This shouldn’t be too hard to understand if your mind knows your heart: Divine justice was never punitive in nature. It was always redemptive. Sure, you could cross some threshold and be taken from this world. The manner of execution would always fit the broader redemptive needs of the community involved, so you shouldn’t imagine that it always has to be quick and merciful for the perpetrator. Still, it was never aimed at dehumanizing the bad guy or gal. They could always confess their sin and may well be received into Heaven afterward. You may struggle with that if you still have a wealth of Western notions of “justice,” but if our Creator approves of something you don’t like, then the problem is with you.
I’ve worked closely enough to the American penal system to know it intimately. It’s wrong all the way through. It’s foundation is built at the Gates of Hell. It arises from the world of Beowulf and the cold, spiteful world that spawned such literature. It presumes a world where the deity is lazy and not really interested in people; that deity was intensely selfish. That’s not Jehovah, and the American penal system devours both the guards and prisoners and the society that spawns such a system. It turns everyone into a Grendel.
Once again: The Covenant of Noah, including the vast wealth of cultural and intellectual traditions of the Ancient Near Eastern world, is reality. That covenant rests squarely on the fabric of God’s own moral character. The petty anger of an offended, vengeful and fearful Western society is contrary to reality. That’s on top of all the things we make illegal that aren’t even a threat to us. You have to understand that the entire legal system is designed to protect government privilege, nothing more. Under the pretense of objectivity and “rule of law” it simply pampers government officials. It turns bureaucratic inconvenience into a sin, and the people be damned. When you fight reality as God created it and revealed it, you gain His wrath.
His wrath serves one primary purpose: His glory. It shows His holiness and purity, that He cannot abide sin. However, His wrath is always structured to offer a chance to repent and be made whole, restored to the proper place in a world of shalom. So the wrath of tribulation is God doing things His way, offering the only path to restoration. That a whole civilization of people refuses to understand is their fault. You cannot hold Him accountable to make it easy for you to take it the way you would prefer. His revelation is more than adequate to meet every human need.
The first step in restoration is confession and repentance. That is the gateway to rapprochement with God. It’s personal; it’s between you and God. Then comes petition for terms of restoration. That presumes you will seek to heal the damage you have done to His reputation and His Creation. This includes a presumption that you would meet with the victims and strive to clean up the mess. Yes, in our world that would probably never work. It requires heart-led judges who know God’s Word to moderate, especially when the victims are Westerners full of vengeance and spite. Westerners pickle their whole world in excessive and unjustified grievance. In the end, God is the final Judge decides what is just recompense.
Did it ever occur to anyone that the biblical Cities of Refuge were their version of “pre-trial confinement”? You can’t leave safely, but your restriction is pretty generous. You still have to behave yourself to avoid trouble with local government, but it’s far more sensible than anything we do now. And the trials were nothing like ours.
It’s always possible that there is no path to restoration in this world. Sometimes the perpetrator remains spiteful for whatever reason, or perhaps the harm was simply too great. That’s covered in God’s Law. They still get a chance to confess and repent, but about the only thing it changes here is the manner of execution. That has to fit the nature of the problem, as a symbolic demonstration of divine justice. One size does not fit all, and Western notions of what’s “humane” are based on that same heathen world view from Beowulf.
For example, if the crime was murdering someone, then the victim’s family is obliged to take the criminal’s life in a manner similar to the crime. They can be merciful, but they cannot do worse. Yet Noah’s Covenant demands that they be given the chance to execute; they have to do it themselves. In some instances, the only realistic answer is that the family of the perpetrator has to carry it out on behalf of the victims — and they have to do it themselves. The people closest to the crime are the ones God says should handle the execution. When Genesis 9 says something about taking the life of those who needlessly take human life, it presumes we all know it means either victim’s family or the perpetrator’s family have the burden of acting to execute.
Sometimes the nature of the crime brings it up to the attention of a higher jurisdiction of the family-clan-tribe involved. That should be obvious from the context. A pagan or secular government sins against God when it interferes in this divinely ordained protocol. In God’s eyes, there cannot be such a thing as crime against a secular state, aside from a very direct attack on the government officials and system itself. Even then, it depends on whether the attack was justified under God’s Law. That’s because a secular state is fundamentally contrary to His Law. The New Testament warns that there’s not much we can do in practice to avoid submitting to such a government, but that’s another matter. We are discussing here the ideals of God’s Law.
This is why every nation and civilization comes to an end, and why it always involves tribulation. None of them are just in God’s eyes, so at some point His holiness demands an answer. In our case with the US in particular, and the West in general, it is the relentless anti-heart-led approach to life that calls down His wrath. It is the endless spiteful rejections of God’s revelation that calls for destruction. Pointing out the vast chasm between God’s justice system for fallen men versus the filthy perversion that is called “justice” in the US is just an example. It strikes at the very essence of God’s way versus the world’s way.