God’s original and enduring intent for every civil government is to protect the innocent and punish evildoers (Romans 13:1-4; 1 Peter 2:14). The principle of lex talionis—an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life—is precisely what just punishment of an evildoer looks like.
In the last blog, we considered two ways in which the consistent practice of this practical principle would provide justice for all: 1) It discourages abuse by the powerful of the powerless and 2) It recognizes the superiority and sanctity of human life. Today, consider three additional blessings:
- It requires equality under the law. The lex talionis was the law of the land for everyone within the nation of Israel. “You shall have the same law for the stranger and for one from your own country; for I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 24:22). With equality under the law there can and will be justice for all.
- It does not under punish or over punish the guilty. If the powerful takes a life, his punishment is not the loss of a tooth, eye, and/or hand; it is his life. If the powerless injures another’s tooth, eye, or hand, his punishment is not death. With equality under the law, the punishment of the powerful is not lax nor is the punishment of the powerless unjustly harsh or severe. Hence, there is justice for all.
- It serves as a genuine deterrent to crime. When evil is promptly and justly punished, “those who remain shall hear and fear, and hereafter they shall not again commit such evil among you” (Deuteronomy 19:20). Here is yet another blessing a nation enjoys when it pursues justice for all.