28 If an ox gore a man or a woman, that they die: then the ox shall be surely stoned, and his flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be quit.
29 But if the ox were wont to push with his horn in time past, and it hath been testified to his owner, and he hath not kept him in, but that he hath killed a man or a woman; the ox shall be stoned, and his owner also shall be put to death.
30 If there be laid on him a sum of money, then he shall give for the ransom of his life whatsoever is laid upon him.
31 Whether he have gored a son, or have gored a daughter, according to this judgment shall it be done unto him.
32 If the ox shall push a manservant or a maidservant; he shall give unto their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.
As God continues his instructions for the Children of Israel through his servant Moses, in verse 28 of Exodus 21, we see the rules governing the control of livestock.
If an ox kills someone, it must die and the flesh cannot be eaten but the owner will not be punished. (This seems to insure two things: that the owner of the ox will suffer some financial loss in that he can’t turn the animal into meat and that if the ox has become violent due to an undetected illness, the tainted meat would not be eaten.)
The next verse, No. 29 is what we use today in reference to dog bites—the one bite rule. If the owner knew that ox was prone to pushing people with his horn in the past and yet he didn’t keep him in, the ox will be stoned and the owner also put to death. (Wow! We are not quite that stringent when a dog bites someone today but if our dogs are known to be biters in the past, the owner is subject to punishment just as was the case in this God-sent law.) But wait—the next verse gives the man an out. He can pay a ransom for his life and escape death. And once again, isn’t that just like the courts of today where when we are injured at the hands of someone else—or of their ox as it were—we can go to court and get a judgment against the man whose animal injured us.
Finally, Verse 32: “32 If the ox shall push a manservant or a maidservant; he shall give unto their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.”
There is one overall message here. If you don’t keep your animals in line, you must pay for the damages they do. Once more, a common sense approach for God’s children to live by.
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