The Apple Of God's Eye

March 15, 2011

What Does “An Eye For An Eye” Really Mean?

Filed under: Law Of God — melchia @ 6:43 am
Tags: , , , , ,

wjameskellymdiv.blogspot.com

Many have read the command in Exodus 21:24-25 with shocked amazement at the assumed cruelty of the God of the Old Testament. They suppose anyone causing a person accidentally to lose sight of an eye would immediately be seized, held down, and have his eye gouged out!

But is this true? Let’s understand the real meaning of these instructions.

The context in which we find this command of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” is explaining the principle of just recompense for any wrong done. The very next verse shows that if a person causes his slave to lose his eye or tooth, the slave must be freed as a PAYMENT for the injury — workmen’s compensation. Verses 18 and 19 of the same chapter discuss the matter of one person injuring another. What is the punishment? “… he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed.” It was a matter of payment or recompense — not revenge by inflicting the same injury.

Then verse 22 shows that a person should be punished if he causes a pregnant woman to have a miscarriage. What is the punishment in this case? Again it is “. . . and he shall pay as the judges determine.” The whole context of the “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” command is concerned with the matter of just recompense or payment for the injury caused.

The purpose of Christ’s teachings in the “Sermon on the Mount” was to magnify the Old Testament law, not annul it (Isaiah 42:21; Matthew 5:17-19). Since the intent of the law was love of God and neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40), Christ was better showing us how to love our fellowman.

In Matthew 5:38-42 Christ shows that a true Christian should be willing to suffer wrong done to him if necessary (I Peter 2:19-20). For instance, Christ paid a tax which really did not apply to Him (Matthew 17:24-27). Paul gave us the instructions that followers of God should be in complete submission to government authority even though it was unjust at times (Romans 13:1-7).

The instructions given to Moses about “an eye for an eye” were not some cruel yoke of bondage. They were laws set up to regulate a society in a fair and just manner. Christ was not doing away with the law as some have supposed — He was showing what a Christian’s attitude should be when unjustly wronged.

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