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Eye for Eye, Tooth for Tooth (the punishment to equal the crime)

By Chuck Henry
chuck.henry@sbcglobal.net
http://www.halleluyahfellowship.com
rev. 2/16/2015


 

Table of Contents

 

Eye for Eye Scripture References

The Punishment to Equal the Crime

Exodus 21:12-14 – The Case of He who Strikes another so that He Dies

Exodus 21:15 – The Case of Striking Father or Mother

Exodus 21:16 – The Case of Kidnapping

Exodus 21:17 – The Case of Cursing Father or Mother

Exo 21:18-19 – The Case of a Quarrel when One Strikes another, He Dies Not, but is confined to Bed

Exodus 21:20-21 – The Case of Striking a Servant

Exodus 21:22-25 – The Case of Injuring a Pregnant Woman and Causing Her to Deliver Prematurely

Exodus 21:26-27 – The Case of a Servant who Suffers Loss of Eye or Tooth

Exodus 21:28-31 – The Case of a Bull Goring a Person to Death

Exodus 21:32 – The Case of a Bull Goring a Servant

Exo 21:33-34 – The Case of a Pit Not Covered

Exodus 21:35-36 – The Case of One Bull Killing Another

Exodus 22:1 – The Case of Theft of Oxen or Sheep that is then Slaughtered or Sold

Exodus 22:2 – The Case of a Burglar Getting Killed in the Act (Nighttime)

Exodus 22:3 – The Case of Burglar Getting Killed in the Act (Daytime)

Exodus 22:3b.-4 – The Case of Theft

Exodus 22:5 – The Case of a Man’s Animal Grazing on Another’s Property

Exodus 22:6 – The Case of Uncontrolled Fire

Exodus 22:7-9 – The Case of Fiduciary Responsibility (a legal or ethical relationship of trust between two or more parties)

Exodus 22:10-13 – The Case of an Animal Delivered for Safekeeping

Exodus 22:14-15 – The Cases of Borrowing and Renting

Repaying Evil for Evil (Retaliation)

The Teaching of Yeshua

What is He saying?

The Backdrop ... Notes on Historical Context

Further Points of Proof from the Context of Matthew 5

Conclusion

 

Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) of the Bible unless otherwise noted.

 

 

 

Exo 21:23-35

23 But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life,

24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,

25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

 

Lev 24:17-22

17 Whoever kills any man shall surely be put to death.

18 Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, animal for animal.

19 If a man causes disfigurement of his neighbor, as he has done, so shall it be done to him;

20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he has caused disfigurement of a man, so shall it be done to him.

21 And whoever kills an animal shall restore it; but whoever kills a man shall be put to death.

22 You shall have the same law for the stranger and for one from your own country; for I am Yahweh your Mighty One.

 

Deu 19:21

Your eye shall not pity: life shall be for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

 

 

 

Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, and so on, mean that the punishment is to equal the crime, as is evidenced by the context of Exodus 21:12 – 22:15. Notice the crimes given, and then the corresponding punishments.

 

Exodus 21:12-14 – The Case of He who Strikes another so that He Dies

 

Exo 21:12-14

12 He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death.

13 However, if he did not lie in wait, but Elohim delivered him into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place where he may flee.

14 But if a man acts with premeditation against his neighbor, to kill him by treachery, you shall take him from My altar, that he may die.

 

Punishment:

 

·         Verse 12: Life for life.

 

·         Verse 13: If unintentional, he may flee to a city of refuge for protection.

 

·         Verse 14: If intentional, life given for life.

 

Exodus 21:15 – The Case of Striking Father or Mother

 

Exo 21:15

And he who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.

 

Punishment:

 

·         Death

 

·         In this case, the Scripture does not state that the father or mother died, yet the punishment for such a heinous crime is death.

 

Exodus 21:16 – The Case of Kidnapping

 

Exo 21:16

He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death.

 

Punishment:

 

·         Death

 

·         In this case, the victim is yet alive, either sold or found with the perpetrator, yet the punishment for such a heinous crime is death.

 

Exodus 21:17 – The Case of Cursing Father or Mother

 

Exo 21:17

And he who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.

 

Punishment:

 

·         Death

 

·         In this case, the victim is yet alive; nevertheless, the punishment for such a heinous crime is death.

 

Exo 21:18-19 – The Case of a Quarrel when One Strikes another, He Dies Not, but is confined to Bed

 

Exo 21:18-19

18 If men contend with each other, and one strikes the other with a stone or with his fist, and he does not die but is confined to his bed,

19 if he rises again and walks about outside with his staff, then he who struck him shall be acquitted. He shall only pay for the loss of his time, and shall provide for him to be thoroughly healed.

