Old Testament Essays
On-line version ISSN 2312-3621
Print version ISSN 1010-9919
BAR, Shaul. The punishment of burning in the Hebrew Bible. Old testam. essays [online]. 2012, vol.25, n.1, pp.27-39. ISSN 2312-3621.
Different modes of executing people are mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. Among them we find the punishment of burning which also existed in the Ancient Near East. Thus, the question posed here is: what is the significance of describing this form of death? In order to arrive at an answer, we examine the episodes which describe death by burning to see in which context they appear. We will show that the punishment of burning in the Hebrew Bible appears in cases of illicit sex, sacrilege, and as a threat. In addition we will demonstrate that burning people to death was a bad omen and that it meant total obliteration of the dead. Execution by burning meant non-burial; this was an end to continuity and the final extinction of the deceased, who had not been "gathered to his ancestors." In other words the punishment of burning shows a belief in posthumous concept.