Sunday, December 28, 2014

Eye For Eye, Tooth For Tooth -- Exodus 21:22-25

“And if men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she has a miscarriage, yet there 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 decide.  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.”
 
Here is that famous passage, the words of which we have often heard quoted when we talk about “getting revenge” – wanting equal value compensation for what was taken from us.  From this stems the idea of a ‘victim’ being made ‘whole’ at the expense of the ‘offender’ or ‘criminal’.
Again what we notice is that God knew men would be fighting each other and that often such a fight would involve a woman, one way or another.  Thus we have these verses dealing with just that, and in particular, what is to happen when the woman is pregnant and she loses the child as a result of being injured during the fight between the men.
If the woman miscarries a fetus after being involved in a physical struggle but she herself does not suffer other injury, then only a fine is to be levied.  The ‘life for life, eye for eye’ principle does not go into effect unless the woman herself is further injured.  But we may well ask “What about the baby? Was that not a life? Should not the principle of life for life have applied in this case?”  Good questions.
I do not believe God was ignoring the fetus at all.  Elsewhere in scripture God shows His true feelings about the miracle He creates in a woman’s womb.  Here are some of them:
·      Did not He who made me in the womb make him, And the same one fashion us in the womb? (Job 31:15)
·      Yet Thou art He who didst bring me forth from the womb; Thou didst make me trust when upon my mother's breasts. Upon Thee I was cast from birth; Thou hast been my God from my mother's womb. (Psalm 22:9-10)
·      For Thou didst form my inward parts; Thou didst weave me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Thy works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from Thee, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth. Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Thy book they were all written, The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them. (Psalm 139:13-16)
·      Thus says the LORD who made you And formed you from the womb, who will help you, `Do not fear, O Jacob My servant; And you Jeshurun whom I have chosen. (Isaiah 44:2)
·      Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb, "I, the LORD, am the maker of all things, Stretching out the heavens by Myself, And spreading out the earth all alone, (Isaiah 44:24)
And if that is not enough to convince you He does not ignore the fetus, the Scriptures also speak of at least five key figures of history who were called from the womb:
Samson:
Then the woman came and told her husband, saying, "A man of God came to me and his appearance was like the appearance of the angel of God, very awesome. And I did not ask him where he came from, nor did he tell me his name. "But he said to me, `Behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son, and now you shall not drink wine or strong drink nor eat any unclean thing, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death.'" (Judges 13:6-7, see also Judges 16:17)
Jesus (prophecy):
  • Listen to Me, O islands, And pay attention, you peoples from afar. The LORD called Me from the womb; From the body of My mother He named Me. (Isaiah 49:1)
  • And now says the LORD, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, To bring Jacob back to Him, in order that Israel might be gathered to Him (For I am honored in the sight of the LORD, And My God is My strength), (Isaiah 49:5)
  • Yet Thou art He who didst bring me forth from the womb; Thou didst make me trust when upon my mother's breasts. Upon Thee I was cast from birth; Thou hast been my God from my mother's womb. (Psalm 22:9-10)
Jeremiah:
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations." (Jeremiah 1:5)
John the Baptist:
"For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and he will drink no wine or liquor; and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, while yet in his mother's womb." (Luke 1:15)
Paul:
But when He who had set me apart, even from my mother's womb, and called me through His grace, was pleased (Galatians 1:15)

Scripture answers scripture.  Where there appears to be a conflicting idea or thought, we look to the whole of the Bible and see what the overwhelming position on the issue is.  So, in our current passage, the focus is not the fetus but on punishing those who do harm to others.  It is not that there is no punishment for causing a miscarriage, but it is left up to the husband of the woman and the courts to determine what it is.
However, damage caused in the case of men struggling with each other and a woman is injured further, then the punishment reverts to the ‘eye for eye, tooth for tooth’ principle.
I was wondering about the point, or points, of the passage.  They didn’t seem to come out as clearly as they do in some of the other passages.  However, on some further reflection and study, I did come up with three:
1.     God again indicates how He comes to the defense of the weak and vulnerable.
2.     God does not support punishment that exceeds the crime.
3.     The victim and the victim’s family matter, but they also have to be reasonable as determined by the courts.
We would do well to examine our current justice systems to see how we are doing in these areas.  A comparative study between countries or cultures would yield some interesting results.



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