I. INJURIES BY MAN.
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.
can men strive together? Properly looked at that would seem to be the harder question of the two. Coming suddenly upon a line of this kind we should exclaim in surprise, "The assumption is impossible. We must begin our criticism of a statement of this kind by rejecting its probability, and, that being done, there is no case left. How can men strive together? Men are brothers, men are rational creatures, men recognize one another's rights, and interests, and welfare; society is not a competition, but a fraternal and sacred emulation; therefore, the assumption that men can strive together is a false one, and, the foundation being false, the whole edifice totters down." That would-be fine theory, that would be sweet poetry, it might almost be thrown into rhyme, but there are the facts staring us in the face. What are those facts? That all life is a strife, that every man in some way or degree, or at some time, begrudges the room which every other man takes up. The tragedy of Cain and Abel has never ceased, and can never cease until we become children of the Second Adam. Great degrees of modification may, of course, take effect. The vulgarity of smiting may be left to those who are in a low state of life — who are, in fact, in barbarous conditions; but they who smite with the fist are not the cruellest of men. There is a refined smiting — a daily, bitter, malignant opposition; there is a process of mutual undermining, or outreaching, or outrunning, in the very spirit of which is found the purpose of murder. But mark how beneficence enters into the arrangement here laid down. Not only is the man who smote his brother to pay for the loss of his brother's time; that would be a mere cash transaction. There are men ready enough to buy themselves out of any obligation; a handful of gold is nothing. Their language is, "Take it, and let us be free." That would be poor legislation in some cases, though heavy enough in others. To some men money has no meaning; they have outlived all its influences; they are so rich that they can bribe and pay, and secure silence or liberty by a mere outputting of the hand. But the beneficence is in the next clause, "and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed." The man must be made as good as he was before, therefore he must be inquired about; he must be taken an interest in; he must become a quantity in the life of the man who injured him, and, however impartial the man who inflicted the injury may become under such chafing, the impatience itself may be turned to good account. Some men can only be taught philanthropy by such rough and urgent schoolmasters.
If men strive together.1. Passions and contentions breed many sad events among neighbours.
2. Smitings, and wounds, and sickness, and death are usual effects of sudden passions.
3. In case it proceed not to death, God will not suffer injuries unpunished by men.
4. Not only the death, but the hurts of men, are in God's heart to prevent (ver. 18).
5. It is just with God that he who wounds must look to thorough healing of his neighbour.
6. Man's loss of time, as well as health, God will have recompensed by the injurious.
7. Security and prosperity of creatures is the end cf God's judgments against violent men (vers. 18, 19).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
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