/ / / Eye for an Eye or Turn the Other Cheek? {Leviticus 24}

Eye for an Eye or Turn the Other Cheek? {Leviticus 24}

In Leviticus we read about an eye for an eye, but Jesus said turn the other cheek. This is how should a Christian respond when they are offended?. #Biblestudy #Leviticus #WomensBibleStudy #GoodMorningGirls

As we near the end of our study in Leviticus we find a familiar phrase…

“An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”

Let’s look at this phrase in its context.

Leviticus 24:17-21 says:

“Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death.
Whoever takes an animal’s life shall make it good, life for life.

If anyone injures his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him, fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given to him.

Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, and whoever kills a person shall be put to death. You shall have the same rule for the sojourner and for the native, for I am the Lord your God.”

Imagine a culture with no police or judges…and a neighbor knocks your kid’s tooth out.

In an act of a vengeance, you may request a penalty too severe for the crime. So, God set up a system to protect the Israelites from too severe or too minor of consequences.  The punishment was to fit the crime…an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

This law was not meant to be seen as an act of vengeance but rather it was to check vengeance.  It was to restrain man from being out of control and in anger – giving too severe of punishment.

Now we come to the New Testament and find Jesus quoting from Leviticus 24 in Matthew 5:38-42.  Jesus says:

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

OH my – this was revolutionary!  And to the teachers of the law, highly offensive.

Please note that Jesus does not reference the life for a life law.  He does not remove capital punishment but rather he focuses on insults and offenses such as a slap on the cheek, a law suit, going an extra mile, and one who asks for money.

Jesus is not referring to what the government or a judge should do but rather how a disciple of Christ should respond when she is offended.

You may wonder, who would sue for a tunic or robe but we see in Exodus 22:25-27, robes were used as a sort of down payment for a loan.  And what is meant by being forced to go an extra mile?  Under Roman Law the soldiers could force individuals to carry heavy loads for them.  The Jewish people despised this practice. So Jesus was saying rather than refusing or complaining, be willing to carry their backpack an extra mile.

Jesus gives various examples, so we can see the principle of refraining from retaliation and actually returning a blessing!

We are meant to be peacemakers.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Matthew 5:9

Oh friends, I know how tempting retaliation can be.

We’ve all been there…

-a car cuts us off on the highway and we are ready to race ahead and cut them off.

-a person insults us with their words and we are tempted to return an insult.

-a person steals from us and we are tempted to sue.

-a person lies about us and we are tempted to retaliate.

-a boss is overly demanding and puts a heavy workload on us and we are tempted to refuse.

-a person borrows money from us and never repays and we are tempted to demand a hefty repayment.

I have to admit, somedays, being a Christian is really really hard.  Choosing to be kind in the face of evil is not a walk in the park. It takes the supernatural power of God to return an insult with a blessing or to forgive someone who has clearly wronged you.

But Jesus…

As Jesus hung nailed to the cross He said:

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Luke 23:34

Forgiveness…it can be so very very hard.  I know.  We want to fight for justice, for truth to win, for consequences to fit the crime and wrongs to be righted.

But Romans 12:17-21 says:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

On the contrary:  “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Live at peace with everyone.

Do not take revenge.

Overcome evil with good.

May we follow in the footsteps of our Savior and forgive those who have wronged us.

**Chime In**

Have you been in a situation this week where you had to make a choice – to retaliate or turn the other cheek?

Why is this such a hard teaching?

Here are some other resources that might encourage you:

How to Deal With Wounding In the Church – Part 1

How to Deal With Wounding In the Church – Part 2

Does forgiveness mean you have to have a relationship with them?

Releasing the Pain that Another Has Caused You

Walk with the King,

Courtney

13 Comments

  1. Wow! That was very insightful! Great response as well for nonbelievers who reference these scriptures to suggest that God is cruel and unloving. Thank you!

  2. This reading today and the scripture verses referenced on living in peace with one another have given me a new light of understanding, a different way of perceiving them. Previously, I mostly thought from these verses of my helping those at odds with one another make peace, but now I see them more clearly as having an attitude of peace that I carry, that I take up with me everyday as I go about my day in how I think of and perceive the behaviors and words from and of others; and then how I am to respond, to interact with them in word and in deed according to what God expects of me based on His word of peace and love. Amen

  3. Since my last name is Cheek, I couldn’t resist chiming in! The words of Jesus on this subject that you have delved into for us are what hold me back when my initial impulse is to retaliate. I still do some fuming on the inside, but I am learning to hold my tongue because I know that is what God would have me do.

    1. Instead ask yourself “what might of this person endured in his or her life to make them this way, what unimagineable horrors might of happened to them, to make them so cold and unfeeling. When you do this you will begin to see yourself in everybody and in turn become more understanding,sympathetic,compassionate,forgiving…loving one another,the true will of our heavenly Father. All you need is love, love is all you need.

  4. I’ve never heard those insights about the “eye for an eye” passage, wow! This is a revolutionary post. Thank you!

  5. Courtney I love how you broke this down. Such a revelation. Thank you for letting God use you. ..you are an awesome teacher and a great inspiration! !! Be blessed my sister!!!!

  6. So grateful for your blogging. I love the God is ministering to us through your sharing. It is such a risk to humble yourself and share your thoughts in a blog and yet you do it consistently. Pride keeps so many of us from sharing. I praise God for instilling that humble attitude in you that allows you do what you do. We benefit greatly. Thank you for your continued faithfulness.

  7. These verses in Leviticus are a repetition of Ex 21 where an eye for an eye is clearly explained,..

    The first example clearly shows it is talking about monetary compensation,…

    18 “If people quarrel and one person hits another with a stone or with their fist[d] and the victim does not die but is confined to bed, 19 the one who struck the blow will not be held liable if the other can get up and walk around outside with a staff; however, the guilty party must PAY the injured person for any loss of time and see that the victim is completely healed

    Just like spanking a child you can “spank” a servant. But if there was a bruise or scratch that lasted more than two days it is abuse,…And the owner can be punished or even put to death,..

    20 “Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, 21 but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.

    Here again G-d is speaking about monetary compensation,…

    22 “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely[e] but there is no serious injury, the offender must be FINED whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. 23 But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

    And here an owner must free a servant if his eye is lost,…

    26 “An owner who hits a male or female slave in the eye and destroys it must let the slave go free to compensate for the eye. 27 And an owner who knocks out the tooth of a male or female slave must let the slave go free to compensate for the tooth.

    So clearly an eye for an eye is not literal, it is referring to criminal cases and monetary compensation.

    The only one that is literal is a life for life. Because it says above, in Genesis, and other places that one is liable to the death penalty for murder.

  8. Eye for an eye is still vengeance. Restraining vengeance is still vengeance. Leviticus shows that eye for an eye is ok to do vengeance in God’s law. If you believe this level of vengeance is wrong, then you believe Leviticus is wrong, nothing else there. If God was not ok with that, could not he have said something else? Like turn the other cheek in Leviticus rather than the new testament. Instead of saying, only remove the eye, he could have said, stop the cycle here, why wait for the new testament?

    1. I feel that people may not have fully understood what God spoke unto Moses in Leviticus and thus He needed to clarify in Matthew. We, the human race, always seem to wish to focus inward on self rather than outward on the Lord. It does not specify in Leviticus that it is man’s (humankind’s) place to seek an eye for an eye rather, I feel, He is reserving that for Himself to follow through on in His time {Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.}

      When reading the Bible and trying to follow His teachings, I must always remind myself of the following: God speaking to me is sometimes like me trying to communicate with a newborn baby and God’s Universe and Awe is truly a Mystery ❤️

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