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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Matthew 5:38

"You have heard that it was said, `AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.'


Adam Clarke Commentary

An eye for an eye - Our Lord refers here to the law of retaliation mentioned See Exodus 21:24, (see the note there, and see Leviticus 24:20; (note)), which obliged the offender to suffer the same injury he had committed. The Greeks and Romans had the same law. So strictly was it attended to at Athens, that if a man put out the eye of another who had but one, the offender was condemned to lose both his eyes, as the loss of one would not be an equivalent misfortune. It seems that the Jews had made this law (the execution of which belonged to the civil magistrate) a ground for authorizing private resentments, and all the excesses committed by a vindictive spirit. Revenge was often carried to the utmost extremity, and more evil returned than what had been received. This is often the case among those who are called Christians.


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Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Matthew 5:38". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/matthew-5.html. 1832.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Ye have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.

THE OTHER TEACHINGS CONTRASTED WITH JEWISH LAW (MATT. 5:38-48)

Passages which contain this injunction are Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; and Deuteronomy 19:21. Harsh and demanding as such a principle appears to enlightened people of our day, it should be remembered that it was a tremendously significant advance above and beyond the primitive thinking of the untrained people who first heard it. The law of the jungle was far different: (1) If you kill my child, I will kill all your children, your wife, your brothers, your whole generation! (2) If you knock out my tooth (or eye), I will knock out ALL of yours and kill you also! Thus, the ancient Law of the Hebrews was a vast improvement in that it strictly limited punitive action to the extent of the original injury or loss that precipitated it.


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James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Matthew 5:38". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/matthew-5.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Ye have heard that it hath been said,.... That is, to, or by them of old time, as is expressed in some of the foregoing instances,

an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, Exodus 21:24. This is "lex talionis", the "law of retaliation"; which, whether it is to be understood literally, or not, is a matter of question. The Baithuseans, or Sadducees, among the Jews, took it in a literal sense, and so does Josephus, who saysF2Antiq. Jud. l. 4. c. 8. sect. 35. , he that shall blind, i.e. put out a man's eyes, shall suffer the like. But the Jewish doctors generally understood it of paying a price equivalent to the damage done, except in case of life. R. Sol. JarchiF3In Exod. xxi. 24. explains the law thus:

"He that puts out his neighbour's eye, must give him דמי עינו, "the price of his eye", according to the price of a servant sold in the market; and so the same of them all; for, not taking away of the member is strictly meant.'

And, says MaimonidesF4Hilchot Chebel. c. 1. sect. 2, 3. ,

"if a man cuts off his neighbour's hand, or foot, he is to be considered as if he was a servant sold in a market; what he was worth then, and what he is worth now; and he must pay the diminution which is made of his price; as it is said, "eye for eye". From tradition it is learned, that this for, spoken of, is to be understood of paying money; this is what is said in the law, "as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again". Not that he is to be hurt, as he has hurt his neighbour; but inasmuch as he deserves to want a member, or to be hurt as he has done; therefore he ought to pay the damage.'

And Josephus himselfF5In loc. supra citat. says, that he must be deprived of that, which he has deprived another of, except he that has his eye put out is willing to receive money; and which, he observes, the law allows of. The controversy about the sense of this law may be seen in a few words, as managed between R. Sandish Hagson, and Ben ZetaF6In Aben Ezra in Exod. xxi. 24. .

"Says R. Sandish, we cannot explain this verse according to its literal sense; for if a man should smite the eye of his neighbour, and the third part of the light of his eye should depart, how will he order it, to strike such a stroke, as that, without adding or lessening? perhaps he will put out the whole light of his eye. And it is yet more difficult with respect to burning, wound, and stripe; for should they be in a dangerous place the man might die but that is intolerable. Ben Zeta answers him, is it not written, in another place, "as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again?" To which Hagson replies, ב, "in", is instead of על, "upon", or against; and lo! the sense is, so shall the punishment be upon him. Ben Zeta answers him again, as he does, so shall it be done to him. Hagson replies, behold Samson said, "as they have done to me, so will I do to them"; but Samson did not take their wives, and give them to others, he only rendered to them their reward: but Ben Zeta replies, if a poor man should smite, what must be his punishment? Hagson answers him, if a blind man should put out the eye of one that sees, what shall be done to him? as for the poor man, he may become rich, and pay, but the blind man can never pay.'

