Has “an Eye for an Eye and a Tooth for a Tooth” Really Changed?

A Daily Little Lesson

Read the transcript of this video below.

In one sense, nothing has changed in regard to God’s Old Testament commandment: an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Let me prove it to you.

Picture of man reading Bible, thinking

Hi, welcome to today’s Little Lesson. We’ve been looking at Matthew chapter five, Jesus’s “You have heard but I say to you statements.” There are six of them. We’re looking at the fifth out of the six.

It’s the one where Jesus said, “You have heard it was said, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” I try to point out that that was not a commandment given to the people of Israel in general. It was a commandment only given to the judges in Israel.

I’m going to read to you a verse that absolutely proves that, that I’ve been intending to read to you but neglected to in the last two Little Lessons. This is from Deuteronomy chapter 19 and verse number 16, God said or we can say Jesus said, “If a malicious witness rises up against a man to accuse him of wrongdoing, then both the men, who have the dispute, shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who will be in office in those days.” You get this. We’re talking about the context of someone accusing someone, actually falsely accusing someone of doing something they really didn’t do. He says, “Bring him to court. Get the priests. Get the judges and the Lord will be there.”

Verse number 18 of Deuteronomy 19, “The judges shall investigate everything thoroughly, and if the witness is a false witness,” so he’s committed perjury, “and he has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him just as he intended to do to his brother.” Ooh. Exact justice. “Thus, you shall purge the evil from among you.” Verse number 20 of Deuteronomy 19. “The rest will hear and be afraid.” This is a deterrent to other people who might be considering falsely accusing someone. “And will never again do such an evil thing among you.” Now, listen. Here’s the key verse, verse 21. “Thus you shall show no pity, life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”

See, are these instructions to everyone in Israel? In a sense, they are, but you can see obviously this is from the context of a court case. In this case, a case where someone has falsely accused another person, and so you’re going to do unto him as he wanted it to be done unto the person whom he falsely accused. That’s just and that’s fair.

Now, do you think that under the New Covenant that that changed? That God doesn’t want judges under the New Covenant to exact justice and fairness and righteousness and that if there’s a malicious witness, someone who commits perjury that judges should not resist those evil people and say, “Oh, that’s okay. We set you free and we hope you don’t do it again.” That’s what God wants? Are you out of your mind? You have to be out of your mind to think that because God is a God of justice and righteousness, and he’s the one that set up this law. He’s the one that set up the court system in Israel. Our court system really has a lot of foundation within the Law of Moses because it’s righteous. It’s right. It’s pure. It’s just. It’s fair.

Under the New Covenant, God wants judges, Christian, non-Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist, doesn’t make a difference. He wants every judge to act with justice and righteousness. Meeting out fair sentences, giving people what they deserve. If you want to know what they deserve, you look under the Old Covenant, the Law of Moses and you can see what God consider to be the more serious crimes and what are the things he consider to be less serious crimes because there’s more severe punishments and there’s less severe punishments.

Sure, a lot of things that God said deserve very severe punishments under the Old Covenant law, nobody even hardly blinks at or winks at today, but nevertheless that’s how God feels about certain things.

What’s changed under the New Covenant as far as how judges are supposed to be judging? Nothing has changed of course because God hasn’t changed. Morality hasn’t changed. But what about Jesus saying, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, but I say to you don’t resist an evil person?” He’s not correcting himself. He’s not correcting the Law of Moses. He’s correcting the false teaching of the scribes and Pharisees. It becomes so clear because the three examples that he gives of what he means … Notice he never says, “So, for example, if somebody wants to rape your wife, give him your daughter also.” Nah, nah. This is how we can tell who God wants us to resist and who he doesn’t want us to resist. If you can give a person an opportunity to do twice the damage, twice the offense because it’s a small offense, it’s no big deal, that’s the kind of people God doesn’t want us to resist. He wants us to shame them.

Remember, we read this previously in one of the other “You have heard that I say to you” statements where Jesus said, “You have heard it was said love your neighbor but hate your enemy. I say to you love your enemies, pray for those that persecute you and so forth.” Why? Because that’s what God has been doing. He’s been causing his sun to rise on the good and evil and sending rain on the righteous and the unrighteous since the beginning of human history. That’s the example God has been setting in front of … That’s what I want you to do.

If someone slaps you on the cheek, you don’t go to court for that. That’s a minor offense. You want to win that person. Say, “Look, here’s the other cheek. If you want to slap me on that cheek, go ahead if that’s what turns you on.” That person is not going to slap you on the cheek. That person is going to feel ashamed of themselves. If someone wants to take you to court and sue you and take your shirt, I mean, that almost seems comical. It’s such a minor, little thing. Give him your shirt. Give him your coat. Say, “Anything else you want? Because this stuff doesn’t mean anything to me. I’d rather have a relationship with you. If it takes you getting my shirt to have a relation with you, I’m willing to give up my shirt because I’m a lover.” See, you shame that person of their selfishness hoping to turn them around. But a person who breaks into your home and wants to murder your family, that’s not what Jesus is talking about here at all.

Under the Law of Moses, God said, “If a thief breaks into your house and then you struggle against him, you kill him, there’s no guilt,” because the guy was at the wrong place. He shouldn’t be breaking into your house. He’s a threat and maybe you didn’t mean to kill him but he died.

Jesus said, “If someone forces you to go one mile … ” Under the law of Rome, a Roman soldier could have anybody … You, carry my bag for a mile. Of course that was offensive to Jews, the occupying armies forcing them to walk a mile, carry their bag. Go with them two miles. During that second mile, you can tell them why you’re doing it because, hey, I love my neighbor as myself. If this is what it takes to get a relationship going with you, I’m willing to do it. I’m a servant. Amen. That’s what Jesus was talking about. Please I beg you don’t fall into the trap of misapplying this one verse, “Do not resist an evil person,” to make it all encompassing to overturn the entire Bible. It’s not overturning the entire Bible, Old or New Testaments.

Thank you so much for joining me. God bless you. Hope to see you next time.