Is the stoning of homosexuals in the Torah to be taken at face value or is there a deeper meaning beyond the scripture itself? When Moshiach comes, will the courts actually mete out such a punishment and sentence homosexuals to death?

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    There is nothing in the Torah about stoning homosexuals. Please clarify your question
    – Aaron
    Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 5:37
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    Welcome to Mi Yodeya Ephraim, and thanks for the question! Mi Yodeya is big on sources so please edit the source you want explained. I hope you'll look around and find other Q&A of interest and stay learning with us.
    – mbloch
    Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 17:43
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    @Aaron 's comment is spot on. The concept of a person being identified by their sexual preference is a very late invention (end 18th, beginning 19th century). As such you will find that all relevant material regarding this topic concerns itself more with how people act than what people are.
    – RonP
    Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 18:59
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    @RonP Even without that, Halakha as a legal system can only mandate consequences for actions. Recall לאו שאין בו מעשה אין לוקין עליו.
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 23:31
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    @ronp assume that when op says "homosexual", he means person who does homosexual acts. Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 20:10

3 Answers 3


There is indeed a confusion between the Torah prescribing capital punishment (by stoning) for homosexual acts and the Torah view of homosexuals. Some context is required, see precise answers at the bottom.

I addressed elsewhere the view of the Torah on homosexuals. In a nutshell, the Torah is not so concerned and doesn't judge how people feel or what their desires are. It prohibits actions not thoughts (see here for nuances on this).

Stoning is indeed prescribed for homosexual acts. It is important to understand its parameters and limitations. R Eliezer Melamed writes

The punishment of stoning is only when they did it b’mayzid (deliberate violation of Jewish law), and before two witnesses who warned them not to do it, and that if they do, they will be punished by stoning, and nevertheless, they transgressed and sinned before them visibly. In practice, one would have to be completely insane to do so, because no one would dare commit a sin deserving of death before witnesses who warn him that if he continues to sin he will be punished by death. And if he dared, perhaps he really is insane and not responsible for his actions, and exempt from punishment.

Therefore, even though there are dozens of sins for which the penalty of death was determined by the Torah, in actuality, capital punishment by Beit Din (religious court) was very rare, to the point where our Sages said a Sanhedrin that effects a capital punishment once in seven years is branded a destructive tribunal [...]

Accordingly, the punishment set by the Torah is meant to teach the gravity of the sin, and is mainly intended to discourage people from transgressing it deliberately and brazenly in front of witnesses.

R Jack Abramowitz similarly writes

There’s no prohibition against having homosexual tendencies per se [...] the only act that might potentially result in capital punishment was intercourse, and then only with a warning and qualified witnesses as is the case in any mitzvah that might result in execution by the courts. So there’s no general prohibition against “being gay” and there’s no mitzvah to hate or oppress such people.

Lots of mitzvos are potentially capital offenses. These include most of the forbidden sexual relationships [...] Sewing a button on Shabbos or performing other simple labors would likewise be capital offenses. Homosexual intercourse is just one of many, many behaviors that were potentially subject to execution under Torah law. In all of these cases, the odds of actually being executed were pretty slim. According to the Mishna in Makkos (1:10), a Sanhedrin that carried out an execution once in 70 years was considered a “bloody court.” So, the threat of potential execution was more of a general statement as to the severity of a particular mitzvah, not a witch hunt.

As far as the term to’eivah (abomination), that’s a common Biblical term far from unique to this mitzvah. Remarrying an ex-wife who had married another man in the interim is called a to’eivah (Deuteronomy 24:4), as is selling a dog and using the money to purchase a Temple sacrifice (Deut. 23:19). Non-kosher food is likewise called a to’eivah (Deut. 14:3). So, again, this term is by no means limited to this mitzvah.

So to relate to your questions

  • there is no stoning of homosexuals prescribed in the Torah
  • the stoning for homosexual acts has to be taken at face value and is strictly framed as described above
  • When Moshiach comes, the Beit Hamikdash is rebuilt and the Sanhedrin is re-established, the courts will likely mete out death punishment again as the Mishna tells us in Makot 1:10 "A Sanhedrin that puts a man to death once in seven years is called destructive. Rabbi Eliezer ben Azariah says: even once in seventy years. Rabbi Akiba and Rabbi Tarfon say: had we been in the Sanhedrin none would ever have been put to death."

Apparently there is a confusion in this question. When we speak with words specific to the modern language, and naivly use such words to translate the Torah, a confusion happens. If an adultery between a young bride and a man is called heterosexual, You can change the title as "Stoning the heterosexuals"

In the Greek antic civilization, the practice of homosexual intercourse was not considered as the fact of "homosexuals". Prison inmates does not define themselves as "homosexuals".

The concept of gender orientation and gender identity, the psycho-sexual development of the child are the cultural environment of the term "homosexual". An man is also a product of his Lexico-Cultural universe. Consequently he cannot avoid to define itself as hetero, homo, etc.

there are indeed people who do not have the right to have a sexual relationship between them, according to the Jewish law. It can be true also for heterosexual relationship.

There are several transgressions which are punishable by death penalty following an extremely rigorous procedure.

In the Torah the death penalty is divided into several kinds of put to death. One of them is stoning, which, however is not as we imagine in general.

An act of anal penetration between two men is prohibited for both. The ultimate grade of condemnation for this transgression is stoning.

Torah is eternal. However, it's hard to translate our universe in Torah language and to translate Torah in our language. We can speak about marriage with a very young girl, slaves, penalty for Shabbat transgression.

If the purpose is to understand and not to make a sensation, it takes a lot of patience and we need to know that we have not answer to all questions. I would not want to appear to condone a very painful problem in the Jewish world in our time.

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    One of them is stoning, which, however is not as we imagine in general. What do you mean?
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 18:15
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    I lack of clarity but the word of abundance confuses sometimes more. What?
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 18:15
  • It seems like the main answer is Torah is eternal. Some sources for this would improve the answer. After all, there are sources that imply the opposite: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/76986/8775 and judaism.stackexchange.com/q/48330/8775.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 18:22
  • @mevaqesh Modern people think of stoning the way the terrorists do it and not the way bais din actually carried out the sentence. He is referring to that. Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 19:57
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    @sabbahillel I dont know exactly how terrorists do it, or even if they have a standardized system, or how most people imagine it. Rather than telling us that stoning isnt how you think it is, the answer should say what it is, (and if it so chooses, what it is not), and importantly, source its claims.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 20:00

the torah is quite clear that sex between two males is a capital offense incurring stoning. it's not an exaggeration. though stoning is not like the islamic version of stoning. the talmud derives to chose a more humane version which is to be pushed off a high platform as explained in tractate sanhedrin.

in the time of moshiach there will be no yetzer hara (evil inclination) everyone will willingly follow the torah from a-z. for details on this latter point see http://www.neveh.org/winston/parsha58/shavuos_5758_part_3.html

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    the torah is quite clear that sex between two males is a capital offense incurring stoning. Source?
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 18:23
  • the talmud derives to chose a more humane version which is to be pushed off a high platform as explained in tractate sanhedrin. Source? Are you saying that the procedure does not involve large numbers of stones being hurled at the executee?
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 18:24
  • The Torah is clear bout many things, but derashot nevertheless override that. In the Messianic Age, when the Sanhedrin is rebuilt, maybe new derashot will be employed to limit the scope of the prohibition.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 20:04

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