Watton on the Web
Home Contact Us About Us Our Church

Homepage The Subject The Topics The Bible The Morality

Law and Order continued....


Retribution is concerned with the balance of justice. The word comes from the Latin retribuo which means 'to pay back'. Society shows its values through its laws, and the breaking of them is regarded as an anti-social act. Its displeasure is therefore shown in a form of censure, fine, reprimand or a custodial sentence.

The retribution principle reflects Divine law, because God punishes sinners. In the book of Genesis(1) Noah was virtually appointed a prime minister and his portfolio (authorised by God) included the administration of justice, and in the cases of murder, capital punishment was mandatory. Where an offender shed innocent blood, his blood was to be forfeited. That was retribuo - a paying back. It was a form of atonement.

The Bible lays great stress on the dignity of the person, and warns against those who affront that dignity. We should not curse our fellow men because they are 'made after the similitude of God'(2) Jesus also severely reprimanded child-abusers, saying that it were better for them 'that a millstone be put around their neck and thrown into the sea'(3).This obviously implied that such serious offences demanded capital punishment.

Murder is really the ultimate crime because it virtually 'undoes' the work of the Creator by brutally bringing a life to an end which was given by God. It is something like (but far more serious) a vandal who slashes an artist's masterpiece painting.

Retribution may at first seem primitive and vengeful, but it must have a place in the philosophy of law and order. At no times must it be unfair. Israel's laws on this were scrupulously fair. In the first instance the verdict could only be arrived at where there were two or three witnesses(4) and when it came to corporal punishment the number of lashes were strictly controlled(5).

Index to the topic

Law and Order
A Postscript on Capital Punishment

Return to the Homepage

© 2002 Watton on the Web part of River Ministries (Norfolk)
Disclaimer, copyright and credit notices