Friday, December 6, 2013

Fact-Checking -- Exodus 21:19, Deuteronomy 22:19

So if you were paying attention, you notice that Exodus 21:19 says “his lost wages and doctor’s bills” but 21:22 says something else.  What and how do I know?

I don’t know what your translation says about the man who caused the miscarriage.  In Hebrew, he must be punished, and the verb is the same as in Deuteronomy 22:19.  Deuteronomy 22:19 is about a man who complains that his wife wasn’t a virgin when he married her, and it turns out he lied; he has to pay 100 silver, and “punished” actually means “fined.”  That’s what we call it in English when you do something wrong and you pay money for it.
So in Exodus 21:22, since it uses the same word, the man who hit the woman has to pay a fine.

That’s because in any language, words have consistent meanings from place to place; some have only one meaning.  Some words mean the same thing in Mishnah as in Torah; some words mean the same thing in Modern Israeli Hebrew as they do in Torah.  That’s a history of using the same word to mean the same thing over the period from 3500 years BP until it was written into the Mishnah by 1500 years BP.  If it means the same thing, it means the same thing.  (Don’t argue with me over dates yet, you don’t have all the facts.  Trust me.  You can’t learn this all in one swallow any more than you can eat a whole cheesecake in one bite.  We’ll get to the archaeology later.)
Why doesn’t it say a fine in Exodus 21:19?  Because it doesn’t.  It gives two specific categories of payments the hitter owes to the hittee.  Mishnah actually adds three additional categories but we won’t worry about those right now.  The point is that Exodus 21:24-25 does not have a verb; so we had to look at the larger context to find a verb; we found the verbs in Exodus 21:18 and Exodus 21:22, and they say that the person involved in the fight gets his doctor bills and lost wages paid, and the person who was an innocent bystander gets a fine.  (Yes, I know it says it goes to her husband, that’s a later lesson as well.)

What nobody gets is an opportunity for equal retaliation.  The rabbis of the Talmud asked, “How is it right, if a blind man put out somebody’s eye, to put out the eye of the blind man?”  Think about it.  He already can’t see.  He cannot be injured to the same degree as the person whose eye he put out.  He has to pay damages.  He doesn’t get retaliation.
It’s the only way to be fair.  The hittee has to spend money on food and doctors while he recovers.  The hitter pays those costs.  Or the hittee who was an innocent bystander names a fine that the hitter has to pay.  Money is the great equalizer, in law as well as everywhere else.  And in Jewish culture, this has been going on up to 3500 years.

Now I know you’re saying that I took the verse from Deuteronomy out of context but actually, I briefed the context.  And I know you’re saying that I left out Exodus 21:20, 21, and 23, and I did, but those verses have a dual context I will discuss later.  Right now, I want to go back to tachat and show you what it means.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

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