Now our Lord here, does not find fault with the law of retaliation, as delivered by Moses, but with the false gloss of the Scribes and Pharisees; who, as they interpreted it of pecuniary mulcts, as a compensation for the loss of a member, which sometimes exceeded all just and due bounds; so they applied it to private revenge, and in favour of it: whereas this law did not allow of a retaliation to be made, by private persons, at their pleasure, but by the civil magistrate only.


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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855

Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on Matthew 5:38". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/matthew-5.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

9 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

(9) He shows that contrary to the doctrine of the scribes, that the sum of the second table must be so understood, that we may in no wise render evil for evil, but rather suffer double injury, and do well to them that are our deadly enemies.

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Bibliography
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Matthew 5:38". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/matthew-5.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Matthew 5:38-42. Same subject - Retaliation.

We have here the converse of the preceding lessons. They were negative: these are positive.

Ye have heard that it hath been said — (Exodus 21:23-25; Leviticus 24:19, Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21).

An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth — that is, whatever penalty was regarded as a proper equivalent for these. This law of retribution - designed to take vengeance out of the hands of private persons, and commit it to the magistrate - was abused in the opposite way to the commandments of the Decalogue. While they were reduced to the level of civil enactments, this judicial regulation was held to be a warrant for taking redress into their own hands, contrary to the injunctions of the Old Testament itself (Proverbs 20:22; Proverbs 24:29).


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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Matthew 5:38". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/matthew-5.html. 1871-8.

John Lightfoot's Commentary on the Gospels

38. Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.

[Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, &c.] This law he also cites, as clothed in the Gloss of the scribes, and now received in the Jewish schools. But they resolved the law not into a just retaliation, but into a pecuniary compensation.

"Does any cut off the hand or foot of his neighbour? They value this according to the example of selling a servant; computing at what price he would be sold before he was maimed, and for how much less now he is maimed. And how much of the price is diminished, so much is to be paid to the maimed person, as it is said, 'An eye for an eye,' &c. We have received by tradition, that this is to be understood of pecuniary satisfaction. But whereas it is said in the law, 'If a man cause a blemish in his neighbour, the same shall be done to him' [Lev 24:19]; it means not that he should be maimed, as he hath maimed another; but when he deserveth maiming, he deserveth to pay the damage to the person maimed." They seemed, out of very great charity, to soften that severe law to themselves, when, nevertheless, in the mean time, little care was taken of lively charity, and of the forgiving an offence,--an open door being still left them to exaction and revenge, which will appear in what follows.


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Bibliography
Lightfoot, John. "Commentary on Matthew 5:38". "John Lightfoot Commentary on the Gospels". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jlc/matthew-5.html. 1675.

People's New Testament

An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. The law quoted is found in Exodus 21:23-25 and Leviticus 24:18-20. Moses intended it to protect person and property by prescribing what punishment the law should inflict. He who took a life should lose his life; he who robbed another of an eye should be punished by the loss of an eye. The Jews perverted it to justify {private} retaliation.


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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Original work done by Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.

Bibliography
Johnson, Barton W. "Commentary on Matthew 5:38". "People's New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pnt/matthew-5.html. 1891.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth (οπταλμον αντι οπταλμου και οδοντα αντι οδοντοςophthalmon anti ophthalmou kai odonta anti odontos). Note αντιanti with the notion of exchange or substitution. The quotation is from Exodus 21:24; Deuteronomy 19:21; Leviticus 24:20. Like divorce this jus talionis is a restriction upon unrestrained vengeance. “It limited revenge by fixing an exact compensation for an injury” (McNeile). A money payment is allowed in the Mishna. The law of retaliation exists in Arabia today.


Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Matthew 5:38". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/matthew-5.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

Ye have heard — Our Lord proceeds to enforce such meekness and love on those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake (which he pursues to the end of the chapter) as were utterly unknown to the scribes and Pharisees.

It hath been said — In the law, as a direction to judges, in ease of violent and barbarous assaults.

An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth — And this has been interpreted, as encouraging bitter and rigorous revenge. Deuteronomy 19:21.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

Bibliography
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Matthew 5:38". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/matthew-5.html. 1765.

