QUOTE 1: As Claus Westermann, one of the most famous Old Testament scholars of the twentieth century explained, this text indicates that God expects murderers to be punished with death. "The execution of the death penalty by humans is the carrying out of the command of God."
QUOTE 2: Every human life is sacred precisely because every single human being is made in God's image. Murder is, Westermann explained, "a direct attack on God's right of dominion."
He commented further: "Here in Genesis 9 murder is something utterly on its own; nothing can be compared with it. Throughout the whole sweep of human history, the murderer by his action despoils God."
QUOTE 3: And yet, in another statement from his commentary on this text, Westermann points straight to the reason that a post-Christian culture loses its moral confidence in the punishment of murderers. He states: "A community is only justified in executing the death penalty insofar as it respects the unique right of God over life and death and insofar as it respects the inviolability of human life that follows therefrom."
AUTHOR: Claus Westermann (7 October 1909 – 11 June 2000) was a German Protestant Old Testament scholar. He taught at the University of Heidelberg from 1958 to 1978.
Born to African missionaries, he finished his studies in 1933 he became a pastor. During his theological studies he started studying the Old Testament, and became particularly interested in the content of the Psalms. During the Nazi regime he served in the German army for five years where he was a translator on the Russian front. After the war Westermann started preaching again and also went to teach Old Testament at Heidelberg, where he would continue to teach for twenty years with colleagues such as Gerhard von Rad, Hans Walter Wolff, and Rolf Rendtorff.
Westermann is considered one of the premier Old Testament scholars of the twentieth century. Particularly notable among his scholarship is his lengthy and comprehensive commentary on the Book of Genesis, especially the volume covering Genesis 1-11.