19:16 If a false 1 witness testifies against another person and accuses him of a crime, 2 19:17 then both parties to the controversy must stand before the Lord, that is, before the priests and judges 3 who will be in office in those days. 19:18 The judges will thoroughly investigate the matter, and if the witness should prove to be false and to have given false testimony against the accused, 4 19:19 you must do to him what he had intended to do to the accused. In this way you will purge 5 evil from among you. 19:20 The rest of the people will hear and become afraid to keep doing such evil among you. 19:21 You must not show pity; the principle will be a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, and a foot for a foot. 6
1 tn Heb “violent” (חָמָס, khamas). This is a witness whose motivation from the beginning is to do harm to the accused and who, therefore, resorts to calumny and deceit. See I. Swart and C. VanDam, NIDOTTE 2:177-80.
2 tn Or “rebellion.” Rebellion against God’s law is in view (cf. NAB “of a defection from the law”).
3 tn The appositional construction (“before the
4 tn Heb “his brother” (also in the following verse).
5 tn Heb “you will burn out” (בִּעַרְתָּ, bi’arta). Like a cancer, unavenged sin would infect the whole community. It must, therefore, be excised by the purging out of its perpetrators who, presumably, remained unrepentant (cf. Deut 13:6; 17:7, 12; 21:21; 22:21-22, 24; 24:7).
6 sn This kind of justice is commonly called lex talionis or “measure for measure” (cf. Exod 21:23-25; Lev 24:19-20). It is likely that it is the principle that is important and not always a strict application. That is, the punishment should fit the crime and it may do so by the payment of fines or other suitable and equitable compensation (cf. Exod 22:21; Num 35:31). See T. S. Frymer-Kensky, “Tit for Tat: The Principle of Equal Retribution in Near Eastern and Biblical Law,” BA 43 (1980): 230-34.