A lesson to be learned from “An Eye for an Eye”

We hear platitudes like “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” all the time, and there’s truth to be had there. However, it presupposes a backwards view: that the intent is to encourage retribution. However, this is not quite the case.

“An eye for an eye” is not encouraging vengeance. The original Hebrew text that became Leviticus 24 is better translated “only an eye for an eye”. It was a limit. If someone takes out one of your eyes, the most you can possibly take from them is one of theirs – no more. Jesus took it a step further in Matthew 5 (“turn the other cheek”), but our society tends to thrive on an insatiable thirst for vengeance to the point where a part of me advocates to at least go back to the Old Testament – “You’ve got your eye. Justice has been served.” Or, in the immortal words of Captain Jean Luc Picard, “The line must be drawn here! This far, no farther!” The limit on retribution would force the person to starve their need for revenge. Savage as societies were in the Old Testament era, the fact that a line was drawn was amongst the ways that the Israelites were set apart. In some ways, we are more civilized than them, but revenge is still something that we, as a society and as individuals, contend with.

An eye for an eye, no more. One day, we’ll be able to turn the other cheek.


Baby steps.

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