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In Exo. 21:22-23, if neither the child nor the mother is harmed by the blow, the husband of the woman is permitted to sue his wife’s assailant in court. The judges oversee the suit to make sure that the payment required is not excessive.  If there is harm either to mother or to child, then the assailant must pay a more severe penalty. “Life for life” means that if either the mother or the child is killed, the assailant must also be put to death. The position of this law, after the mandatory death penalties of Exo. 21:12-20, but before the provision for compensation in Exo. 21:29-30, indicates that compensation is not permissible in this case. If we assume that the woman is a mere bystander, and is only accidentally struck, then the penalty is strict indeed. Two men preparing to fight in the street would have to keep in mind that if they accidentally hurt a bystander, they will have to pay, even with the death penalty. This constitutes a very strong incentive to resort to arbitration rather than to violence. If we assume that the woman has been deliberately struck, then the death penalty is simply a specification of the death penalty for murder. One man has sought to strike at his enemy by killing his enemy’s unborn child.
- James Jordan, The Law of the Covenant 114 (1984), at http://www.garynorth.com/freebooks/:HTMLDjVu.