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AN EYE FOR AN EYE
EDITED BY GLENN PEASE
An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth (Exodus 21:24;
Leviticus 24:20;Deuteronomy1...
committing it to public officers. In contrastwith the retaliatory disposition,
our Lord inculcates on his disciples a forb...
if he overtook him and put him to death the law held him free. But at the same
time it gave the criminal a chance for his ...
of its history. When he went up into Mount Nebo, and stretched out his arm
toward the Promised Land, he gave to that land ...
kindly given him. While he was eating it, and merrily humming a tune, he saw
a poor little dog quietly sleeping not far fr...
The whole company of hunters gatheredaround the dying man. Herbert,
however, knelt down beside him and beggedhis forgivene...
Among the latter, it constituted a part of the twelve tables, so famous in
antiquity; but the punishment was afterwards ch...
should depart, how will he order it to strike such a stroke as that, without
adding or lessening? andif a man that has but...
Eye for eye
Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy19:21; Matthew 5:38-44;1 Peter2:19-21. The
provision in Exodus is law, and righteo...
2. By comparing this with other laws, whereina compensationis allowedin
like cases, as Exodus 21:18,30.And when it is enjo...
on the person, the very best should be done that can be done to make an
adequate compensation. When property is taken it c...
of the spiritual in us. The very crippling of the body may help us to make
wonderful advances towards the perfectman in Ch...
D. Young
The particular illustration here is confessedlyobscure;but there can hardly
be a mistake as to the principle illu...
beyond human malice or carelessness to spoil in the slightestdegree. The
treasures Godloves to make the peculiar possessio...
though this is commonly received. It means that I must give him what
satisfactionaneye shall be janlged to be worth. Accor...
from a biblical perspective. We have already lookedat the subject of worship
and slaveryand capital punishment.
Now, we wi...
which reflected equitable law. Calvin rejectedthat particular theory. One of
the problems with that is, as we study these ...
stoned and its flesh shall not be eaten;but the owner of the ox shall go
unpunished. If, however, an ox was previously in ...
In generalthis sectiondeals with laws about bodily injuries and the
appropriate penalty for those bodily injuries. Things ...
distinction betweenhomicide and manslaughter. That is, if you look back to
chapter 21:12-17, there is a cleardistinction m...
II. God's demand for our carefulness with human life extends to our
treatment of slaves as well.
Let's look then at verses...
that God is concernedfor the rights and the well being of the very leastin
society.
We who live in the new covenantera, we...
be a just and proportionate fine leaved in a serious case ofinjury to another
person. This is the context of remuneration,...
One last thing, look at verses 28 though 30. Here we see divine principles
regarding domestic animals and manslaughter com...
The Misuse of Exodus 21:22–25by Pro-Choice Advocates
Article by John Piper
Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org
Sometimes Ex...
Money suffices. Whereas if"harm follows" (to the woman!) then more than
money must be given. In that case it is life for l...
"None shall miscarry (meshakelah)or be barren in your land." But this word
is NOT used here in Exodus 21:22-25.
2. Rathert...
Many scholars have come to this same conclusion. Forexample, in the last
century before the present debate over abortion w...
- Keil and Delitzsch(Pentateuch, vol. 2, p. 135)suggestthat the reasonfor the
plural in Hebrew is "for the purpose of spea...
And if any injury occurs, then you shall give life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for
tooth . . . (Exodus 21: 23 - 24, HBFV)...
who wrongs you . . ." (Matthew 5:38 - 39). Was he teaching that the
government of a nation had no right to punish evil? Th...
God uses this principle in His judgments—greaterand lesserpunishments for
greaterand lessersins. Under "aneye for an eye" ...
legislatedfinancial compensationfor bodily injuries, but Hammurabi seems to
have been the first to require physical injury...
for life." Obviously, in this case "life for life" does not mean that the
individual who killed the animal was to be kille...
BIBLEHUB RESOURCES
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Public Justice SecuredBy The Law Of Retaliation
Leviticus 24:17-22
R.M. Ed...
will ceasedoing so if he finds that he is to be victimized in exactlythe same
fashion by public law. In fact, he comes to ...
in his sacrificialworship, was God dealing with his enemies so as to make
them his friends. He was pursuing even then the ...
as he hath causeda blemish in a man, shall it be done to him; unless he gives
satisfaction, andpays a valuable considerati...
primitive times it was a strongerrestraint from crime than the modern
penalty of a term of imprisonment with goodfood and ...
magistracy, Godhimself, of one of whose commandments (the ninth) it is the
daring violation. The rules here apply primaril...
priests and judges, who acted as his deputies (ver. 17). It was their part to
make diligent inquisition, and, if the crime...
affection, but pronounce a righteous sentence onhim, and see it executed, in
proportion to the crime, and that according t...
shelter in thy person and righteousness.Oh! thou blessedRefuge of poor
sinners, how fitly art thou prepared, how completel...
21. Thine eye shall not pity — It has been saidthat this is a harsh and cruel
requirement. But it must be borne in mind th...
in ancient Israel, on the basis of multiple witnesses (Deuteronomy17:6), most
other crimes were repaid with payment in goo...
(to punish evildoers justly) from the responsibility we all have on a personal
level before God to love our enemies. We sh...
clearly statedin Leviticus 24:19–21:“Anyone who injures their neighbor is to
be injured in the same manner: fracture for f...
realize the connection. (Remember, the chapter and verse divisions are not
inspired. They were added later to help facilit...
(or certainly in the next), but it is also possible that the government
functioning in its God-givenrole will be the agent...
Answer: To retaliate is to return in like kind. Usually, we speak of retaliation
in negative contexts, so it’s almostexclu...
defense of its citizens (1 Samuel 15:2–3;1 Samuel 30:1–2, 8, 17–18). A state
can also “retaliate” againstlawbreakersfor th...
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and
tooth for tooth.’[a]39 But I tell you, do not resistan
evil person....
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An eye for an eye

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This is a study of the law that said an eye for an eye, but then Jesus said there is a better way, and we focus here on that better way.

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An eye for an eye

  1. 1. AN EYE FOR AN EYE EDITED BY GLENN PEASE An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth (Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20;Deuteronomy19:21;Matthew 5:38) We will deal with eachof these texts one at a time. Exodus 21:24 24eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, BIBLEHUB RESOURCES Pulpit Commentary Homiletics "an Eye ForAn Eye," Exodus 21:23-26 J. Orr etc. (cf. Matthew 5:38-43). The principle here enunciated is that of the jus talionis. Stripped of its concrete form, it is simply the assertionof the dictate of justice, that when a wrong has been done to anyone, and through him to society, an adequate compensationought to be rendered. So rendered, it is the principle underlying every system of criminal jurisprudence. We need not suppose that (in Jewishsociety)it was everliterally acted upon. Commutations of various kinds would be admitted (cf. ver. 30). As a rule for courts of justice, therefore, this principle must remain. Bat error arises when this rule, intended for the regulationof public justice, is transferred into private life, and is applied there to sanctionthe spirit of revenge. This is to pervert it from its proper purpose. So far from sanctioning private retaliation, the objectof this law is to setlimits to the passionfor revenge, by taking the right to avenge out of the hands of private individuals altogether, and
  2. 2. committing it to public officers. In contrastwith the retaliatory disposition, our Lord inculcates on his disciples a forbearing and forgiving spirit; a spirit which seeks to overcome by love; a spirit, even, which is willing to forego legal rights, wheneverby doing so, it can promote the goodof a fellow man. - J.O. Biblical Illustrator Life for life. Exodus 21:22-25 The criminal law: was it written in blood H. M. Field, D. D. ? — The only sense in which retaliation was authorized was as a maxim of law, which helped to fix the measure of punishment for crime. It was the mode of punishment which was at once the simplest, the most natural, and the most easilyadministered. Indeed, in many cases itwas the only mode possible. How would our modern reformers punish such offences? Byputting the malefactor in prison? But where was the prison in the desert? In the desertthe only possible penalty was one which could be inflicted on the person of the offender, and here the principle of strict retaliationfor the crime committed, rigid as it may seem, was perfectly just. It was right that he who inflicted a wound upon his neighbour should feelhimself how sharp and keena wound may be; that he who ferociouslytore his brother's eye from its socketshould forfeit his own. The law againstmurder followedthe same inexorable rule — "life for life"; a law in which there was no element of pardon or pity. But Moses did not create it; it had been the law of the desert long before he was born. When that old bearded sheik of all the Bedaweenof Sinai, sitting under the shadow of a greatrock in the desert, explained to us the operation of the lex talionis in his tribe, he set before us not only that which now is, but that which has been from the very beginning of time. It was somewhatstartling, indeed, to find that laws and customs which we had supposedto belong only to an extreme antiquity still lingered among these mountains and deserts. The avengerof blood might follow with swift foot upon the murderer's track, and
  3. 3. if he overtook him and put him to death the law held him free. But at the same time it gave the criminal a chance for his life. In the cities of refuge the manslayer was safe until he could have a fair trial ....Perhaps nothing shows more the spirit of a law than the modes of execution for those who are to suffer its extreme penalty. It is not two hundred years since torture was laid aside by Europeannations. James the Secondhimself witnessedthe wrenching of "the boot" as a favourite diversion. The assassinwho struck Henry the Fourth was torn limb from limb by horses, under the eye of ladies of the court. The Inquisition stretchedits victims on the rack. Other modes of execution, such as burning alive, sawing asunder, and breaking on the wheel, were common in Europe until a late period. The Turks impaled men, or flayed them alive; and tied women in sackswith serpents, and threw them into the Bosphorus. Among the ancients, punishments were still more excruciating. The Roman people, so famous for the justice of their laws, inflicted the supreme agony of crucifixion, in which the victim lingered dying for hours, or even days. After the capture of Jerusalem, Titus ordered two thousand Jews to be crucified. How does this act of the imperial Romans compare with the criminal law of "a semi-savage race"?Under the Hebrew code all these atrocities were unknown. Moses prescribedbut two modes of capital punishment — the swordand stoning .... And is this the law that was "written in blood "? No, not in blood, but in tears;for through the sternness of the lawgiveris continually breaking the heart of man. Behind the coatof mail that covers the breast of the warrior is sometimes found the heart of a woman. This union of gentlenesswith strength is one of the most infallible signs of a truly greatnature. It is this mingling of the tender and the terrible that gives to the Hebrew law a characterso unique — a majesty that awes with a gentleness thatsavours more of parental affectionthan of severity. Crime and its punishment is not in itself a pleasing subjectto dwell on; but when on this dark backgroundis thrown the light of such provisions for the poor and the weak, the effect is like the glow of sunset on the red granite of the Sinai mountains. Even the peaks that were hard and cold, look warm in the flood of sunlight which is poured over them all. Thus uniting the characterof the supporter of weaknessand protectorof innocence with that of the punisher of crime, Moses appears almostas the divinity of his nation — as not only the founder of the Hebrew state, but as its guardian genius through all the periods
