“… an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Whatever anyone does to injure another person must be paid back in kind.” Leviticus 24:20.
It’s a week since I decided to stop commenting and just quote a verse which jumped out at me from that particular day’s readings. But I’ve become increasingly frustrated with this self-imposed limit.
I can’t use this verse without at least saying why I chose it!
This is a direct challenge to those who say the Bible is the word of God and should be taken literally. Many people believe that criminals who are found guilty without a doubt should be punished accordingly. So, for example, a murderer should be executed for his crime.
This verse seems to support that claim.
But there are those, like myself, who believe that the Bible is the word of God, yes, but some parts are a guideline. A marker. A signpost to a better life.
So what does this mean?
The Law of Moses is so named because he spoke to God and then interpreted that instruction. I’m not saying Moses got it wrong, I’m saying he might have been misquoted. Or simply misunderstood. It is not the Law of God. It is not the Ten Commandments.
This verse comes in the middle of a specific example which is being given regarding the application of the Law. Moses says they should pay someone back in the same way that the injury was committed.
And then they stone a man to death. Had he stoned someone to death first? No, he had blasphemed during a fight. In the heat of the moment, he had sworn a curse. So, by Moses’ own Law he should have been taken out and sworn at. But, no! Moses is asked for his judgement and decrees that the man should be stoned to death.
So were the Israelites a bunch of blood-thirsty ruffians?
Or was God (and Moses by extension) making a point? The people most likely did not want the man to die. They would have felt awful at having to put him to death. The lasting punishment would have been on them as they lived out the rest of their lives with the knowledge of what they had done.
And for ever more they would recall what happens when they dared blaspheme. And they would have stepped back from that brink. Arguments which might have erupted into fighting would have been settled amicably.
So they were all punished. Not by being stoned to death, obviously, but by being there when it happened and knowing that they had all committed the act. One man’s anger lead to them all suffering.