Bodily Injuries
Exodus 21:18-36
And if men strive together, and one smite another with a stone, or with his fist, and he die not, but keeps his bed:…

The laws in this section may be thus classified: -


1. Strivers (vers. 18, 19). The man who injured another in strife was required to pay for the loss of his time, and to cause him to be thoroughly healed. Had the man died, the case would have come under the law of ver. 12. As it was, blame attached to both parties, and the law waived the right to further satisfaction. Note -

(1) One way of atoning for wrong is to seek in every way in our power to undo the mischief we have caused. This, alas! cannot always be accomplished. Not always is "thorough healing" - whether bodily, mental, or moral - possible. So far as it is possible we are bound to attempt it.

(2) Justice obtains her highest satisfaction when the wrongdoer can be made to contribute to the undoing of his own wrong. This principle might be more acted on than it is.

2. Servants (vers. 20, 21; 26, 27). A master was not to be allowed to injure with impunity even a slave purchased with his "money." If the slave was wantonly murdered, the case would come under the law of murder. If he died under chastisement, the master was punished at discretion of the judges. If the slave was in any way maimed, he obtained his freedom. It has been remarked that this is the earliest certain trace of legislation for the protection of the slave. See below.

3. A woman with child (vers. 22-26). The injury here is indirect. The woman is hurt in interfering in the strife between two men. Yet the law holds the man who has injured her responsible for his fault, and decrees that he shall pay heavy damages. If evil effects follow, he is to be punished under the jus talionis.

II. INJURIES BY BEASTS. The distinction formerly observed as made by the law between voluntary and involuntary actions (vers. 13, 14) meets here with fresh illustrations.

1. If an ox gore a man or a woman, and the gored person dies, the ox is to be stoned - a testimony to the sacredness of human life (cf. Genesis 9:5), but the owner shall be quit (ver. 28).

2. If, however, the owner had been previously warned of the dangerous habits of the animal, and had not kept it in, there devolved on him the entire responsibility of the fatal occurrence.

(1) If the person gored was a free Israelite (male or female), the life of the owner of the ox was forfeited; but an opportunity was given him of redeeming it by payment of a ransom (vers. 29-32).

(2) If the person gored was a slave, the owner of the ox had to compensate the owner of the slave for the loss of his servant. The price fixed was thirty shekels of silver (ver. 32). In either case the ox was to be stoned.

III. INJURIES TO BEASTS. The same principles of equity apply here.

1. If an ox or an ass fall into a pit which has been carelessly left uncovered, the owner of the pit is required to pay in full (vers. 33, 34).

2. If one man''s ox kill another' s, the loss is to fall equally on both owners (ver. 35).

3. If the owner of the ox was aware of its propensity to gore, and had not kept it in, he must, as before, bear the whole loss (ver. 36). The equity of this series of precepts is not more conspicuous than their humanity. The important lesson taught by these enactments is, that we cannot evade responsibility for our actions. Our actions abide with us. They cleave to us. We cannot shake ourselves rid of them. We are responsible, not only for the actions themselves, but for the consequences which flow from them - for the influences they set in motion. And we are responsible, not only for direct, but for indirect consequences (ver. 22). Involuntary acts are not imputed to us, but all voluntary ones are. We are responsible, as well for what we do not do (having the power to do it), as for what we actually perform. We are responsible for the effects of negligence and carelessness. These principles have wide application. They cover the whole range of conduct. They apply to the moral sphere as well as to the physical. They apply, not simply to definite acts, but to the entire influence exerted by our lives. What a responsibility is this! Only grace will enable us to bear its burden. - J.O.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And if men strive together, and one smite another with a stone, or with his fist, and he die not, but keepeth his bed:

WEB: "If men quarrel and one strikes the other with a stone, or with his fist, and he doesn't die, but is confined to bed;

Unrighteousness of Slave Holding
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