  4. 4. of its history. When he went up into Mount Nebo, and stretched out his arm toward the Promised Land, he gave to that land the inestimable blessings of laws founded in eternal justice; and not only in justice, but in which humanity was embodied almost as much as in the precepts of religion. Nor was that law given for the Israelites alone. It was an inheritance for all ages and generations. Thatmighty arm was to protect the oppressedso long as human governments endure. Moses wasthe king of legislators,and to the code which he left rulers of all times have turned for instruction. (H. M. Field, D. D.) Lessons G. Hughes, B. D. 1. God supposeththe cruel smitings of masters, but alloweth them not. 2. God foreseeththe sufferings of poor slaves, and provides in His law against it. 3. The perishing of the leastmember of servants, even of a tooth, God will require of superiors (ver. 26). 4. God by His law depriveth those men of lordship, who abuse their power cruelly over servants. 5. Bond and free are equally consideredby God in His law without respectof persons. He makes the oppressedfree (vers. 26, 27). (G. Hughes, B. D.) Stripe for stripe GreatThoughts. A boy was one day sitting on the steps of a door. He had a broom in one hand, and in the other a large piece of bread-and-butter, which somebody had
  5. 5. kindly given him. While he was eating it, and merrily humming a tune, he saw a poor little dog quietly sleeping not far from him. He calledout to him: "Come here, poor fellow!" The dog, hearing himself kindly spokento, rose, pricked up his ears, and waggedhis tail. Seeing the boy eating, he came near him. The boy held out to him a piece of his bread-and-butter. As the dog stretchedout his head to take it, the boy hastily drew back his hand, and hit him a hard rap on the nose. The poor dog ran away, howling most dreadfully, while the cruel boy satlaughing at the mischief he had done. A gentleman who was looking from a window on the other side of the street, saw what the wickedboy had done. Opening the streetdoor, he calledto him to cross over, at the same time holding up a sixpence betweenhis finger and thumb. "Would you like this?" said the gentleman. "Yes, if you please, sir," said the boy, smiling; and he hastily ran over to seize the money. Just at the moment that he stretched out his hand, he got so severe a rap on the knuckles from a cane which the gentleman had behind him, that he roaredout like a bull. "What did you do that for?" said he, making a very long face, and rubbing his hand. "I didn't hurt you, nor ask you for the sixpence." "Whatdid you hurt that poor dog for just now?" saidthe gentleman. "He didn't hurt you, nor ask you for your bread-and-butter. As you served him, I have served you. Now, remember dogs canfeel as well as boys, and learn to behave kindly towards dumb animals in future." (Great Thoughts.) Life for life Herbert was yet of tender age when his father, the huntsman of Farmstein, was, in the heart of the forest, shot down by an unknown poacher. His mother brought up her fatherless boy as wellas she could, and at the age of twenty, when he has become a skilful forester, he obtained his father's situation. It happened that one day, when Herbert was hunting in the forestwith many hunters, he shot at a large stag, and missed it. Presentlya voice exclaimed piteously in the copse, "Oh, heaven! I am shot." Herbert moved forward, and found an old man who was uttering loud groans, as he lay coveredwith blood.
  6. 6. The whole company of hunters gatheredaround the dying man. Herbert, however, knelt down beside him and beggedhis forgiveness, protesting that he had not seenhim. The dying man, however, said, "I have nothing to forgive you, for that which has hitherto been concealedfrom all the world shall now come to light. I am the poacherwho shot your father just here, under this old oak. The very ground where we now are was dyed with his blood; and it has evidently been destined that you, the son of the murdered man, should on this precise spot, without any thought or intention of such a thing, avenge the act on me. Godis just!" he exclaimed, and presently expired. Equitable Judgment "A Teutonmade a little fortune here not long ago in the milk business, and decided to return to Germany and enjoy it in his old home. In the ship that was bearing him homeward was a mischievous monkey. The monkey, prying around one day, found a heavy bag and ran up to the masthead with it. The German claspedhis hands in despair at seeing the bag; it was his money, all in gold. The monkey in a leisurely way pulled out a piece and flung it down to the deck, whenthe ex-milkman gatheredit up. Then the beasttosseda second piece into the sea. Thus alternately the pieces went, one into the oceanand the next into the distracted man's pocket. 'Ah,' said the ex-milkman, as he pocketedjust half of what he had started with, 'it is just. One-half of that milk I have sold was milk, and the money for it comes back;the other half was water, and half goes back to water.'" STUDYLIGHT RESOURCES Adam Clarke Commentary Eye for eye - This is the earliestaccountwe have of the lex talionis, or law of like for like, which afterwards prevailed among the Greeks and Romans.
  7. 7. Among the latter, it constituted a part of the twelve tables, so famous in antiquity; but the punishment was afterwards changedto a pecuniary fine, to be levied at the discretion of the praetor. It prevails less or more in most civilized countries, and is fully actedupon in the canonlaw, in reference to all calumniators: Calumniator, si in accusationedefecerit, talionemrecipiat. "If the calumniator fall in the proof of his accusation, lethim suffer the same punishment which he wished to have inflicted upon the man whom he falsely accused."Nothing, however, of this kind was left to private revenge;the magistrate awardedthe punishment when the fact was proved, otherwise the lex talionis would have utterly destroyed the peace of society, and have sown the seeds ofhatred, revenge, and all uncharitableness. John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, footfor foot. This is "lex talionis", the law of retaliation, and from whence the Heathens had theirs; but whether this is to be taken strictly and literally, or only for pecuniary mulcts, is a question; JosephusF4 understands it in the former sense, the Jewishwriters generallyin the latter; and so the Targum of Jonathan paraphrases it;"the price of an eye for an eye, &c.'Jarchion the place observes, that,"he that puts out his neighbour's eye must pay him the price of his eye, according to the price of a servant sold in the market, and so of all the rest; for not taking awayof members strictly is meant, as our doctors here interpret it;'in a place he refers to, and to which Aben Ezra agrees;and of the difference and dispute betweenthe Jews concerning this matter; see Gill on Matthew 5:38 and indeed, though these laws of retaliation should, according to the letter of them, be attended to as far as they can; yet, in some cases,it seems necessarythat they should not be strictly attended to, but some recompence made in another way, and nothing seems more agreeablethan a pecuniary one: thus, for instance, this law cannot be literally executed, when one that has never an eye puts out the eye of another, as it is possible that a blind man may; or one that has no teeth may strike out the tooth of another; in such cases eye cannotbe given for eye, nor tooth for tooth; and, as SaadiahGaonF5 observes, ifa man should smite the eye of his neighbour, and the third part of the sight of his eye
  8. 8. should depart, how will he order it to strike such a stroke as that, without adding or lessening? andif a man that has but one eye, or one hand, or one foot, should damage another man in those parts, and must lose his other eye, or hand, or foot, he would be in a worse case andcondition than the man he injured; since he would still have one eye, or hand, or foot; wherefore a like law of Charondas among the Thurians is complained of, since it might be the case, thata man with one eye might have that struck out, and so be utterly deprived of sight; whereas the man that struck it out, though he loses one for it, yet has another, and so not deprived of sight utterly, and therefore thought not to be sufficiently punished; and that it was most correctthat he should have both his eyes put out for it: and hence Diodorus SiculusF6 reports of a one-eyedman who lost his eye, that he complained of this law to the people, and advised to have it altered: this "lextalionis" was among the Romanlaws of the "twelve tables"F7. Geneva Study Bible r Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, footfor foot, (r) The execution of this law only belongedto the magistrate, (Matthew 5:38). Wesley's ExplanatoryNotes Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, footfor foot, Eye for eye — The executionof this law is not put into the hands of private persons, as if every man might avenge himself, which would introduce universal confusion. The tradition of the elders seems to have put this corrupt gloss upon it. But magistrates hadan eye to this rule in punishing offenders, and doing right to those that are injured. Scofield's ReferenceNotes
  9. 9. Eye for eye Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy19:21; Matthew 5:38-44;1 Peter2:19-21. The provision in Exodus is law, and righteous;the N.T. passages, grace, and merciful. John Trapp Complete Commentary Exodus 21:24 Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, footfor foot, Ver. 24. Eye for eye.]How the Phariseeshad wrestedthat text. {See Trapp on "Matthew 5:39"}This kind of law, in use among heathens also, Aristotle calls το αντιπεπονθος and was given againstprivate revenge. Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible Exodus 21:24. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, &c.— See Leviticus 24:20. Matthew Poole's EnglishAnnotations on the Holy Bible This is calledthe law of retaliation, and from hence the heathen lawgivers took it and put it into their laws. But though this might sometimes be practisedin the letter, yet it was not necessarilyto be understood and executedso; as may appear, 1. By the impossibility of the just executionof it in many cases, as whena man that had but one eye or hand was to lose the other, which to him was a far greatermischief than what he did to his neighbour, whom he deprived but of one of his eyes or hands. And this is a sure and righteous rule, Punishments may be less, but never should be greaterthan the fault. And how could a wound be made neither biggernor less than that which he inflicted?
