Stoned for working on the Sabbath
Some have made the point that since Sabbath breakers were stoned to death in the Old Testament, therefore the Sabbath must not be in force today since stoning is not in force. But take note that not only Sabbath breakers were stoned to death but adulterers as well (Leviticus 20:10). Those who broke the third Commandment were also put to death (Leviticus 24:16). Surely no one feels that adultery and blasphemy are any less wrong today just because God prescribed death for such sins in the Old Testament. The fact is that death applied to more than just the Sabbath. It was in fact the penalty for any Commandment broken wilfully. However, it did not apply when done in ignorance, so death was easily avoided by not being wilfully disobedient.
Under the theocracy of Israel, God ruled the people directly. He commanded punishment immediately for certain flagrant acts of disobedience. Today the same sins are equally abhorrent to God such as breaking HIS Sabbath, but punishment is delayed until the Day of Judgment.
Exodus 31:14 “You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people.”
This verse says the person who profanes the Sabbath will be put to death and it also says that person will be CUT OFF from among his people. So why the apparent contradiction? Does it mean separated (cut off) from his people or put to death? It does in fact mean put to death as “CUT OFF” was a phrase that meant to be put to death in Biblical days. Note Gills Commentary for this verse.
John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible. Dr. John Gill (1690-1771)
“that soul shall be cut off from among his people; that is, shall die by the hand of the civil magistrate, it being but another phrase for being put to death;”
And for even further confirmation, compare the Good News Bible with the King James further below for verses 30 and 31 in regards to being “CUT OFF” and that this does in fact mean being put to death.
Numbers 15:30-31 GNB “But any who sin deliberately, whether they are natives or foreigners, are guilty of treating the LORD with contempt, and they shall be put to death, 31 because they have rejected what the LORD said and have deliberately broken one of his commands. They are responsible for their own death.”
Reading the passage carefully below you will note being “CUT OFF” (put to death) applied to all the Commandments but again, only those broken in ignorance. Straight after this is spoken, we find an example and in this case it just happened to be the Sabbath. It could have been any Commandment such as wilful murder and it would have still been the same result. This is what most people have failed to understand.
Numbers 15:28-36 “And the priest shall make an atonement for the soul that sinneth IGNORANTLY, when he sinneth by ignorance before the LORD, to make an atonement for him; and it shall be forgiven him. 29 You shall have one law for him that sinneth through IGNORANCE, both for him that is born among the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them. 30 But the soul that doeth ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproacheth the LORD; and that soul shall be CUT OFF from among his people. 31 Because he has despised the word of the LORD, and has BROKEN his COMMANDMENT, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him. 32 And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the Sabbath day. 33 And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation. 34 And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him. 35 And the LORD said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp. 36 And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the LORD commanded Moses.”