An Eye for an Eye
Dear God, You who are just and merciful, give me understanding to do what is “right and just and fair” (Prov. 1:3).
Read Exodus 21:12-36
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with Your God” (Mic. 6:8).
Imagine you are on jury duty to hear a case that involves a serious injury—what principles would guide you? In this passage we find instructions for those who have to make similar judgments. A key principle is “an eye for an eye” (23-25), a biblical principle that has often been misunderstood. Here, it is found in instructions for judges, not for the general public; hence, the principle is to be understood not in terms of personal revenge (See Matt. 5:38-42) but of fair judgment.
Using this principle, the penalty for murder is capital punishment, as it shows the seriousness of the offense. Accidental killing is differentiated from cold-blooded murder, and the offenders are treated differently (12-14). Taking human life is treated differently (and more seriously) than the killing of animals (33-36). This principle ensures not only a fair penalty system, but also fair compensation. Physical and verbal abuse of one’s parents is as serious as murder (15,17). Also, the rights of servants are further guarded. Those who deal with slave labor or human trafficking are as bad as murderers (16). A servant who loses an eye or tooth as a result of his master’s violence is to be freed (26, 27), thus saving them from further violence and abuse.
When injury, accident, or abuse occurs, God’s Word provides guidelines on how these situations are to be handled and the offenders and victims treated to avoid unfair treatment of offender and victim. Fairness and personal responsibility are emphasized. The principle of divine mercy, together with divine justice, is made clearer elsewhere in Scripture (Mic. 6:8; Hab. 3:2; Matt. 23:23; Eph. 2:3-5).
As a recipient of God’s justice and mercy, ask for his help to live the crucified life and to show justice and mercy in all your relationships.
Mighty God, I want to act justly, truly love mercy, and to daily walk humbly before You. May Your light shine through me.
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