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OBSERVATIONS ON CHAP. XXI.-VERSE 23, 24, 25.
THE meaning of these three verses, whether they are to be understood literally, or if they mean only a pecuniary fine, is the subject of a controversy between the Rabinical Jews, and a sect of Jews called Caraim; the first understanding it to mean a fine, and the others explaining it literally.---Aben Ezra, in his Exposition on the Bible, gives us the substance of a dispute, or dialogue, between Rabena Seadiah and one of the Caraim called Ben Sita, who lived near eight hundred years ago; and, as it may perhaps not be disagreeable to the reader to know what each party could allege in favour of his opinion, I shall take the liberty to transcribe it.
R. S. Verse 23 can never be taken literally; for, this is the same as when one aims to kill one man, and kills another whom it was not his intention to kill; who, by our established laws, is not guilty of death. So that, as this means only a pecuniary fine, verse 24 and 25 must mean the same.
B. S. On the contrary, this verse 23 proves that your established rules are wrong, as this can never mean a fine; for, if so, why should Scripture alter the expression here from what it is in verse 22, when there is no mischief ? saying there, he shall surely be punished, which certainly means a fine: and here it says life for life. And, as this must be understoood literally, verse 24 and 25 must be the same.
R. S. As for the expression, life for life, it proves nothing; for, we have the same expression in Leviticus, chapter XXIV. verse 18, (very properly rendered in English, beast for beast;) and there Scripture expressly saith that he shall pay for it; and so here also it means that he shall make good the loss with a pecuniary fine. And, as to the changing of the expression here, from what it is in verse 22, it is only meant as an instruction to the Judge to lay a heavier fine. But let us consider the case in other instances : as for example, eye for eye. Would God order an operation to be done by which a man may lose his life, who was not guilty of death, when, in all his law, he is so particular in recommending not to spill innocent blood? Besides, suppose a man had hurt his neighbour's eye in some degree, and not blinded him, how could it be expected that any executioner should wound the offender's eye in the same degree, with a certainty of not blinding him? Then in the case of a burning, or of a wound, it is yet harder; for, supposing a man had wounded another dangerously, and that he had recovered, are we sure that the man that is to be wounded in like manner shall escape death ? Besides, that would be contradictory to verse 18 and 19, where we see that he, who woundeth another, so that he die not, is to be clear, only paying for his cure and loss of time. So, as this must mean a pecuniary fine, of course verse 23 must be the same.
B. S. These arguments are very strong; however, we find that this sentence is repeated in stronger terms in Leviticus, chap. XXIV. verse 20, viz. “As he has given a blemish in a man, so shall it be given in him.” 12 which implies actually a wound.
R. S. This preposition, 12 is very often used for by upon him, which may mean a fine; for, in Nehemiah, chap. II. verse 12, the preposition ) in her, (put with the pronoun of the feminine gender, to agree with beast, which in Hebrew is of that gender,) is made use of instead of by upon her; for, the expression there is, “save the beast which I rode upon," which can never mean in,
B. S. But, in the same chapter XXIV. verse 19, of Leviticus, it is also expressed, “as he has done, so shall it be done unto him."
R. S. Samson, in Judges, chap. XV. verse 11, makes the same expression, speaking of the Philistines, “As they have done unto me, so I have done unto them." Now the mischief that they had done to him was to take away his wife; but Samson doth not mean by this expression, that he had taken their wives away, but that he had requited them for the mischief they had done him. And so it means here, that he must be punished for the evil he had done, by making him pay a fine. B. S. But if the offender be poor, how can he pay
? R. S. He may become rich; but, supposing a blind man should pull another man's eye out, how can be be punished ?
For all such doubtful cases Scripture has provided, in Deuteronomy, chap. XVII. verse 8 to 12, by investing a power in the Judges to determine according to the best of their judgment, and their determination should be deemed a law; and they having decided it to mean a pecuniary fine, there cannot be any farther controversy about this point.