 

Punishment:

 

·         Loss of time expense paid to victim.

 

·         Medical expenses also seem to be included: “And shall provide for him to be thoroughly healed.”

 

·         Example: Suppose the victim’s leg was fractured. The remedy was not that the victim, once healed, repaid the offender by fracturing his leg.

 

Exodus 21:20-21 – The Case of Striking a Servant

 

Exo 21:20-21

20 And if a man beats his male or female servant with a rod, so that he dies under his hand, he shall surely be punished.

21 Notwithstanding, if he remains alive a day or two, he shall not be punished; for he is his property.

 

Punishment:

 

·         If the servant dies, it appears the punishment was death: “… he shall sure be punished.”

 

·         If the servant dies not, no punishment; for the man has injured his own property.

 

Exodus 21:22-25 – The Case of Injuring a Pregnant Woman and Causing Her to Deliver Prematurely

 

Exo 21:22-25

22 If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.

23 But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life,

24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,

25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

 

Punishment:

 

·         First of all notice, the woman is injured and gives birth prematurely.

 

·         If no harm follows – both the baby and the mother are safe – the offender is punished according to what the husband and the judges determine. Notice: The husband did not “repay” the offender by going and punching the offender’s pregnant wife if he had one.

 

·         If any harm follows – to either the baby or the mother – then it is “life for life …”

 

Exodus 21:26-27 – The Case of a Servant who Suffers Loss of Eye or Tooth

 

Exo 21:26-27

26 If a man strikes the eye of his male or female servant, and destroys it, he shall let him go free for the sake of his eye.

27 And if he knocks out the tooth of his male or female servant, he shall let him go free for the sake of his tooth.

 

Punishment:

 

·         The servant is to go free.

 

·         Notice: The servant does not “repay” his master by putting out the master’s eye or knocking his tooth out.

 

Exodus 21:28-31 – The Case of a Bull Goring a Person to Death

 

Exo 21:28-31

28 If an ox gores a man or a woman to death, then the ox shall surely be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be acquitted.

29 But if the ox tended to thrust with its horn in times past, and it has been made known to his owner, and he has not kept it confined, so that it has killed a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned and its owner also shall be put to death.

30 If there is imposed on him a sum of money, then he shall pay to redeem his life, whatever is imposed on him.

31 Whether it has gored a son or gored a daughter, according to this judgment it shall be done to him.

 

Punishment:

 

·         For goring a man or woman to death (but no previous goring history): Ox stoned, could not be eaten (loss of food usage), and owner acquitted.

 

·         For goring a person to death (with previous goring history, owner advised, but did not keep the ox confined): Ox and owner put to death. Possible exception to death of owner: verse 30 grants a provision for a redemption price to be paid by the owner in exchange for his life.

 

Exodus 21:32 – The Case of a Bull Goring a Servant

 

Exo 21:32

If the ox gores a male or female servant, he shall give to their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.

 

Punishment:

 

·         Ox stoned.

 

·         Fine paid to servant’s master.

 

·         The fact that the ox would be stoned is an indication that the ox gored the servant to death.

 

Exo 21:33-34 – The Case of a Pit Not Covered

 

Exo 21:33-34

33 And if a man opens a pit, or if a man digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls in it,

34 the owner of the pit shall make it good; he shall give money to their owner, but the dead animal shall be his.

 

Punishment:

 

·         The offender must pay for the animal falling to its death in the pit, and ownership of the dead animal transfers to the offender.

 

·         Notice: The previous owner of the animal does not “repay” the offender by strategically digging a pit into which the offender’s animals might fall.

 

Exodus 21:35-36 – The Case of One Bull Killing Another

 

Exo 21:35-36

35 If one man’s ox hurts another’s, so that it dies, then they shall sell the live ox and divide the money from it; and the dead ox they shall also divide.

36 Or if it was known that the ox tended to thrust in time past, and its owner has not kept it confined, he shall surely pay ox for ox, and the dead animal shall be his own.

 

Punishment:

 

·         Live ox is sold.

 

·         Money and dead ox are divided between the owners.

 

·         However, if previous goring history known, yet owner did not keep the ox confined, owner to pay animal for animal, and retained the dead animal.

 

Exodus 22:1 – The Case of Theft of Oxen or Sheep that is then Slaughtered or Sold

 

Exo 22:1

If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, he shall restore five oxen for an ox and four sheep for a sheep.

 

Punishment:

 

·         Oxen: Restitution rate is 5:1.

