I mentioned earlier that the many laws contained in Exodus 21 and the couple of chapters to follow are far from a comprehensive legal code covering every aspect of life.
This actually makes good sense.
Because the simple truth of the matter is that it would be a billion page law code if God gave a precise law and verdict for every conceivable way and circumstance one person could inflict harm on one another.
While each individual ruling, precept, and commandment is important in and of itself, it is also important to see the underlying patterns and principles behind these commandments that weaves them together in a nice and organized fashion.
More importantly, understanding the principles behind God’s commandments gives you the wisdom to deal with those unpredictable or complex situations that may not be specifically addressed in Scripture.
And let’s face it folks, there are plenty of those.
Life is NOT black and white.
It can sometimes be complex, confusing and very unpredictable.
Fortunately, God’s Torah is the perfect and ONLY guide we need to guide us through all of the complexities that life can and will throw at us, but we need to understand its underlying patterns and principles if we are going to properly handle this powerful weapon (God’s Word) that has been entrusted to us.
So with that thought in mind, I want to introduce one of the key principles woven into verses 18 to 27 that deal with PROTECTION of life.
I’m talking about the Principle of Compensation.
This means that each offense is to have an equal and fair compensation as its consequence.
Now this is somewhat different than our (in America) justice system which has “incarceration” at the center of its judicial system.
The Lord actually sees compensation as superior to imprisonment for the offender.
When the offender is given the opportunity to compensate a victim, it allows him to both continue on with his life AND help and restore the person he has hurt.
However, when you simply throw the offender into prison, it only serves to shame and punish him.
And the victim’s only satisfaction is knowing that the perpetrator is being punished for his crime.
Let’s take a look at a couple of choice verses to see this Principle of Compensation in action.
“If two people fight, and one hits the other with a stone or with his fist, and the injured party doesn’t die but is confined to his bed; then, if he recovers enough to be able to walk around outside, even if with a cane, the attacker will be free of liability, except to compensate him for his loss of time and take responsibility for his care until his recovery is complete.”-Exodus 21:18-19
Notice how if two men get into a fight, and one seriously hurts the other, he is obligated to care for him and bear all of his expenses.
This would also include making up for lost wages.
However, since a fight is obviously a mutual attempt to inflict harm on one another, there is no further obligation.
For all you legal students out there, I’m sure you’d recognize this as being the “Principle of Shared Liability”.