Sacred Texts  Judaism  Index  Previous  Next 

Tractate Sanhedrin, Herbert Danby tr. [1919], at

The Hanging and Ultimate Disposal of the Corpse.

M.VI. 4b. Every one stoned is to be hanged,--so R. Eleazar; but the majority hold that only blasphemers and idolaters are to be hanged. A

p. 91 is hanged with his face to the people, and a woman with her face to the gallows,--so R. Eleazar. But the majority hold that a man is to be hanged, but not a woman. R. Eleazar replied, "Did not Shimeon, the son of Shatah, hang women in Ashkelon?" They answered, "He hanged eighty women, whereas two cases must not be judged in one day." 1

How was a man hanged? A beam was fixed in the ground with a cross-piece; the corpse's hands were fastened together, and it was so hanged. According to R. Jose the beam leaned against a wall, the corpse being suspended on it after the manner adopted by butchers. It was then taken down immediately, for if it remain, a negative command is broken, since it is written: 2 HIS CORPSE SHALL NOT REMAIN ON THE TREE, BUT MUST BE BURIED THE SAME DAY; FOR THAT WHICH IS HANGED IS A CURSE OF GOD, 3--as if to say, "Why is this one hanged? Because he cursed the Name, and the Name of Heaven was found defiled."

5a. R. Meir said: When men are in trouble, what says the tongue? I am pained in my head, I am pained in my arm. 4 If Scripture speak thus,

p. 92

M.[paragraph continues] "I am troubled at the blood of the wicked," how much more at the blood of the righteous which is shed?

T. IX. 6b. Also, when a man is hanged, at the moment when one is tying him up, another is loosening the knot, in order to carry out what the law of hanging demands.

7. R. Meir said: What means the Scripture: FOR THAT WHICH IS HANGED IS A CURSE OF GOD? It is as though there were two brothers, twins, who were like one another in appearance; one became king of the world, while the other went off and consorted with thieves. After a time the latter was captured and crucified on a cross, and all who came and went said, "It is like as though the king were crucified." Therefore it is said: FOR THAT WHICH IS HANGED IS A CURSE OF GOD.

M.VI. 5b. Furthermore, any one who allows the dead to remain overnight transgresses a negative command; but if it has been allowed to remain for purposes of honour, to bring wrappings or a coffin, there is no transgression. Criminals were not buried in their fathers’ burying places; but two burying places were prepared by the court: one for the stoned and burnt, and one for the decapitated and strangled. 6. When the flesh had been consumed, the bones were gathered and buried in their proper place. The kinsfolk came and saluted the witnesses and the judges, to show that they bore no ill-will, since the trial was just. They did not make (open) lamentation 1 for the criminal: they mourned, but only in their own heart.

p. 93

T. IX. 8. The sword with which a man is beheaded, the wrap with which he is strangled, the stone with which he is stoned, and the beam on which he is hanged, were immersed for purification and not buried with him. When the flesh was consumed, the messengers of the court used to collect the bones and bury them in a coffin; and even if the criminal were the king of kings 1 he could not be buried in the burying place of his fathers, but only in that prepared by the court. 9. Two burying places were prepared by the court: one for the stoned and burnt, and one for the decapitated and strangled. And so David says: GATHER NOT MY SOUL WITH THE SINNERS. 2


91:1 And having violated one rule, the occurrence cannot be brought forward as a valid precedent for the method of observing another rule.

91:2 Deut. 21. 23.

91:3 Such is the literal rendering. Mishnah interprets as an "objective genitive" a curse (or cursing) against God; while the illustrative parable in Tosefta implies the interpretation a cause of cursing against God, something which brings God into disrepute; man being in the image of God must not be allowed to suffer the indignity of hanging.

91:4 So B. C untranslatable.

92:1 The word used has special reference to the seven days of public mourning ceremonies; cf. Moed Katon 20a.

93:1 The Emperor himself.

93:2 Psalm 26. 9.

Next: The other Forms of Death Penalty: Burning, Decapitation, and Strangulation