Capital Punishment Essay: The Biblical Case
Biblical Christianity is deeply rooted in loving compassion and acts of mercy. This has been evidenced throughout history more times than can be counted. Even the fourth century Roman emperor Julian the Apostate, a shrewd opponent of the Christian faith, said this in a letter to Arsacius, “the impious Galilaeans [Christians] support not only their own poor but ours as well” . The Gospel itself is the good news of unmerited mercy. While the great themes of compassion and mercy exude from the pages of Scripture, what also is heard loud and clear is the beating heart of justice.
This justice is rooted in the very character of God Almighty. This justice is what sets the stage for mercy. Justice makes grace so gracious and attractive. Justice and mercy are not enemies but friends. Contrary to the views held by the capital punishment abolitionist movement, capital punishment is not contrary to God’s mercy. In fact, in keeping with tota Scriptura and allowing all of Scripture to speak to the issue, capital punishment is both grounded in and supported by Scripture, and commended by God.
The prime place to begin this quest will be the very first book in the Bible. A proper analysis of Genesis 9:5-6 will orient our thinking in a number of ways as we approach other texts in Scripture, both Old Testament and New Testament texts. The scene of Genesis 9 presents us with God making a covenant with Noah on the heels of the flood. The setting is very important. All but eight souls have perished in the flood waters. Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their wives are all that remain of humanity. God had judged the depravity of men, “that the wickedness of man was great in the earth” (Genesis 6:5), and found mankind wanting. God in His justice levied the punishment, which was the extinguishing of the life of all men not situated in the safety of the ark.
Being created in the imago dei is unique to mankind. In the garden God stated, revealing a bit of inter-trinitarian dialogue, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26) Being created in the image of God places an extraordinarily high value on human life, a higher value than any other creature knows. God expands upon this teaching when He covenanted with Noah after the flood. It is a re-creation scene that hearkens back to God covenanting with and blessing Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
In Genesis 9 we read what the Lord said regarding the value of life, especially human life, “But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” (Genesis 9:4-6) This wasn’t stated in the garden, but is stated following the great and murderous evil that precipitated the flood.
Man and the Beast
The life of both man and beast is represented by blood. For the shedding of the blood of a man, the murderer’s blood must be shed. God requires a reckoning, a man’s life in payment for the taking of another man’s life. This is the essence of retributive justice. This is insight into the nature of the triune God. This is representative of high value of man created in the imago dei. “Man is not just another kind of animal…he bears the image of His Creator. Therefore, he who destroys the life of man destroys that which bears the image of God. Murder is not only an awful injury to one’s fellow man, but also an insult to God. He who murders his fellow man affronts God by destroying God’s image-bearer.” The reality that murder offends God is critical to understanding that capital punishment is just.
Murder is the act of destroying a human life. That is a grave crime in and of itself, but even more heinous is the assault upon God in destroying one created in His image. It is an attack on God Himself. The Lord takes the murder of His image-bearers personally. John Calvin said it this way, “If regarded strictly for their own sake, men and women are indeed unworthy of God’s care. But because they bear God’s image engraved upon them, He deems Himself violated in their person. Thus, though they have nothing of their own by which they might procure His favor, God looks upon His own gifts in them and is thereby roused to love and care for them. The lesson is to be carefully observed, however, that no one can be injurious to one’s brothers or sisters without wounding God Himself.” God’s image engraved upon all men is the central foundation stone upon which capital punishment rests.
The timing in which God discloses this to Noah after the flood is significant. God has essentially rebooted creation. With the reboot comes this first admonition, which foreshadows the Mosaic form of lex talionis (law of reconciliation). This warning is sandwiched between Genesis 9:1 and Genesis 9:7 where God charges Noah to “be fruitful and multiply”. The urgency of the warning lends tremendous weight towards establishing capital punishment for the crime of murder. At this point, those opposed to capital punishment will speak up and say that this is an Old Testament text. The coming of Jesus Christ, the redemptive work of Calvary’s cross changes things. However, this objection fails to stand in light of Scripture’s teaching for two primary reasons.