THAT Scripture should say, that God will punish a nation or a sinner, at all events, as far as the third or fourth generation, and no farther, seems to me to be inconsistent with God's attribute of mercy and kindness, or with his equity and justice, and is contrary to what we find expressed in other passages in Scripture. For, the punishment here denounced, must be understood to take place in one of these two cases : either that the children follow their fathers' wicked steps, or that they do not. Now, if they should continue the same evil courses, why should the chastisement stop at the fourth generation, when they are as bad as their fathers? and, if the descendants should not imitate. them in wickedness, how can it be consistent with God's justice to punish the innocent for the guilty? when even the first sinner of the family, upon leaving off his transgressious, is to be forgiven, and all his sins are no more to be remembered, if we are to give credit to the doctrine so explicitly delivered by Ezekiel, in the name of the Lord, chap. XVIII. verse 22.
pret I am well aware of what is alleged, that, when a nation hath once lost its government, or an individual his estate, they must continue déprived of it for three or four generations, before it can be recovered, in the natural course of events, even in case of repentance; but what can such an impediment avail, in opposition to the power of the Almighty? I now proceed to offer a new explanation of this passage, first premising the following observations:
First, That, when Scripture useth this phrase, the third and fourth generation, an &c. is to be supplied, meaning as long farther as it may please God to suspend his wrath,
. Second, That here it certainly seems to refer to the case when the children follow their father's steps.-By the concluding expression, to them that hate me, which' also appears in the like passage of the Decalogue in Deuteronomy, chap. V. verse 9. (but in chap. XXXIV. verse 7, of this book, and in Numbers, chap. XIV. verse 18. where the like expression occurs, these words, to them that hate me, are left out, substituting in lieu thereof, and will not totally clear him.)
oqda Now I conceive, that here and in Deuteronomy, Scripture speaks of God's attribute of strict justice, and means, that when a nation or an individual in a public character provokes his anger by worshipping other gods; if he or they have any merits by whịch they may turn off God's wrath from immediate punishment, he will suspend his judgments for three or four generations, or longer, whilst they
y continue to hiave merits to deserve it; but, as soon as that ceaseth, their utter destruction will ensue; an instance of king of Israel, having done God's will, in destroying the house of Ahab, the punishment
2 of bis iniquities. was suspended før four generations ; and it was executed on Zechariah, the son of Jeroboam, grandson of Jehu. And Scripture's particularizing the third or fourth generation, means, that the merit of the first sinner will protect his offspring as far as the fourth generation, though without any merit of their own to deserve it, but no farther; and, after that period, nothing but their owir merit can avail them: to escape God's vengeance. , And what is said in, Deuteronomy,
VII. verse 10, And repayeth them that hate him to their face, &c. means, when the sinners have no merits.
But, by the expression is Éxodus, chapter XXXIV. verse 7, God informeth Moses, that, in exercising his attribute of mercy, he was of long-suffering, suspending the punishment of iniquities and transgressions, though he wo
would not totally clear the guilty, but would extenuate the crime by gradual chastisement on their sons, to the third and fourth generation, &c. till the transgressions are wiped away. So, in chap. XXXII. verse 34, in this book, Moses praying to the Lord to forgive the people for the sin of the golden calf; the Lord answereth him, “Go now, lead the people," &c. “behold, mine angel shall go before thee; nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.” And in Numbers, chap. XI. verse 18, Moses, in his prayer for the people, on their rebellion occasioned by the false report of the spies, when God had determined to destroy the whole nation with pestilence, avails himself of the instruction he had received as to the attribute of mercy, repeating the same verse in Exodus, meaning, to pray that God would wipe away their crime by degrees, upon the third and fourth generation, &c. knowing that God would not totally clear them from their iniquitous mistrust in his promise.
THE ARGUMENT. This title is derived from the Greek word it ex out, and odos a way ;
; which is received, according to the custom of the Greeks, from the principal subject of the Book, which is, the departure of the Israelites from Egypt. In Hebrew, it is named according to the custom of the Jews, now ABNT Deeleh Shemoth (these are the names) the two Hebrew words which begin this Book. It comprehends a variety of incidents, and all its articles are of the greatest importance. If we are charmed with history, the wonders which this relates claim our attention, and raise our admiration. If we are fond of the best system of laws, it furnishes us with the best that ever was composed. If we are fond of tracing the mechanic arts to the earliest times, the structure of the Tabernacle will carry our ideas as far back as we can desire, and gratify the most insatiable curiosity. The ways of Providence are here described in the most striking lights, and the true reason of the choice of the Jews: to preserve the knowledge of the Unity of the Divine Being, is displayed in such a manner as amply vindicates the ways of God to
For in the narrow bounds of this Book, we have the history of Moses's birth, education, flight, and the oppression of the Israelites in Egypt; we are informed of his return to Midian, his mission to Pharaoh, the wonders he wrought in Egypt, the departure of the Jews, their passage through the Red-sea, and the Wilderness. It describes the manner of giving the Law, the erection of the Tabernacle, the celebration of the Passover, and contains the transactions of