"Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart." Psalm 119:2
Text: Exodus 21 : 23-25
The law that the Lord gave to Moses here is often called the Lex Talionis. (The word “talion” may be explained as “A punishment identical to the offense” – American Heritage Dictionary). It is stated thus:
“But if any harm follows, then you shall give
Life for life, eye for eye,
Tooth for tooth, hand for hand,
Foot for foot, burn for burn,
wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”
1. Seemingly harsh
At first glance, this law seems very forbidding and harsh! Yet, on closer examination, this law has much merit!
2. Punishment identical to the offense
a) The nature of the offense is highlighted.
b) The punishment meted out would function as a deterrent to other would-be offenders.
c) Excessive punishment is prevented!
THE PRINCIPLE BEHIND THE LEX TALIONIS
How may we understand this Law at a deeper level? Perhaps it would be worthwhile to attempt an answer by raising the following questions:-
1. Did the law delight in hurting the offender?
The answer must be “NO”! The law does not delight in taking out someone’s eye! No one delights in seeing another person losing a hand, or a foot!
2. Would there be adequate compensation
It is possible that the aggrieved party may make certain demands from the guilty! He may not wish to see the offender lose a vital part of the body. But he is entitled to compensation. He may request that the judges mete out a penalty that would be “adequate and fair” compensation for the losses that he has incurred!
3. Would the law be fairly applied?
The law that God gave ensured fair and full justice! Anything less than that would be injustice! The Lex Talionis was an excellent principle to guide judges in determining the penalty for the crime committed! However, should the judgment be an actual amputation of a hand or a foot, that would still be permissible and possible according to the law!