The Fourfold Gospel

Ye have heard that it was said1, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth2:

  1. Ye have heard that it was said. See Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21.

  2. An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. The "lex talonis", or law of like for like, was the best possible rule in a rude state of society, its object being not to sacrifice the second eye, but to save both, by causing a man when in a passion to realize that every injury which he inflicted upon his adversary he would in the end inflict upon himself. From this rule the scribes drew the false inference that revenge was proper, and that a man was entitled to exercise it. Thus a law intended to prevent revenge was so perverted that it was used as a warrant for it.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.

Bibliography
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on Matthew 5:38". "The Fourfold Gospel". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tfg/matthew-5.html. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

An eye for an eye, &c. This verse was the rule of law for the guidance of the magistrate in the punishment of offenders. The Savior does not condemn it in this point of view, (Matthew 5:18,) but only prescribe another rule for individual action, in the private relations of life.


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Bibliography
Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Matthew 5:38". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ain/matthew-5.html. 1878.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

Matthew 5:38.An eye for an eye. Here another error is corrected. God had enjoined, by his law, (Leviticus 24:20,) that judges and magistrates should punish those who had done injuries, by making them endure as much as they had inflicted. The consequence was, that every one seized on this as a pretext for taking private revenge. They thought that they did no wrong, provided they were not the first to make the attack, but only, when injured, returned like for like. Christ informs them, on the contrary, that, though judges were entrusted with the defense of the community, and were invested with authority to restrain the wicked and repress their violence, yet it is the duty of every man to bear patiently the injuries which he receives.


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Bibliography
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Matthew 5:38". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/matthew-5.html. 1840-57.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

Ver. 38. Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, &c.] This law of like for like (which also was in use among the ancient Romans) the scribes and Pharisees had abused and distorted from its proper sense of public justice to private revenge; teaching the people to render evil for evil, to pay their enemies in their own coin, and to give them as good as they brought. {a} This is a dictate of corrupt nature, and her chief secretary Aristotle proclaimeth it. To be avenged of our enemies is held better in point of honour than to be reconciled unto them. {b} Flesh and blood suggesteth that it is matter of good mettle to be quick of touch, as forward in returning as others are in offering wrong. "For if a man find his enemy, will he let him go well away?" said Saul, 1 Samuel 24:19. This is quite against the principles of nature and common policy. To turn again and revenge is counted courage; which yet the word of God calleth cowardliness, disgrace, and loss of victory ( ηττημα), 1 Corinthians 6:7. It is not manliness, but foolishness, Ecclesiastes 7:9. It is brutishness. Anger a dog, and he will fly in your face: touch an ass, and he will kick and wince. It is baseness so to be led by our passions as to be able to bear nothing, as Simeon and Levi, brethren in iniquity, that in their anger slew a man, and in their self-will digged down a wall, Genesis 49:6. Their father Jacob heard that Dinah was defiled, and held his peace, Genesis 34:5; he reined in his passions, by setting God before them; and so that divine proverb was made good in him, "He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit (as Jacob) than he that taketh a city" (as his sons), Proverbs 16:32. It is a godly man’s part, at some times and in some places, to be deaf and dumb, as if he understood not; or as men in whose mouths are no reproof. {c} Which as David could skill of at some times, Psalms 38:14, and in his carriage towards Shimei, so at other times (when the flesh prevailed) he could not, Psalms 39:2-3, and in his expedition against Nabal. But Peter must put up his sword, if he mean to be Christ’s disciple. And Christians must not so much as grudge one against another, unless they will be condemned: for behold, the Judge standeth before the door, as ready to right us, James 5:9. As if we retaliate we leave him nothing to do, unless it be to turn his wrath from our enemy, on whom we have been avenged already, upon ourselves, for our sin of self-revenge, Proverbs 24:17-18. We use to say, if the magistrate be not present, we may offend another, to defend ourselves: but if the magistrate be present, there is no excuse. Now here the Judge standeth before the door, and crieth out unto ns with a loud voice: Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather keep the king’s peace, and so give place to wrath, Romans 12:19 : that is, to the wrath of God ready to seize upon thine adversary, if thou prevent it not by art overly hasty revenge of the wrongs offered thee: for it is written, Vengeance is mine, mine office and royalty, Psalms 94:1-2. Is it safe to invade his part? to jostle the chief justice out of his seat? or is it fit that the same party should be both accuser and judge? pope in his own cause? depose the magistrate? at least appeal from God to himself, as if he would not sufficiently do his office? "Shall not God avenge his own, that cry night and day unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily," saith our Saviour, Luke 18:7-8 "I will repay it," saith the Lord; but upon this condition, that we wait his leisure, and pre-occupate not his executions, saith St Augustine. Joseph, accused by his lewd mistress, either pleads not, or is not heard. He knew that though he suffered for a season, God would find a time to clear his innocence, and he was not deceived. Moses complained not, but was silent, when wronged by Aaron and Miriam; God therefore struck in for him, and struck Miriam with leprosy: Aaron escaped by his repentance. God is their champion that strive not for themselves. {d} "I seek not mine own glory, but there is one that seeketh it," saith Christ, John 8:50; "He, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously," and giveth to every transgression and trespass a just recompence of reward, 1 Peter 2:23; Hebrews 2:2. St Paul could not have wished worse to Alexander the coppersmith than "the Lord reward him according to his works," 2 Timothy 4:14. This was not (saith an ancient author) a cursing or a reviling of him, but a prediction befitting an apostle, that revenged not himself, but gave place to wrath, and delivered up his enemy to God, {e} as David did his adversaries, as Simon Peter did Simon Magus, and the primitive Church did Julian the Apostate. And surely it is a fearful thing, when the saints shall say to God, concerning those that malign or molest them, as David sometimes said to Solomon, Thou knowest what Joab and Shimei did unto me: "do therefore according to thy wisdom, and let not their hoar heads go down to the grave in peace," 1 Kings 2:6. If any hurt God’s zealous witnesses, there goeth a fire out of their mouths to devour them, as the fire from heaven did the first and second captain sent for Elisha, Revelation 11:5; better anger all the witches in the world than such, because God is for them. Little thought the Gibeonites in David’s time, that the Lord had so taken to heart their wrongs, that for their sakes all Israel should suffer. Even when we think not of it, is the righteous Judge avenging our unrighteous vexations.