How Jesus Recapitulates What God Said
For starters, Jesus plainly recapitulates what God had spoken to Noah in Genesis 9. The context is the betrayal and arrest of Jesus in Gethsemane. When the soldiers, chief priests and elders approached Jesus and His disciples, Peter drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear (Matthew 26:51). Jesus turns to Peter and says, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52) Jesus rebukes Peter for resorting to the sword. In doing so, he repeats the theme of Genesis 9:6, a life for a life. It is worth noting that the crowd who had come with swords and clubs in hand are not the target of this rebuke. God has given to governing authorities the power of the sword, a topic that will be addressed shortly.
In addition to Jesus rebuking Peter, there is another important hermeneutical rule that bears mentioning. The entirety of the Old Testament points to the Jesus Christ who is the “radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3). “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) The immutable God in the person of Jesus Christ is no different than the God who spoke to Noah after the flood.
The Jesus of the Gospel accounts is no different than the One who spoke to Moses on the mountain and gave him the law. Clearly there is both continuity and discontinuity from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant, but there is no discontinuity in God. He does not change. God was not a vengeful Sovereign in the Old Testament times only to have a change of heart in the New Testament times. Consider what Jesus said to a group of Pharisees, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:46-47)
It is a bad hermeneutic to think that we can simply relegate Genesis 9:6 along with the civil law given to Moses by God to the paper shredder. The civil law and the lex talionis tell us something of the nature and character of the triune God. In fact, these things clearly point to Christ, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27) This is the kind of Bible interpretation that should never be forsaken. We disfigure God and find ourselves disoriented when we miss this. Philip Ryken summarizes this Biblical hermeneutic well, “Jesus is not just here or there in this prediction or that prophecy: He is everywhere in the Old Testament. The Old Testament has one central theme, and that theme is Christ.”
In seeing Matthew 26:52 as the New Testament recapitulation of Genesis 9:6, we have identified the kind of tota Scriptura harmony that helps solidify the Biblical argument for capital punishment. The repetition from the mouth of the Messiah greatly strengthens the force of the Genesis 9 text with God speaking to Noah. These are two solidly anchored screws on which the Biblical case for capital punishment is upheld.
It is worth noting that the Lord Jesus spoke of capital punishment on one other occasion in the Gospel accounts. We see this account in Mark and also paralleled in Matthew. And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)—then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” (Mark 7:5-13)
In one of many efforts on the part of the Pharisees, they attempted to trap Jesus by asking him a pointed question. Jesus responded, not by answering their question, but with a severe rebuke. In the days of Jesus, the Jews had developed a substantial volume of oral traditions passed down through generations by the elders. Jesus explicitly accuses the Pharisees of exalting the traditions of men over the Word of God.
The example Jesus used was the Corban rule. This rule allowed a person to dedicate goods or wealth to God while retaining control of said wealth. The “giving” of the property to the Lord thus deprived parents of the support they would have otherwise received. T.W. Manson summarizes the way in which this rule was manipulated for personal benefit, “A man goes through the formality of vowing something to God, not that he may give it to God, but in order to prevent some other person from having it.”
Jesus confronts their man-made tradition of Corban by exposing how Corban actually makes a person break the fifth commandment. This tradition of men was in direct violation of the commandment of God. By citing Exodus 21:17 (in Mark 7:10), Jesus is raising the temperature of his warning by reminding the Pharisees that such treatment of one’s parents makes one liable for the death penalty. In saying this, Jesus was affirming the civil law given to Moses by God, not setting it aside or in any way invalidating it. This is an example often overlooked in the debate regarding capital punishment, yet it serves as another straightforward instance of Jesus warning his hearers of the penalty of capital punishment.
There is one other instance involving Jesus making a charged statement that deserves our notice in this paper. We find it in Matthew 18:6, “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” While this does not expressly speak of capital punishment, Jesus is referring to a form of capital punishment that the Jews would have been well familiar with, for it was “practiced by the Greeks, Syrians, Romans, and by some other nations” to put to death the worst of criminals.
The heart of this text is not speaking directly to capital punishment, but we learn from it nevertheless. Jesus is rather intending to both comfort and warn his hearers. When you cause a disciple to sin, the Lord Jesus takes it very seriously. His warning is blazing hot. It would be better for that person to have a large millstone hanging on his neck sinking to the deep part of the sea. In speaking this in the presence of His disciples, they would have felt both warned and comforted. Jesus as the Good Shepherd is the ultimate defender of His sheep. But the strength of the warning and the fact that Jesus points to a terrifying form of capital punishment should not be set aside as insignificant. It seems that Jesus was quite willing to speak of the terrible penalty of causing a disciple to sin in order to warn and deter men from committing such evils.
