The Immodest Lady Wrestler

03 Dec
Eye for and Eye principle

from Google Images

Several ANE cultures called for bodily mutilation for certain crimes.[1] For example, the Laws of Hammurabi prescribe one person’s tongue cut out for denying his or her adoptive parents were indeed his or her parents. In another case, if a child struck his father the child’s hand would be cut off.[2] Yet in Israel even the “eye for an eye” references in the Old Testament are not to be taken literally, but figuratively for justice should fit the crime.[3]

With this in mind, let’s consider this Scripture:

If two men, a man and his countryman, are struggling together, and the wife of one comes near to deliver her husband from the hand of the one who is striking him, and puts out her hand and seizes his genitals, then you shall cut off her hand; you shall not show pity. (Deuteronomy 25:11-12 NASB)

The problem is that, if we take the above literally, it would be the first and unique command whereby the Law of Moses prescribed bodily mutilation for punishment of a crime committed. We need to be careful about a singular understanding of a particular Scripture. Considering the Scripture above the man, although hurt and perhaps embarrassed, has not incurred any permanent damage. At least nothing is said that such a thing was true, and it is probably wrong to read permanent damage into the reference. If all that occurred was that he was embarrassed and he lost the fight with the woman’s husband, cutting off the woman’s hand is by far overly abusive and cannot be construed to be punishment of like for like, which seems to be the theme of the Law of Moses (“eye of an eye” principle). Therefore, if taken literally, the reference contradicts the principle theme of the Law of Moses.

What, therefore, can we say of this matter? The Hebrew word for hand in verse-11 (H3027, yad), is the usual word for hand, but it is different from that found in verse-12 (H3709, kaph). In other words the woman reached out her yad in verse-11, and had her kaph cut off in verse-12 as her punishment. The Hebrew kaph (H3709) is used of the groin area in Genesis 32:25, 32 and in the Song of Solomon 5:5.[4] Biblical scholarship generally agrees that the garden language in the Song of Solomon refers to a woman’s sexual organs. Right away a different perspective can be seen of Deuteronomy 25:11-12, if kaph refers to the woman’s sexual body parts. Moreover, if such be true, the principle theme of the Mosaic Law has a better chance of being fulfilled, since both the crime and the punishment point to the same area.

There does seem to be an element of shame or embarrassment for the male in Deuteronomy 25:11, and like punishment (eye for an eye) should be shame or embarrassment exacted against the woman. If what was cut, instead of her hand, was the woman’s pubic hair, this would have accomplished the end of the Law, shame exacted for shame committed. I believe this is a much more plausible understanding of the text than a literal interpretation. Moreover, such an understanding certainly can be derived from the text without ‘jumping through hoops’ to accomplish a fair and believable interpretation.


[1] As I said HERE, this current theme about “making sense of the Old Testament God” is based upon the book: Is God a Moral Monster by Paul Copan. These are my thoughts about his book. He may or may not agree with the impression his book has made upon me, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading what Paul wrote and recommend his book to anyone who is looking for a good read concerning defending our faith.

[2] See laws 192 & 195 respectively HERE.

[3] See my blogpost: Moses and Hammurabi.

[4] The lock in Song of Solomon 5:5 refers back to 4:12 where the “locked garden” is his beloved’s “sealed fountain” (her virginity).

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Posted by on December 3, 2015 in apologetics


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