Under the law given to the Israelites, why was mutilation the punishment for a woman who seized the genitals of a man attacking her husband?

Why was this considered a fair punishment?

Deuteronomy 25:12

LS1910 - 12 Tu lui couperas la main, tu ne jetteras sur elle aucun regard de pitiƩ.

Clarify Share Report Asked July 07 2017 Mini Samuel Bourassa

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While God doesn't go into great detail on all the laws He gave, flipping the scenario around can help show the severity of her crime.

Imagine two women are wrestling. One of the husbands comes upon the scene: he doesn't particularly know why they are fighting, but it looks like his wife might be in danger. He responds by launching a deliberate punch to the other woman's most sensitive area - rather than just grabbing the woman by the arm, shouting at her to stop, or some other solution. Would that be the best response he could possibly give? 

Is hurting someone in the crotch, especially when it might damage the ability to reproduce, or in rare cases even cause neurological damage or cardiac arrest, the most effective way to defend someone else?

The OT law often contained various 'case studies' like these, which were then interpreted by human judges to apply to the exact specifics of a given scenario. For this law, Jewish law interpreted it as unjustifiable force being prohibited in a confrontation. If the specifics of a scenario showed the action justified (her husband was on the brink of being murdered and it was the only spot she could reach, for example), the law would not apply and there would be no punishment given to her. 

The Talmud softens this penalty even further, regarding 'cut off her hand' as a mere euphemism for the payment of a fine. This isn't just a wishful change to obscure a violent punishment, but is based on there being two different terms for 'hand' used in the text. The second term is 'kaph' - which has a broader variety of meanings both physical and metaphorical.

There is another possible rendering of the text as well, due to kaph, as it can also mean hip or pelvic area (Gen 32:35); and due to the context of the section, which is about levirate marriage. In this reading, which is possible, what is 'cut off' is the woman's right to levirate marriage if her husband dies. Just as she potentially 'cut off' the man's chances for a future child, so her chances are 'cut off' if her husband dies.

July 07 2017 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

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