Monday, August 6, 2012

Exodus 21:28-36 Injuries Involving Animals

"If a bull gores a man or woman to death,
the bull must be stoned to death,
and its meat must not be eaten.
But the owner of the bull will not be held responsible.

If, however, the bull has had the habit of goring,
and the owner has been warned but has not kept it penned up
and it kills a man or a woman,
the bull must be stoned and the owner must also be put to death.

However, if payment is demanded of him,
he may redeem his life by paying whatever is demanded.
This law also applies if the bull gores a son or daughter.
If the bull gores a male or female slave,
the owner must pay thirty shekels of silver to the master of the slave,
and the bull must be stoned.

If a man uncovers a pit or digs one and fails to cover it
and an ox or a donkey falls into it,
the owner of the pit must pay for the loss;
he must pay its owner, and the dead animal will be his.

If a man's bull injures the bull of another and it dies,
they are to sell the live one
and divide both the money and the dead animal equally.
However, if it was known that the bull had the habit of goring,
yet the owner did not keep it penned up,
the owner must pay, animal for animal,
and the dead animal will be his.

Exodus 21:28-36 (NIV)

Some observations:

  • If a bull gored someone to death, it was to be stoned, and its meat was not to be eaten.  Why? Was this because the rage of the bull triggered some hormonal reaction which might taint the meat and make it harmful in some way, or was it just so that no one could hope to profit in any way from such a tragedy?
  • I note that the owner was not to be held responsible in the first case, for the goring was accidental, and unexpected.  However, if the bull had a habit of goring and the owner did not take precautions, the bull and the owner were both put to death, unless the injured party's relatives were willing to accept a ransom for the owner's life.
  • If someone uncovered or dug a pit, they must cover it to prevent accidents from occurring.  If an ox or donkey fell into it and was killed, the pit's owner must pay for the loss of the animal, and the dead animal became his property.
  • If one man's bull injured another man's bull and it dies, the live one must be sold and the two divide the money and the dead animal between them.  Again, if the owner knew of his bull's habit of goring, yet did not take precautions, he had to replace the other man's animal and the dead one would become his.
  • As far as consequences are concerned, a clear distinction is made between the death of an animal and the death of a man.  This says something about man's status [made in the image of God].  Man is not just some other kind of animal.

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