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A. The prerogative to judge another man must be delegated; one must have divine authorization to conduct a trial. This puts the burden of proof on those who claim the validity of double jeopardy (2 Sam. 15:4; Exo. 2:14; cf. Acts 7:27,35).
B. Scripture prohibits double jeopardy
1. Scripture allows a verdict to be challenged and a trial invalidated only in the case of known prejudice and bribery (cf. Deut. 16:18-19; 2 Chron. 19:7).
2. When no sentence is delivered in a case which was too difficult for the judges to try, the matter could be referred to a higher court. However, once a verdict is reached, the judgment is without appeal. To deviate from the judgment is a capital crime (Deut. 17:8-13). To disregard the judge’s verdict and hold another trial would make the judge’s authority hollow, not hallowed; graded courts would be pointless, since lower courts would cease to have a meaningful function.
3. The judge is responsible for seeing that his judgment is executed and acknowledged by the public (Ps. 51:4; Luke 7:29,35). To bring an acquitted party into judgment again for the same alleged offense would make the judge impotent, even in a lower court.
4. One who receives an unfavorable verdict had the right to protect himself by appeal to a higher court, but after a favorable verdict has been reached, the accused cannot be touched or harassed any longer (2 Sam. 14:4-11).
5. If a man accuses his wife of premarital promiscuity, and it is legally established that she was innocent, the slanderous husband cannot appeal the verdict and bring his wife into double jeopardy again; “he may not put her away all his days” (Deut. 22:13-19).
6. When a person kills another and flees to a city of refuge, he would declare his cause before the elders of the city. If they acquitted him of murder, the avenger of the slain person has no further recourse against him, and the acquitted is to be restored to his own land and home in safety (Num. 35:25, 28; Josh. 20:4-6). Thus the jeopardy of an accused terminates upon a favorable verdict (at any level of the legal system).
7. A man once tried and sentenced is not to be further subjected to further trial for the same offense:
a. The substitutionary atonement of Christ rests on this cardinal point with respect to eternal judgment.
b. Otherwise the biblical restriction of forty stripes (Deut. 25:3) would be senseless; through retrial for the same crime a man could repeatedly be given sets of forty stripes. And if this protection is extended even to the guilty, how much more protection should be afforded to whose who are acquitted as innocent? To grant security to the convicted and withhold it from the innocent indirectly constitute showing respect unto the wicked and a double standard of treatment (cf. Deut. 25:13-16).
- Greg L. Bahnsen, Double Jeopardy: A Case Study in the Influence of Christian Legislation, The Journal of Christian Reconstruction, Vol. II, No. 2, Winter 1975, at 44-47.