Exodus 21:22
If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(22-25) A personal injury peculiar to women—a hurt producing miscarriage—is here considered. The miscarriage might cost the woman her life, in which case the man who caused it was to suffer death (Exodus 21:23); or it might have no further ill result than the loss of the child. In this latter case the penalty was to be a fine, assessed by the husband with the consent of the judge (Exodus 21:22). The death penalty, where the woman died, is clearly excessive, and probably belongs to the pre-Mosaic legislation, which required “life for life” in every case.

(22) If men strive, and hurt a woman with child.—It is assumed that this hurt would probably take place through the interference of a pregnant wife in some strife wherein her husband was engaged. It would almost certainly be accidental.

And yet no mischief followi.e., no further mischief—nothing beyond the loss of the child.

(22, 23) Life for life, eye for eye.—It is a reasonable conjecture that the law of retaliation was much older than Moses, and accepted by him as tolerable rather than devised as rightful. The law itself was very widely spread. Traces of it are found in India, in Egypt, among the Greeks, and in the laws of the Twelve Tables. Aristotle says that the Pythagoreans approved it, and that it was believed to be the rule by which Rhadamanthus administered justice in the other world. There is, primâ facie, a semblance of exact rectitude and equality about it which captivates rude minds, and causes the adoption of the rule generally in an early condition of society. Theoretically, retaliation is the exactest and strictest justice; but in practice difficulties arise. How is the force of a blow to be measured? How are exactly similar burns and wounds to be inflicted? Is eye to be given for eye when the injurer is a one-eyed man? And, again, is it expedient for law to multiply the number of mutilated citizens in a community? Considerations of these kinds cause the rule to be discarded as soon as civilisation reaches a certain point, and tend generally to the substitution of a money compensation, to be paid to the injured party by the injurer. The present passage sanctioned the law of retaliation in principle, but authorised its enforcement in a single case only. In a later part of the Mosaic code the application was made universal (Leviticus 24:17-21; Deuteronomy 19:21).

Exodus 21:22-23. And yet no mischief follow — That is, if the woman die not, as appears from the next verse, or the child was not formed and alive in the womb; he shall be surely punished — The woman’s husband shall impose the fine, and if it be unreasonable, the judges shall have a power to moderate it. If any mischief follow — If the woman die, or if the child was formed and alive, the offender was to be punished with death. Thou shalt give life for life — By the judgment of the magistrate.21:22-36 The cases here mentioned give rules of justice then, and still in use, for deciding similar matters. We are taught by these laws, that we must be very careful to do no wrong, either directly or indirectly. If we have done wrong, we must be very willing to make it good, and be desirous that nobody may lose by us.The rule would seem to refer to a case in which the wife of a man interfered in a quarrel. This law, "the jus talionis," is elsewhere repeated in substance, compare the marginal references. and Genesis 9:6. It has its root in a simple conception of justice, and is found in the laws of many ancient nations. It serves in this place as a maxim for the magistrate in awarding the amount of compensation to be paid for the infliction of personal injury. The sum was to be as nearly as possible the worth in money of the power lost by the injured person. Our Lord quotes Exodus 21:24 as representing the form of the law, in order to illustrate the distinction between the letter and the spirit Matthew 5:38. The tendency of the teaching of the Scribes and Pharisees was to confound the obligations of the conscience with the external requirements of the law. The law, in its place, was still to be "holy and just and good," Romans 7:12, but its direct purpose was to protect the community, not to guide the heart of the believer, who was not to exact eye for eye, tooth for tooth, but to love his enemies, and to forgive all injuries. Ex 21:7-36. Laws for Maidservants.

7-11. if a man sell his daughter—Hebrew girls might be redeemed for a reasonable sum. But in the event of her parents or friends being unable to pay the redemption money, her owner was not at liberty to sell her elsewhere. Should she have been betrothed to him or his son, and either change their minds, a maintenance must be provided for her suitable to her condition as his intended wife, or her freedom instantly granted.

