Deuteronomy 19: An Eye for an Eye?

Deuteronomy 19 brings back another controversial thought that seems to come under fire very often in popular culture.

Deu 19:21  And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

Many people will take this verse out of context. They will see this verse and say, “Where’s the forgiveness?”

If people had read the entire chapter, it might make a little more sense. Basically, Moses was telling the people not to shed innocent blood.

Because it was presented in this way, it seems as if there was a problem of killing people or at least overreacting. By emphasizing an eye for an eye, God is essentially saying through Moses that even if somebody chopped off somebody else’s hand, his punishment should only be equal to his offense.

Because of the chapter that this verse is set in, it makes a lot more sense to believe that the tendency was to overreact and try to repay any type of pain with far greater pain.

Now, it is worth mentioning that Jesus came to earth and spoke about the same issue.

Mat 5:38  Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

Mat 5:39  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.

While some might say that Jesus was contradicting what God had said in the past, that really is not true. When I read this passage, it felt a lot more like a person who is taking justice into his or her own hands. Jesus is not condemning the justice system. However, He is essentially calling us to not even think about vengeance.

That fact fits in very well with another important Biblical thought.

Rom 12:19  Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

Rom 12:20  Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.

Rom 12:21  Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

So, I hope that this does kind of make sense. For the legal and judicial sense, the law in Deuteronomy makes sense. It is the job of the leaders of the people to administer justice like Moses did. They needed to ensure that the law is fair.

However, in our everyday life, we are not supposed to take vengeance. We need to treat everyone with love, and vengeance belongs to God.


Posted on January 10, 2013, in Deuteronomy and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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