Jesus said something different during His "Sermon on the Mount" of Matt 5-7. And God didn't want Cain killed for murdering his brother, Abel in Genesis 4. David and Joab conspired and killed Uriah the Hittite and weren't put to death. Was that edict only for Israel during the wilderness years?
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God gave Moses the law of "eye for an eye" (Law of Retaliation) not as an instrument of brutal retribution against someone who would commit some type of crime. Rather, the legislation was meant to restrain excessive revenge and personal vengeance as in the case of Lamech (Gen 4:23, 24). Leviticus 24 was intended as a guide of legal court proceedings. In Matthew 5:38-42 Jesus approaches the eye for an eye principle from the personal conduct perspective saying that if any of you want to follow in my footsteps, you should proceed with love and mercy. The same principle is being echoed in Matthew 5:25 that any issues should be resolved amicable before you arrive in front of the judge where you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Although the Bible gives no reason for God not enforcing the death penalty for Abel’s murder, some Bible commentators opined that God spared Cain's life out of love, giving Cain the opportunity for repentance. Sadly, Cain hardened his heart and continued in his rebellion against God. In sparing Cain’s life, God recorded for history the result of permitting evil to continue without proper punishment. As far as David's sin is concerned, did God wink at David’s adultery and murder? Absolutely not! Yes, David's life was spared (2 Samuel 12:13), but he didn't walk away scot-free, (2 Samuel 12:10). David’s life was full of misery as he witnessed the death of three sons - Amnon, Absalom, and the one-week old infant - the rape of his daughter Tamar, and anguished over another son’s (Adonijah) quest to assume Israel’s throne against his will. God extended David grace by allowing him to live, but David received God's judgment.
In my opinion, the purpose of the "eye for eye, tooth for tooth" standard in the Law for the punishment of interpersonal crimes was not just meant to be retributive in nature, but also to make the punishment for a crime fit the crime itself, so that excessive punishments would not be exacted (for example, a person would not be executed for causing another person to become blind). Therefore, I would say that this standard was not given by God only with the intent of being used during Israel's time in the wilderness, but subsequent to that time, as well (that is, after Israel had entered and possessed Canaan). (To me, this interpretation is further supported by the fact that, at the time that this standard was first given (in Exodus 21, as well as in Leviticus 24:20, as cited in the question), Israel had not yet been condemned to forty years of wandering, which did not occur until Numbers 15:26-35.) (I would also note in passing that, to me, David's act WAS punished by death, but (due to David's repentance) the death in question was that of his child with Bathsheba. Also, David (rather than Joab) would have been solely accountable for Uriah's death, since he gave the order leading to Uriah's death, which Joab merely obeyed.) (And, in Cain's case, even though he was severely punished, he was spared (in my opinion) because of his act preceding the first mention (Genesis 9:6, after the Flood) of death being the penalty for murder.)
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