{a} Neminem laede, nisi lacessitus et iniuria affectus. Cicero.

{b} Inimicos ulcisci, potius quam iis reconciliari honestum censetur. Arist. Rhet.

{c} Tu quidem nihil praetermittis ut ego te interfici iubeam: εγω δε κυνα υλακτευοντα ου φονευω. Sic Demetrio Cynico Vespasianus apud Dionem.

{d} Convitium convitio regerere quid aliud est quam lutum luto purgare?

{e} ουκ εστι καταρα, η λοιδαρια αλλα προροεσις πρεπουσα ανδρι αποστολω μη εκδικουντι εαυτον, αλλα διδοντι τοπον τη οργη.


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Bibliography
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Matthew 5:38". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/matthew-5.html. 1865-1868.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

Our Saviour here vindicates the sixth commandment, which obliges us to do no wrong to the body of our neighbour. God had given a law to the public magistrate, to require an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, when a person was wronged: hereupon the Pharisees taught, That a private person, wronged by another, might exact satisfaction from him to the same degree in which he had been wronged by him; if he had lost an eye by another, might revenge it, by taking away the eye of another.

But, says Christ, I say unto you, resist not evil; that is, seek not private revenge, but leave the avenging of injuries to God and the magistrates; and in trivial matters not to appeal at all, and, when forced, not for revenge sake: teaching us, That Christians ought rather to suffer a double wrong, than to seek a private revenge. Christianity obliges us to bear many injuries patiently, rather than to revenge one privately. Religion indeed doth not bid them welcome: we are not to return evil for evil, but are rather to endure a greater evil than to revenge a less.


