“If an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox is to be stoned and its flesh not eaten, but the owner of the ox will have no further liability. However, if the ox was in the habit of goring in the past, and the owner was warned but did not confine it, so that it ended up killing a man or a woman; then the ox is to be stoned, and its owner too is to be put to death.-Exodus 21:28-29
The closing chapters of Exodus 21 deal with the harm that animals might cause to humans or other animals and what the consequences should be.
Again the PRINCIPLES being brought to the fore here are the VALUE OF LIFE and PROPER COMPENSATION for resulting damages, which in some cases can be the death penalty.
With regards to beasts of the field, God’s view on the matter is crystal clear.
Any animal that kills a human must die.
And if there are any animal rights advocates out there, sorry guys but I have to let you know that from God’s perspective, human being are ranked above animals in terms of inherent worth.
When a beast of burden fatally harms someone, again the idea of INTENTION comes into play.
If the owner knew his animal had violent tendencies and failed to heed warnings about keeping his unruly beast properly confined, he could be put to death for gross negligence.
This makes sense because the owner is guilty of gross disregard for the lives his neighbors and thus must pay the ultimate penalty.
However, there is an exception when the death penalty can be commuted.
If the animal’s negligent owner (or a relative of the owner) pays a ransom to the family of the person who got gored to death, under some circumstances that can suffice as punishment.
However, here’s the thing.
The negligent animal owner does NOT have a choice in this matter.
It is up to the aggrieved family to decide whether they will accept money or the offender’s life as just punishment.
Again, the principle being emphasized here is that murder requires the death penalty.
However, GROSS NEGLIGENCE is not exactly equivalent to out and out intentional murder.
So a pricey loophole is added.
Now there is a nuanced difference for what happens when stealing occurs.
The compensation to be paid out as punishment far exceeds the value of what was stolen.
“If someone steals an ox or a sheep
and slaughters or sells it,
he is to pay five oxen for an ox
and four sheep for a sheep.”
Again, the reason is because STEALING IS ALWAYS INTENTIONAL.
Keep this point in mind as we move forward in the Scriptures.
Someone who causes loss, physical harm or even death to another INTENTIONALLY is to be dealt with in a much more harsh manner than somebody who caused harm unintentionally or through negligence.
God looks at the heart and the underlying motive behind the actions that were taken.
NEXT TIME WE WILL BEGIN EXODUS CHAPTER 22