Grievous Bodily Harm
Lord, thank You for issuing laws that deal with our propensity toward violence. Give me the grace to obey them.
Read Exodus 21:12–27
12 “Anyone who strikes a person with a fatal blow is to be put to death. 13 However, if it is not done intentionally, but God lets it happen, they are to flee to a place I will designate. 14 But if anyone schemes and kills someone deliberately, that person is to be taken from my altar and put to death.
15 “Anyone who attacks their father or mother is to be put to death.
16 “Anyone who kidnaps someone is to be put to death, whether the victim has been sold or is still in the kidnapper’s possession.
17 “Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.
18 “If people quarrel and one person hits another with a stone or with their fist and the victim does not die but is confined to bed, 19 the one who struck the blow will not be held liable if the other can get up and walk around outside with a staff; however, the guilty party must pay the injured person for any loss of time and see that the victim is completely healed.
20 “Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, 21 but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.
22 “If people are fighting and 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. 23 But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
26 “An owner who hits a male or female slave in the eye and destroys it must let the slave go free to compensate for the eye. 27 And an owner who knocks out the tooth of a male or female slave must let the slave go free to compensate for the tooth.
New International Version (NIV)
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“‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Eph. 4:26,27).
This passage in Exodus is concerned mainly with the judicial aspects of killing or maiming another person, either intentionally or accidentally. The place to which those who had unwittingly killed could flee (13) was probably the altar (implied in 14; John I. Durham, Word Biblical Commentary 3: Exodus, 323). Interestingly, amidst these laws dealing with grievous bodily harm is the decree that those who curse their parents should be put to death (17), which indicates the seriousness with which God views this offense. Also, interestingly, the “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (24,25) in this
passage is not in the context of carrying out retribution but refers to when a pregnant woman gets hurt during a fight (22,23).
The sense (and sometimes translation, see NASB) of verses 20 and 21 is that if a man beats his slave and he or she dies immediately, then the man is to be punished, but if the slave survives a day or two before dying, then the man is not to be punished other than losing the financial cost of the slave (presumably because he’d be paying compensation to himself) (Durham, 323). On the other hand, the man must let the servant go free if he knocks out a tooth or an eye (26,27). Since in both cases the same two Hebrew words are used, one cannot make a distinction as the 1984 NIV does (though many other versions do not) between, say, slave in verses 20 and 21 and servant in verses 26 and 27.
We see in this passage the ugly results of anger that could be avoided if only the fists had not flown so quickly. Our world is not so very different. “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love” (attributed to Francis of Assisi).
Relationships are obviously very important to God. How much of the New Testament do you think deals with relationships?
Father, I may not let my fists fly, but sometimes I let my words or my thoughts fly. Please help me not to sin in my anger.