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Capital Punishment from a Philosophical Perspective

Thus military officers may not hire mercenary soldiers to fight in their place (Edwards 33), and the penalty for a commander who attempts to do so is death.

Ancient attachment to capital punishment in Mesopotamia has persisted as a feature of civil society throughout the historical period. The Hebrew Bible, which appears to have been reduced to writing in about 800 BC, presents a somewhat ambiguous picture of the relationship between human society and death. Midway through the Decalogue in Exodus, the declaration is straightforward: Thou shalt not kill. Ambiguity arises as Exodus qualifies the basic statement, for example in the matter of personal injury:

Whoever strikes a man a mortal blow must be put to death. He, however, who did not hunt a man down, but caused his death by an act of God, may flee to a place which I will set apart for this purpose. But when a man kills another after maliciously scheming to do so, you must take him even from my alter and put him to death. . . . A kidnaper, whether he sells his victim or still has him when caught, shall be put to death (Exod. 21:12-16).

The whole ethical question of Thou shalt not kill is further complicated by the unfolding Biblical narrative, for example the fact that the Israelites battle and kill their way across the desert area to make their way into Canaan, beginning at Jericho and continuing afterward. To settle where they will, the Israelites kill virtually every people in their path

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