Question #1: Yahweh (Jehovah) God Almighty operates on this principle in His justice system: "You must take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, and bruise for bruise." (Exodus 21:23-25). What does this principle mean?

Answer: This principle simply means that the punishment has to equal the sin or crime in degree of severity. A lesser sin should have a lesser punishment, while a greater sin requires a greater punishment. For example, murder is one of the greatest sins, so it requires the greatest punishment: the death penalty. On the other hand, injuring a person is a lesser sin than murder, so the punishment should be less severe.

The "an eye for an eye" principle in God's justice system prevents injustice. Specifically, it:
a) Prevents people from receiving greater punishment than necessary. For example, people who committed manslaughter (unintentional homicide) should not receive the death penalty.
b) Ensures that people receive the appropriate punishment for their sins. For example, murderers should be executed according to God's Law (Genesis 9:6).

Yahweh God gave the "an eye for an eye" principle to His people so they would know how to judge each unique case. This way, He did not have to list every possible way how a sin should be dealt with. If His people came across a situation that was not specifically named in the Mosaic Law, they would simply need to judge the severity of the sin and execute the appropriate punishment.

Question #2: But in Matthew 5:38-39, Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you, don't resist him who is evil; but whoever strikes you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also." Was Jesus speaking against Yahweh's justice system? Is there a contradiction?

Answer: Jesus was not at all contradicting Yahweh's laws or speaking against them. This is how the difference is explained:

Yahweh's justice system ("an eye for an eye") was made to govern the nation's judicial system. It was a principle that the judges should operate on while deciding the appropriate punishment for various sins. It was the judges who worked on this principle in judicial matters, not anyone else.

However, the Jews by Jesus' day were abusing this principle. Instead of confining this law to their judicial system for the judges and magistrates, they were using it in their personal, private lives. They were misusing this law to take personal revenge on those who had wronged them. For example, if someone slapped them on the cheek, they would actually use this law to justify their action for slapping the other person back.

Thus, in Matthew 5:39, Jesus was telling them not to use this principle in their personal lives. People should not seek revenge for insults and other wrongs done to them that do not amount to actual crimes being committed. For example, Jesus was not saying that we should not do anything if a person tries to murder us or our family. Rather, we should not seek revenge when we have been insulted or wronged in other less serious ways. If we have been wronged by others in a serious way, such as if an actual crime was committed against us, then certainly we should bring our case to the judges. But in our daily life, we should live in peace, and not strike back when someone mistreats us, or mocks us, or insults us. Instead of slapping someone back for slapping us, we should even prepare ourselves to be slapped on the other cheek. Thus, we should submit to the little wrongs done to us, while taking the greater wrongs to the court and not try to handle such big cases on our own. It's only the judges and magistrates who should operate on the "an eye for an eye" principle.

Do you have Bible questions you'd like answered? Then by all means e-mail me at, and I'd be more than happy to do my best to answer them! Remember, no question about the Bible is ever too small or stupid.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Shirley Cheng (b. 1983) is a blind and physically disabled award-winning author with twenty-seven book awards, proclaimer of Yahweh God's good news of salvation through Jesus Christ, Bible teacher, founder of Ministry, summa cum laude graduate with Doctor of Divinity, motivational speaker, poet; and author of nine books (including "Do You Love Jehovah?"), contributor to twenty-five, and an editor of one. Shirley has had severe juvenile rheumatoid arthritis since infancy. Owing to years of hospitalization, she received no education until age eleven. Back then, she knew only her ABCs and very simple English; other than that, her book knowledge was non-existent. However, after only about 180 days of special education in elementary school, she mastered grade level and entered a regular sixth grade class in middle school. Unfortunately, Shirley lost her eyesight at the age of seventeen. After a successful eye surgery, she hopes to earn multiple science doctorates from Harvard University.

Do you have questions about the Bible? Something you don't understand? Do you need a bit of guidance in developing a relationship with Yahweh? Then Shirley would like to help you! Please contact her via her site at and she would be more than glad to do her best to answer your questions! Never hesitate to ask questions, for no question about the Bible is ever too small or stupid.