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Holman Bible Dictionary


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A method of ridiculing, shaming, and desecrating an enemy. Hanging was not regarded as a means of capital punishment according to biblical law, although it was practiced by the Egyptians (Genesis 40:19 ,Genesis 40:19,40:22 ) and the Persians (Esther 7:9 ). The Israelites, after putting an enemy or criminal to death, might hang them on a gibbet or tree for public scorn as added degradation and warning (Genesis 40:19 ; Deuteronomy 21:22 ; Joshua 8:29 ; 2 Samuel 4:12 ), but biblical law demanded that the corpses be taken down and buried the same day (Deuteronomy 21:22-23 ). Joshua 8:29 ; Joshua 10:26-27 record that the bodies of the kings of Ai and the kings of the Amorites were taken down and buried at sundown on the same day they were hanged. Contrast the undetermined length of exposure allowed by Pharaoh, ( Genesis 40:19 ), the Philistines, (1 Samuel 31:10 ), and the Gibeonites (2 Samuel 21:8-10 ). A hanged man was considered an insult to God (Galatians 3:13 ) and therefore defiled the land.

According to the first century Jewish historian, Josephus, all executed criminals were afterward hanged. The Mishna prescribes hanging only for those put to death by stoning. Some Bible students think hanging was prescribed only for blasphemers and idolaters.

Hanging oneself is mentioned only once in the Old Testament and once in the New Testament. Ahithophel, David's counselor, joined the conspiracy of Absalom, David's son (2 Samuel 15:31 ). Feeling his ploy for personal power evaporate, he set his house in order and hanged himself (2 Samuel 17:23 ). Judas, one of the twelve disciples of our Lord, in a desperate effort to resolve guilt and atone for the misdeed of betraying Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, went out into the night and hanged himself (Matthew 27:5 ). Acts 1:18 says he fell headlong and burst asunder, presumably as the rope broke.

C. Dale Hill

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Hanging'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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