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The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

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Cruelty to Animals
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The disposition to inflict pain and to gloat over suffering. Widely prevalent among, if not characteristic of, savages and barbarians, it has influenced their treatment of strangers, enemies, and evildoers. Primitive races, however, are strongly inured to pain, being early in life trained to endure it unflinchingly, as the various initiatory rites at puberty in universal vogue among them show (see Heinrich Schurtz, "Altersklassen und Männerbunde," pp. 92 et seq., Berlin, 1902). Moreover, lack of imagination incapacitates them for measuring the suffering entailed on others (Tylor, "Anthropology," p. 408, New York, 1897). Again, among them, as also among civilized nations of antiquity, religious notions sanctify the passion for revenge, nearly always an elements of cruelty. Abel's "blood cries to heaven" (Genesis 4:10, Hebr.). The deity itself is injured and offended, and the land is defiled by bloodshed (see Schneider, "Die Naturvölker," 1886, 1:86; Leopold Schmidt, "Die Ethik der Alten Griechen," 2:309 et seq., Berlin, 1882; Tiele, "Verglijkende Geschiedenis von de Egypt. en Mesopotam. Godsdienster," p. 160; "Tr. Soc. Bibl. Arch." 8:12 et seq.).

"Lex Talionis."

The "lex talionis," universally observed by savage and semi-civilized peoples, illustrates this principle. Injury had to be required by corresponding injury. "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand" (Exodus 21:24). Literally construed at first, the provisions of this law in course of time, and with the refinement of feeling accompanying progressing civilization, were translated into pecuniary assessments in compensation of injuries.

Cruel practises connected with the observances of religion, such as mutilations, the cutting of gashes (see see CUTTINGS), the burning of children to propitiate Moloch, and human sacrifice generally, rest originally upon a similar idea.

The ancient Hebrews in their primitive state were in disposition little different from their neighbors and cognates. In the period of "ignorance" the pre-Mohammedan Arabs deemed "revenge to be the twin brother of gratitude," and not to visit an offense upon the offender was considered cowardly and ignoble (see Goldziher, "Muhammedanische Studien," 1889, 1:15 et seq.). The books of Judges and Samuel prove that the Israelitish invaders of Canaan displayed in their dealings with their enemies the temper of their day. The bodies of those slain in battle were stripped of everything valuable. Occasionallytheir heads were cut off as trophies (1 Samuel 17:51,54; 31:9; 2 Samuel 20:22). Among the Assyrians this was the rule (compare 2 Kings 10:6 et seq.). In later times, however, decent burial was accorded to dead enemies (Ezekiel 39:11), or they were cremated (Isaiah 30:33).

Treatment of Captives.

Captives were shown little leniency. To mark them as conquered, they were subjected to the humiliation of being trodden under foot (Joshua 10:24; compare Ps. ex. 1). This was also the custom among the Assyrians and Egyptians. Still, excessive cruelties are only reported in cases where fury had been aroused by the length of the pursuit (Judges 1:6 et seq.). The most atrocious instance of cruelty in requital of previous insult is afforded, if the text is correct, by David's dealing with the Ammonites (see Klostermann's commentary on 2 Samuel 12:31). Amaziah is reported to have hurled ten thousand captive Edomites from a rock (2 Chronicles 25:12). As a rule, however, the Hebrews did not go to such extremes, and, compared with the Assyrians, were merciful. The latter impaled their prisoners, or flayed them alive, or tore out their tongues (see, for the case of the Elamite prisoners, Koyundjik Collection, slabs 48-50; Kaulen, "Assyrien und Babylonien," 5th ed., p. 265). The Philistines put out Samson's eyes (Judges 16:21). Nahash, the king of the Ammonites, threatened the Jebusites with the blinding of their right eyes (1 Samuel 11:2). King Zedekiah was blinded by the Chaldeans (2 Kings 25:7). Among the Chaldeans and Persians, and even now in Eastern countries, this procedure is not exceptional. Ezekiel 23:25 alludes to the cutting off of the noses and ears of captives. Rings were put through the under lips of captured kings to fasten the chain to (, "S. B. O. T." Ezekiel, p. 133). Atrocious barbarities against women big with child are mentioned as having occurred in the ferocious civil wars of the Northern Kingdom (2 Kings 15:16), but these, as well as the dashing to pieces of children, seem to have been common among Syrians, Ammonites, Assyrians, and Chaldeans (2 Kings 8:12; Amos 1:13; Psalms 137:9 et seq.). If not killed, the captives were led away "naked" (COAT) and fettered, to be sold into slavery (Numbers 31:26; Deuteronomy 20:14; Isaiah 20:4).

The country of the enemy was devastated; its trees were cut down, its wells wrecked, its cities and hamlets sacked and razed; tribute was levied and hostages demanded (2 Kings 3:19,25; 14:14).

