An Eye for an Eye (Punch 2)

           Last time I talked about Exodus 21:24 as the first of four biblical sources of the oft misquoted “An eye for an eye” verse. Round 2 focuses on Leviticus 24:20. Some scriptures are cut and dry, I can understand them easily without much brainpower on my part but others can be interpreted multiple ways so I make sure I regard them in context to their surround verses.

           Leviticus 24:20 by itself, on the surface, appears to indicate that if someone deals me some damage I am to reciprocate in kind. However, in context of the surrounding verses, that interpretation is not quite right. In Leviticus 24 the Bible says,

15 And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, Whosoever curseth his God shall bear his sin.

16 And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the Lord, shall be put to death.

17 And he that killeth any man shall surely be put to death.

18 And he that killeth a beast shall make it good; beast for beast.

19 And if a man cause a blemish in his neighbour; as he hath done, so shall it be done to him;

20 Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth: as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again.

21 And he that killeth a beast, he shall restore it: and he that killeth a man, he shall be put to death.

         There are a lot of “death[s] and “killeth[s]” in these verses but in combination, I see it the same way as Exodus 21:24; the punishment must fit the crime. I do not want to rely too much on the wording as the KJV Bible is translated from Greek and Hebrew text. However it is interesting to note that in some verses it is clear who is to receive punishment and who will administer the punishment but in others not so much. In verse 15 it is clear to me that the person that curses God will suffer the consequences of his sin at God’s hand (since God is the only one who can absolve that sin). In verse 16 it is clear that those guilty of blasphemy are to be stoned by the congregation (according to the law of the land at the time). Verse 17 specifies who should be punished, what the crime is, and what the punishment is but not who is to administer the punishment (and so on for the other verses). Perhaps the congregation is also in charge of punishment in all subsequent verses in the chapter.

           The point is that in context, Leviticus 24:20 like Exodus 21:24 is not simply “an eye for an eye” or revenge but making sure that wrongs are met with a measured and appropriate response.


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