“Eye for an Eye and a Tooth for a Tooth“
(A Matter of Personal Offense)
I remember a time before coming to faith in Yeshua (Jesus) and even into my early walk of faith when I demanded for everything to be fair, right & for justice to be fully carried out in all aspects of life, especially when it applied to loved ones and last but not least to myself! Of course, this was all based on how I saw fairness, righteousness & justice to be which was according to my understanding of right and wrong at that time. Many of those times when I saw or experienced what I understood to not be fair, not right and without justice, the thoughts that came to my mind resembled the phrase made famous by a character in a book titled “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, which was the emphatic phrase of “off with their heads!”. That character in the book was known as the “Queen of Hearts”! Go figure!
When I used to think about how I strongly desired the enforcement of what I believed to be right ruling it came from what I thought was my “right” to demand respect and restitution! I would think to myself who does that person think they are to treat my family, friends or myself poorly and to persecute them or myself!? How dare they strike me on my face! I will show them, I will strike them back even more severely or take them before a judge and sue them for everything they own, even the coat off their back!
Can anyone relate to this or remember a time when you could relate to these thoughts, feelings & hateful desires?
For those of you that are more mature in your relationship with our Heavenly Father than I was back then you are probably laughing, fighting off the urge to laugh or at least smiling at this point. As I share this with you, I now know what Father had yet to reveal to me about my previous perspective & demands! In this message, it is my hope to atleast challenge your perspective of our Father’s Word and of your heart condition toward Him and others, according to how you see Him and our Messiah based on your current understanding or misunderstanding of what is right and wrong. If you find truth in this message and His Holy Spirit nudges your heart then maybe even your demands will change as I was challenged and changed over time. May you not continue to be like the aforementioned Queen of Hearts!
All this brings me to when I first read the words of our Messiah in Matthew 5:17, that He had not come to abolish the law & prophets but to fulfill which I now understand to mean that He came to bring to fullness the Word of God, being the full meaning and how to walk it out correctly as He is our perfect example. He also brought to fullness all the Scriptures that prophesied about the coming Messiah as He walked out every detail perfectly. He has yet to fulfill the Scriptures that prophesy of His return but He will do so when He comes back, so “all” that is written in the law & prophets concerning Him in that sense has yet to be fulfilled.
Yeshua (Jesus) goes on to say in Matthew 5:38-40, “38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, don’t resist him who is evil; but whoever strikes you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 If anyone sues you to take away your coat, let him have your cloak also.”
These verses caused me great confusion and to struggle with what I was understanding our Messiah to be saying because my flesh was screaming “I dare someone to do that to me!” I even struggled more so later on as I learned more about the Word of God and that “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” was actually part of the law of God as written in Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:20 and again in Deuteronomy 19:21.
In this talk, I am focusing on Leviticus 24:20 as this is the context that I am speaking to.
We read in Leviticus 24:20: “If anyone injures his neighbor, he has done it shall be done to him, fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given to him.”
My greatest struggle was thinking that Yeshua might be teaching contrary to the law of God, as I knew enough of Scripture to know that any prophet that taught the people of God to not follow His law was a false prophet according to Deuteronomy 13:1-5. The Bible clearly states (on many occasions) that anyone who teaches contrary to the law of God teaches and leads people to serve another god. This was a very serious problem, as it would disqualify Yeshua (Jesus) as being the promised Messiah if He really did teach the people of God to disobey the law of God! (We know this is not true!)
When Yeshua spoke the words “you have heard it said an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth”, the point I believe that He was trying to reveal was that people (pharisees, sadducees & scribes) can look at the law of God and miss the mercy and the love that goes along with it and teach others to actually break the law of God as well as to add their own rules/doctrine! These same people, the pharisees, sadducees & scribes that Yeshua was always rebuking had established what they believed to be right and wrong according to their thoughts, desires and demands which came to be due to the hardness of their hearts. Please take note that Yeshua said “You have HEARD IT SAID”, He didn’t say “It is written”, because He was speaking to what was falsely being taught in those days by those who were supposed to be correctly teaching & walking out the law of God! Instead, those in authority were forsaking the law of God in order to keep the commandments & traditions of men! (Mark 7:1-13).
We read in Matthew 23:23 where Yeshua says: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”.
So my question is where can we find the mercy in the law of God?
I am going to suggest that those of the flesh are unable to see it but those of His Spirit will be guided to walk in it. It is written in Matthew 22:36-40: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend (hang) all the Law and the Prophets.”
Interestingly, that right before Yeshua (Jesus) revealed the failure of the religious authorities to guard the weightier matters of the law of God in Matthew 23:23, He gave an answer to where the mercy comes from. LOVE!!!
Without the weightier matters (mercy from love) the law of God is broken, the character of God is profaned and sin/curses will spread like leaven. I also want to state here that if you read the scripture where it talks about “do not profane the name of God” (Leviticus 18:21 & Leviticus 19:12 ) that’s actually what it is referring to, in the Hebrew the word for “name” actually goes deeper than just a title, it means His character and His authority so when we misrepresent His character and His authority we profane His name. For we know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump (Galatians 5:7-9)
My question is: Was this a new concept that our Messiah was commanding?
No! He was quoting from Deuteronomy 6:4-9: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” and He quoted from Leviticus 19:18: “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.”
