There were some sixteen crimes that called for the death penalty in the Old Testament. Only in the case of premeditated murder did the text say that the officials in Israel were forbidden to take a “ransom” or a “substitute” (Num. 35:31). This implies that in all the other fifteen cases the judges could commute the crimes deserving of capital punishment by designating a “ransom” or “substitute” (e.g. Exo, 21:29-30). In that case the death penalty served to mark the seriousness of the crime.
- Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God (Baker Books, 2011), 95-96.