  10. 10. 2. By comparing this with other laws, whereina compensationis allowedin like cases, as Exodus 21:18,30.And when it is enjoined that no satisfaction shall be taken for the life of a wilful murderer, Numbers 35:31, it seems therein implied that satisfactionmay be takenfor lesserinjuries. And indeed the payment of such a price as the loss of an eye, or hand, or foot required, though it might not so much satisfy the revenge of the party so injured, yet it was really more to his benefit. This law therefore was only minatory, but so as it was literally to be inflicted, exceptthe injuring party would give such satisfactionas the injured personaccepted, orthe judges determined. George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary Eye. "This law tended to restrain, not to encourage,fury and revenge." (St. Augustine, contra Faust. xix. 25.)Some explain it, as if a sum of money could only be required, equivalent to the ransomof an eye, in case a personshould be under a necessityoflosing or of redeeming it. (Muis; Jonathan) --- Retaliationwas not left to the injured party's discretion. The judge was to decide. Christ enjoins what is more perfect, ordering us to turn the left cheek, when we have receiveda blow on the right. The canon law inflicts the punishment of retaliation upon the calumniator. (Calmet) PRECEPTAUSTIN RESOURCES The Requirement Of Strict Equivalents In Making CompensationFor Injuries Exodus 21:22-25 D. Young The particular illustration here is confessedlyobscure;but there can hardly be a mistake as to the principle illustrated, viz., that when injury is inflicted
  11. 11. on the person, the very best should be done that can be done to make an adequate compensation. When property is taken it canoften be restoredor things put practically as they were before; but when the person is seriously injured, there is then no possibility of exactrestoration. Hence the injurer might be inclined to say that because he could not do everything by way of compensationhe was at liberty to do nothing. But the requirement comes in to stop him from such easy-going reflections. Eve for eye is wanted. You must do your best to restore what you have destroyed. Obviously the purpose of the regulation is, not to justify or aid in anything like revenge, but to make men be contented with the best they can getin substitution for the injury that has been done. The regulationof course was never meant to be interpreted literally, any more than our Lord''s counselthat he who had been smitten on the right cheek, shouldturn the other to the smiter. What goodwould it do literally to render an eye for an eye? That would be great loss to the person injuring and not the slightestgain to the personinjured. Persistent requirement of compensationis to be distinguished from a passionate seeking for revenge. And be it noted that this requirement of compensationis not to be omitted under any erroneous notions of what weaknessand self-denialmay compel from us as Christians. We must keepto the principle underlying the regulation here, as well as to that other glorious and beautiful principle which our Lord ]aid down in quoting this regulation(Matthew 5:39). He spoke to stop revenge. But surely he would have been the first to say, on needful occasion, that recklessmenmust not be suffered to inflict injury on the supposition that Christians would not resentit. Certainly we are not to seek compensationfor injuries or punishment of those who injure simply to gratify private feelings, or geta private advantage. But if conscienceis clearas to its being for the public good, we must be very urgent and pertinacious in demanding compensation. We may be sure our Masterwould ever have us contend with all meekness andgentleness, but also with all bravery and stedfastnessfor all that is right. But the thing of most importance to be learnt from this regulationis, that the most precious things attainable by us are beyond human malice or carelessness to spoil in the slightestdegree. The treasures Godloves to make the peculiar possessionofhis children are such as eye has not seen. The eye may be lost, and yet the enjoyment of these treasures remain - nay more, the very loss of the natural may increase the susceptibility
  12. 12. of the spiritual in us. The very crippling of the body may help us to make wonderful advances towards the perfectman in Christ Jesus. - Y. "an Eye ForAn Eye," Exodus 21:23-26 J. Orr etc. (cf. Matthew 5:38-43). The principle here enunciated is that of the jus talionis. Stripped of its concrete form, it is simply the assertionof the dictate of justice, that when a wrong has been done to anyone, and through him to society, an adequate compensationought to be rendered. So rendered, it is the principle underlying every system of criminal jurisprudence. We need not suppose that (in Jewishsociety)it was everliterally acted upon. Commutations of various kinds would be admitted (cf. ver. 30). As a rule for courts of justice, therefore, this principle must remain. Bat error arises when this rule, intended for the regulationof public justice, is transferred into private life, and is applied there to sanctionthe spirit of revenge. This is to pervert it from its proper purpose. So far from sanctioning private retaliation, the objectof this law is to setlimits to the passionfor revenge, by taking the right to avenge out of the hands of private individuals altogether, and committing it to public officers. In contrast with the retaliatory disposition, our Lord inculcates on his disciples a forbearing and forgiving spirit; a spirit which seeks to overcome by love; a spirit, even, which is willing to forego legal rights, wheneverby doing so, it can promote the goodof a fellow man. - J.O. PULPIT COMMENTARY The Requirement Of Strict Equivalents In Making CompensationFor Injuries Exodus 21:22-25
  13. 13. D. Young The particular illustration here is confessedlyobscure;but there can hardly be a mistake as to the principle illustrated, viz., that when injury is inflicted on the person, the very best should be done that can be done to make an adequate compensation. When property is taken it canoften be restoredor things put practically as they were before; but when the person is seriously injured, there is then no possibility of exactrestoration. Hence the injurer might be inclined to say that because he could not do everything by way of compensationhe was at liberty to do nothing. But the requirement comes in to stop him from such easy-going reflections. Eve for eye is wanted. You must do your best to restore what you have destroyed. Obviously the purpose of the regulation is, not to justify or aid in anything like revenge, but to make men be contented with the best they can getin substitution for the injury that has been done. The regulationof course was never meant to be interpreted literally, any more than our Lord''s counselthat he who had been smitten on the right cheek, shouldturn the other to the smiter. What goodwould it do literally to render an eye for an eye? That would be great loss to the person injuring and not the slightestgain to the personinjured. Persistent requirement of compensationis to be distinguished from a passionate seeking for revenge. And be it noted that this requirement of compensationis not to be omitted under any erroneous notions of what weaknessand self-denialmay compel from us as Christians. We must keepto the principle underlying the regulation here, as well as to that other glorious and beautiful principle which our Lord ]aid down in quoting this regulation(Matthew 5:39). He spoke to stop revenge. But surely he would have been the first to say, on needful occasion, that recklessmenmust not be suffered to inflict injury on the supposition that Christians would not resentit. Certainly we are not to seek compensationfor injuries or punishment of those who injure simply to gratify private feelings, or geta private advantage. But if conscienceis clearas to its being for the public good, we must be very urgent and pertinacious in demanding compensation. We may be sure our Masterwould ever have us contend with all meekness andgentleness, but also with all bravery and stedfastnessfor all that is right. But the thing of most importance to be learnt from this regulationis, that the most precious things attainable by us are
  14. 14. beyond human malice or carelessness to spoil in the slightestdegree. The treasures Godloves to make the peculiar possessionofhis children are such as eye has not seen. The eye may be lost, and yet the enjoyment of these treasures remain - nay more, the very loss of the natural may increase the susceptibility of the spiritual in us. The very crippling of the body may help us to make wonderful advances towards the perfectman in Christ Jesus. - Y. Exodus 21:23, Exodus 21:24 Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, etc. Aristotle says in the NicomacheanEthics, that this was the rule of justice which Rhadamanthus was supposedto acton in the judgment after death (book 5, see. 3), and that it had the approval of the Pythagoreans. Solonadmitted it to a certain extent into the laws of Athens, and at Rome it found its way. into the Twelve Tables. There is a prima facie appearance ofexactequality in it, which would captivate rude minds and cause the principle to be widely adopted in a rude state of society. But in practice objections would soonbe felt to it. There is no exactmeasure of the hardness of a blow, or the severity of a wound; and "wound for wound, stripe for stripe," would open a door for very unequal inflictions "Eye for eye" would be flagrantly unjust in the case ofa one-eyedman. Moreover, it is againstpublic policy to augment unnecessarilythe number of mutilated and maimed citizens, whose powerto serve the state is lessenedby their mutilation. Consequently in every societyretaliation has at an early date given way to pecuniary compensation;and this was the case evenamong the Hebrews, as Kalisch has shownsatisfactorily. If the literal sense was insisted on in our Lord' s day (Matthew 5:38), it was only by the Sadducees, who declined to give the law a spiritual interpretation. Eye for Eye! Exo . Selden says that this does not mean that if I put out another man's eye, therefore I must lose my own (for what is he better for that?),
  15. 15. though this is commonly received. It means that I must give him what satisfactionaneye shall be janlged to be worth. Accordingly, Cruickshank relates the case ofa slave, who appealedto a traditionary law which entitled him to freedom for the loss of an eye, in his master's service, from the recoilof a branch of a tree. Compensation, then, and not retribution, is the essential element in this law. Substitution is here, and not revenge. "You satisfy your angerand revenge; Suppose this, it will not Repair your loss." —Massinger. Exodus 21:18-32 What Does “An Eye for An Eye” Really Mean? If you have your Bibles I'd invite you to turn with me to Exodus chapter21. We are continuing through our summer long study of the book of the covenant. That is a sectionof Exodus from chapter 20 to 23, and it is often calleda covenant code. It gives us a public application of the moral principles which have been set forth in the Ten Commandments. In the last weeksin which we have been in this book, we have been away from it for a couple of weeks doing some other studies, but in the last three or four times we have been togetherin Exodus chapter 20 and 21, looking at these laws for public life in Israel, we have lookedat the subjects of worship at the end of Exodus chapter 20, we have lookedat the subjectof slavery at the beginning of Exodus 21, and we have even lookedat the death penalty. In fact, it was interesting when we studied the death penalty, it was the very week protests were being planed for the first state executionof a criminal guilty of a capital crime. Perhaps you read some of the articles pro and con in the newspaper. I trust that our study of God's word here helped you evaluate that
  16. 16. from a biblical perspective. We have already lookedat the subject of worship and slaveryand capital punishment. Now, we will deal with a setof laws about bodily injuries and due penalty for those bodily injuries. Before we look at this section, I want to saythat it is clearfrom our studies so far in this book of the covenant, that three things are becoming more and more apparent in our study. The first thing is this. God is very concernedabout the public behavior of His people. One of the things that this sectionof God's words makes crystal clearis that Godis not satisfiedwith our simply being personallypious, but He desires us to be publicly moral. In other words, He desires a behavior of righteousness in our conduct in society which is befitting our claims as His people and His constantrefrain of constantmorality in this sectionreminds us of that. We can't be personally pious and publicly immoral, as much as people would like to convince you otherwise in our day and time, those two things go togetherand that is very apparent from this study. Secondly, however, we learn from this passagethat equal justice under the law is a principle in God's legislationin Israel. That is, the slave is to be treated with the same justice that the free man is to be treated. The poor man is to be treatedwith the same justice as the rich man and the civic leader. The female is to be treated with the same justice as a male. There is a constant refrain through out these laws that there is to be equitable justice, that there is to be equal justice for all under the law. Perhaps our own legaltradition owes much to this tradition of Hebrew equity, Hebrew equal justice under the law. One last thing becomes very apparent as we study these laws. That is, these laws in no wayprovide a total corpus of civic legislationfor a society. There are many well meaning people, especiallyin the Reformed community, sometimes calledtheonomists, or sometimes calledChristian re- constructionists who believe it is the Christian's responsibility to enforce these laws in the modern nation state, including the penalties which are attachedto them. Now, one of the problems with that particular theory, and there are many problems, not the leastof which is that the greatestminds in the history of Christianity disagree with that particular view, including John Calvin who was a trained lawyerand who had the responsibility of setting up a city state
