9. Government and capital punishment
Kuyper begins by expressing agreement with the Reformed position expressed in the notes of the Dutch Bible on the institution of government being established in these verses (Gen 9). He notes too that Rivet of Leiden has shown the untenability of Nieuwenhuis’s position expressed in the previous chapter.
Nevertheless, Kuyper sees the need to examine these verses to see if the Reformed position is the correct position.
Capital punishment is not primarily about the protection of human life, it arises from the sovereignty of God:
“People are his people. They belong to him. He has jurisdiction over them. Since in those people he has deposited something of his divine honor, for that reason the honor of God is always attacked with murder. That may not happen. His ordinance opposes that. Precisely on that basis alone can capital punishment be ordained for the murderer.” (86)
This is why if someone kills a murderer without a mandate form God then their blood too has to be shed: “the exercise of capital punishment never entails a second violating of God’s honor and justice, because it is performed by virtue of God’s ordinance and upon his authority.” (86)
These words in Genesis 9, than cannot be a prophecy but a command and an ordinance. Who then has this duty? It cannot mean anyone. Kuyper quotes Luther and the Dutch Bible approvingly:
“Luther was entirely correct to say that here lays the official institution of government, as were the Dutch Bible commentators in observing that here the legitimacy of government is being established.” (88)