Theology Corner

Addressing commonly asked questions about Christianity from the perspective of a non-theologian

54. IS RETALIATION IN KIND THE LAW OF GOD?

The so-called Law of Retaliation is found in Ex 21:23-25.

But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

Does this mean the Israelites were allowed to practice private vendettas and retaliate every time they were personally wronged? 

This passage appears in the section of Exodus addressed to judges (Ex 21:1-22:17) which, in total, provided guidance for civil and criminal magistrates in settling disputes and administering justice.  Personal vendettas were prohibited by Ex 21:26-27.  The text in Ex 21:23-25 simply means that compensations paid were to match damages inflicted; in other words, these verses defined a paradigm for compensation.