Topics: Abortion, Assault/Battery, Assault/Battery - Fighting/Dueling, Murder, Murder - Accidental, Negligence
There are two interpretations of Exo. 21:22: 1) The pregnant women is accidently harmed when she comes too close to two men fighting, and 2) the pregnant wife of one of the men intervenes in the fight, and her husband’s opponent deliberately strikes her in the stomach. The verb for “hit” is different from the verb used for “strike” throughout the passage elsewhere. While the two words are largely synonymous, it may be that a different word is used to indicate that a non-deliberate, accidental striking is involved. Indeed, the word “hit” can be used for accidental striking, as in striking one’s foot against a stone. At the same time, whenever it is used in an accidental sense, it is used with a preposition (“hit against,” “strike upon”); wherever it is used with a direct object (“hit someone or something”), a deliberate act is in view (unless this verse is the sole exception.) On the other hand, the verb is plural: “and they hit”; we do not read, “and one of them hits .” This tends to work against the notion that one man is deliberately attacking the woman or fetus – the plural seems to indicate that the woman is hit somehow as a result or byproduct of both men’s fighting; that is, they may both be to blame. It is only the man who actually struck the woman, however, who is guilty before the court, as the singular verbs in Exo. 21:22b indicate. It is difficult to determine whether this case law deals with an accidental or a deliberate assault. The vagueness of the wording indicates that we should allow it to speak to either situation.
Abortion|Assault/Battery|Assault/Battery - Fighting/Dueling|Murder|Murder - Accidental|Negligence|