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Bibliography
Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Matthew 5:38". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wbc/matthew-5.html. 1700-1703.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

38.] That is, such was the public enactment of the Mosaic law, and, as such, it implied a private spirit of retaliation which should seek such redress; for the example evidently refers to private as well as public retribution. Here again our Lord appears to speak of the true status and perfection of a Christian community,—not to forbid, in those mixed and but half-Christian states, which have ever divided so-called Christendom among them, the infliction of judicial penalties for crime. In fact Scripture speaks, Romans 13:4, of the minister of such infliction as the minister of God. But as before, our Lord shews us the condition to which a Christian community should tend, and to further which every private Christian’s own endeavours should be directed. It is quite beside the purpose for the world to say, that these precepts of our Lord are too highly pitched for humanity, and so to find an excuse for violating them. If we were disciples of His in the true sense, these precepts would, in their spirit, as indicative of frames of mind, be strictly observed; and, as far as we are His disciples, we shall attain to such their observance.

Here again, our Lord does not contradict the Mosaic law, but expands and fulfils it, declaring to us that the necessity for it would be altogether removed in the complete state of that kingdom which He came to establish. Against the notion that ὀφθ. ἀντὶ ὀφθ. κ. τ. λ. sanctioned all kinds of private revenge, Augustine remarks, ‘Quandoquidem et illud antiquum ad reprimendas flammas odiorum, sævientiumque immoderatos animos refrænandos, ita præceptum est. Quis enim tantundem facile contentus est reponere vindictæ quantum accepit injuriæ? Nonne videmus homines leviter læsos moliri cædem, sitire sanguinem, vixque invenire in malis inimici unde satientur?… Huic igitur immoderatæ et per hoc injustæ ultioni lex justum modum figens, pœnam talionis instituit: hoc est ut qualem quisque intulit injuriam, tale supplicium pendat. Proinde, “Oculum pro oculo, dentem pro dente,” non fomes sed limes furoris est; non ut id quod sopitum erat inde accenderetur, sed ne id quod ardebat ultra extenderetur impositus.’ Cont. Faust(50) xix. 25, vol. viii. See 1 Corinthians 6:1-6. The accusatives ὀφθαλμόν, ὀδόντα are perhaps in ref. Exod. governed by δώσει, which immediately precedes them. But it may be noticed, that in ref. Levit., where the construction would require nominatives, we have the saying, as a proverb, in the accusative form. In ref. Deut., the case is exactly as here.


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Bibliography
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Matthew 5:38". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/matthew-5.html. 1863-1878.

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Matthew 5:38. ὀφθαλμὸνὀδόντος] supply δώσει, which supplement is presupposed as well known from the saying referred to (see Exodus 21:24). In the usual formula (comp. also Leviticus 22:20; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21) is expressed the jus talionis, the carrying out of which was assigned to the magistracy (comp. 12. Tab.: “si membrum rupit, ni cum eo pacit, talio esto”). Instead of seeking and asserting this right before the magistracy, the Christian, in the feeling of true brotherly love, free from all desire of revenge, is to exercise self-denial, and to exhibit a self-sacrificing spirit of concession. Comp. 1 Corinthians 6:7. This principle of Christian morality, laid down absolutely as an ideal, by no means excludes, under the determining circumstances of sinful life, the duty of seeking one’s legal rights, as is clear, moreover, from the history of Christ and His apostles. That Jesus, moreover, is speaking against the misuse by the Pharisees of the legal standard, as a standard within the sphere of social life, is a groundless supposition of Luther, Beza, Calvin, Calovius, Bengel, B. Crusius, Keim, and others, especially as in Matthew 5:40 κριθῆναι follows. But certainly the Pharisees may, unlovingly enough, in cases occurring in social life, have claimed those rights before the magistracy, and have influenced others also to practise similar unloving conduct. Glosses in reference to the payment in money of legal talio, see in Lightfoot.


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Bibliography
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Matthew 5:38". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/matthew-5.html. 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Matthew 5:38. ὀφθαλμὸν, an eye) sc. Thou shalt require. In Exodus 21:24, the LXX. have ὀφθαλμὸν ἀντὶ ὀφθαλμοῦ, ὀδόντα ἀντὶ ὀδόντος, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The lex talionis was most suitable for punishments, as in the greater injury, murder, and in the less, theft, so also in that which stood midway between them. See Leviticus 24:20. Mutilation was frequent in punishments without reference to the principle of the lex talionis; why then should it not be used to carry out that principle itself? Cf. Jude 1:7.(222) Penalties would avail more, if human judgment did not depart so far from the wisdom, the equity, and the severity of the Divine law.