A woman with child, to wit, the wife of the other person, who interposed herself to succour her husband.

No mischief follow, neither to the woman nor child; for it is generally so as to reach both, in case the abortive had life in it.

The husband shall impose the fine, and if it be unreasonable, the judges shall have a power to moderate it. If men strive,.... Quarrel and fight with one another, which is to be understood of Hebrews, as Aben Ezra observes:

and hurt a woman with child; who being the wife of one of them, and also an Israelitish woman, interposes to part them, or help her husband; but the other, instead of striking his antagonist as he intended, gives her a blow:

so that her fruit depart from her; or, "her children go forth" (z), out of her womb, as she may have more than one; through the fright of the quarrel, and fear of her husband being hurt, and the blow she received by interposing, might miscarry, or, falling into labour, come before her time, and bring forth her offspring sooner than expected:

and yet no mischief follow: to her, as the Targum of Jonathan, and so Jarchi and Aben Ezra restrain it to the woman; and which mischief they interpret of death, as does also the Targum of Onkelos; but it may refer both to the woman and her offspring, and not only to the death of them, but to any hurt or damage to either of them: now though there was none of any sort:

he shall surely be punished; that is, be fined or mulcted for striking the woman, and hastening the childbirth:

according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine; the husband might propose what fine should be paid, and might ask it in court; and if the smiter agreed to it, well and good, but if he judged it an exorbitant demand, he might appeal to the judges; for the husband might not lay what fine he pleased: this, if disputed, was to be decided by the judges, and as they determined it, it was paid; of which Maimonides (a) gives this account:"he that strikes a woman, and her fruit depart, though he did not intend it, is obliged to pay the price of the birth to the husband, and for hurt and pain to the woman; how do they estimate the price of the birth? they consider the woman how well she was before she brought forth, and how well she is after she has brought forth, and they give it to the husband; if the husband be dead, they give it to the heirs; if she is stricken after the death of her husband, they give the price of the birth to the woman.''

(z) "et egressi fuerint nati ejus", Pagninus, Montanus, Vatablus, Drusius. (a) Hilchot Chobel Umazzik, c. 4. sect. 1. 2.

If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no {q} mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.

(q) Or, death: of the mother or child in the event she miscarries. Also the death on the unborn infant.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
22. Injury arising to a pregnant woman out of an affray.

And if men strive together] i.e. quarrel and fight, ch. Exodus 2:13, 2 Samuel 14:6, Psalms 60 title. The same words in Deuteronomy 25:2. Not the verb used in v. 18 (which means only to dispute in words).

hurt] properly, smite or strike (ch. Exodus 8:2; Isaiah 19:22): so v. 35. Probably the woman is to be thought of (as in Deuteronomy 25:11) as intervening to separate the combatants.

her fruit depart] Heb. her children (a generic plural) come forth (Genesis 25:25; Genesis 38:28).

but no (other) mischief happen] i.e. no permanent injury from the miscarriage. ‘Mischief’ (’âsôn, v. 23, Genesis 42:4; Genesis 42:38; Genesis 44:29 †) means some serious, or even (cf. v. 23) fatal, bodily injury.

fined] viz. for the loss of the child, which would have been the parents’ property. Holzinger cites for parallels, among the Arabs, W.R. Smith, ZATW. 1892, p. 163, and among the Kirghissians, in Turkestan, Radloff, Aus Sibirien (1884), p. 524; here, if a pregnant woman is injured so that her child is born dead, the penalty is a horse or a camel according to its age (the penalty for killing a free man being a fine of 100 horses, and for killing a woman or slave, 50 horses).