 

·         Sheep: Restitution rate is 4:1.

 

·         Notice: The victim was not to “repay” the thief by pulling off a “cattle heist” of his own against the thief.

 

Exodus 22:2 – The Case of a Burglar Getting Killed in the Act (Nighttime)

 

Exo 22:2

If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed.

 

Punishment:

 

·         If a burglar gets killed while trying to break in at night, no bloodguilt.

 

Exodus 22:3 – The Case of Burglar Getting Killed in the Act (Daytime)

 

Exo 22:3

If the sun has risen on him, there shall be guilt for his bloodshed. He should make full restitution; if he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.

 

Punishment:

 

·         “If the sun has risen,” i.e., his break-in was during the day, and he gets killed, then life is given for life.

 

Exodus 22:3b.-4 – The Case of Theft

 

Exo 22:3b.-4

3b. He should make full restitution; if he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.

4 If the theft is certainly found alive in his hand, whether it is an ox or donkey or sheep, he shall restore double.

 

Punishment:

 

·         Full restitution.

 

·         If unable to make full restitution, sold into servitude.

 

·         If live ox, donkey, or sheep found with him, restitution rate is double.

 

Exodus 22:5 – The Case of a Man’s Animal Grazing on Another’s Property

 

Exo 22:5

If a man causes a field or vineyard to be grazed, and lets loose his animal, and it feeds in another man’s field, he shall make restitution from the best of his own field and the best of his own vineyard.

 

Punishment:

 

·         Restitution made by the animal’s owner from the best of his own field and vineyard.

 

Exodus 22:6 – The Case of Uncontrolled Fire

 

Exo 22:6

If fire breaks out and catches in thorns, so that stacked grain, standing grain, or the field is consumed, he who kindled the fire shall surely make restitution.

 

Punishment:

 

·         The one who started the fire must make restitution.

 

·         Notice: The victim did not “repay” the offender by doing the same wrong back to the offender.

 

Exodus 22:7-9 – The Case of Fiduciary Responsibility (a legal or ethical relationship of trust between two or more parties)

 

Exo 22:7-9

7 If a man delivers to his neighbor money or articles to keep, and it is stolen out of the man’s house, if the thief is found, he shall pay double.

8 If the thief is not found, then the master of the house shall be brought to the judges to see whether he has put his hand into his neighbor’s goods.

9 For any kind of trespass, whether it concerns an ox, a donkey, a sheep, or clothing, or for any kind of lost thing which another claims to be his, the cause of both parties shall come before the judges; and whomever the judges condemn shall pay double to his neighbor.

 

Punishment:

 

·         If a theft occurred and the thief is found, restitution rate is double.

 

·         If thief is not found, the fiduciary appears before the judges to determine if there is guilt on his behalf.

 

·         Verse 9 from the NIV: “In all cases of illegal possession of an ox, a donkey, a sheep, a garment, or any other lost property about which somebody says, ‘This is mine,’ both parties are to bring their cases before the judges. The one whom the judges declare guilty must pay back double to his neighbor.”

 

Exodus 22:10-13 – The Case of an Animal Delivered for Safekeeping

 

Exo 22:10-13

10 If a man delivers to his neighbor a donkey, an ox, a sheep, or any animal to keep, and it dies, is hurt, or driven away, no one seeing it,

11 then an oath of Yahweh shall be between them both, that he has not put his hand into his neighbor’s goods; and the owner of it shall accept that, and he shall not make it good.

12 But if, in fact, it is stolen from him, he shall make restitution to the owner of it.

13 If it is torn to pieces by a beast, then he shall bring it as evidence, and he shall not make good what was torn.

 

Punishment:

 

·         Animal dies, is injured, or is driven away without being seen, an oath is given by the fiduciary that he is innocent, which the owner is to accept.

 

·         If the animal is stolen, restitution is required (probably because he should have kept a better watch on the valuable animal).

 

·         If the animal torn to pieces from an attack by another animal, the animal remains are brought as evidence, and no restitution is required.

 

Exodus 22:14-15 – The Cases of Borrowing and Renting

 

Exo 22:14-15

14 And if a man borrows anything from his neighbor, and it becomes injured or dies, the owner of it not being with it, he shall surely make it good.

15 If its owner was with it, he shall not make it good; if it was hired, it came for its hire.

 

Punishment:

 

·         Borrowing, owner not present: Bodily injury or death to the animal with the owner not present, the borrower must make it good.

 

·         Borrowing, owner present: If owner present, borrower not responsible (probably since the owner, being present, has the responsibility of caring for his animal).

