Eye for an Eye

Eye for an Eye

We have all read where Y’shua talks about an eye for an eye and turning the other cheek.


Matthew 5:38-42

“You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.  But I tell you, don’t resist an evildoer.  On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.  As for the one who wants to sue you and take away your shirt, let him have your coat as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two.  Give to the one who asks you, and don’t turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.


Did Y’shua change the original law or was He rebuking the oral laws of the Pharisees yet again?


All the laws/instructions from YHWH were written down, but there were laws that the Pharisees had that were called the oral laws or traditions of elders. The mindset of an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth in these times was thought of as a literal stance being used so everyone would be even or fair. With that mindset of thinking, this concept could or would be thought of as in a man insulting another man then that man had the right to insult him back, slap, kick, and so on. This would have brought things to another level in hopes to scare people, no doubt, out of doing them due to the penalty and/or revenge factor involved.


Exodus 21:23-27

If there is an injury, then you must give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, bruise for bruise, wound for wound. “When a man strikes the eye of his male or female slave and destroys it, he must let the slave go free in compensation for his eye. If he knocks out the tooth of his male or female slave, he must let the slave go free in compensation for his tooth.


If you cause a servant to lose an eye or a tooth, then set them free.  This really doesn’t seem like an eye for an eye when you read it in context?  As with other situations involving ancient justice, these things were brought before the judges.  It was never about vigilante justice where one man would pluck out an eye from another man.  It was about the judges of the assembly having to be far with the final judgment.  Basically, it is saying that the punishment should fit the crime.  Let’s continue reading through the next few verses and into chapter 22 to see this unfold more with context.


Exodus 21:28-36

“If an ox gores a man or a woman to death, then the ox shall surely be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be acquitted. But if the ox tended to thrust with its horn in times past, and it has been made known to his owner, and he has not kept it confined, so that it has killed a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned and its owner also shall be put to death. If there is imposed on him a sum of money, then he shall pay to redeem his life, whatever is imposed on him. Whether it has gored a son or gored a daughter, according to this judgment, it shall be done to him. If the ox gores a male or female servant, he shall give to their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned. “And if a man opens a pit, or if a man digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls in it, the owner of the pit shall make it good; he shall give money to their owner, but the dead animal shall be his. “If one man’s ox hurts another’s so that it dies, then they shall sell the live ox and divide the money from it; and the dead ox they shall also divide. Or if it was known that the ox tended to thrust in time past, and its owner has not kept it confined, he shall surely pay ox for ox, and the dead animal shall be his own.


Exodus 22:1-15

“If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, he shall restore five oxen for an ox and four sheep for a sheep. If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed. If the sun has risen on him, there shall be guilt for his bloodshed. He should make full restitution; if he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. If the theft is certainly found alive in his hand, whether it is an ox or donkey or sheep, he shall restore double. “If a man causes a field or vineyard to be grazed, and lets loose his animal, and it feeds in another man’s field, he shall make restitution from the best of his own field and the best of his own vineyard. “If fire breaks out and catches in thorns, so that stacked grain, standing grain, or the field is consumed, he who kindled the fire shall surely make restitution. “If a man delivers to his neighbor money or articles to keep, and it is stolen out of the man’s house, if the thief is found, he shall pay double. If the thief is not found, then the master of the house shall be brought to the judges to see whether he has put his hand into his neighbor’s goods. “For any kind of trespass, whether it concerns an ox, a donkey, a sheep, or clothing, or for any kind of lost thing which another claims to be his, the cause of both parties shall come before the judges; and whomever the judges condemn shall pay double to his neighbor. If a man delivers to his neighbor a donkey, an ox, a sheep, or any animal to keep, and it dies, is hurt, or driven away, no one seeing it, then an oath of the Lord shall be between them both, that he has not put his hand into his neighbor’s goods; and the owner of it shall accept that, and he shall not make it good. But if, in fact, it is stolen from him, he shall make restitution to the owner of it. If it is torn to pieces by a beast, then he shall bring it as evidence, and he shall not make good what was torn. “And if a man borrows anything from his neighbor, and it becomes injured or dies, the owner of it not being with it, he shall surely make it good. If its owner was with it, he shall not make it good; if it was hired, it came for its hire.


YHWH had a system in which every situation was brought before the elders, assembly, and/or the judge and they would cast final judgment through the ruling of what YHWH gave them (Numbers 15:35).  There could NOT be the “buddy system” like you see today where a judge happens to be friends with someone and gives them a lesser sentence.  They were commanded to purge the evil from among them so it would not haunt them. When they didn’t remove the evil, it always turned into a parasite and spread just as it has done in our world today, leading the people into sin.


We are to judge our brothers in righteousness, out of love, when they are in error of YHWH’s instructions but we are not the final judge and if we repay evil with evil we are in the wrong and going against His instructions.


Leviticus 19:15-18

‘You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness, you shall judge your neighbor. You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am YHWH. ‘You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am YHWH.


YHWH is clear that revenge belongs to Him.


Deuteronomy 32:35, 39

Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay.


Romans 12:19-20

Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says YHWH. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head.


What we see is Y’shua rebuking and correcting once again for putting man’s traditions and rules above YHWH’s.  He didn’t come to change the instructions but to teach us how to live them out.



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Posted on August 27, 2015 in Ancient Near East, Answering Tough Questions

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About the Author

Jeremy lives in North Louisiana with his wife and three children. He grew up in Methodist and Baptist churches most of his life. His pastor, who also happened to be his Uncle, started realizing that Torah was still an important part of our relationship with God and began to incorporate Torah into his messages. Jeremy set out on a mission to prove his Uncle wrong and dove head first into the Word. He failed in his quest to disprove his Uncle and came to realize that the whole Word still applies to believers today.

Responses (2)

  1. elegacy3
    November 12, 2015 at 3:47 pm · Reply

    Thank you! This makes so much sense. It’s been preached for so long that Jesus spoke against the Torah and “Old” Testament. But I now understand that Yeshua fulfilled it for us and gave glory to YHWH. I love it 😀

  2. Lloydy
    February 4, 2016 at 7:12 pm · Reply

    Be honest as I know the scriptures as well…….., but isnt It a bit strange that we must love our enemies as this will be worse for them?

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