What Does an Eye for an Eye Really Mean?

In one of the Bible’s more horrific stories, Jacob’s daughter, Dinah, is taken by force and raped by the outsider, Shechem. When Jacob hears of this he does nothing, perhaps because all his boys are in the fields tending their livestock.

Then, despite his barbaric act, Shechem decides he loves Dinah and wants to marry her. He demands his father bring this about. The two dads talk about a wedding.

What Does an Eye for an Eye Really Mean?Dinah’s brothers are furious when they hear what Shechem did to their sister. They pretend to go along with the marriage talks but insist the men in Shechem’s village all be circumcised first. As the men recover from this painful procedure, Simeon and Levi, two of Dinah’s brothers, massacre the city, killing every man there to avenge their sister’s mistreatment.

Though they are right in responding to Dinah’s defilement, they overreact. While the rape of one girl is terrible, wiping out an entire town is a disproportionate punishment; it is excessive.

This is the type of thing Moses seeks to stop when he says an “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (Leviticus 24:19-20). In this Moses does not give permission to seek revenge. Instead he seeks to curtail excessive retaliation, a response unequal to the crime. An “eye for eye” is a command of moderation not the authorization to pursue vengeance.

Jesus later takes this principle one step further. He says “do not resist an evil person” and then go the extra mile (Matthew 5:38-42). This is even more countercultural than Moses’s original “eye for eye” command to make the punishment fit the crime.

May we learn from Moses’s words and follow Jesus’s.

What do you think of Moses’s “eye for eye” command? What about Jesus’s instruction to go the extra mile? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.What do you think of Moses’s command to take an eye for eye? Click To Tweet

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Genesis 33-35, and today’s post is on Genesis 34.]

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The Apostle John and the Chosen Lady

In John’s second letter he writes to the “chosen lady” and her kids. Some people assume John is employing an intimate metaphor to reference the church (the chosen lady) and its members (her children). But this interpretation falls apart because the New Testament considers the people as the church, not as two separate parts.

Rather, a literal understanding is that the chosen lady is an actual person, one who the Amplified Bible calls Cyria. John’s note is one of encouragement and instruction to someone he cares for deeply. Because the Bible preserves his letter for us, we can vicariously receive this same reassurance and teaching.

The Chosen Lady is a faithful follower of Jesus, and she, no doubt, desires to pass this on to her kids. She is likely a good mom, one who does her best to raise her children well. As a result, some of her kids are living good lives. But not all are. Some pick up her legacy; others do not.

She has done what she can to raise her kids right, but ultimately the decision of how they live their lives is up to them. John affirms her actions, but he doesn’t hold her accountable for results outside of her control.

Whether we are parents of biological children or spiritual children, we need to do our best to raise our offspring well. Though we can’t determine which path our kids take, we can point them in the right direction.

[2 John 1:1]

This is from Peter’s upcoming book, Women in the Bible.

Women in the Bible: Anna

Anna is widowed after only seven years of marriage. A devout woman, she dedicates her life to God, spending as much time as possible in the temple fasting, praying, and worshiping him.

She is at least eighty-four years old when Mary and Joseph show up to consecrate Jesus. She recognizes him as the savior who the people have been expecting for centuries. She thanks God she lived long enough to see Jesus and then tells everyone about him.

After a lifetime of devotion to God, Anna is rewarded by seeing Jesus. How many other people were likewise as devout, but never got to see him?

God calls us to focus on him, but we may not receive any reward for our loyalty during our lifetime. Will we be faithful anyway?

[Luke 2:36-38]

Women in the Bible: Elizabeth

Childless, Elizabeth and husband Zechariah are getting old; their chance for kids is slim. Still they pray for the improbable. Despite not receiving what they yearn for, their faith remains strong; they are a righteous couple who honor God.

One day at work, an angel shows up and tells Zechariah that he and Elizabeth will finally have a son – not just any son, but a special one. He is to be set apart for service to God, the Holy Spirit will empower him, and he will spark a nationwide revival. They are to name him John.

Elizabeth does indeed get pregnant. In her sixth month, Mary – who will later give birth to Jesus – comes for a visit. Inside Elizabeth, John jumps for joy at the sound of Mary’s voice. Then the Holy Spirit comes upon Elizabeth and she prophesizes, blessing Mary and her unborn baby.

When John is born, Elizabeth and Zechariah’s friends and family celebrate with them. They praise God and share in Elizabeth’s joy for finally having a baby.

Elizabeth and Zechariah prayed for a child even when it no longer made sense; God answered their prayers by giving them a son named John, John the Baptist.

Are we willing to pray for the impossible? Will we patiently wait for God’s answer?

[Luke 1:5-60]

Women in the Bible: The Virgin Mary

An angel visits Mary, a girl engaged to be married. The angel celebrates her as one highly favored by God. Perplexed, Mary wonders about the angel’s shocking greeting. Then he further stuns her by saying she will become pregnant, and her child will save her people.

“How,” Mary asks? “I’m a virgin.”

The angel explains that the Holy Spirit will supernaturally impregnate her.

Mary trusts God in this and accepts it without arguing.

When Joseph, her fiancé, finds out about her condition, he’s going to dump her, but an angel visits him and tells him not to. They do get married but remain celibate until after Mary’s miracle baby is born.

However, before that happens, Mary and Joseph must travel to Bethlehem for a mandatory census. Unable to find a room to stay in, they hunker down in a barn. There, among the filth of livestock, Jesus is born.