  17. 17. which reflected equitable law. Calvin rejectedthat particular theory. One of the problems with that is, as we study these passagestogether, it becomes clearthat these laws do not give us anything like total comprehensive corpus of civil legislative. At best, they give us illustrations of principles of how God's moral law ought to be applied in Israel's society. Theyleave a tremendous void about of discretion even for Israel's judges in the administration of justice. They are illustrative, they are descriptive, and they are by no means comprehensive. So, to take these laws and sayit is the Christian's responsibility to enforce these laws, and these laws only, in the modern nation state would leave huge areas ofright and wrong in public morality untouched. God expects us to use our heads and He expects us to apply principles to specific situations in a modern nation state. That is just one reasonwhy that particular approachis wrong. My point is, thirdly, that we see from our study of this passagethatwe don't have anything like a comprehensive setof laws for a nation state. What we have is an illustration here of principles basedon the ten words applied to Israelsociety. Having said those three things by way of introduction, let's look at God's word in Exodus chapter 21 and we will begin in verse 18. “And is men have a quarrel and one strikes the other with a stone or with his fist, and he does not die but remains in bed; if he gets us and walks around outside on his staff, then he who struck him shall go unpunished; he shall only pay for his loss of time and shall take care of him until he is completely healed. And if a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod and he dies at his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, he survives a day or two, no vengeance shallbe taken; for he is his property. And if men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she has a miscarriage, yetthere is no further injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman's husband may demand of him; and he shall pay as the judges decided. But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise. And if a man strikes the eye of his male or female slave, and destroys it he shall let him go free on accountof his eye. And if he knocks out a tooth of his male or female slave, he shall let him go free on accountof his tooth. And if an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall surely be
  18. 18. stoned and its flesh shall not be eaten;but the owner of the ox shall go unpunished. If, however, an ox was previously in the habit of goring, and its ownerhas been warned, yet he does not confine it and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stonedand its owner also shall be put to death. If a ransom is demanded of him, then he shall give for the redemption of his life whateveris demanded of him. Whether it gores a son or a daughter, it shall be done to him according to the same rule. If the ox gores a male or female slave, the ownershall give his or her master thirty shekels ofsilver, and the ox shall be stoned.” Amen. Thus ends the reading of God's holy and inspired word. May he add His blessing to it. Let's pray. Heavenly Father as we study this, Your word, this obscure passage, perhaps it's not drawn our attention many times in days past. We pray that You would teachus wonderful things from Your law. We pray that You would call us to public righteousness and to a desire to see justice equally done to all people. These things we ask with Your blessing. In Jesus name. Amen. The societythat God wants cares abouthuman life. It cares about the value of human life and you have seenthat in the sectionthat we studied in verses 12 to 17 on capital punishment. The whole rationalin Exodus chapter21:12-17 about capital punishment is that capital punishment reinforces a culture of life not a culture of death. That is not always the argument you hear today. The Pope, for instance, has argued in various encyclicals that a death penalty produces a culture of death. That's not Moses’argument, that's not God's argument. God's argument is that the capitalpunishment rightly applied by biblical principles actually reinforces a culture of life. That respectfor life and that carefulness oflive comes through in Exodus 21:12-17. It also comes through in this passagein Exodus 21:18-32 that deals with incidences of bodily injury that are generally less than death. There are a couple of examples of that in verse 22 and then also in verses 28 and following. I. God acknowledges the legitimacyof making a distinction betweentypes of violent acts and their punishment.
  19. 19. In generalthis sectiondeals with laws about bodily injuries and the appropriate penalty for those bodily injuries. Things that are less than a loss of life, or less than a crime that deserves capitalpunishment. Moses showsus this value of life that Godwants us to show in societyin four ways here. Let me just introduce them to you and outline the passage. In verses 18 and 19, first, you will see a statement of generaldivine legalprinciples regarding serious injury in context without premeditations. A quarrel happens. Men were not planning the quarrel, it just happened, but injury occurs in the quarrel, what should the penalties be? That is what is dealt with in verse 18 and 19. Then look at verses 20 and 21 and skip over to verse 26 and 27. The things that tied those four verses togetherare, whatyou do in the case ofserious bodily injury to a slave. In other words, we have laws here given to us regarding manslaughteror serious injury to male and female servants. Then thirdly, in verses 22 through 25 you will have already recognizedas we read the Scripture the Lex Talionis, the law of the talon, an eye for and eye, a tooth for a tooth. MostChristians are used to that law from where it is quoted in the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus, but it occurs severaltimes in the books of the laws of Moses.In verses 22 through 25, we see generaldivine legal principles regarding innocent bystanders, the instances given to a pregnant woman who has a miscarriage because she is wounded in a quarrel between two men. Then finally, fourthly, in verses 28 through 32, we see generaldivine legal principles regarding domestic animals. People are responsible even for their domestic animals, to take care and value human life. So, we have some laws regarding that in 28 through 32. First of all in verses 18 and 19, let's remember that Moses has just recorded God's pronouncements on the application of the death penalty in various circumstances in the previous verses from 12 to 17. Now, he moved to crimes that generallyare befitting less dramatic punishments. If you look at verses 18 and 19, the case ofbodily injury, but not death; this is not a capital crime. We have already seenGod make a
  20. 20. distinction betweenhomicide and manslaughter. That is, if you look back to chapter 21:12-17, there is a cleardistinction made between, basically, what we would call premeditated murder and manslaughter, that is, a homicide without malice aforethought, as the legalsystem would say today. If no one attempted to work out a plan to kill a person, and then in the heat of the moment something happens and someone dies, it is manslaughter. That distinction has already been made in verses 12 through 14. Here in verse 18, we are presented with a situation with a fight that breaks out, again there is no malice aforethought. The heat of the moment occurs. You can tell that by the weapons that are used. What are mentioned? The fist and a stone. No knife is mentioned, no sword is mentioned, no spear is mentioned, no bow is mentioned. Those would be the weapons you would normally kill somebodywith if you had premeditated the killing. This, however, is a case where men get in a heateddiscussion, a quarrel breaks out, a guy grabs a stone hits a man, or takes his fist and hits a man, and serious bodily injury results. In verse, 19 God stipulates that in this case no capitalpunishment is to be extracted. If the persongets up and walks around on his staff, then the one who struck him shall go unpunished. That doesn't literally mean be unpunished completely. What it means is he shouldn't be due the death penalty, because he is clearlypunished in this passagewith the responsibility to pay him what we would call, workman's compensationand health insurance until he is completely well again. He is to nurse that man back to health. That is his punishment, to basicallypay reparations, or monetary compensation, until the victim is whole again. Now, what we learn in this passage is that God acknowledgesthe legitimacy of making a distinction betweendifferent kinds of violent acts and their punishments. He makes it clearthat intentions matters, what a person intends to do does matter, and it should be weighed into the administration of justice. It also makes clearwe are out neighbor's keeper. If we cause aninjury, even if we didn't originally intend to cause injury, we must pay the consequencesin caring for our neighbor. We see that in verses 18 and 19.
  21. 21. II. God's demand for our carefulness with human life extends to our treatment of slaves as well. Let's look then at verses 20 and 21 and also down to verses 26 and 27, and see a secondthing. In this passage we see generaldivine legalprinciple regarding manslaughter of, and serious injury to, male and female slaves. Letme say right here, if you can study the whole corpus of ancient near easternlaw, you will not find any legislationprotecting slaves like this. Slaves didn't have this kind of protection anywhere else in near easternlaw. Is that in and of itself not a testimony of the divine inspiration of Holy Scripture? That God alone in His law would have establishedequal protection under the law for slaves when nobody in the near easternworld for a thousand years around the time of Moses establishedsucha legislation. This legislationwasn'tborrowedfrom anyone else, it came from God's own transcendentlaw. It's amazing that a slave is viewed as a person in the Law of Moses.He is not chattel, he's not mere property, he's not a thing, he is a person. Now, we didn't geta chance to look at how uniquely female slaves were treated under the law in our study of Exodus 21:7-11. I will wait come back to that the next time we getto laws on female slaves. It is remarkable here in Exodus 21:7-11, and in even in verses 26 and 27, slaves are treated with tremendous equity. If you look at verses 20 and 21 those verses describe potential capital punishment for masters who commit homicide. It's amazing; masters who commit homicide are potentially put to death under the Law of Moses.You wouldn't have found any law like that in the antebellum south in the United States. It's an amazing, way aheadof its time kind of law. Verse 21, gives you the basis for a manslaughter charge. If the slave lingers for a few days, the crime is not the same as if the slave had died under the rod. In verses 26 and 27, serious bodily injury to a slave gives them freedom, instant freedom without further price. That is viewed as the punishment to the master. If you injured your slave that badly, then he or she goes free. Notice how this law is designed to cultivate a culture of life through requiring carefulness ofthe life of the leastand the lowest. We are to have a culture of life because we care. Godsays here, even for the slaves, evenfor the least, even for the lowest, their life is to be cared for. It is very clearthroughout the law,
  22. 22. that God is concernedfor the rights and the well being of the very leastin society. We who live in the new covenantera, we who live in the era of the light of the spirit of Jesus Christ, how much more should we be concernedfor the well being and the life of and the justice of the leastand the lowestin society. God demands our carefulness with human life. That demand extends even to out treatment of slaves, He says through Moses here in Exodus 21. III. The Lex Talionis is not a warrant for vengeance in Moses’law but a prescription for equity in punishment. A third thing, look at verses 22 through 25. This is the law of the talon, the Lex Talionis, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Normally when that is quoted in conversationin society, it is quoted as if that law means either, tit for tat, you do something to me I am going to do the same thing back to you, it's a law of vengeance. Or, as in many modern Islamic states where a thief would have his hand severedor there would be an equal physical bodily penalty for particular crimes. Moses does the same kind of thing. You can't say that Moses’law is any different than the modern Islamic law and such; it's the same kind of thing. However, if you look at the context, it is very clearthat when the law, an eye for and eye and a tooth for a tooth is quoted here, it is in the context of monetary compensation. This is not calling for a literal physical ‘one for one’ retaliation, a guy knocks your tooth out you get to knock his tooth out, a guy injures your arm, so you get to injure his arm. The only thing which specificallycorresponds in this list is the first thing on the list, life for life. That principle has already been established in verse 17. Everything else has to do with monetary compensationand I canprove it to you. Look at verse 20. “If men struggle with eachother and strike a woman with a child so that she has a miscarriage, yet there is no further injury, he shall surely be” what? “Finedas the woman's husband may demand of him and he shall pay as the judge decides.” It is only then that an eye for and eye and a tooth for a tooth is quoted. What is being said there is that there should
  23. 23. be a just and proportionate fine leaved in a serious case ofinjury to another person. This is the context of remuneration, or monitory reparations. The Lex Talionis not warrant for vengeance in Moses’law, but a prescription for equity in punishment. The punishment should fit the crime. The fine would be proportionate to the crime that is committed in it's consequence. This is a call for proportionality in punishment. It is a callfor equity and justice in the fines which are levied for a particular crime and its result. There is nothing vengeful about this in its context. It is simply calling for justice to be done in the fine that is levied.. That is a very different way than it is often quoted in secularconversation. It is, by the way, very different from the way it was being applied in Jesus’time and that is why He said, “You have heard, ‘an eye for and eye and a tooth for a tooth,’ but I say to you turn the other cheek. Jesus is not contradicting Moses, He is contradicting a misinterpretation of it. Some appeal to verse 22 to show that Moses doesn'tbelieve a fetus in utero is a real personbecause he doesn'tdemand the death penalty. Now let me say that is an utterly irrelevant interpretation of this passagebecausethe passage is designedto show what is to be done when a woman who is caring a child is injured. The focus is not upon the miscarriage itself. The focus of the passage is on the other injuries that are done to the woman. Secondly, abortion was a crime and the taking of a child in utero was a crime so horrific in the Hebrew mind that Moses didn't even need to write a law about it. Even in the comparative laws of the pagannations around Israel, did you know the penalty for abortion was crucifixion? Those were the pagans around Israel. The penalty in the Median laws was crucifixion for abortion. Abortion was a horrendously repugnant crime in those days and times. To argue from this that Moses thinks that abortion is ‘ok’ is a gross misuse of Scripture. I want to say that in passing because you’ll find someone who knows about Exodus 21:22, and they will try to make that particular argument. IV. Our carefulness forhuman life extends even to the animals under our charge.
