Classy. My wife came to me with the claim that she had read about beheadings in the Bible. She wanted me to explain in to her. My first question was, “Where did you read that?” Like most people who claim the Bible says something, her only answer was a vague “somewhere.” After repeated requests she narrowed it down to I Samuel but could not get any more specific. She could not find it but claimed she had read about “beheading” in her NASB.
Let me walk you through this in case you have questions about what the Bible might really say.
First, does the Bible use the word “beheading” or “beheadings”? I did a word search for the words in both the NASB and KJV and found nothing. That would tell me that the actual word was not used in the Bible but would not rule out the concept. So I searched for “head” assuming that if beheading is cutting off a head that would give me a reference. I came up with hundreds of hits, 364 in the KJV and 370 in the NAS77. TMI. So I did a search and looked at the usage in I and II Samuel. That gave me a small enough sample to give me a feel.
Are heads removed in the Bible? Yes. The most obvious example is where David cuts off Goliath’s head and shows it to the Philistines (I Samuel 7:51). This was not the normal way to do things.
How do we know that beheading was not normal or expected. Let’s look at the example of some men who killed a rival to the throne, thinking they would be rewarded by David.
(2 Samuel 4:7-8 KJV) For when they came into the house, he lay on his bed in his bedchamber, and they smote him, and slew him, and beheaded him, and took his head, and gat them away through the plain all night. And they brought the head of Ishbosheth unto David to Hebron, and said to the king, Behold the head of Ishbosheth the son of Saul thine enemy, which sought thy life; and the LORD hath avenged my lord the king this day of Saul, and of his seed.If there is anyplace you would find confirmation of this procedure, this is it. We find just the opposite. Notice how David responds.
(2 Samuel 4:12 KJV) And David commanded his young men, and they slew them, and cut off their hands and their feet, and hanged them up over the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ishbosheth, and buried it in the sepulchre of Abner in Hebron.Notice that he did not cut off their heads and he returned the head of the slain to its rightful place.
I found no reference to beheading used as a means of execution. Generally the heads were cut off after death to either prove they were dead or to prove identity of the dead person after the fact. Remember they did not have brain scanners or photography. Think of beheading as an ancient high tech medical procedure or identification process.
A clear example of this is shown when King Saul was killed by the Philistines. They could not show it on You Tube or Facebook. They needed the real thing.
(1 Samuel 31:9 KJV) And they cut off his head, and stripped off his armour, and sent into the land of the Philistines round about, to publish it in the house of their idols, and among the people.If you have his head to show, no one can claim he is still alive.
So does the Bible mention beheading? Yes. Does the Bible endorse beheading? Obviously not. Does the Bible command beheading? No. Beheading a subdued and bound captive for the purposes of showing the glory of God is barbaric, not Biblical. Is it endorsed in the Koran? I don’t have the tools to search the Koran the way I do the Bible, so I can’t say. I do know that killing infidels is endorsed.
Keep in mind that this is a study based in I and II Samuel, but I think you would find the same pattern throughout the entire Bible.
homo unius libri