Thursday, November 14, 2013

Fact-Checking -- Exodus 21:22

Why?  Why do you have to appease the husband after his wife has the miscarriage?  Why can’t you apply some other form of retaliation?

What happens if you don’t appease the husband?  He goes around with a chip on his shoulder, right?  He’s likely to hit the man who hit his wife, right?  One good knock, right?  Well, what if he still isn’t satisfied after that?
There are some people who are never satisfied, no matter what you do.  Society doesn’t craft its laws to go to all lengths to satisfy them.  There comes a point when the cost to society is too high.  Cultures that do have LT have paid these prices over and over.  Did you ever see that old movie The Godfather?  Michael Corleone got involved in a vendetta and fled the U.S. for Sicily.  He went back to the town that his family left to go to America, and he asked his bodyguard, “Where are all the men?”  The bodyguard pointed to a plaque on the wall with an inscription to the memory of some man who had been the victim of a similar vendetta.  The men in the town were all dead from vendetta.  That’s LT in action in the 20th century.  (Yes, I know it’s a movie and takes things to extremes for entertainment value.)

Or if you read the Icelandic sagas, you may have read Eyrbiggja Saga.  You should.  Originally in Iceland they had a thing where B had the option of accepting damages or committing retaliation.  Those vendettas got handed down, too, until either the last man was dead or one of them bought a clue and decided money was better than seeing the blood of the other man spilled.  That’s LT in the time of Norwegian King Harald Fair-Hair.
Judaism got rid of LT at least 2500 years ago, probably more like 4000, and possibly, as I said, back before writing existed at all.  So Exodus 21:18-19 and 22 say pay the damages.  You have no other choice.  Society refuses to pay the costs of having all these people disabled, even temporarily, of having them thrown out of work and not bringing in any money, of having productivity drop while they’re off work, of having them possibly die, leaving widows and orphans.  We’re not going to stand for it.  Pay the money until the guy gets well.  If he doesn’t think you’re quits, so much the worse for him.

Legal systems are there to run the society, not fulfill every last wish of every individual’s heart.  A person who lives by the principle “my way or the highway,” may die by that principle if he carries it to extremes.  We’ll get to that some time later.  For now, there is no LT in Judaism.
But I still haven’t explained verses 24-25 yet, have I?

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved


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