The infamous dirty ten as listed on various sites and blogs contends that “Do not allow a sorceress to live.” (Exodus 22:18) should be the third worst Bible verse. Well, come on folks, I can think of a hundred better deserving verses than this in the Book of Leviticus alone. What were you thinking? I’m assuming that perhaps they thought it was amusing or funny. But if so, isn’t that kind of callous in itself? We’re talking about killing someone here. I’m going to assume that those that mock the Bible aren’t so callous about life and death and instead list this verse as one of the worst because it does indeed call for the death penalty. Or perhaps they are mocking the fact that the Bible believes in sorcerers. Again, that would be downright silly because there are plenty of historical accounts both in secular literature and religious that state the existence of self proclaimed witches, warlocks, and the like. Even today, we have an organization called Wicca with thousands of members.
You can find many commentaries on this verse but my approach will hopefully be unique and offer another perspective. Let’s look at who the laws were laid down for. God was talking specifically to the Israelites. This “law” did not apply to anyone else. The Jewish people were not to mix with other nations who worshiped idols. Thus, this was a self governing law that the people of Israel were not to deal with sorcery. If you, a nonbeliever, want to worship the devil or whatever it is witches and warlocks do, help yourself with no penalty but whatever may or may not happen in the afterlife or your societies own self governing rules. You, as a non-Jew or nonbeliever aren’t under any of these laws so what do you care? The Jews of this time proclaimed God as their moral, spiritual, and ultimate authority in all things. Period. Agree or get out. God did not force anyone to stay, but what he did was demand allegiance if you chose to stay under the authority and protection of the God Almighty. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
Those burning witches during the inquisition were not acting under the authority of God but of ignorance. First of all, Christians were supposed to be under the grace of Jesus Christ, not the law of the Jewish traditions. Although it is true that one could hardly be considered a Christian if following pagan rituals but again, everyone will be judged by either the one true God, if he is real, or whatever else may or may not exist in the afterlife. Secondly, even if the law still existed (which it did not), it was to be conducted under the strictest court magistrate of the Jewish tradition.
There are many directions to go in debating Exodus 22:18 but suffice to say that the only real group of people that have any right to lament or protest its existence were the Jews of the Old Testament. They obviously chose to live under the guidance and wisdom of the God called Jehovah, for better or worse. They’re still around today. They survived all the plagues, holocaust, wars, and they are still here. I think they made the correct choice.