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Exodus 21:22 -- what does it say of unborn children?


Mr Skeptic
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Here's a link to the various translations of Exodus 21:22

 

Exodus 21:22-25

22 "If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely [a] but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman's husband demands and the court allows. 23 But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

 

[a]: Exodus 21:22 Or
she has a miscarriage

 

It's not entirely clear whether this passage is talking about the woman or the child being seriously injured. Is it saying that if someone accidentally kills a pregnant woman's child he has to pay a fine and if the woman gets hurt besides it's "eye for an eye", or is it saying that if someone accidentally causes a premature birth then he has to pay a fine, and if either the woman or child are injured it's "eye for an eye"?

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But if there is serious injury...

It does not mention explicitly the mother or the child, so I would say the latter - the severity of the punishment is proportional to the severity of the crime (eye for an eye).

 

The former interpretation seems rather far-fetched to me...

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From the original hebrew (here's a parallel english/hebrew bible: http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0221.htm) it sounds like the harm is for the baby. That is, if the pregnant woman is struck and a baby 'comes out' then (a) if the baby is unharmed - fine, but (b) if the baby is harmed - eye for an eye... etc.

 

But it's not explicitly said 'the baby'. It is understood from the text a bit better, I think, than from the English one, but it's not explicit, and one could make the argument that it can go either way.

 

However, it seems that even if they mean the woman they give it equal importance - that is, both lives - baby and mother - if lost, deserve 'eye for eye... etc'.

 

 

~moo

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Thanks mooey, I was hoping you'd show up.

 

From the original hebrew (here's a parallel english/hebrew bible: http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0221.htm) it sounds like the harm is for the baby. That is, if the pregnant woman is struck and a baby 'comes out' then (a) if the baby is unharmed - fine, but (b) if the baby is harmed - eye for an eye... etc.

 

But it's not explicitly said 'the baby'. It is understood from the text a bit better, I think, than from the English one, but it's not explicit, and one could make the argument that it can go either way.

 

Yeah, that's the gist that I got since most of the translations are in that direction and only a few and in footnotes in the other. Still it seems like a rather important difference for it to be ambiguous about!

 

However, it seems that even if they mean the woman they give it equal importance - that is, both lives - baby and mother - if lost, deserve 'eye for eye... etc'.

 

Well I know from elsewhere that the eye for an eye should apply to the woman, but I was uncertain as to whether this was just restating that or including the child. I suppose this context helps point toward the harm including the child as well.

 

---

 

From reading the Bible I had gotten the impression that children seemed to be treated as property (albeit very valuable property). God killing off Job's kids along with his other possessions, for example, and collecting someone's kids (as opposed to, say, the parent) for an unpaid debt. Do you know if this impression I got is accurate?

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Thanks mooey, I was hoping you'd show up.

I'm eeeeevvvveeerrrryyyywheeeerrrreeeee.

 

 

Yeah, that's the gist that I got since most of the translations are in that direction and only a few and in footnotes in the other. Still it seems like a rather important difference for it to be ambiguous about!

You know.. I'm not sure it's ambiguous in the original context. If you pluck it OUT of context, then you can make the case that it's unclear, but in the context of the entire chapter, it's fairly clear that the meaning is for both mother and baby.

 

Well I know from elsewhere that the eye for an eye should apply to the woman, but I was uncertain as to whether this was just restating that or including the child. I suppose this context helps point toward the harm including the child as well.

The problem I see with this is more about how you would know if a woman is pregnant before she's showing? 2500 years ago, you wouldn't. So it seems that even in this context, there is some time after conception that the foetus isn't considered valid for 'eye for an eye', no?

 

From reading the Bible I had gotten the impression that children seemed to be treated as property (albeit very valuable property). God killing off Job's kids along with his other possessions, for example, and collecting someone's kids (as opposed to, say, the parent) for an unpaid debt. Do you know if this impression I got is accurate?

Oh no no, children aren't property, at least not in the old testament. Job's story is different *entirely* from most of the bible - it's the first time God is all-out to do EVERYTHING against Job. It's a very problematic chapter, too, for obvious reasons.

 

But children are considered important and celeberated - God promised Jacob that his seed will grow 'as the stars int he sky' and all that.. it's a sign of strength and a sign of a big family = big clan, and all that.

 

Collecting the kids as a debt isn't to say kids are worthless, but ON THE CONTRARY -- look how *bad* it was for job, that his *family* was taken from him, that his kids became slaves. He essentially lost his continuity,which is worse than losing his flock of sheep.

 

~moo

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