Now that a solid connection has been made from the foundational Old Testament passage of Genesis 9:6 to Jesus in the New Testament, there are a few other Biblical texts worth considering in our effort to keep in line with both sola Scriptura and tota Scriptura. While the New Testament speaks of the end of both the civil and ceremonial law of the Mosaic economy, it is worth noting that as a part of the civil law in Israel’s theocratic society, God instituted strict penalties for a variety of offenses. There are numerous occasions where the death penalty is mandated in Old Testament Israel. In Exodus 21 we see a catalogue of sins that prompt the death penalty, such as “whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death.” (Exodus 21:12)
On the heels of that we see the death penalty mandated for one who strikes mother or father, one involved in any aspect of human trafficking, one who curses mother or father, and so on. In Exodus 22 bestiality is seen as deserving the death penalty. There are other crimes, ultimately sins against God, for which the death penalty was mandatory in this theocratic society. The point is not to try and make a case for modern capital punishment to be utilized in a wider array of crimes. Rather, the reader of Exodus must reckon with the fact that the holy God of the universe spoke these things to Moses from the thick darkness on Mount Sinai. This was not the prescription of Moses for Israel or some governing authority amongst mankind. This was the Lord Himself setting these penalties up for the protection and good of Israel’s society.
How God Reveals Himself to Us
In the giving of these civil laws, God is revealing Himself to us. It is through this revelation that men better understand what justice is. God’s law teaches mankind that the punishment must fit the crime. There needs to be proper proportionality for there to be justice, for example, a life for life in Exodus 21:23. God is teaching mankind the true value of a human life. When a murder takes place, capital punishment is the penalty that best preserves the value of the human life taken.
Any other punishment would be less than proportionate and thus inadequate. Knowing that the administration of the death penalty by men would be tainted by sin, God gave an additional safeguard to protect the wrongly accused from the death penalty. “On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.” (Deuteronomy 17:6-7) Not only would one witness never suffice to put someone to death, the witnesses themselves would have to be the ones to throw the first stone!
It seems important to note that God knew of all the injustices that would follow the giving of the civil law to Israel. He knew of the abuses, of future false witnesses, and even of those that would be falsely accused and wrongly condemned (even put to death). With men perfect justice is impossible. Only with God will there ever be perfect justice on that great day of reckoning when all men stand before God as He is seated on His awesome throne. Yet, God still gives the law. He still mandates capital punishment. This is the God who “kills and brings to life”, who “brings down to Sheol and raises up” (1 Samuel 2:6). He is sovereign. He knows all things. He is just. The lack of perfect justice in the earth cannot excuse our pursuit of justice. In light of potential abuses, capital punishment was still mandatory.
It is time to shift from Moses, one of the most important figures in the Old Testament, to two of the most important figures in the New Testament, Peter and Paul. It is very important to hear from the Apostles on the issues of capital punishment as they serve as the foundation of the church’s doctrine and practice (Ephesians 2:20). While Paul will speak to capital punishment very didactically, the emphasis in Peter’s life is a real world situation involving a couple of church members. There will be important things to glean from both of these passages as we continue to explore the Bible’s case for capital punishment.
In turning to Acts 5, we see Peter being used as an instrument of God to bring about justice within the church community. There are several helpful insights this text brings to light. But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.
After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things. (Acts 5:1-11)
The text really does not clarify Peter’s involvement in the death of Ananias. Yet, when Sapphira enters the scene, the text is quite clear that Peter is heavily involved. He actually pronounces her impending death by stating that the very men who carried her husband out are at the door awaiting her dead body. This was a startling event in the life of the early and by no means the norm. These were the days of the newborn church. Right out of the gate, this kind of apostasy could not be tolerated. A statement had to be made, one that could be heard loud and clear. The death of Ananias and Sapphira was that bold statement. This resulted in great fear coming upon the whole church and upon all who heard of this event.
How It Affects the Church
In addition to the effect this had on the church and the wider community, in reading this text it seems that Peter isn’t in any way surprised by the rendering of the death penalty by God, and more than that, Peter is a willing participant. After the fearful death of Ananias, Peter continues the investigation with Sapphira. Upon hearing her lie, he pronounces her immediate judgment—her death. There was not an opportunity granted to repent. There were no escalating steps of church discipline that preceded his pronouncement. A deterrent was needed and the death penalty would suffice. It is a scene like this that stirs up within the heart of men a proper fear of God, a fear that helps to protect the society at large and keep His church more pure. Men really should fear the Lord, for it is a fearful thing to fall into His hands (Hebrews 10:31). “It is the essence of impiety not to be afraid of God when there is reason to be afraid.”
