How Could a Good God Sanction the Stoning of a Disobedient Child?


Hank Hanegraaff

Article ID:



Apr 12, 2023


Oct 2, 2009

This article first appeared in the Ask Hank column of the Christian Research Journal, volume 30, number 1 (2007). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to:

“Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their wicked ways and live?”
(Ezek. 18:23).2

The Mosaic Law included the following provision for dealing with a disobedient son: “His father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a profligate and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of the town shall stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you” (Deut. 21:19–21). At first blush such language jars modern moral sensibilities. A closer examination, however, turns such moral pretension on its head.

First and foremost, the son in question should not be thought of as an adolescent guilty of nothing more than slamming doors or stubbornly asserting his independence. Rather, the son pictured above is old enough to be morally culpable of extravagantly wicked behavior that threatens the health and safety of the entire community. As such, the prescribed punishment is not for adolescent decadence, but for adult degeneracy.

Furthermore, the parents’ desire to spare their own son serves as a built‐in buffer against an unwarranted or frivolous enforcement of the law. Likewise, ratification by the elders precludes a precipitous judgment on the part of the parents. The standard of evidence prescribed by the Mosaic Law thus exceeds that of modern jurisprudence.

Finally, for modern‐day skeptics to claim the moral high‐ground over the ancient Scriptures is the height of hypocrisy. Far from resembling the civility of the Mosaic Law, our culture reflects the carnality of Israel’s neighbors who sacrificed their sons and daughters to appease the gods. Indeed, for over three decades Western society has sanctioned the systematic slaughter of innocent children, guilty of nothing more than being fully human.3

— Hank Hanegraaff


  1. Excerpted from Hank Hanegraaff’s The Bible Answer Book 2 (Nashville: J. Countryman, 2006).
  2. All Bible quotations are from the New International Version.
  3. For further study, see Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Peter H. Davids, F. F. Bruce, and Manfred T. Brauch (eds.), Hard Sayings of the Bible (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996); on related issues, see Hank Hanegraaff, TV’s “The West Wing” vs. The Bible, available through the Christian Research Institute (CRI) at
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