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Good Morning.

“Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” (Exodus 21:24-25)

The idea of “an eye for eye, tooth for tooth” has been greatly misunderstood. Some have interpreted this to mean that whatever someone does to hurt another should have the same thing done to them. Frankly, the Bible does not endorse that concept but instructs that there be a fair and just recompense for violence committed against others. For example, if someone blinded another person, the Bible doesn’t recommend that the offender’s eye be put out; it requires that he pay just compensation to the injured person. In fact, Jewish history says that corporal punishment consisted only of lashes and the death penalty, and the latter was used very infrequently.  

It is fair to say that the Bible doesn’t advocate retaliation in the same manner, necessarily, but is alerting us to the fact that the measure one dispenses is the measure that shall be returned to them. If one sows violence, they shall reap violence but not necessarily at the hand of the one they injured. If one seeks to deceive others, they will be deceived but not necessarily as retaliation from the one they deceived. If one judges someone unjustly, the same measure of injustice can come upon them. Jesus alludes to this concept when He warned us to be careful how we judge a matter.

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2)

Though it easy to see the negative application of this law, we should also acknowledge that there is a positive counterpart, as well. For instance, Paul taught that when we sow bountifully we shall also reap bountifully. “So,” he continued, “Let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver”  (2 Corinthians 9:6-7). In other words, in what measure I give, I should expect to receive in like measure.  

So the point is that, like everything we see in Scripture, this “eye for eye” verse is about the condition of our heart. When someone acts for good or bad from their heart, the measure by which they acted will be returned to them in like manner – measure for measure. If we are unforgiving, we are not forgiven. On the other hand, if we forgive, we are forgiven (Luke 6:37). If we are merciful we will be given mercy and if we withhold mercy, it is not likely that we will be shown mercy. So it behooves us all to do good in great measure knowing that good will be returned to us in the same and even greater measure. The Almighty sees all and makes certain that justice is served to the righteous and to the wicked.

Blessings and Shalom,  






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