“And the rest shall hear and fear, and shall never again commit any such evil among you.” (Deuteronomy 19:20 ESV)
This “hear and fear” principle is repeated in several instances of Moses’ recounting of the law to the Israelites just before they crossed over into the Promised Land.
It’s like a cramming session. It’s a law-repeat so that this new generation will remember the words of the Lord.
The punishments for transgressions – in this context, retribution against a false witness – were severe because others would “hear and fear.” This would deter people from like offenses and ingrain into their culture as a people the taboo nature of the offense.
Not acting harshly against appearances of evil numbs a people to the evil within them over time. We see it in our culture today, that in the name of “tolerance” (some attempt to call it grace, but it is a dis-grace), we allow evil to not just survive but to become the norm.
When you tolerate evil in your midst, it’s a slow contaminate. But when the whole is corrupt over time, it’s a fast road to judgment.
This principle of quickly dealing with evil is also found in the New Testament account of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. It had the desired results:
“And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things”. (Acts 5:11 ESV)
Hear and fear… think about that.