Eye for an Eye
What kind of justice does God dispense? Is it based on a so-labeled cruel Old Testament JEWISH law? The mainstream Christian Churches teach that the Messiah came to do away with that law. That's preposterous! Without law as a foundation, there can be no justice. The Messiah explicitly said:
5 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil (Matthew 5:17).
It's commonly preached that the Messiah condemned the Old Testament justice system, when actually He tried to set them straight in the way that the people of His day were abusing it by literally revenging on one another under the umbrella of justification by their perverted version of the eye-for-eye commandment:
38 Ye have heard that it hath been said [their oral law - the TALMUD], An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also (Matthew 5:38-40).
He's not at all belittling, but rather correcting an abuse of the Scriptural eye-for-an-eye principle, which the Romans called Lex Talionis. The Pharisaic rulers of His day were advocating it for settling personal disputes, whereby individuals were taking justice into their own hands. The Messiah said that was not His intent when He gave it to their forefathers. Considered by many to be barbaric, primitive, and Jewish; the eye-for-an-eye principle is - on the contrary - the basis for God's system of judgment of civil law, for ruling a nation:
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 (Exodus 21:22-25).
19 And if a man cause a blemish in his neighbour; as he hath done, so shall it be done to him; 20 Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth: as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again (Leviticus 24 19-20).
16 If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong; 17 Then both the men, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days; 18 And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother; 19 Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you (Deuteronomy 19:16-19).
The principles of the 'eye-for-eye' law have their foundational roots in equal justice as provided by equal payment for damages done. God established this principle in order for judges to be able to be merciful in evaluating the circumstances of the crime thus rendering a fair and just decision in cases of sin against other men.
This does not mean that if Paul punches Joe on his nose, that Joe then needs to return the punch to Paul's nose. The Messiah reminded them to not render evil with evil (Matthew 5:39; Romans 12:16-21; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 1 Peter 3:8-13). These Scriptures echo the commandments of Leviticus 19:18 and Deuteronomy 32:35, in that vengeance always belonged to God.
The eye-for-eye principle requires punishment fitting the crime as determined by a judge, which the Messiah reminded them of:
25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. 26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing (Mathew 5:25-26).
It's the basis for evenhanded justice, demanding fair compensation for damages done. As implemented in God's law, the eye-for-eye principle was enforced with a system of fines, with the money, or damages, paid to the injured party, not to the state:
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 (Exodus 21:28-32).
Though it was to be the basic law, a judge had the power to give mercy. For instance, if he determined that Joe had provoked Paul into punching him, he had the power to show mercy along with the payment required from Paul. Likewise - on the flipside - if Joe was innocent and turned his other cheek instead of revenging on Paul (Matthew 5:39), the Judge was to base his decision accordingly, thus considering mercy to Joe in the judgment.
The Messiah emphasized the proper intent of the Old Testament TORAH principle of mercy. He specifically stated that those morals came from the laws of old, upon which the common golden rule 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you' is based (Matthew 7:12; read also Luke 6:31; Leviticus 19:18). In God's judgment of us, He applies the same principles. For instance, when we deserve death for transgressing His laws, He shows us mercy by offering the Messiah's blood to cover those transgressions, thus forgoing the strict application of the eye-for-an-eye principle and instead extend His mercy on repentant people:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9; read also Acts 2:38; 3:19). This echoes a principle of mercy from the Torah law referring to the God of grace who forgives the sins of such who repent of their transgressions and turn back to His ways (2 Chronicles 7:14; Ezekiel 18).
But, if we remain unrepentant, God will judge us accordingly:
For the wages of sin is death... (Romans 6:23; read also James 1:15); the death sentence for sinning (Genesis 2:17).
God is law, and law demands justice. If a man gets hurt on my property because that I neglected an obvious hazard, God holds me accountable for that injury:
When thou buildest a new house, then thou shalt make a battlement for thy roof, that thou bring not blood upon thine house, if any man fall from thence (Deuteronomy 22:8).
Amos told the Israelites that it was too late - they had gone too far for too long in blatantly refusing correction and warning by rejecting His instructions. As God's retribution for rejecting His revelation to them of His way of life, He warned them through Amos that an invading foe was coming against the whole Nation of Israelites:
3:11 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; An adversary there shall be even round about the land; and he shall bring down thy strength from thee, and thy palaces shall be spoiled. ...6:14 But, behold, I will raise up against you a nation, O house of Israel, saith the LORD the God of hosts; and they shall afflict you from the entering in of Hemath unto the river of the wilderness. ...8:2 And he said, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A basket of summer fruit. Then said the LORD unto me, The end is come upon my people of Israel; I will not again pass by them any more. 3 And the songs of the temple shall be howlings in that day, saith the Lord GOD: there shall be many dead bodies in every place; they shall cast them forth with silence (Amos 3:11; 6:14; 8:2-3). Thus the 'eye for eye' principle was applied.
God purchased (Deuteronomy 32:6; 1 Corinthians 7:23), and married (Jeremiah 3:14; 31:32) the Israelites, and hence He wrote them a bill of divorcement because of their continually committing adultery with the pagan customs and traditions around them:
And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also (Jeremiah 3:8; read also Ezekiel 8-10; 28-35, & Ezekiel chapter 16). Paul summed up the cause for that way of life as idolatry (Colossians 3:5).
Just like throughout ancient times (1 Kings 19:18), God has reserved a remnant who have not worshipped Baal and have remained faithful to Him (Ezekiel 6:8; Romans 11:5).
So, God demonstrated - through Amos - the eye-for-eye principle being brought to bear against the nation of His people for their continual transgressions with a proud heart, which constituted an unrepentant attitude toward their Husband.
Since their husband later died on the tree of Calvary, that bill of divorce became void (Romans 7:2; 1 Corinthians 7:39). And to yet again show His unending mercy, God will accept them back again - they may marry Him again - if they so choose, as Paul explained in detail in Romans chapter 11; which is based on past, present, and future prophecies. But if they remain unrepentant, God will - by applying the principles of His EYE-FOR-EYE law - give them their due in the great white throne judgment, which is eternal death.
Thus, contrary as it might seem to common teaching, we can see without a shadow of doubt, that God's laws HAVE NOT and WILL NOT change - PERIOD!
Prepared in Nashville, Tennessee, by Cornie Banman, during the 2013 Feast of Tabernacles. Rev Oct 2018.