  24. 24. One last thing, look at verses 28 though 30. Here we see divine principles regarding domestic animals and manslaughter committed by those domestic animals. It shows us our carefulness for human life extends even to the animals under out charge. Rememberthe lady who was called before the court because her dog killed a child not long ago and she was pleading about that? Interesting, God's law speaks ofthat very circumstance. In this circumstance, a person who is negligentin the treatment of a animal, a domestic animal, and that domestic animal commits manslaughter, that person is liable to the death penalty under Moses’law. The culpability of the master regarding an animal previously known to be dangerous establishes what? It establishes the doctrine of carefulness. We needto be careful with human life. We need to be diligent in protecting human life. What is God doing here? He is cultivating in us a carefulness forhuman life. That required diligence. As I was thinking of ways that applies to us, one of the ways that comes immediately to mind is in our care and vigilance in putting young people behind the wheelof automobiles. I tell you one of the things that I have nightmares about already, and my children are 2 and 5, are what they might do behind the wheelof a car. You know, not only could they ruin their lives by a moment of carelessnessbehind the wheelof an automobile, they could ruin the life of another person and another family, by just a moment of carelessness. Thatis just one way that the law of vigilance and carefulness applies to us today. For those under out charge, we need to be vigilant in making sure they are taking care for human life. Let's go to the Lord in prayer. Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your law. It is as fresh as the newspaper. It is as wise as the Heavens are high. We thank You for it. We ask, O Lord, as we see it and are convicted by it that You would drive us to the Lord Jesus Christ for grace and also for obedience. In Jesus name. Amen. https://www.fpcjackson.org/resource-library/sermons/what-does-an-eye-for- an-eye-really-mean
  25. 25. The Misuse of Exodus 21:22–25by Pro-Choice Advocates Article by John Piper Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org Sometimes Exodus 21:22-25 is used by pro-choice advocates to show that the Bible does not regardthe unborn as persons just as worthy of protection as an adult. Some translations do in fact make this a plausible opinion. But I want to try to show that the opposite is the case. The text really supports the worth and rights of the unborn. This passageofScripture is part of a list of laws about fighting and quarreling. It pictures a situation in which two men are fighting and the wife of one of them intervenes to make peace. She is struck, and the blow results in a miscarriage orpre-mature birth. Pro-choice reasoning assumes thata miscarriage occurs. Butthis is not likely. The RSV is one translationthat supports the pro-choice conclusion. It says, When men strive together, and hurt a woman with child, so that there is a miscarriage, andyet no harm follows, the one who hurt her shall be fined, according as the woman's husband shall lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. The RSV assumes that a "miscarriage" happens, and the fetus is born dead. This implies that the loss of the unborn is no "harm," because it says, "If there is a miscarriage and yet no harm follows . . ." It is possible for the blow to cause a miscarriage and yet not count as "harm" which would have to be recompensedlife for life, eye for eye, etc. This translation seems to put the unborn in the categoryof a non-person with little value. The fine which must be paid may be for the loss ofthe child.
  26. 26. Money suffices. Whereas if"harm follows" (to the woman!) then more than money must be given. In that case it is life for life, etc. But is this the right translation? The NIV does not assume that a miscarriage happened. The NIV translates the text like this: If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whateverthe woman's husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life . . . What the NIV implies is that the child is born alive and that the penalty of life for life, eye for eye, etc. applies to the child as well as the mother. If injury comes to the child or the mother there will not just be a fine but life for life, eye for eye, etc. I agree with this translation. Here is my own literal rendering from the original Hebrew: And when men fight and strike a pregnant woman ('ishah harah) and her children (yeladeyha) go forth (weyatse'u), and there is no injury, he shall surely be fined as the husband of the woman may put upon him; and he shall give by the judges. But if there is injury, you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. The keyphrase is "and the children go forth." The RSV translates this as a miscarriage. The NIV translates it as a premature live birth. In the former case the unborn is not treated with the same rights as the mother, because the miscarriage is not counted as serious loss to be recompensedlife for life. In the latter case the unborn is treatedthe same as the mother because the child is included in the stipulation that if injury comes there shall be life for life. Which of these interpretations is correct? In favor of the NIV translation are the following arguments: 1. There is a Hebrew verb for miscarry or lose by abortion or be bereavedof the fruit of the womb, namely, shakal. It is used nearby in Exodus 23:26,
  27. 27. "None shall miscarry (meshakelah)or be barren in your land." But this word is NOT used here in Exodus 21:22-25. 2. Ratherthe word for birth here is "go forth" (ytsa'). "And if her children go forth . . ." This verb never refers to a miscarriage or abortion. When it refers to a birth it refers to live children "going forth" or "coming out" from the womb. For example, Genesis 25:25, "And the first came out (wyetse')red, all of him like a hairy robe; and they calledhis name Esau." (See also v. 26 and Genesis 38:28-30.) So the word for miscarry is not used but a word is used that elsewhere does not mean miscarry but ordinary live birth. 3. There are words in the Old Testamentthat designate the embryo (golem, Psalm139:16)or the untimely birth that dies (nephel, Job3:16; Psalm 58:8; Ecclesiastes6:3). But these words are not used here. 4. Ratheran ordinary word for children is used in Exodus 21:22 (yeladeyha). It regularly refers to children who are born and never to one miscarried. "Yeled only denotes a child, as a fully developed human being, and not the fruit of the womb before it has assumed a human form" (Keil and Delitzsch, Pentateuch, vol. 2, p. 135). 5. Verse 22 says, "[If] her children go forth and there is no injury . . ." It does not say, "[If] her children go forth and there is no further injury . . ." (NASB, 1972 edition; correctedin the 1995 update). The word "further" is not in the original text. The natural wayto take this is to saythat the child goes forth and there is no injury TO THE CHILD or to the mother. The writer could very easilyhave inserted the Hebrew lah to specify the woman("If her children go forth and there is no injury to her . . ."). But it is left general. There is no reasonto exclude the children. Likewise in verse 23 when it says, "But if there was injury . . ." it does not say "to the woman," as though the child were not in view. Again it is generaland most naturally means, "If there was injury (to the child or to the mother)."
  28. 28. Many scholars have come to this same conclusion. Forexample, in the last century before the present debate over abortion was in sway, Keil and Delitzsch(Pentateuch, vol. 2, pp. 134f.)say, If men strove and thrust againsta woman with child, who had come near or betweenthem for the purpose of making peace, so that her children come out (come into the world), and no injury was done either to the womanor the child that was born, a pecuniary compensationwas to be paid, such as the husband of the woman laid upon him, and he was to give it by arbitrators. . . But if injury occur (to the mother or the child), thou shalt give soul for soul, eye for eye . . . George Bush(Notes on Exodus, vol. 2, p. 19)also writing in the last century said, If the consequencewere only the premature birth of the child, the aggressor was obliged to give her husband a recompense in money, according to his demand; but in order that his demand might not be unreasonable, it was subject to the final decisionof the judges. On the other hand, if either the woman or her child was any way hurt or maimed, the law of retaliationat once took effect The contextualevidence supports this conclusionbest. There is no miscarriage in this text. The child is born pre-maturely and is protectedwith the same sanctions as the mother. If the child is injured there is to be recompense as with the injury of the mother. Therefore this text cannot be used by the pro-choice advocatesto show that the Bible regards the unborn as less human or less worthy of protectionthan those who are born. Endnotes
  29. 29. - Keil and Delitzsch(Pentateuch, vol. 2, p. 135)suggestthat the reasonfor the plural in Hebrew is "for the purpose of speaking indefinitely, because there might possibly be more than one child in the womb." - Besides those quoted I would mention Jack W. Cottrell, "Abortion and the Mosaic Law," Christianity Today17, 12 (March 16, 1973):6-9; Wayne H. House, "MiscarriageorPremature Birth: Additional Thoughts on Exodus 21:22-25," WestminsterTheologicalJournal41 (1978):108-123;Bernard S. Jackson, "The Problemof Exodus 21:22-25 (Ius Talionis)," Vetus Testamentum 23 (1973):273-304. What does an eye for an eye mean? Questions? - Our Newsletter Question:What is the meaning behind "an eye for an eye" found in Exodus 21? Does it justify personalvengeance? Answer: Many people think the phrase "an eye for an eye" allows us to punish, or even take revenge upon, someone in the exact same manner they used to harm us. Is that really what the Bible teaches?Whatwould happen if we operated our lives, and even our criminal justice system, based upon a literal interpretation of this phrase found in the Old Testament? There are only four places in the King James Bible where the phrase "eye for an eye" (or slight variation) occurs (Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:20, Deuteronomy 19:21 and Matthew 5:38). Its first appearance, in Exodus 21, references the compensationa pregnant woman was entitled to receive if she accidently losther baby due to men fighting. If this accidentoccurred, but she herself was unharmed, the men would be liable to pay her an amount determined by the husband and the nation's judges. If she not only loses her unborn child, but is also injured, then the "eye for eye" principal of justice is stated.
