) stone and threw it on his chest.

#5. If he died thereby, he had done [his duty]; but if not, he [the criminal] was stoned by all Israel.

     Stoning is still practiced in some countries even today (i.e. Iran and Iraq). They use another method today.

#1. Hands are tied behind the back.

#2. The criminal (many are not really criminals…) is wrapped with 3 pieces of shroud from head to toe.

#3. A hole is dug, then the criminal is placed in the hole. A man is buried up to his waist, a woman to just under her breasts.

#4. The sentencing judge is to then throw the first stone (about tangerine size, not too big to kill with one blow, nor as small as a pebble). If a witness is involved, they are to throw first, then the judge. Afterwards, everyone is to throw until the criminal is declared dead.

     Other accounts tell us that some criminals were tied to a post, then stoned; tied hands and feet, then stoned; thrown from a high place so they were injured and couldn’t run, then stoned; or just surrounded by a large crowd so they couldn’t escape, then stoned.

     In the Bible, God ordered people to be stoned to death for 11 things (that I could find).

#1. Touching Mt Sinai: (Ex 19:12-13)(Heb 12:20-21)
#2. Breaking the Sabbath: (Num 15:32-36)
#3. Child Sacrifice: (Lev 20:2)
#4. Being a medium or wizard: (Lev 20:27)
#5. Cursing God Or Blaspheming: (Lev 24:10-16,23)
#6. Idolatry: (Deut 17:2-5)
#7. Someone Who Entices Another To Commit Idolatry: (Deut 13:6-11)
#8. Rebellion Against Parents: (Deut 21:18-21)
#9. A Woman Who Proclaimed To Be A Virgin At Marriage, But Wasn’t: (Deut 22:13-21)
#10. Sex With A Betrothed Virgin: (Deut 22:23-24)
#11. Adultery: (Lev 20:10)(Implied by Jn 8:3-5)(Both man and woman to be stoned)
(An ox that gored someone to death was also to be stoned: (Ex 21:28,32)

     No one in the Bible was to be stoned unless their sin could be verified by two or more witnesses. In addition, the witness (or witnesses) were to be the first to cast a stone at the condemned, followed by all of the people (Deut 17:6-7).
(Also see: Deut 19:15, Num 35:30, Jn 8:17, Lev 24:14)

The stoning usually took place outside of the camp or city walls (Lev 24:14,23)(Num 15:35)(Acts 7:58), and was usually done by the “men of his (or her) city” (Deut 21:21)(Deut 22:21).

     Several innocent people were stoned to death in the Bible: Stephen (Acts 7:54-60), Naboth (1 Kin 21), Zechariah (2 Chr 24:20-22).

     Paul was stoned as well, but did not die (they thought he was dead)(Acts 14:19-20)(2 Cor 11:25).

     The Jews sought to stone Jesus at one point for what they believed was blasphemy (Jesus claiming to be God), but He escaped them (Jn 10:22-39).

Copyright: © Steve Shirley

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Achan, his sons, daughters and livestock were stoned and then all that he had burned ~ Joshua 7