This is one question I always had. Oizer Alpert addresses it in points to ponder this week.
The Gemora in Sanhedrin (106b) teaches that Bilaam was executed (31:8) by means of all four forms of death used by the Sanhedrin: stoning, fire, sword, and strangulation. How was it possible to kill one person using all four forms of execution? (Rashi, Yad Ramah, and Maharsha Sanhedrin 106b; Ayeles HaShachar)
Rashi writes that they hanged Bilaam from a tree and lit a fire under him. They then cut off his head and his body fell into the fire. Hanging him from the tree was considered strangulation, cutting off his head was dead by the sword, his body falling to the ground was stoning, and falling into the fire was burning. The Maharsha challenges this explanation, as the stoning and burning occurred after his head was cut off and he was already dead. Additionally, somebody who is to be executed by fire is killed through a burning piece of lead being place into his mouth, which is different than the form of burning described by Rashi. Therefore, he suggests that they first threw rocks on Bilaam, but not to the point of killing him. They then partially placed a burning piece of lead into his mouth, but not enough to kill him. They then strangled him somewhat, but kept him alive until they finally killed him by cutting off his head with a sword. Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman questions this, as he was only truly killed by the sword and not by the other methods. The Yad Ramah explains that Bilaam was killed by four people, each of whom simultaneously performed on him one of the methods of execution.
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4 days ago