This entire nineteenth chapter picks up the theme that was mentioned in Chapter 16: Justice. It deals with justice for the defenseless: justice for the unintentional killer, justice for the landowner, and justice for the accused. There were strict procedures to guarantee that justice prevailed and that everyone enjoyed due process. It’s only in this context that you can truly understand verse 21 which you know so well, “…an eye for an eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” This is the law of just retribution.

One commentator said it should be translated “an eye – and not more! – for an eye; a tooth – and no more – for a tooth.” Unbridled “lashing out” at the offender is banned.  This law limited the extent of retaliation to a punishment that fit the crime.

Maxwell rightly observes that, “Jesus did not deny the validity of this principle for the courtroom, but He denied its use in personal relationships (Matt. 5:38–42).” Jesus teaches us that we are to forgive those who wrong us. He even taught us to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.” Max Lucado says, “Could it be God is giving you exactly what you’re giving someone else?  Would you like some peace? Then quit giving your neighbor such a hassle. Want to enjoy God’s generosity? Then let others enjoy yours. Would you like assurance that God forgives you? I think you know what you need to do.”