There is one more text that absolutely must be considered in this discussion. This is the teaching of the Apostle Paul on the authority that God has given to earthly governments. Outside of Genesis 9:6, this is likely the most important passage in the Bible that points to capital punishment as being approved and commended by God. The context is very important, for a clear distinction is drawn by the wise apostle and the Spirit of God who inspired him to write this.
At the outset of Romans 12, the Apostle Paul is unfolding to the church what it means to live their lives as a living sacrifice. Then in Romans 12:19 we read, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” This is part of a Christian’s responsibility living sacrificial and loving lives. Paul is saying that on the individual level, capital punishment and retributive justice must not take place. For example, it is never the right of a family member of a murdered victim to exact revenge by taking the life of the murderer. Thus, we must be careful not to confuse private action on the part of an individual with public action on the part of a government.
Seeing that God declares vengeance to be His divine prerogative, He has not left this task strictly to Himself as the sole actor in retribution. This brings us to Romans 13, a critical text in this discussion.
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. (Romans 13:1-5)
The Historical Context
The historical context is important to note as well. The Jews were under Roman rule at this time. Many issues had already surfaced as different Roman leaders had persecuted the church. Even the Lord Jesus Christ was asked the question of whether it was right to pay taxes to Caesar. The Apostle Paul is going to clear the air and set the record straight. The Christians in Rome receiving this epistle were indeed instructed to submit to the Roman government.
This is good and right because God establishes governmental authority and invests them with powers to protect societal good. Certainly, this has massive implications for Christians throughout church history who have abided under ruthless dictators, communistic regimes, monarchs, and democracies. Submission to government is wrapped up in the fifth commandment, which requires God’s people to both honor and submit to authorities. Paul elsewhere instructs young Titus, “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities.” (Titus 3:1) To resist the authority of God-given government is to resist God. Authority really does matter.
After establishing the God-given nature of government, Paul proceeds to shed light on the purpose for which a governing institution exists. “The civil magistrate did not come into being through the machinations of man; rather, civil government is an institution established by God. God has established the church with its redemptive mission and the government for the well-being of everyone. The church dispenses the elements of special grace, that which has to do with our salvation, whereas the civil government attends to the common good of the human race, not only for Christians but for all people.”
R.C. Sproul goes on to write, “The essence of government is its power and authority to force conformity.” God has given governments tremendous authority that includes “the sword”, an idiomatic expression referring to capital punishment. “The reference is to the broader judicial function of the state, particularly its right to deprive of life those who had committed crimes worthy of death.” One cannot escape the meaning of “the sword”. The same Greek word (μάχαιραν) used in Romans 13:4 is used to describe the sword that Herod wielded to kill James the brother of John (Acts 12:2). The sword may imply a broad range of law enforcement tactics in addition to capital punishment, but it surely signifies the power and authority of a government to put a condemned criminal to death.
The government is to use these powers, even and up to putting certain criminals to death, for the good of society. As God’s servant (διάκονός in the Greek language; also translated deacon or minister) the governmental authority is to be God’s agent of vengeance in the earth, carrying out God’s wrath upon the evildoer. Civil government should be a terror to bad conduct and troublemakers. This is the clearest Biblical text pertaining to the role and purpose of civil government. “When God gives the power of the sword, He does not give it merely to see it rattled. The power of the sword is given to be used to enforce law and justice.”
Connection with the Capital Punishment
This survey of Scripture and its most relevant passages connected with capital punishment is rather conclusive. In spite of this, many people, including Christians object to capital punishment even referring to Scripture in their arguments against its practice. While there are many objections to capital punishment, it seems prudent to consider two of them that on the surface appear to be the most sound. One objection is rooted in an appeal to the Gospel, that Jesus Christ came for the sick and the needy. The other objection rests in the reality that no civil government is perfect and therefore injustices will happen. These objections need be addressed in order for there to be clarity.