This is no ordinary birth: angels celebrate, shepherds bow down, and royalty offer expensive gifts. Then at Jesus’ consecration, people give astounding prophecies and thanks for him. Twelve years later, Jesus amazes his parents, especially Mary, when they find him at the temple in deep discussion with the religious leaders.

At age thirty he starts his ministry. Three years later, during his execution, Jesus asks his close disciple John to care for Mary. The last we hear of her is at a gathering of Jesus’ followers after he rises from the dead and returns to heaven.

Though we praise Mary for her pious acceptance of God’s assignment, the townspeople did not likely celebrate her situation. They probably dismissed her claim that God did it, and she forever carried the stigma as the girl who got pregnant before she was married.

Sometimes there is a price for following God. Would we be willing to suffer a lifetime of humiliation to conform to his plan for us?

[Matthew 1:18-2:11, Luke 1:26-38, Luke 2:1-51, Acts 1:14]

Women in the Bible: The Mother of Jabez

Though an entire book was written about his prayer, we actually know little about Jabez. The Bible only mentions him in two obscure verses, buried among a lengthy genealogy. We know even less about his mother, not even her name.

We do know his birth is difficult, and the name she gives him reflects the physical pain his arrival caused her. This is all we know about her.

However, we can infer more of her traits from the character of her son. Jabez is an honorable man, more honorable than others. We also know he has a deep connection with God, for when Jabez prays a bold prayer, God answers it.

We can implicitly connect these qualities with his mother, the woman who raised him. Surely Jabez’s mother is a godly woman, who taught her son how to live an honorable life, follow God, and to pray with effectiveness. What more could a mother give to her son?

What can we do to raise godly, honorable, faithful children?

[1 Chronicles 4:9-10]

Women in the Bible: Athaliah

Athaliah is an evil woman. She encourages her son, the king, to act wickedly. He does and is soon assassinated. Then Athaliah seizes control and asserts herself as queen. Her lust for power is so great, she kills all the members of the royal family, including her own grandchildren.

One baby, however, is rescued by his aunt, Jehosheba. His name is Joash. Six years later, he, the rightful heir to the throne, is crowned king by the priest, with the support of the Levites and heads of the leading families.

Athaliah accuses them of treason and tears her clothes to express her outrage. But she can’t change what has happened. At the direction of the priest, the army kills her.

The country celebrates her death and calm returns.

Athaliah could have positively influenced her son and helped him rule wisely. She could have protected and groomed his successor. Had she done so, the people would have celebrated her life; instead they celebrated her death.

Is our life worthy of celebration?

[2 Kings 11 and 2 Chronicles 22-23]

Women in the Bible: Naaman’s Servant Girl

An unnamed Israelite girl is captured in a raid and forced to work as a slave in the household of the enemy commander, Naaman. Although Naaman is an accomplished military leader, he suffers from a limiting physical ailment: he has leprosy, a contagious skin disease that can cause a loss of feeling, decay, and even deformation.

Though she could have been bitter over her forced servitude, the young girl instead desires the best for her master. She tells him of the prophet Elisha who can heal Naaman of his terrible disease. Naaman proceeds at once and is healed – as soon as he humbles himself and follows Elisha’s instructions.

Naaman then affirms the power of God and pledges to worship only him.

Though she had every reason to remain quiet, the girl’s confidence in God’s power and her willingness to speak up, led to a man being healed and God being praised.

May we be willing to help others, regardless of the situation.

[2 Kings 5:1-19]

Women in the Bible: The Shuammite Woman

Elisha travels to the city of Shunem, and a wealthy woman urges him to stay for a meal. From then on, whenever he’s in the area, he stops by. Realizing he’s a man of God, she makes a room for him to stay when he’s in town.

Grateful, Elisha wants to do something nice for her. She has no son, and with an older husband, she has no expectation of ever having a son. Elisha prophesies that within a year, she will have a boy.

As promised, a year later she gives birth to a son.

When the boy grows older, one day his head hurts, and he later dies in her arms. She puts him in Elisha’s room. Without telling her husband what happened, she searches for Elisha. With great intention, she finds him but then blames him for raising her hopes in the first place, when she didn’t ask for a son.

Elisha sends his servant to resurrect the boy, but she refuses to leave Elisha. So the two of them head for her home. It’s a good thing they do, because despite doing what Elisha instructs, his servant can’t restore life to the boy. Though it takes a couple of tries, Elisha brings the boy back to life.

Later, Elisha warns the woman of a seven-year famine and sends her away. When she returns, the king restores her land to her, along with the profits it generated while she was gone.

The Shuammite woman honored God by caring for his prophet. As a result, God cared for her, through both good times and bad.

[2 Kings 4:8-37 and 2 Kings 8:1-6]

Women in the Bible: The Widow’s Oil

The widow of one of Elisha’s followers comes to him for help. Her husband left her with an outstanding debt, Since she has no means to pay off the debt, the creditor demands her two sons become his slaves.

Elisha asks what resources she has. “Nothing,” she replies, “except for a small jar of olive oil.”

Elisha has a plan. He tells her to borrow empty jars from her neighbors, lots of them. Then she is to go home, close the doors, and begin pouring olive oil from her small jar into all the other jars. She does and the oil continues flowing until every jar is full. Then it is gone.

She sells the oil. With the proceeds, she pays off her debt and has extra to live on.

What if she had borrowed more jars? What if she only borrowed a few? When God tells us to do something, do we do it half way (and possibly miss his bounty) or go all out?

[2 Kings 4:1-7]