Exodus 21:18-36, 22:1
James 4:1-3: When my desire collides with the desire of someone else it leads to conflict. We need justice, and it’s in G-d’s word that we are taught what is just and what is unjust.
v18-19: This conflict is physical in nature. A man is injured, bed ridden (temporarily), but recovers. The judgement is that the one who struck him is exonerated, but is required to compensate him for the time he was unable to work.
v20: Rods were used for discipline. Most people believe that this verse means the master should be put to death if his servant dies at the time of the beating.
v21: However, if there’s no lasting injury then things go back to the way they were.
v22: This is a conflict that gets out of hand. The baby is born early but lives (no catastrophe/death takes place), so compensation is paid by the man at fault for any injury or harm. Right justice is served.
v23: When a child in the womb dies from a hit/strike/an accident (as in the case above) etc from G-d’s standpoint it is a catastrophe, it is a big deal -especially when it’s caused by someone else (even by accident as in this case – abortion is caused with “intent to kill” in our day and age) – the person causing death needed to die (his life for the baby’s life). This verse elevates the life of an unborn CHILD in the womb.
v24-25: This verse does not mean that if someone causes me to lose my eye he must lose his eye etc. This speaks of there needing to be an equality to the punishment – most scholars see this as financial compensation. The value of the eye, foot, etc was determined by the elders.
v26-27: Here we see the principle of compensation (in this case, the payment being freedom) at play – the limbs of the offender remain intact, as discussed above (these two verses help us to interpret v24-25 and show that we have reached an accurate conclusion – Scripture must interpret Scripture). The master was responsible for his slaves wellbeing. Slaves had to be well looked after.
v28: A man or a woman: There is equality between males and females (different roles, but equal as humans)
· An animal killed by a bow/arrow/gun/stones etc would not qualify as a “kosher” animal. It would not be allowed to be eaten as it had to be killed in the proper (kosher) way.
· The owner of the ox is not liable for the death of the person – but the owner does lose the value of the ox.
v29: If this ox was known to be violent and the owner knows but does nothing about it (negligent) then the owner’s life will also be taken from him if the ox kills anyone. As much as it is within our ability we need to take precautions to ensure injury/death doesn’t occur to others.
v30: if the dead persons family don’t insist on the owners death but are willing to take compensation for the deceased’s life then the owner can redeem his own life by paying them the compensation they require and agree upon.
v31: It doesn’t mean that if it’s a child there’s a different punishment. Adults, children, unborn were all treated as equal in value.
v32: If the ox kills a man’s slave (male or female) then their owner is compensated for his financial loss.
v33-34: Another type of negligence. The animal, after compensation, becomes the negligent man’s property. It would not be allowed to be eaten, but its fur, horns etc could be traded for finance.
v35: The live ox is sold for slaughter. It is not sold to someone else. In this way it can no longer cause more fights with other oxen.
v36: If the owner knew that his ox was a fighter but did nothing about it then he doesn’t benefit from the payment of the live ox – he only receives the dead animal (for fur, horns etc)
22v1: This is v37 in the Hebrew Bible (the last verse of chapter 21). The principle of restitution.
Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-9) relied upon this principle when he returned what he had defrauded.
All of these right judgments bring order into society. Good judgement brings about unity in a community.