God sets the stage with this part of the law for Jesus’ crucifixion. The Sanhedrin didn’t follow this command with Jesus but those who loved Him from afar did.
Moses tells the people that a person who is condemned to death by hanging on a tree is to be buried that same day. God doesn’t specify here how the person is on a tree. They could be hung from a branch, nailed to a wooden cross, or impaled on a wooden stake.
I was curious what crimes God decreed were punishable by hanging on a tree. Of course I googled it and came across an interesting site. The Jewish Virtual Library has a page on capital punishment. When reading through their section of punishment by hanging they didn’t state any Jewish crime that required that punishment. They did try to claim that our text today specifies that “biblical law prescribes hanging after execution: every person found guilty of a capital offense and put to death had to be impaled on a stake.” I do NOT see that in our text!
I see an “if” statement instead. To me, this passage states that IF the person committed a crime punishable by death AND you hang him on a tree you have to take him down by sunset. It doesn’t say you have to hang every criminal on a tree after their death sentence is carried out. My translation doesn’t even mention impaling a person on a stake.
Joshua is the only example of impaling someone done as an Israelite death sentence. He impaled the king of Ai on a stake. But he also took him down as prescribed in God’s Law at evening. Because of the few instances mentioned in scripture about “hanging from a tree” I believe this section was added specifically in preparation for Jesus’ work.
Jesus would be hung on a tree and assume the curse for all of us. The Romans carried out the sentence but His own countrymen planned for it to happen. They didn’t have the authority to enact such a death sentence but the Romans did. They used that to their advantage and God used it by design.
As evening approached the religious leaders went to Pilot to have him hasten the death of the prisoners. They knew of God’s command that a man hanged on a tree be taken down by evening so the land wouldn’t suffer a curse. I don’t know if they did this with every crucifixion but the next day was a holy day so they insisted on it for Jesus and the thieves deaths.
We aren’t told who removed the thieves from their crosses but the religious leaders didn’t remove Jesus. Two men who were secret followers did. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus did. Who knows what would have become of Jesus’ body if the religious leaders had been the ones to “bury” Him that day. For they were required to bury the one who was removed from the tree but it is not specified how or with what degree of care should be rendered to the condemned.
God knew the requirements for our salvation and what they would cost Jesus. He knew the pain and humiliation He would suffer on the way to completing the task set before Jesus. He knew there was no other way for true forgiveness of sin. But He also wanted to care for His Son once the hard work was done.
I believe the Holy Spirit moved on Joseph to commission his own tomb construction. I believe the Holy Spirit even took the timing of completion in to account. Joseph didn’t know what he was building would house the body of our Lord. Not even the Sanhedrin knew what day they were going to have Jesus crucified until Judas came to them.
God prepared a special place and a special man to carry out His gift to His Son. Can we say the “fingerprints of God” were ALL OVER this process; from the inclusion of this commandment to the growing of the tree chosen to create Jesus’ cross, to the construction of a tomb by a secret disciple to the agreement of Pilot to release Jesus’ body to one who loved Him. Nothing was left to chance.
Father God, I LOVE seeing Your fingerprints. It is not easy reading about death in Your Laws. I have no idea if the website I found is accurate. I seriously doubt it because if it were so You would have mentioned people being put on pikes A LOT more than once. To me this is just one more example of how Jesus fulfilled every prophecy and aspect of the Law. Thank You for giving me such precise examples to point to as proof.