Stages of Progress.

In the earlier civil code of the Hebrews, the "book of the Covenant" (Exodus 21-), the law of retaliation is still fundamental. Mutilations were thus legalized. The Deuteronomic legislation applies this principle in the case of false witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:16 et seq.). A woman guilty of a certain indecent act lost her hand (Deuteronomy 25:11 et seq.). Similar and severer provisions are also found in the recently discovered code of Hammurabi (see Winckler, "Die Gesetze Hammurabi," Leipsic, 1902); and the punishments provided by the laws of other ancient and modern Oriental nations show still greater cruelty. Adulterous women had their noses cut off, while the co-respondent was condemned to a thousand stripes (Diodorus Siculus, 1:78). The statement of Josephus ("Vita," § 33, 34) that rebels and traitors suffered the loss of one or both hands reflects the ferocity of the civil war.

The primitive severity of the earlier practise, however, was tempered by clemency. This appears clearly in the provisions for carrying out the punishment of stripes. The number of stripes must not exceed forty (Deuteronomy 25:1-4; in Hammurabi's code the maximum is fixed at fifty), and they must be administered before a proper court officer. As also among the Egyptians (see Wilkinson, "Ancient Egypt," 2:41 et seq.), the stripes were applied to the back of the delinquent, not, as is the cruel Eastern practise, to the soles of the feet. The instrument employed was in early times a rod or switch (Proverbs 10:13). The later rabbinical authorities prescribe the use of a plaited leather strap, construing "biḳoret," in Leviticus 19:20, to indicate this (see Gesenius, "Th." 1:234), and limit the number of stripes to thirty-nine (Mak. 3:10; Josephus, "Ant." 4:8, § 21). The use of "scorpions" ("'aḳrabim"), mentioned in 1 Kings 12:11,14; 2 Chronicles 10:11,14, was, as the context shows, regarded as excessively cruel, and must have been rare. They were pointed and knotty rods, or whips with sharp iron points (Gesenius, c. 2:1062). Beating with bags filled with sand and pointed pieces of iron was another method of punishment (Ephraem Syrus). The Syrians seem to have had recourse to similar instruments of torture (II Macc. 7:1). Later, the Romans adopted the use of whips weighted with rough, heavy stones, or lead balls (Cicero, "Cluent." 63). Thorny rods or switches were also occasionally used (Judges 8:7,16; compare Proverbs 26:3).

Treatment of Slaves.

Other indications of the gradual refinement of feeling are revealed in the fact that the slave ultimately acquired a right to protection against bodily injury, and that the master who caused his death by cruel beating was punished (Exodus 21:21,26-27). If, however, death was not immediate, the owner was considered to have injured his own property. Philo regards the provision which grants freedom to the maimed slave as based less upon the principle of compensation than upon the desire to protect the slave against further insult, the master naturally finding a constant cause of irritation in the slave incapacitated for full work in consequence of his rash or cruel treatment The law also modified to a considerable extent the rights of vengeance and see ASYLUM (Exodus 21:13,14), and provided for the protection of those guilty of manslaughter.

With what abhorrence the Prophets viewed the atrocities committed in the spirit of the savage in earlier times is clear from the opening chapters of Amos. They denounced the cruel rites—mutilations, human sacrifices—sanctioned by the religion of Canaan, and modified barbarity through the potent leaven of mercy and humanity. As a punishment the invasion of a "cruel" people is announced, and the detailed description shows that the Jewish people had outgrown the temper which regarded such atrocities as natural (Jeremiah 6:23,24; Deuteronomy 32:32,33).

In the later books cruelty is expanded to includeunfriendly and unnatural conduct (Proverbs 11:17) on the part of one from whom, by reason of friendship or consanguinity, consideration is to be expected (Job 30:21). As symptoms of cruelty, anger and jealousy are enumerated (Proverbs 27:4).

Attitude of Later Judaism.

Later Judaism, in interpreting the Mosaic legislation, proceeded upon the theory that any unnatural act was cruel. The seething of the kid in the milk of its mother, the wearing of wool and linen together, the yoking of ox and ass together, the sowing of different seeds in one field, were so regarded (Philo, "De Specialibus Legibus"). Humanity, therefore, was declared to be the sister of piety, and was inculcated in many injunctions of the Mosaic code; it is befitting the king (idem, "De Vita Moysis," 2:1,2); it is to be shown to strangers as readily and fully as to fellow countrymen; it is due to the demented and to dumb creatures (idem, "De Caritate"). The "lex talionis" was modified (Mek., Mishpaá¹­im, 8). Capital punishment was virtually abolished in all cases where malice prepense was not established beyond all doubt.