The first objection is rooted in theology. If the Lord Jesus Christ could say from Calvary’s cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34), then how can Christians even consider capital punishment an option? Jesus came to save sinners. This was His grand purpose in coming, to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). Certainly, this is beyond debate. Jesus, Himself, clearly declares His purpose in coming. Church history illustrates the great efficacy which the Gospel has had in the earth. The book of Revelation discloses a future picture of redeemed sinners from every tribe, tongue, and nation surrounding the throne of God in worship. Yes, God saves the worst of sinners.
Karla Faye Tucker is a remarkable case in point. She was found guilty of murdering two people with a pickaxe during a robbery. While on death row, she was born again. The Lord Jesus Christ met her in that prison cell and everything changed! After 14 years on death row, she was finally executed in 1998. This was a horrendous crime, the destruction of two human lives. The death penalty was just and administered by the God-given authority of the civil government of the state of Texas. In an interview with Larry King shortly before her death she said, “When you have done something that I have done, like what I have done, and you have been forgiven for it, and you're loved, that has a way of so changing you. I mean, I have experienced real love. I know what real love is. I know what forgiveness is, even when I did something so horrible. I know that because God forgave me and I accepted what Jesus did on the cross. When I leave here, I am going to go be with him.”
Although Christ came to save, that is not all He does in the earth. The text of Romans 13 alone shows the reader that Christ is active in civil governments carrying out His wrath towards evildoers. The same Lord who saves sinners has also empowered civil governments with the sword. These are not contrary to one another at all. Jesus Christ is pouring out special grace in the salvation of sinners in the earth and simultaneously pouring out common grace day by day as civil governments work on behalf of public good.
The second objection is rooted in anthropology. Due the curse brought on by the fall, all mankind is born depraved and corrupted. Because mankind is depraved, the system of men are likewise depraved. Humanity simply cannot get away from the presence and activity of sin in this life. Therefore, injustices will always exist. This is at the heart of the objection that capital punishment cannot be allowed as long as there is a possibility of someone being wrongly put to death.
This was the sentiment of Illinois Governor Pat Quinn in 2011 when he said, “If the system can't be guaranteed, 100-percent error-free, then we shouldn't have the system. It cannot stand.” This certainly is cause for concern. Civil governments should proceed with extreme caution when it comes to executing criminals. The statistics alone are enough to birth caution in any thinking mind. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, since 1973 there have been a total of 165 death row exonerations, the most recent happening in March 2019. The numbers don’t lie and the fact is that the American justice system has condemned innocents and allowed the guilty to go free. There are undeniably injustices at every level of civil government.
The Biblical Case for Capital Punishment
With these realities in mind, the Biblical case for capital punishment still stands. God’s admonition in Noah’s day is still valid today. Paul’s teaching about the power and authority of civil government is still true in the modernized west. These truths continue to stand. This is the once and for all revelation that God has committed to His people. The believer must hold fast to what Scripture says at all times, even doctrine that is difficult to swallow.
Yes, government corruption exists, but God will judge the judges in the land. “In simple terms, Paul is saying that although the government we have to live under may be corrupt, the worst government is still better than anarchy, when evil goes forth without any restraint whatsoever.” The Christian can rest in God’s sovereignty and rule because He is the Lord of all other lords. While God has given to civil government great power and authority, even the power of the sword, believers recognize that the government’s authority never trumps God’s authority. His authority is ultimate. His judgments are perfect and final.
The aim of this paper was to provide an analysis of the pertinent passages of Scripture that speak to capital punishment and positively present a case for capital punishment. Discussion of an issue like this is often rooted in emotionally laden arguments that so often are unhelpful, not contributing to the discussion something of value. In this paper, emotional arguments have been set aside and the Biblical text has been examined. This is what the church should be about in every age, asking the question, “What do the Scriptures say?”
The evidence considered herein has covered texts from both the Old Testament and New Testament. The continuity of Scripture has been highlighted. Interactions that both Jesus and the Apostles encountered have been examined. Just as Christians are called to submit to the sacred text of Scripture, they are called to submit to rulers and authorities. These very authorities to whom God has given the power of the sword. This is retributive justice that God has instituted, warned of, and executed Himself time and time again. All of this revelation is given to mankind by God that they might know Him as He is, love Him, and fear Him. The God of all grace (1 Peter 5:10) is likewise the God who said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” (Romans 12:19) In the words of Ethan the Ezrahite, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.” (Psalm 89:14)