20 And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished.
21 Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.
22 If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.
23 And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life,
24 Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
25 Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
26 And if a man smite the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, that it perish; he shall let him go free for his eye’s sake.
27 And if he smite out his manservant’s tooth, or his maidservant’s tooth; he shall let him go free for his tooth’s sake.
K.J.V. Bible Text
Today’s reading continues with God’s instructions to Moses for the punishment of those who commit violent crimes. We learn that a man who smites his servant or maid with a rod, causing their death, must be punished. However, if the servant or maid is not instantly killed but continues on for a day or two the master shall not be punished because the servant is his property.
If men fight and cause a woman with child to lose her pregnancy and the woman survives, he must pay the woman’s husband what the judges determine.
Then come the penalties we have all heard many times:
“24 Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
25 Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”
And finally, we learn that if a man causes the loss of his manservant’s eye or tooth the servant shall be let free.
I am struck by the involvement of our Lord with his people, the Children of Israel. I believe that the details in the law were very simple so that the Israelites did not have to consider the morality of their actions. The rules were very clear and simple which was probably necessary for a people who had been enslaved for hundreds of years and may have been unused to making considered decisions. Carefully following the rules set for them by the Lord would lead to success and order in their lives whether they understood the ramifications of their actions or not.
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