Did the Lord condone stoning of children? A loving God more of a harsh dictator? Where is the mercy and forgiveness? How is killing a child moral? Tough questions for a complex command from the Lord God, but did He really command to stone disobedient children? Looking closer to what was truly meant by this command will help one better understand the true meaning behind it.
“If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and who, when they have chastened him, will not heed them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city, to the gate of his city. And they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death with stones; so you shall put away the evil from among you, and all Israel shall hear and fear.” (Deuteronomy 21:18-21).
The word son used here in Hebrew is bane, which also means young man and in turn is referencing towards a young man around the age of 18 years or older. A disobedient son that is a drunkard is not a child, but rather a man of age that can and will do as he pleases. Another way of looking at this is by the time it was written, (anywhere from 2500 B.C. to 1500 B.C.), a time when enemies were all about and ready to kill. A time when it was survival of the fittest and nothing like the haven we call earth today where organized police forces and security systems keep us safe.
If the young man decided to rebel against the camp he could easily go to another army and help them take over the camp of Israel. Another thing to point out is that this is in an occurance of time and not just a one time rebellious act, but rather unwilling to change a long pursuance of rebellion which ultimately would end up leading many other young men to follow the same pattern.
Today we do much of the same thing, but it is not a physical death, rather an emotional and spiritual death. Whenever a young man leaves home and breaks the law and is not willing to change he then becomes the outcast of the family and is a lot of times disregarded as family completely. The times in which the Hebrews lived and the dangers they faced is something we can not grasp today and must be viewed in through their eyes to truly understand. Of course we are not much better today as most of our society is derived from the Greeks and Romans which instead of stoning a rebellious young man, they went on to sacrifice babies to idols. “The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” (Proverbs 29:15).