Judges who pronounced the death sentence too frequently were stigmatized as shedders of blood (Mak. 7a), and this in spite of the conviction that "misapplied clemency leads to unjustifiable cruelty" (Lam. R. 7:16). And when the sentence of death was carried into effect tender regard was extended to the body of the executed (Sanh. 5:3; Babli 55b). Decapitation by the sword was for this reason declared to be an indignity (, B. B. 8b). Needless exposure of the body was looked upon with the same disfavor; a woman undergoing lapidation was not uncovered (Yer. Soá¹­ah 3:19b, end). This consideration was shown the dead in all cases, the view prevailing that until the body is inhumed, or, according to others, until decomposition sets in, the soul hovering over the abandoned frame feels whatever insult or injury is offered (BODY IN JEWISH THEOLOGY). R. Akiba inhibited exhumation as an act of cruelty (B. B. 154a).

Philo ("In Flaccum") gives a vivid account of the outrages perpetrated by the Romans upon the living as well as upon the dead. Some cruelties commonly practised by the Romans seem never to have been known to the Hebrews. The exposure of children, and the burying alive of undesired daughters, common among pre-Mohammedan Arabs, were quite unknown to the Hebrews.

In rabbinical Judaism the idea of "cruelty" includes also an unforgiving temper. It thus came to signify what has been termed "the cruelty of civilized men" (Lazarus, "Ethik des Judentums," 1:308), such as calumny, slander, putting to shame, calling men by nicknames, slighting their honor. Characteristic of the one not cruel was the readiness to "forego one's due" (), and this disposition is deemed essential to the attainment of forgiveness of one's own sins (Yoma 23a). One that in public puts a man to shame is likened to the murderer (B. M. 58b, 59a). One that will not forgive his fellow is cruel: (B. Ḳ. 92a; see also Maimonides, "Yad," De'ot, 6:6; Teshubah, 2:10). Nimrod, Goliath, Haman, Cain, and others are remembered as examples of cruelty (Pesiḳ. 9:78b). Tax-gatherers are typically cruel, as also among the Mohammedans (B. Ḳ. 10:1-2; Goldziher, ib. 1:19, note; Philo, "De Specialibus Legibus"; see Publicans). Prophetic and rabbinical Judaism, in thus enlarging the scope of "cruelty" to embrace not merely the infliction of physical, but also of mental and moral suffering, and in denouncing a haughty, heartless, unforgiving, grasping disposition as "cruel," has discarded utterly the principle of retaliation. The Deuteronomic laws (Deuteronomy 20:7; Joshua 6:21) concerning the annihilation of the seven aboriginal nations of the land, if they were ever carried out to the letter, were written in the spirit of holy warfare against idolatry (see BAN) at a time when cruel temper was universally prevalent. Later Judaism condemns cruelty in whatever form. Its abhorrence of barbarity is illustrated also by the prohibition against cutting out a piece of flesh from a living animal (), which mutilation was a well-established practise among the Romans and many other ancient peoples (Ḥul. 101b et seq.). This prohibition does not rest upon ritual grounds, but is based on moral repugnance; the Noachides are also under this prohibition. The "pound of flesh" in Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice" is an impossibility according to Jewish law, though the Roman Law of the Twelve Tables legalizes such security. The whole "Shylock" story originated in old Aryan mythology.

That evil-doers were not treated without cruelty is apparent from the frequent allusions in the Biblical books to the terrors and sufferings incidental to imprisonment (2 Samuel 3:34; Job. 13:27; Psalms 88:7, 105:18, 107:10; Isaiah 24:22; Zechariah 9:11). Though prisons existed (Jeremiah 37:15,20), abandoned cisterns filled with mire were used for the detention of men that had incurred the displeasure of the mighty (Jeremiah 38:6). Ill fed (1 Kings 20:27), the prisoners were often bound with chains and ropes (Job 36:8; Psalms 149:8); the feet especially were fastened together with brass (Judges 16:21; 2 Samuel 3:34; Jeremiah 52:11) or iron links (Psalms 105:18; Proverbs 7:22). Often the feet were put into the stocks or blocks ("sad," Job 13:27, 33:11), while in other cases a veritable instrument of torture was used, the "mahpeket," a wooden contrivance so arranged as to force the body into unnatural contortions. The neck, too, was constrained by a ring ("ẓinoḳ") or iron collar (Jeremiah 20:2; Sirach 6:30).

The Romans, however, were past-masters in the art of applying these various expedients. Under the non-Hebrew designation , the Latin "collare," the rabbinical books recall a neck-ring largely in use to render prisoners helpless (Eḥa Rabb. Proem. ). Characteristic in this connection as showing the dread of the inhumanities of non-Jewish tormentors is the prohibition (Tosef., 'Ab. Zarah, 2:4) "not to sell them either weapons or these devices for restraining prisoners"; e., (ed. Zuckermann wrongly, and (iron chains).

E. G. H.
Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Cruelty'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tje/​c/cruelty.html. 1901.
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