A recent story out of Iran exposes one of the biggest misconceptions that people have about the Old Testament law.
The Daily Mail reports that five Iranian men are facing the prospect of having their fingers cut off after being accused of theft. Under the Islamic code, amputation is considered suitable punishment for theft in cases where the stolen goods are not recovered.
In this instance, the five are charged with burgling over 22 houses.
The International Observatory of Human Rights reports that over the past 20 years, there has been at least 129 instances of finger amputation in the country.
And it’s not just fingers, depending on the crime people can even have their hands amputated. In 2015, a horrific story emerged of a ISIS militants in Iraq filling a man full of drugs before using a meat cleaver to cut off his hand.
Though we consider this barbaric, many are quick to point out that the Old Testament law has a similar eye for eye punishment system. Where people could have their eyes gouged out or limbs lopped off:
“eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,” (Exodus 21:24 NASV)
But here is where it gets a bit strange, because we don’t see a single instance in the Bible of a man having his eye gouged out or a person having a hand lopped off.
If this is part of the Mosaic Law, you would expect to see at least one example of this type of punishment being meted out.
But we don’t and of course, this begs the question of why?
Well, there is a simple explanation.
The lopping off of hands or feet was never intended to be the actual punishment, as Moses further adds:
“Moreover, you shall not take ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death.” (Numbers 35:31 NASV)
By implication, Moses states that a ransom could be paid as punishment for every crime under the Mosaic Law except for one — first degree murder. In other words, only first degree murder was punishable by execution and other crimes that warranted the death sentence, such as adultery, could be paid out with a fine.
And from this, the Jews understood that eye for eye was not intended to be the actual punishment but rather a means of arriving at compensation for personal injury.
It also points to another significant difference between our modern law and the Mosaic law.
When determining compensation for personal injury today, the legal system looks at how much financial loss the person will suffer from the loss before arriving at how much the offender will need to pay.
But in the Mosaic law, that was switched and the focus was on the person who had committed the crime, not the victim.
With the threat of a similar punishment, the offender who had injured another person’s hand needed to determine how much he valued his hand, because he was subject to like punishment.
This resulted in another peculiarity. A rich man would put more value on his hand than a poor man. So the fine also reflected one’s ability to pay.
But here is where it gets even stranger. If a person was facing having his hand lopped up, he had to value the other person’s hand to the same extent he valued his own.
In other words, he had to love his neighbour as himself and where have we heard that before.
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a]38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40 NIV)
And notice specifically how Jesus said that “all” the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments, and that would include “eye for eye.”
READ: Five men face having their fingers amputated for stealing under brutal Islamic penal code in Iran AND Pumped full of drugs as his arm is tightly bandaged to reduce blood flow, another ‘thief’ is maimed by ISIS in photographs revealing how criminals are medically prepared for the sickening amputation: Dailymail