  30. 30. And if any injury occurs, then you shall give life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth . . . (Exodus 21: 23 - 24, HBFV) How are Christians to be like salt? Why did Jesus seekafterone lostsheep? Why did Christ teachin parables? In context, the above verses are giving a principle of justice that was NOT meant to be used by individuals based solelyon their own authority. These and other verses delineate a principle on how the nation of Israel (or any government) should administer justice for its people as a whole. Vintage NeonSign For example, also in Exodus 21, it states, "Whoeverhits his father or his mother is to be put to death" (Exodus 21:15). Verse 16 of Exodus 21 states that whoeverkidnaps a person should also be killed. Can you imagine the chaos in societythat would occur if we allowedpeople to carry out such penalties based on their own will? The Bible prohibits people from taking "eye for eye" personalvengeance upon another human (Psalm94:1, Romans 12:19). It is the responsibility of the governing authorities, not individual citizens, to carry out penalties for criminal offenses. God's law delineates principles of fairness and a limitation of punishment that should be used by nations to governtheir people. Some people wonder what Jesus meantwhen, in his well-knownSermon on the Mount, he stated, "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But now I tell you: do not take revenge on someone
  31. 31. who wrongs you . . ." (Matthew 5:38 - 39). Was he teaching that the government of a nation had no right to punish evil? The Apostle Paul did not think so. In his letter to the Christians in Rome Paul states that authorities have the right and responsibility to retaliate againstevil (Romans 13:1, 3 - 4). Paul also reinterated Christ's words that we should not avenge ourselves (Romans 12:17 - 19). The ultimate Biblical meaning of 'eye for eye' is clear. God will repay those who do wrong using the same principle of fairness expressedin his law (Matthew 7:2, Luke 6:38, Colossians 3:25, etc.). Governments, if they want to administer fair and just punishment, should also follow God's laws. In our personallives, however, we should not seek vengeanceorseek to repay someone in the same way or magnitude they harmed us (Romans 12:21). https://www.biblestudy.org/question/eye-for-an-eye.html Matthew 5:38-40 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I sayto you, Do not resistthe one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. Commentaries: Forerunner Commentary What is the Forerunner Commentary? << Exodus 21:23
  32. 32. God uses this principle in His judgments—greaterand lesserpunishments for greaterand lessersins. Under "aneye for an eye" in the Bible, the punishment must match, but not exceed, the damage or harm done by the perpetrator. The law placed strict limits on the amount of damages anyone could collect. It permitted no one to "getrich quick" from another's mishap. Moreover, Godintended this law to be a rule of thumb for judges, not an authorization of personalvendetta or private retaliation. Martin G. Collins Exodus 21:23, 24 Author: Ángel Manuel Rodríguez Could you explain the meaning of the law that requires "life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand" (Ex. 21:23, 24)? This piece of legislationsounds barbaric and inhumane to many modern people. And until rather recently scholars tendedto interpret it in terms of the practice reflecting a very early stage in the development of the Israelite legal system. Fortunately, archaeologicaldiscoveries have unearthed legalmaterials from the ancientNearEastthat have facilitated a better understanding of this piece of legislationthan can be found in more recentcommentaries on the book of Exodus. The law of "aneye for an eye" is usually calledthe law of retribution, or "lex talionis" (Latin, lex [law] and talio [like]; the punishment is like the injury), or the law of equivalency. 1. History of the legislation. The lex talionis is found in three passagesin the Old Testament(Ex. 21:23, 24;Lev. 24:19, 20;and Deut. 19:21). A similar law is found in the ancient Mesopotamian code ofHammurabi. Earlier codes
  33. 33. legislatedfinancial compensationfor bodily injuries, but Hammurabi seems to have been the first to require physical injury for physical injury. This has led some historians to conclude that there was a time when monetary compensationredressedpersonalinjuries because the state did not consider them to be crimes againstsociety. The law of equivalency was a significantdevelopment in the history of jurisprudence in the sense that what used to be a private matter between two families was now takenover by the state and consideredto be criminal behavior. This fits very well with the Old Testamentunderstanding of offenses againstothers as offenses againstthe covenantcommunity and againstthe God of the covenant. 2. The principle involved. The law of equivalency was an attempt to limit the extent of a punishment and to discourage cruelty. The principle of this legislationis one of equivalency; that is to say, the punishment should correspondto the crime and should be limited to the one involved in the injury (Deut. 19:18-21). This law was a rejection of family feuds and the spirit of revenge that led the injured party to uncontrolled attacks againstthe culprit and the members of his or her family (cf. Gen. 4:23). The punishment was required to fit the crime, a principle still used in modern jurisprudence. I must add that in the Bible this law was applied equally to all members of society(Lev. 24:22), while in Mesopotamia it was limited to crimes againstsociety's "important" people. 3. The enforcement of the law. It's difficult to determine to what extent this legislationwas strictly enforced. We do know that in the case ofmurder the life of the murderer was taken—life for life (Num. 35:31). But apart from this, the formulation "aneye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," etc., seems to have been a technicalphrase used to express the idea of equivalency, leaving the court to determine the nature and extent of the equivalence. "Whateverhe has done must be done to him" (Lev. 24:19, NIV) is used to indicate that the culprit should getwhat he deserves (cf. Judges 15:6-8, 11). The restitution could be monetary or in kind, as indicated in Leviticus 24:18: "Anyone who takes the life of someone's animalmust make restitution—life
  34. 34. for life." Obviously, in this case "life for life" does not mean that the individual who killed the animal was to be killed. The law provided the legislative foundation to establishproper equivalence in specific cases. 4. Jesus andthe law of equivalency. The intent of the law of retribution was to ensure that the punishment correspondedto the crime in order to control the punishment inflicted on the guilty one. In Matthew 5:38-42 Jesus was not abrogating this important legalprinciple, but was rather inviting Christians in their daily lives to go beyond the letter of the law. The implicit intention of the law—to eliminate personalrevenge—wasstated explicitly by Jesus;and He, in His own personand ministry, modeled it for us. Copyright: Copyright © Biblical ResearchInstitute GeneralConference ofSeventh-day Adventists® Leviticus 24:20 20fracturefor fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The one who has inflicted the injury must suffer the same injury. New Living Translation a fracture for a fracture, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Whateveranyone does to injure another person must be paid back in kind.
  35. 35. BIBLEHUB RESOURCES Pulpit Commentary Homiletics Public Justice SecuredBy The Law Of Retaliation Leviticus 24:17-22 R.M. Edgar cf. Matthew 5:38-48;Romans 12:19-21. There is here presented to us, as a law upon which Israelwas to act, the principle of retaliation. And yet we have seenin the moralities of Leviticus 19:17, 18, an express denunciation of revenge. How are we to reconcile this retaliationcommanded with the revenge which is forbidden? Evidently the retaliation is to be deliberate, in coolblood, without the fever-heat of vengeance. Now,whenwe bear in mind the early age to which this law of retaliation was given, an age when the institution of public justice was rudimentary in character, then we can understand how very important a check it was on the lawlessnessto which men are naturally tempted. Of course, when public justice has developed itself into a wide and vigilant system, the necessityfor eachman taking the law into his own hand ceases.Thenit becomes a crime againstlaw to usurp its functions; it only increases lawlessness to attempt for one's self what the organized state willingly undertakes for you. But in rude ages it is eminently desirable that savage spirits should contemplate as a dead certainty getting as much as they give. Let us notice one or two points. I. THE LAW OF RETALIATION., ADMINISTERED IN A JUDICIAL SPIRIT, WAS IN THE INTERESTSOF JUSTICE AND ORDER. Its principle is a sound one. The criminal is to get exactly what he gave. It is only in this way that the nature of a crime can be driven home to a rude and tyrannical nature. If he has been cruel to a neighbour, let him taste the effect himself of the same amount of cruelty. A man who victimizes his neighbours
  36. 36. will ceasedoing so if he finds that he is to be victimized in exactlythe same fashion by public law. In fact, he comes to considerhis own case as bound up most intimately with his neighbours', and, instead of indulging in cruelty, he by his better conduct ensures his personalpeace. And a distinct corollary of this law of retaliationis the penalty of murder (verses 17, 21). If a man deliberately puts his brother out of life, it is an injury which admits of no repair, and so death becomes its just penalty. II. THE LAW OF RETALIATION IS IN ONE RESPECTA PREPARATION FOB THE GOLDEN RULE. For the golden rule runs parallel to it. It is, so to speak, its glorious issue. "Therefore allthings whatsoeverye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the Law and the prophets" (Matthew 7:12). Yes, this very law of retaliation suggeststo every thoughtful mind whether it would not be better to try the opposite plan, and do to others, not what we should be afraid they would do to us, but what we would like them to do to us. In other words, let us wisely win the goodservices ofothers, if we are to receive what we give, by doing all to them and. for them that we would welcome ourselves. And indeed, the reasonwhy the golden rule does not prevail as widely as it might, is because immediate justice is not now executedas in the case ofa law of retaliation it is. The return of kindness is often impeded by ingratitude, and men may do goodto others for a long lifetime without receiving much thanks. But such an arrangementgives a field for faith and courage, suchas a government of instantaneous justice could not secure. In truth, we should become mere mercenaries if the golden rule involved instantaneous returns. Now, however, we must rely on the wide range of providence, and believe that in the end it will prove wisestand best to have treated our neighbour as we would like to be treatedourselves. III. IN CULTIVATING THE SPIRIT OF LOVE TOWARDS EVEN OUR ENEMIES, WE ARE BUT FOLLOWING THE FOOTSTEPS OF OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN. For while re-enforcing the courage ofhis people in rude ages by commanding retaliation, he was himself at the same time making his sun to shine on the evil and on the good, and sending rain upon the just and on the unjust (Matthew 5:45). He was not dealing with men after their sins, nor rewarding them according to their iniquities (Psalm 103:10). Not only in Nature, with its dignified refusal to be a respecterof persons, but also
  37. 37. in his sacrificialworship, was God dealing with his enemies so as to make them his friends. He was pursuing even then the policy of overcoming evil by good(Romans 12:21). Such laws as retaliation, resting on inexorable justice, did something to check sin; but only love and goodnesscanovercome it. Hence the spirit of the old dispensation, while hostile to sin, as the outcome of a holy God must be, had an undertone of love and mercy. God, in fact, was practicing all the time his own goldenrule. He was doing by men what he wanted men to do by him. In some casesthis succeeded, forthis is the substance of the Divine appealin the gospelof Christ, as it was the undertone of the preliminary law; in some cases itfailed through the waywardness of men. Still, the goldenrule is the spirit of the Divine administration, and will be till the present dispensationis finished. Then must the greatGovernordeal with the impenitent in the way of strictestjustice, since they will not yield to his dying love. The rhythm of the ages willbe maintained; if the wrath of man is not turned to praise by the exercise oflove, it must be restrained by the exercise ofthe cooland deliberate infliction of deserved wrath. - R.M.E. STUDYLIGHT RESOURCES Adam Clarke Commentary Breachfor breach - This is a repetition of the lex talionis, which See explained Exodus 21:24;(note). John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible Breachfor breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth,.... Which is not to be taken strictly or literally, but for the price or value of those, which is to be given in a pecuniary way; See Gill on Exodus 21:24, Exodus 21:25,