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Bibliography
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Matthew 5:38". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/matthew-5.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

This was the commandment of God to the magistrate, in case a woman with child were struck, and any mischief came of it, Exodus 21:24; in case of damage done to a neighbour, Leviticus 24:20; and in the case of false witness, Deuteronomy 19:21. But in the mean time God had said to private persons, Leviticus 19:18, Thou shalt not avenge; and it is said, Proverbs 24:29, Say not, I will do to him as he hath done to me. The Pharisees had interpreted this law of God into a liberty for every private person, who had been wronged by another, to exact a satisfaction upon him, provided that he did not exceed this proportion of taking an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, doing no more wrong to another than that other had done to him.


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Bibliography
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Matthew 5:38". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/matthew-5.html. 1685.

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

38. ὀφθαλμὸν ἀντὶ ὀφθαλμοῦ. See Exodus 21:24. The Scribes drew a false inference from the letter of the law. As a legal remedy the lex talionis was probably the best possible in a rude state of society. The principle was admitted in all ancient nations. But the retribution was exacted by a judicial sentence for the good of the community, not to gratify personal vengeance. The deduction that it was morally right for individuals to indulge revenge could not be justified.

Jewish history however records no instance of the law being literally carried out. A fine was substituted for the retributive penalty. But the principle of the lex talionis underlay the enactments of the law, and it is against the principle that Christ’s words are directed.


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"Commentary on Matthew 5:38". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/matthew-5.html. 1896.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

38. An eye for an eye — This is the old law of retaliation, to which reference has just been made.


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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Matthew 5:38". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/matthew-5.html. 1874-1909.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

“You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”

Known as the lex talionis, in ancient days this law was common in many cultures in times far preceding Moses. It is found in the Code of Hammurabi from the 18th century BC, and it was probably old then (and was incorporated within Israel’s Law Code, see for it Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21). Its purpose was to prevent blood revenge and to limit the penalty that could be exacted, by making it fit the offence. There was, however, also in it the thought that justice must be satisfied and that sufficient satisfaction should be obtained. However, man being what he is, it became the standard by which many lived. In the way that they interpreted it, it was the exact reverse of ‘do to others as you would that they would do to you’. It said, ‘I will demand of others what they have done to me’ (something forbidden by Proverbs 24:29). But at least it was a restraint on crime and prevented worse crimes by satisfying people’s sense of justice. On the other hand, as Jesus will point out, it is not the kind of standard that should be followed under the Kingly Rule of a wise and beneficent God Who Himself shows mercy to the undeserving. Nor is in line with the Law of God which said, ‘You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love you neighbour (and the foreigner who is among you - Leviticus 19:34) as yourself’ (Leviticus 19:18).


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Bibliography
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Matthew 5:38". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/matthew-5.html. 2013.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Retaliation was common in the ancient Near East. Frequently it led to vendettas in which escalating vengeance continued for generations. Israel"s "law of retaliation" (Lat. lex talionis) limited retaliation to no more than equal compensation ( Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:19-20; Deuteronomy 19:21). The Jews tended to view the law of retaliation as God"s permission to take vengeance. That was never God"s intention (cf. Leviticus 19:18). He simply wanted to protect them from excessive vengeance and to curb vendettas. In some situations the Jews could pay to avoid the vengeance of their brethren ( Exodus 21:26-27). By the first century, monetary reparations had replaced physical maiming as the penalty for physical injury. [Note: Craig Keener, Matthew , p127.] As God had permitted divorce because of the hardness of man"s heart, so He permitted a certain amount of retaliation under the Mosaic Law. However, His intention was that His people would avoid divorce and retaliation entirely. He wanted us to love one another and to put the welfare of others before our own.


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Bibliography
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 5:38". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/matthew-5.html. 2012.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Matthew 5:38. Eye for an eye, etc. The law of retaliation (Exodus 21:24) was a judicial rule, righteous in itself, and especially necessary in the East. Introduced to do away with the private revenge, so common in the time of Moses, it had been perverted into a warrant for retaliation of every kind. Our Lord teaches that while this rule is correct in law, our personal conduct should be governed by a very different principle.