The foundation for the law of God is love, that is the “why“, it is why God gave it to us and it is why we are to follow it. He gave His law to bless and protect His people and to show us how to bless and protect each other! Think of one coat hanger that has 2 hooks, one of the hooks on the coat hanger represents “love God” and the other represents “love your neighbor”. And the 2 coats that hang on these 2 hooks have Messiah’s name written on them , as He is the whole Word made flesh, that are meant to cover and protect us, hang on these 2 hooks. If these 2 hooks are removed then that which covers and protects us falls to the ground. Love is the “why” and greatest 2 commandments of His law, and all the law of God is the “how”, how we love God and our neighbor. If our hearts are not focused on loving God and loving each other then we are following the one that only brings curses and destruction for the enemy desires pride, fear, hate, envy, jealousy, unforgiveness, coveting, idolatry, sexual immorality and murder. But the person walking in God’s Holy Spirit will bring forth good fruit as we read in Galatians 5:22-23, and it reads: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
For these things are in alignment with the law of God and bring His law to it’s full intended purpose (fullness) as Yeshua/Jesus walked it out perfectly as our example and if we claim to abide in Him then we are to walk as He walked! (1 John 2:1-6). It is also written in Matthew 16:24: “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” The Greek word “aparneomai” which is translated into the English in this verse as “deny” can also be translated to mean “to forget about self”, as our focus is to be as Messiah’s focus, which is to lay our lives down for the sake of others for our rights belong to the One who paid the price for us. We should no longer claim “our rights” because He owns “our rights” because He is the only One that will make things right!
It is written in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
The law of God shows us how to love it also reveals the evil that exists in our hearts and what we deserve when we walk contrary to it! The right rulings and enforcement of the law of God among His people should only to be carried out by wise and able men with understanding of God’s laws who are appointed as judges (Exodus 18:21-26 & Deuteronomy 1:13-17) in the midst of the assembly. If one is unwilling or unable to forgive an offense or the offense and/or offender will harm others in the community/church then the matter should be brought to the acting judge(s), normally being of the Elders. In my previous misunderstanding of the law of God, I used to think that each person could carry out the law of God against another but this is not true as only a small few are appointed or should be appointed to judge matters of the assembly brought before them! Of course, the ultimate and final judge is Yeshua, as He was given this authority by the Father.
I also want to note that those who have been appointed judges throughout the recorded history of Israel have ruled according to restitution based on the offense. What does this mean? It means that they understood and ruled according the commandment of “an eye for eye and tooth for a tooth” to mean something of equal worth. In other words, the judges didn’t rule that a man who knocked someone’s teeth out in a fight would have to have his teeth knocked out as well. They ruled that the offender would pay to the offended an amount equal to the value of their teeth that were knocked out.
So, what was Yeshua revealing in Matthew 5:38-40 when He said “Ye have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth…”?
I believe He was revealing that love will not bear a grudge in the heart and will not take a brother or sister before a judge/judges to suffer the full penalty of the law but instead overlook the offense/transgression in hopes that the offender will see the grace and love given and it will soften their hearts and lead them to repentance!
Let’s break down Matthew 5:39-40 by comparing these verses to what eventually happened to Yeshua (Jesus) that we read about in the Gospel accounts.
“resist not him that is evil whosoever smiteth (strikes) thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:39)
We read in Matthew 26:67-68, “Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him, and said, “Prophesy to us, You Christ; who is the one who hit You?”
“And if any man would go to law with thee, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.” (Matthew 5:40)
We read in John 19:23, “When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic (cloak). But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom”
Yeshua was speaking literally, spiritually & prophetically as the things He said to do or not to do in Matthew 5:38-40 He would later model Himself at a level we have a hard time comprehending! There is no greater personal offense than what was done to Yeshua.
And what did He say as He was suffering in immense pain due to what had been done to Him?
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”! (Luke 23:34)
For love covers a multitude of sins! (Proverbs 10:12 & 1 Peter 4:8)
We know that everything our Messiah taught is true and the Word of God states that a matter is established with atleast 2 or 3 witnesses, so can we find other witnesses in Scripture?
It is written in Proverbs 17:9, “Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.” (Proverbs 17:9)
It is written in Proverbs 19:11, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense”
As we draw near to the end of this message let us pray: Heavenly Father, may You help us to have clean hands and pure hearts and to better love each other as Yeshua gave us the perfect example. Father your Son went on to give us the way we are to pray in Matthew Chapter 6, right after He shared how we should handle those that offend us in Chapter 5. May we all pray this prayer that He gave to us with a greater understanding and walk it out with hearts full of compassion, ready to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Amen!
With all this in mind and hopefully in heart I want to leave you with the following verses found in Matthew 6:14-15, “14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
I hope and pray this message has touched your heart and that it will lead to a softer heart so that you can forgive more and love much just as our Messiah did and become a greater reflection of Him. May it be so.
Until next time, the Lord bless you and guard you.
““Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17)
“13 “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. 5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.” (Deuteronomy 13:1-5)
“7 Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, 2 they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, 4 and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) 5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ 8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” 9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” (Mark 7:1-13)
“You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 18:21)
“You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:12)
“7 You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion is not from him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” (Galatians 5:7-9)
“1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 John 2:1-6)
“21 Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.” 24 So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. 25 Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 26 And they judged the people at all times. Any hard case they brought to Moses, but any small matter they decided themselves.” (Exodus 18:21-26)
“13 Choose for your tribes wise, understanding, and experienced men, and I will appoint them as your heads.’ 14 And you answered me, ‘The thing that you have spoken is good for us to do.’ 15 So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and experienced men, and set them as heads over you, commanders of thousands, commanders of hundreds, commanders of fifties, commanders of tens, and officers, throughout your tribes. 16 And I charged your judges at that time, ‘Hear the cases between your brothers, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the alien who is with him. 17 You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God’s. And the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.’” (Deuteronomy 1:13-17)
“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” (Proverbs 10:12)
“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)