  38. 38. as he hath causeda blemish in a man, shall it be done to him; unless he gives satisfaction, andpays a valuable considerationfor it. Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible Leviticus 24:20. Breachfor breach, &c.— These words fully prove that we are to take those in Exodus 21:24 in a literal sense. We are not to imagine that individuals were permitted to avenge themselves, they were to refer their injuries to the judges. There is no doubt, however, that reason, in various cases, required a compensation;for the same member is far more valuable to one man than to another; as in that case mentioned by Diodorus Siculus, lib. 12: where the one-eyedman complains of the rigour of this law, as it took place among the heathens: for, if he lost his other eye, he must have suffered more than the man whom he injured, and who still had one eye left; so the right hand of a scribe, or painter, cannot be so wellspared as that of a finger. The lex talionis, therefore, of the twelve tables made this exception, si membrum rupit, ni cum eo pacet, talio esto;i.e. unless he agree with the person injured to make him satisfaction, andto redeem the punishment, he was to suffer in the same kind. That, in like manner, the law of Mosesallows all these punishments to be redeemed by money, exceptthat of life for life, is gatheredfrom Numbers 35:31 ye shall take no satisfactionfor the life of a murderer: which seems to intimate, that smaller personalinjuries might be redeemed; and so it is explained by Maimonides and others. Be it further observed, that though Moses might think it necessary, forpreserving the peace and order of the community, to permit this revenge of injuries, yet it is not to be doubted, but many of the pious Jews were farfrom making use of this permission. Compare Matthew 5:38; Matthew 5:48. Whedon's Commentary on the Bible 20. Breachfor breach — Brokenlimb for brokenlimb. This punishment is included in that of life for life, as a part is included in the whole. In those
  39. 39. primitive times it was a strongerrestraint from crime than the modern penalty of a term of imprisonment with goodfood and healthful labour. The law of retaliationis for the guidance of the judge, and not a provision for the injured person to practice private revenge. It was this perversion of the law which Christ condemns, and not legalpunishments enjoined by a magistrate. See Matthew 5:37-39, notes. Societyis conservedby law, and law by penalties. There is mercy in this code, inasmuch as it protects the criminal againsttoo severe punishment through the heat of popular indignation or the malice of a hostile party, as that of the priests and scribes againstJesus Christ. There may be injustice done by fixed penalties, but we are convinced that without them there is a liability of doing greaterwrong. Deuteronomy19:21 21Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. BIBLEHUB RESOURCES Pulpit Commentary Homiletics False Witness Deuteronomy 19:16-21 J. Orr God's brand is here placedupon the crime of false witness. It was to be severelypunished. Every one is interested in the suppression of such a crime- the parties whose interests are involved, societyat large, the Church, the
  40. 40. magistracy, Godhimself, of one of whose commandments (the ninth) it is the daring violation. The rules here apply primarily to false witness given in courts of justice, but the principles involved may be extended to all forms of the sin. I. FALSE WITNESS IS IN GOD'S SIGHT A GREAT EVIL. 1. It indicates greatmalevolence. 2. It is grievously unjust and injurious to the person wrongfully accused. 3. It is certain to be takenup and industriously propagated. A calumny is never wholly wiped out. There are always found some evil- speaking persons disposedto believe and repeatit. It affixes a mark on the injured party which remains on him through life. II. FALSE WITNESS ASSUMES MANYFORMS. It is not confined to law courts, but pervades private life, and appears in the wayin which partisans deal with public men and public events. Persons ofa malicious and envious disposition, given to detraction, can scarcelyavoidit - indeed, live in the element of it. Forms of this vice: 1. Deliberate invention and circulation of falsehoods. 2. Innuendo, or suggestio falsi. 3. Suppressionof essentialcircumstances - suppressio veri. 4. The distortion or deceitful coloring of actualfacts. A lie is never so successfulas when it can attachitself to a grain of truth - "A lie that is all a lie may be met and fought with outright; But a lie that is part of a truth is a harder matter to fight." III. THE FALSE WITNESS BORNEBY ONE AGAINST ANOTHER WILL BE EXPOSED AT GOD'S JUDGMENT SEAT. The two parties - he who was accusedofbearing false witness and he who allegedhimself to be injured by it - were required to appear before the Lord, and to submit their cause to the
  41. 41. priests and judges, who acted as his deputies (ver. 17). It was their part to make diligent inquisition, and, if the crime was proved, to award punishment (vers. 18, 19). The punishment was to be on the principle of the lex talionis (vers. 19-21). So, atChrist's judgment seat, the personwho has long lain under an undeserved stigma through the false witness of another may depend on being clearedfrom wrong, and the wrong-doerwill be punished (Colossians3:25). Meanwhile, it is the duty of every one to see to the punishment of this crime, not only in casesofactual perjury, But in every form of it, and not only by legalpenalties, but - which is the only means that can reachevery case - by the emphatic reprobation of society, and, where that is possible, by Church censures. - J.O. STUDYLIGHT RESOURCES Adam Clarke Commentary Life - for life, eye for eye, etc. - The operationof such a law as this must have been very salutary: if a man prized his own members, he would naturally avoid injuring those of others. It is a pity that this law were not still in force:it would certainly prevent many of those savage acts whichnow both disgrace and injure society. I speak this in reference to law generally, and the provision that should be made to prevent and punish ferocious and malevolentoffenses. A Christian may always act on the plan of forgiving injuries; and where the public peace and safetymay not be affected, he should do so;but if law did not make a provision for the safety of the community by enactmentagainst the profligate, civil societywould soonbe destroyed. John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible And thine eye shall not pity,.... The false witness when convicted; this is directed to the judges, who should not spare such an one through favour or
  42. 42. affection, but pronounce a righteous sentence onhim, and see it executed, in proportion to the crime, and that according to the law of retaliation: but life shall go for life; in such a case where the life of a personmust have gone, if the falsehoodof the testimony had not been discovered, the false witness must suffer death; in other cases,where a member would have been lost, or the price of it paid for, the same penalty was to be inflicted: eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot; that is, the price of an eye an eye, &c. see Exodus 21:23. Keil & DelitzschCommentary on the Old Testament The lex talionis was to be applied without reserve (see at Exodus 21:23; Leviticus 24:20). According to Diod. Sic. (i. 77), the same law existedin Egypt with reference to false accusers. Hawker's PoorMan's Commentary Was not the suretyship of JESUS pointed out in this law? Did not JESUS when redeeming his people, give an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth? Was not this literally indeed the case, whenhe who knew no sin became sin for us, and was made a curse for us that we might be made the righteousness of GOD in him? REFLECTIONS HERE let me gaze on thee againand again, thou dearestJESUS, who art indeed the only City of refuge for all thy people, and who art placedin every avenue and way by which a poor slayer of himself and of his own soul by sin, may find shelterfrom the avenger. And while I look on thee as my sure hiding place from all the angerof my FATHER's broken law, and from all the accusationsofmy own guilty conscience, andfrom all the malice of Satan; Oh! may the HOLY GHOST give speedto my flight and earnestnessto my desires, that before the avengerof blood canreach me, I may have taken
  43. 43. shelter in thy person and righteousness.Oh! thou blessedRefuge of poor sinners, how fitly art thou prepared, how completelysuited to all the wants of thy people!My soul even now, seems to feel an holy triumph in the security it finds by faith in thee! No plague shall come nigh my dwelling. In thee I feela growing confidence of my everlasting security. Cease thenyour pursuits, ye ministers of evil, for my LORD hath shut me in like Noahin the ark, and housed me from your malice; and I am persuaded through his grace keeping me, that neither life nor death, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other creature, shall separate me from the love of GOD, which is in CHRIST JESUS our LORD. Wesley's ExplanatoryNotes And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. Eye for eye — What punishment the law allotted to the accused, if he had been convicted, the same shall the false accuserbear. John Trapp Complete Commentary Deuteronomy 19:21 And thine eye shall not pity; [but] life [shall go] for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. Ver. 21. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.] {See Trapp on "Matthew 5:38"} Matthew Poole's EnglishAnnotations on the Holy Bible What punishment he intended or the law allottedto the accused, if he had been convicted, the same shall the false accuserbear. Of this law see on Exodus 21:23 Leviticus 24:20 Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
  44. 44. 21. Thine eye shall not pity — It has been saidthat this is a harsh and cruel requirement. But it must be borne in mind that the usages whichprevailed and the condition of societydemanded stringent laws. The wise legislator adapts law to the circumstances ofthe people. Moses found the law of retaliation deeply seated. It has its foundations in the conceptionof impartial justice. With all his influence overthe people he could not eradicate long- establishedusages.At the present day in the Eastthere is a most cruel feature of the lex talionis. When the murderer cannot be reachedthe avengers have the right to kill any member of his family. See THOMSON’S Land and Book, vol. i, p. 448. If we turn to the words of Him who spake as never man spake, we see how the Gospelmodifies the stern exactions ofthis law of retaliation. “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, That ye resist not evil.” Matthew 5:38-39. Question:"What does the Bible mean by 'an eye for an eye'?" Answer: The conceptof “an eye for eye,” sometimes calledjus talionis or lex talionis, is part of the Mosaic Law used in the Israelites’justice system. The principle is that the punishment must fit the crime and there should be a just penalty for evil actions: “If there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise” (Exodus 21:23–25). Justice shouldbe equitable; excessive harshnessand excessive leniencyshould be avoided. We have no indication that the law of “an eye for an eye” was followed literally; there is never a biblical accountof an Israelite being maimed as a result of this law. Also, before this particular law was given, God had already establisheda judicial systemto hear casesanddetermine penalties (Exodus 18:13–26)—a systemthat would be unnecessaryif God had intended a literal “eye for an eye” penalty. Although capitalcrimes were repaid with execution