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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Matthew 5:38". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/matthew-5.html. 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Matthew 5:38 contains the theme, he following vv. Christ’s comment.— ὀφθαλμὸνὀδόντος. An exact quotation from Exodus 21:24. Christ’s criticism here concerns a precept from the oldest code of Hebrew law. Fritzsche explains the accusatives, ὀφθαλμὸν, ὀδόντα, by supposing εἶναι to be understood: “Ye have heard that Moses wrote that an eye shall be for an eye”. The simplest explanation is that the two nouns in the original passage are under the government of δώσει, Exodus 21:23. (So Weiss and Meyer after Grotius.) Tersely expressed, a sound principle or civil law for the guidance of the judge, acted on by almost all peoples: Christ does not condemn it: if parties come before the judge, let him by all means give fair compensation for injuries received. He simply leaves it on one side. “Though the judge must give redress when demanded, you are not bound to ask it, and if you take My advice you will not.” In taking up this position Jesus was in harmony with the law itself, which contains dissuasives against vindictiveness, e.g., Leviticus 19:18 : “Thou shalt not avenge nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people”. The fault of the scribes did not lie in gainsaying this and introducing the justalionis into private life, but in giving greater prominence to the legal than to the ethical element in the O. T. teaching, and in occupying themselves mainly with discussing the casuistry of compensation, e.g., the items to be compensated for in a case of wounding—the pain, the cure, the loss of time, the shame, etc., and the money value of the whole. Jesus turned the minds of His disciples away from these trivialities to the great neglected ethical commonplace.


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Bibliography
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Matthew 5:38". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/matthew-5.html. 1897-1910.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

your doctors have concluded that revenge, equal to the injury, was permitted.


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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Matthew 5:38". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/matthew-5.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

THE LAW OF RETALIATION. it hath been said = it was said. Quoted from Exodus 21:24. Compare Leviticus 24:24. Deuteronomy 19:21. See App-107.:2 and 117.


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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Matthew 5:38". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/matthew-5.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

Ye have heard that it hath been said (Exodus 21:23-25; Leviticus 24:19-20; Deuteronomy 19:21), An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth - that is, whatever penalty was regarded as a proper equivalent for these. This law of retribution-designed to take vengeance out of the hands of private persons and commit it to the magistrate-was abused in the opposite way to the commandments of the Decalogue. While they were reduced to the level of civil enactments, this judicial regulation was held to be a warrant for taking redress into their own hands, contrary to the injunctions of the Old Testament itself (Proverbs 20:22; Proverbs 24:29).


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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Matthew 5:38". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/matthew-5.html. 1871-8.

The Bible Study New Testament

An eye for an eye. The old Law permitted equal revenge. (Exodus 21:23-25; Leviticus 24:18-20). The Jews took advantage of this to excuse their evil ways.


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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Matthew 5:38". "The Bible Study New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/matthew-5.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(38) An eye for an eye.—Here again the scribes first took their stand on the letter, regardless of the aim and purpose, of the Law, and then expanded it in a wrong direction. As originally given, it was a check on the “wild justice” of revenge. It said, where the equilibrium of right had been disturbed by outrage, that the work of the judge was not to do more than restore the equilibrium, unless, as in the case of theft, some further penalty was necessary for the prevention of crime. It was, in its essence, a limit in both directions. Not less than the “eye for an eye,” for that might lead to connivance in guilt; not more, for that would open a fresh score of wrong. The scribes in their popular casuistry made the rule one not of judicial action only, but of private retaliation; and it was thus made the sanction of the vindictive temper that forgives nothing.


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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Matthew 5:38". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/matthew-5.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
An eye
Exodus 21:22-27; Leviticus 24:19,20; Deuteronomy 19:19

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Matthew 5:38". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/matthew-5.html.

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

In a number of places the old law did require the kind of penalty that is described in this verse. That was to be done as a legal act and not a personal one. Jesus teaches that no personal retaliation was to be permitted under the pretense of that law. If a man is actually harmed he has the right to appeal to the law of the land as it is in authority for that purpose (1 Timothy 1:9-10), but he should not take the law into his own hands.


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Bibliography
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Matthew 5:38". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/znt/matthew-5.html. 1952.

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