Monday, December 12, 2005

Eye for an Eye

The expression “an eye for an eye” is well known, but it is totally misunderstood. Almost everyone assumes that the law requires physical vengeance for personal injuries. Even Christians assume that the Old Testament literally requires “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”, because they have never bothered to check what the law actually requires. An examination of Exodus 21:23-25 shows that it purpose is almost totally opposite to this popular view.

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 whatever the woman's husband demands and the court allows. But 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 (Ex 21:22-25).
The passage specifies financial compensation for the loss of the baby and not physical vengeance. The context is a situation where two men fighting have hit a pregnant woman and she gives premature birth. The mother is entitled to the financial compensation demanded by her husband and approved by the court. “An eye for an eye” is nothing more than a principle for deciding the value of the economic restitution a criminal should make to their victim of an assault.

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