  45. 45. in ancient Israel, on the basis of multiple witnesses (Deuteronomy17:6), most other crimes were repaid with payment in goods—ifyou injured a man’s hand so that he could not work, you compensatedthat man for his lost wages. Besides Exodus 21, the law of “an eye for an eye” is mentioned twice in the Old Testament(Leviticus 24:20;Deuteronomy 19:21). Eachtime, the phrase is used in the context of a case being judged before a civil authority such as a judge. “An eye for an eye” was thus intended to be a guiding principle for lawgivers and judges; it was never to be used to justify vigilantism or settling grievances personally. In the New Testament, it seems the Pharisees andscribes had takenthe “eye for an eye” principle and applied it to everyday personalrelationships. They taught that seeking personalrevenge was acceptable. If someone punched you, you could punch him back; if someone insulted you, he was fair game for your insults. The religious leaders of Jesus’day ignored the judicial basis of the giving of that law. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus counters the common teaching of personal retaliation: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you . . .” (Matthew 5:38–39). Jesusthen proceeds to reveal God’s heart concerning interpersonalrelationships: “Do not resistan evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn awayfrom the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:39–42). In giving this “new” command, Jesus is not nullifying the Old Testamentlaw (Matthew 5:17). Rather, He is separating the responsibility of the government
  46. 46. (to punish evildoers justly) from the responsibility we all have on a personal level before God to love our enemies. We should not seek retribution for personalslights. We are to ignore personalinsults (the meaning of “turn the other cheek”). Christians are to be willing to give more of their material goods, time, and labor than required, even if the demands upon us are unjust. We should loan to those who want to borrow, love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us (verses 43–48). Enforcing “aneye for an eye” is the magistrate’s job; forgiving our enemies is ours. We see this played out today every time a victim stands up in court to publicly forgive a convicted criminal—the forgiveness is personaland real, but the judge still justly demands that the sentence be carried out. Jesus’limiting of the “eye for an eye” principle in no way prohibits self- defense or the forceful protectionof the innocent from harm. The actions of duly appointed agents ofthe government, such as police officers and the military, to protect citizens and preserve the peace are not in question. Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek applies to personalrelationships, not judicial policy. The principle of “an eye for an eye” is meant as a judicial policy, not as a rule for interpersonal relationships. The believer in Christ is guided by Jesus’words to forgive. The Christian is radically different from those who follow the natural inclination to respond in kind. https://www.gotquestions.org/eye-for-an-eye.html Question:"What is the law of retribution?" Answer: The law of retribution, also calledthe law of retaliation or lex talionis, was part of the Old TestamentLaw given to Israelthrough Moses. Retribution was one of the cornerstones ofIsrael’s penal code. The punishment was supposedto mirror the crime. The principle of lex talionis is
  47. 47. clearly statedin Leviticus 24:19–21:“Anyone who injures their neighbor is to be injured in the same manner: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The one who has inflicted the injury must suffer the same injury. Whoeverkills an animal must make restitution, but whoeverkills a human being is to be put to death.” Monetary damages are to be paid for killing an animal belonging to someone else, but, if a person is murdered, then the murderer must forfeit his life in return. Exodus 21:23–25 andDeuteronomy 19:16–21 echo the same stipulations. In ancient Israel, part of the law’s enforcementfell to the family of the murder victim. According to Numbers 35:16–21,in some cases the “avenger of blood” (normally a close family member of the deceased)would be charged with carrying out the death sentence, possiblyeventracking down the murderer if the murderer had fled. There was no police force in ancient Israel, so kinship posses were calledupon to enforce the law. It is important to keepin mind that this system of retaliation operatedwithin the legalsystemas it existed. The law of retribution was not a simple pretext for revenge, although it is easyto see how it could descendto that level. “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, and life for life” was the penal code and was never intended to justify a personalcode of revenge or vigilantism. In fact, the Law warned againstpersonalhatred: “Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge againstanyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:17–18). In the New Testament, Christians in the RomanEmpire lived under a different penal code. In Romans 12:17–13:4, Paulwarns believers that they must not take the law into their own hands, but he also maintains that the government has the right and responsibility to enforce penalties, including the death penalty, for criminal acts. In that passage, quotedbelow, you will notice how Paul moves from personal vendettas to governmental enforcementof justice. Because the switchhappens at a chapterbreak, many readers may not
  48. 48. realize the connection. (Remember, the chapter and verse divisions are not inspired. They were added later to help facilitate easystudy and reference, but sometimes a chapter break canobscure the connectionwith the previous chapter.) Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge;I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority exceptthat which God has established. The authorities that exist have been establishedby God. Consequently, whoeverrebels againstthe authority is rebelling againstwhat God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. Forrulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the swordfor no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. It is easyto see how, in ancient Israel, personal revenge and penalties administered under “due process”might be somewhatmingled. That’s one of the reasons Godchose the cities of refuge in Joshua 20:7–8. In New Testament times, Paul tells believers that they cannottake personalrevenge. They must love and even serve their enemies, allowing Godto retaliate in His time as He sees fit. Divine retribution may come through some “actof God” in this life
  49. 49. (or certainly in the next), but it is also possible that the government functioning in its God-givenrole will be the agentGod uses to bring about justice. It may be morally right for a government to execute a murderer, but it would be morally wrong for a family member of the victim to ambush the murderer and kill him, even if he had already been convicted and sentencedto death in court. The personalresponse is to offer love and forgiveness while the governmental response is to enforce justice. In Matthew 5:38–48 (during the Sermon on the Mount), Jesus rejects the “eye for an eye” principle as applied to personal ethics. As is clearfrom the explanation He gives, He is not rejecting or even commenting upon penalties administered by the government after “due process.” He is rejecting a personalcode of revenge that would “do unto others as they have done unto me.” Ratherthan enforce the law of retribution in personalmatters, Jesus requires individuals to love their enemies, “go the extra mile,” and “turn the other cheek.” In Matthew 7:12 He says, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” This code of conduct leaves no place for personalrevenge or even resentment. In summary, the law of retribution or the law of retaliation may be a legitimate guide for criminal penalties administered by governmental authorities, but it is not to be used as the basis for personalrevenge. Personal revenge puts the avengerin the place of Godas Judge and Executioner making the avengera usurper of divine authority. https://www.gotquestions.org/law-of-retribution.html Question:"What does the Bible sayabout retaliation?"
  50. 50. Answer: To retaliate is to return in like kind. Usually, we speak of retaliation in negative contexts, so it’s almostexclusively a returning of evil for evil. Someone hurts us; we hurt him back. Getting even is a natural response to being wronged, but God calls us to live above our natural responses. He demonstrated holiness through His Son Jesus Christ, and He offers to empowerus through His Holy Spirit so that we can live above our selfish instincts. God’s way is usually opposite our way, so the Bible has much to say about retaliation that contradicts everything that feels right to us (Isaiah 55:9; 1 Corinthians 1:27–29). Retaliationfor harm done is the world’s way of making things right. But God’s way is to “heapburning coals on his head” by refusing to stoopto the level of the offender (Proverbs 25:22; Romans 12:20). When we retaliate with evil for evil, we join our offender in his error. Jesus told us not to return evil for evil, but to overcome evil with good(Romans 12:21; Matthew 5:39). Retaliationis when we take matters out of God’s hands and insist on fixing things ourselves. However, Godhas said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay” (Hebrews 10:30). Romans 12:19 gives clearinstructions about how Christians are to respond when wronged:“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge;I will repay,’ says the Lord.” These commands againstretaliation are for individuals, and they should not be applied without qualification to nations or law enforcement. When we try to use Jesus’words about loving others to matters of national security, they fall apart. Jesus’followers are to seek to practice every scriptural principle in their personaland family lives. But governments must operate by a different standard. Government was instituted by God for the common goodof a people (Romans 13:1–2). There are times when a nation must retaliate in order to preserve its freedom and its people, such as the United States’ response to Japan’s bombing of PearlHarbor in 1941. A nation is given permission by God to exercise force and retaliate againstother nations in
  51. 51. defense of its citizens (1 Samuel 15:2–3;1 Samuel 30:1–2, 8, 17–18). A state can also “retaliate” againstlawbreakersfor the common good(Romans 13:3). God’s commands always come down to heart attitudes (1 Samuel 16:7; Mark 2:8). He has issuedcommands regulating outward behaviors because He knows the inward evil that motivates them (Matthew 15:18–19). A man using a gun to take revenge on his neighbor for not mowing his lawn is sinning because the motivation is selfish retaliation. However, that same man using a gun to protect his family from an intruder is not sinning because his motivation is protection of the innocent, not vengeance. Our job as Christians is to forgive, not retaliate (Luke 6:27–31). We canset healthy boundaries in destructive relationships. We canprotect ourselves from further harm and report to authorities someone breaking the law (James 5:20). But personalvigilante justice is never condonedin Scripture. Two wrongs do not make a right. We have a Higher Authority to whom we report, and He has promised to right all wrongs done againstHis servants (Isaiah 54:17). When we follow His commands to love, forgive, and do goodto those who wrong us (Matthew 5:44), we can trust that our Defenderwill do what is right. https://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-retaliation.html Matthew 5:38-39New InternationalVersion (NIV) Eye for Eye
  52. 52. 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[a]39 But I tell you, do not resistan evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. BIBLEHUB RESOURCES Pulpit Commentary Homiletics Non-resistance Matthew 5:38-42 W.F. Adeney The difficulty with this, as with similar passagesin the teachings of our Lord, is to see how to carry out the precept in the fulness of the intention of the great Teacher. Are we to take it quite literally? If so, Count Tolstoiis right, and we have not yet begun to be Christian. Are we to take it 'metaphorically,' or even as a hyperbolical expression? Thenwe shall be in greatdanger of watering it down to suit our own convenience. Plainlyour Lord meant something very real. Moreover, this is no counsel of perfectionfor selectsaints. It is a general law of the kingdom of heaven; it is a precept of that exalted righteousness exceeding the righteousness ofscribes and Pharisees whichChrist absolutely requires of all his people. How, then, is it to be interpreted? I. THIS IS A LAW OF UNIVERSAL CHRISTIAN CONDUCT. Christ was not a Solon, drawing up a code of state laws. His preceptwas not made in any legislative assembly. He spoke to men who lived under the irresistible yoke of stern, just Romangovernment. But his words had no influence with that government. Thus, no doubt, they were primarily for private conduct. They did not concernthe question of a state's duty in defending its coastfrom the invader, or protecting its citizens by police supervision from outrage. But

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