LAW 501-001 – Foundations of Law I

Lex Talionis


Leviticus 24:17–21

And he that killeth any man shall surely be put to death.
18 And he that killeth a beast shall make it good; beast for beast.
19 And if a man cause a blemish in his neighbour; as he hath done, so shall it be done to him;
20 Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth: as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again.
21 And he that killeth a beast, he shall restore it: and he that killeth a man, he shall be put to death.

The "eye for an eye" principle demanded retribution for violent personal offense. Exodus 21. However, it was not literally applied for property damages, where the law demanded restitution be made. Leviticus 24.

The underlying principle is never revenge.

The law demanded punishment is accordance with Romans 13.

  • It also demanded restitution, purging of sin, and protecting the image of man.

The underlying principle was that the punishment must be proportional to the crime, although the remedies usually exceeded the value of the offense in property crimes.

  • Stealing an animal was to be repaid 2–5 times over. If unable to, he was to be sold for his theft. Exodus 22.

Jesus addressed this principle by name, and told Christians to be forgiving, not retributive. Matthew 5.

Zacchaeus repaid fourfold. Luke 19.

Corporal Punishment

Israel had corporal punishment. Deuteronomy 25.

Proverbs 20:30

The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil: so do stripes the inward parts of the belly.

Proverbs 13:24

He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.