Introduction to Torah (Part 4) – Book of Exodus

Exodus 20:4-6  Problem:  You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands[a] of those who love me and keep my commandments. Many understand this verse to mean one cannot have a piece of artwork of any type that is of anything of nature from the heavens, to the earth, to the waters.

Solution:  The solution to understanding the second commandment is inclusive of reading the whole commandment, not just a portion of it in verse four.  Are we to suggest that Yahweh Elohim would be a “jealous” God if we painted or took a photo of a bird?  Those focusing ONLY on verse four would suggest so.  Or, does it make more sense that if we painted or sculpted a bird, let’s say an owl in this case, and then bowed down to it as the false sun god Molech, then Yahweh would then be a jealous God? Those focusing on the whole context of the second commandment would find this example to be true and valid.

Exodus 21:23-25  Problem:  But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. Many interpret this Hebrew idiom, an “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” to be quite literal and be all about revenge of like kind.

Solution:  Exodus 21:33-34  When a man opens a pit, or when a man digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls into it, the owner of the pit shall make restoration. He shall give money to its owner, and the dead beast shall be his. The fact that the first instance in the Torah related to the concept of an “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is embedded in the context of reconciliation, not retribution, helps us understand the actual intent behind this commandment.

We need to examine this under a judicial system of fair and equal counter measures.  The idea is to make things even, in such a way that reconciliation is reached by all parties.  The idea is to neutralize offenses. This understanding is supported by Yeshua in Matthew 5.  It is more about responsibility and doing what is right when something has gone terribly wrong.  If we would simply keep reading the context following the idiom of “eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” we would see this idea of reconciliation and responsibility really begin to present itself.  Outside of the scope of the capital punishment system, nearly all examples are about making things even through monetary compensation.  Consider reading on further till chapter 22, verse 16 to really see the context. The three times in the Old Testament where the phrase “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” is mentioned all relate to a civil situation, something being judged before a duly constituted authority: a judge, a magistrate, etc. “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” is not a statement that is in any way related to personal relationships.

From 119 Ministries – Torah Quick Reference Guide 

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