 

·         Renting: If the animal was hired, the money paid for the hire covers the loss.

 

 

 

As seen in these many cases, eye for eye and tooth for tooth does not mean to repay evil for evil. Accordingly, there is harmony in both the older and the newer writings on this matter, as the following passages illustrate:

 

Pro 20:22

Do not say, I will recompense evil; wait for Yahweh, and He will save you.

 

Rom 12:17

Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.

 

1 Th 5:15

See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.

 

An eye for an eye and tooth for tooth does not provide excuse for an individual to retaliate and, “do unto others as they have done unto him.” Nor does the teaching of other

Scripture so say, neither in the older nor in the newer writings:

 

Pro 24:29

Do not say, I will do to him just as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work.

 

Mat 7:12

Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

 

Luk 6:31

And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.

 

Lev 19:18

You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am Yahweh.

 

Amo 5:14

Seek good and not evil, that you may live; So Yahweh the Mighty One of hosts will be with you, as you have spoken.

 

Zec 8:16-17

16 These are the things you shall do: Speak each man the truth to his neighbor; Give judgment in your gates for truth, justice, and peace;

17 Let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbor; and do not love a false oath. For all these are things that I hate, Says Yahweh.

 

Mat 22:39 (The Second Great Commandment)

And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

 

Mar 12:31 (The Second Great Commandment)

And the second, like it, is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.

 

Rom 13:10

Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

 

Gal 5:14

For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

 

Vengeance could by carried out personally only in the case of a murdered family member. And even then, it was not just a matter of personal vengeance; it was judgment from Yahweh (as evidenced in Scripture already examined).

 

 

 

Mat 5:38-39

38 You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.

 

What is He saying?

 

Instead of automatically assuming the common view that Yeshua is here changing the Law, let us take a closer look at His teaching.

 

Is it that He is contrasting His own teaching with that of the Law?

 

Is He bringing in something new and different from the judgments His Father previously prescribed?

 

Who could imagine such a thing just after His emphatic proclamation earlier in this same chapter?

 

Mat 5:17-18

17 Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.

18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.

 

The Backdrop ... Notes on Historical Context

 

From a footnote on Leviticus 24:20 in the NIV Study Bible:

 

[Messiah], like the middle-of-the-road Pharisees (school of Hillel), objected to an extremist use of this judicial principle to excuse private vengeance, such as by the strict Pharisees (school of Shammai).

 

-- Leviticus 24:20 footnote, NIV Study Bible (Large Print Ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan bible Publishers, 1985. p. 227.

 

When certain phrases such as “eye for eye” and “tooth for tooth” are read out of context, it sounds like a definite call to retaliate on an evil-for-evil basis. However, this is just the kind of misunderstanding that Yeshua came correcting.

 

Consider further information from a footnote on Exodus 21:23-25:

 

...[Yeshua] corrected the popular misunderstanding of the law of retaliation.

 

-- Exodus 21:23-25 footnote, Ibid., p. 148.

 

In a note on Matthew 5:21, the Jamieson, Fausset & Brown Commentary states:

 

To us it seems as plain as possible that our [Master’s] one object is to contrast the traditional perversions of the law with the true sense of it as expounded by Himself.

 

-- Matthew 5:21 note, Jamieson, Fausset & Brown, Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 18th printing, 1980. p. 900.

 

Further Points of Proof from the Context of Matthew 5

 

  • Nowhere in Torah does it state, “Whoever slaps you on the cheek, you shall slap him back.”

 

  • Nowhere in Torah does it state, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”

 

These points reveal that it is self-evident from the context that Yeshua was not contrasting His own teaching to that of the Torah, but rather, He was correcting the misinterpretation and abuse of the Torah.

 

 

 

Instead of a distorted, retaliatory view of this law, Yeshua gives us the correct understanding of eye for eye and tooth for tooth and illustrates it for us:

 

Mat 5:39

But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.

 

A slap on the cheek would be more of an insult than anything. Yeshua brings this example to illustrate that the retaliatory view of the “eye for eye” law is a misinterpretation.

 

Compare:

 

Pro 12:16 (NKJV)

A fool’s wrath is known at once, but a prudent man covers shame.

 

Pro 12:16 (NIV)

A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult.

 

Also compare:

 

Lam 3:30 (NKJV)

Let him give his cheek to the one who strikes him, and be full of reproach.

 

Lam 3:30 (NIV)

Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace.

 

Lam 3:30 (RSV)

Let him give his cheek to the smiter, and be filled with insults.

 

A closing Scripture:

 

1 Pet 3:8-11

8 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous;

9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.

10 For He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit.

11 Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.

 

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