he shall pay (lit. give) with (the approval of) arbitrators] If the text is correct, the meaning apparently is that the amount of the fine, fixed in the first instance by the woman’s husband, had, before payment, to be submitted to arbitrators, and approved by them. But the word for arbitrators is rare and poetical (Deuteronomy 32:31, Job 31:11 †), the use of the prep. ב is strange, the mention of arbitration is unexpected after the unconditional discretion just given to the husband, nor are any arbitrators mentioned in the similar enactment of v. 30. Under these circumstances the clever suggestion of Budde, בנפלים for בפלילים deserves consideration, he shall pay it for the untimely birth (Job 3:16, Psalm 58:9),—the plural being required on account of the plural ‘children,’ just before (concealed in EVV. by the rend. fruit: the ב pretii, as Deuteronomy 19:21). Cf. Ḥamm. §§ 209–214; Cook, p. 253 f.Verse 22-25. - Assault producing miscarriage. Retaliation. Women in all countries are apt to interfere in the quarrels of men, and run the risk of suffering injuries which proceed from accident rather than design, one such injury being of a peculiar character, to which there is nothing correspondent among the injuries which may be done to man. This is abortion, or miscarriage. The Mosaic legislation sought to protect pregnant women from suffering this injury by providing, first, that if death resulted the offender should suffer death (ver. 23); and, secondly, that if there were no further ill-result than the miscarriage itself, still a fine should be paid, to be assessed by the husband of the injured woman with the consent of the judges (ver. 22). The mention of "life for life," in ver. 23, is followed by an enunciation of the general "law of retaliation," applied here (it would seem) to the special case in hand, but elsewhere (Leviticus 24:19, 20) extended so as to be a fundamental law, applicable to all cases of personal injury. Verse 22. - If men strive and hurt a woman. A chance hurt is clearly intended, not one done on purpose. So that her fruit depart from her. So that she be prematurely delivered of a dead child. And no mischief follow. "Mischief" here means "death," as in Genesis 42:4, 38; Genesis 44:29. He shall pay as the judges determine. He was not to be wholly at the mercy of the injured father. If he thought the sum demanded was excessive, there was to be an appeal to a tribunal. "But he who acts presumptuously against his neighbour, to slay him with guile, thou shalt take him from Mine altar that he may die." These words are not to be understood as meaning, that only intentional and treacherous killing was to be punished with death; but, without restricting the general rule in Exodus 21:12, they are to be interpreted from their antithesis to Exodus 21:13, as signifying that even the altar of Jehovah was not to protect a man who had committed intentional murder, and carried out his purpose with treachery. (More on this point at Numbers 35:16.) By this regulation, the idea, which was common to the Hebrews and many other nations, that the altar as God's abode afforded protection to any life that was in danger from men, was brought back to the true measure of its validity, and the place of expiation for sins of weakness (cf. Leviticus 4:2; Leviticus 5:15, Leviticus 5:18; Numbers 15:27-31) was prevented from being abused by being made a place of refuge for criminals who were deserving of death. Maltreatment of a father and mother through striking (Exodus 21:15), man-stealing (Exodus 21:16), and cursing parents (Exodus 21:17, cf. Leviticus 20:9), were all to be placed on a par with murder, and punished in the same way. By the "smiting" (הכּה) of parents we are not to understand smiting to death, for in that case ומת would be added as in Exodus 21:12, but any kind of maltreatment. The murder of parents is not mentioned at all, as not likely to occur and hardly conceivable. The cursing (קלּל as in Genesis 12:3) of parents is placed on a par with smiting, because it proceeds from the same disposition; and both were to be punished with death, because the majesty of God was violated in the persons of the parents (cf. Exodus 20:12). Man-stealing was also no less a crime, being a sin against the dignity of man, and a violation of the image of God. For אישׁ "a man," we find in Deuteronomy 24:7, נפשׁ "a soul," by which both man and woman are intended, and the still more definite limitation, "of his brethren of the children of Israel." The crime remained the same whether he had sold him (the stolen man), or whether he was still found in his hand. (For ו - ו as a sign of an alternative in the linking together of short sentences, see Proverbs 29:9, and Ewald, 361.) This is the rendering adopted by most of the earlier translators, and we get no intelligent sense if we divide the clauses thus: "and sell him so that he is found in his hand."
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